Drew, where were you?
Digital side collecting WOD files, and much of the time at work. Summer is the time for field work in geology and geophysics, and that's what pays the bills. Last week I was in Tallahassee most of the week, and very busy. Sat time was done remotely over the web, checking in to collect files that WISP downloaded automatically. This weekend and week I'm steering the ship (mediocrely) while Gould is away.
If you have AO40 equipment laying around, you might be a good candidate for S band. But unless you are prepared for a very high dollar investment/qso, you probably won't be buying S-Band equipment to work the few stations that get on that mode.
S does not have to be expensive. A few years ago there were AIDC downconverters on Ebay for less than $50, and building a helix is practically free. Many folks like S for the challenge of building and modifying the gear for cheap. Heck, we even have some folks who use surplus MMDS downconverters that were found on Ebay for $6 each. A 2m HT, a surplus downconverter, a scrap of wire, and a scanner, and you are in business.
We need to balance the interests of everyone and that is understood. We need some V/S or L/S from time to time. I'm not sure, however, that an entire week should be devoted to it considering the usage. Maybe a few days at a time would make more sense. You work on your equipment and get ready for the three day period. If your setup doesn't work, you figure out why and get on the next time. Shorter sessions would focus the activity rather than spread it out over a week's time.
We've tried both ways. Having modes run in one week increments is easy to schedule, easy for the command team to implement (we are usually home on Sunday evenings), and easy for folks to remember when the mode change is. We've had 5 years to tweak this equation, and this is what works best in the current situation. You have one point of view that you have expressed to me before, and there are a myriad of other, often conflicting, viewpoints. Comprimise is not an easy task. Single mode satellites are so much easier.
We should do things that will interest new people in working satellites. V/U is the entry level for newcomers and we should make that available as much as possible.
It's available every day with or without AO-51 on 5 or 6 other satellites. However, without AO-51 there is no S and no L at all. Once you have mastered V/U, where to next if not L or S on 51? We've personally discussed this several times in the past. If SumbandilaSat is as successful as I think it will be with it's 4 or 5? watt downlink, you may find AO-51 in S more often than now. If Kiwisat works well on L up, or someone ever reloads GO-32 with the L BBS uplink, we may cut back on L time. Another issue is that once the next two full illumination periods are over, we may have a hard time running the S transmitter at all, due to power requirements and the deteriorating batteries. AO-51 by mid 2011 will likely not be able to support the S transmitter at all through eclipse, and will then revert to just V/U or L/U ops, and with only one transmitter at a time. Hopefully we'll have another S downlink by then, like Delfi Next, or maybe an AMSAT-Fox.
There are other FM birds, but nothing compares to what AO-51 does to attract new hams to satellite technology. It's signal level, available time/pass and morning/evening pass schedule over the US are ideal.
Maybe for you. Do you speak for everyone? I happen to think the AO-51 pass times are really poor now. I'm getting ready for work in the morning, or driving there, and eating dinner or driving home for the evening passes. AO-27 is about the same power level as AO-51 usually is, and is actually stronger for those using Arrows who match polarization with the downlink, since 27 has a linear downlink and 51 circular. SO-50 offers pass times that change from week to week, offering the newbie a chance to get on late night or early morning and not be trampled by grid chasers or the "breakfast club" saying hi to each other for the third time that day. 51 is hard to use for club meeting demos since the passes are over by the time the meeting even starts. I've switched to using AO-7, FO-29 or VO-52 for evening demos. Same for hamfests since the doors aren't open by the last morning pass, and everyone is home sorting their loot by the afternoon passes.
There is a lot of debate over what we should be doing for the future. But it is as important to debate how we should use the resources we have available to us right now. My hope is that this post will inspire some constructive comments and discussion on this subject.
I welcome the input, and the modes committee and I read and consider everything we get, and most of what we see on the -bb that is relevant. However, I've noticed there has been a lot of politicking and jockeying lately about scheduling, and I wish it would stop. Send the committee your own personal wishes, and rest assured that we are doing our best to meet everyone's requests, and represent all interests. It's not an easy job, and the less politics we have to deal with, the easier it is to do.
Glad you enjoyed V/S, and take this in the friendly spirit in which it was offered.
73, Drew KO4MA AMSAT VP Operations