Tom Williams wrote:
I'm just starting to work sats - are QSL cards commonly exchanged? How is the exchange initiated? Also, what is the voice protocol on a busy bird?
As far as QSL cards, yes many people send them. When I was active, I would QSL to any station that I had not talked to before, or any time upon request. I normally just sent the postcard, and I did have special QSL cards printed for satellite use with a custom set of fields that made more sense for satellite work. See http://home.earthlink.net/~k6ccc/QSL.html for my cards. If the other station was on an expedition (for example a rare grid), I would send an SASE as I knew they had gone to special expense to activate a grid for the community so I would pay for the postage both ways.
For the voice protocol on the busy birds, the best way is to listen for a couple passes and you'll pick it up pretty quickly. The short answer is keep it VERY SHORT and FAST. When the birds are not busy, you can actually chat. Back a few years ago when I was active, there were northbound passes on UO-14 in the late evening that were well off the Pacific coast of the USA and the footprint just skirted the west coast. As I am in the Los Angeles area I often got on and there was only one or two other stations for the first one to three minutes of my pass. We would often chat for fun that way. As the bird went farther north, there were more people and it was back to the SHORT and FAST operating mode.