I had an AMSAT table at the Scottsdale Amateur Radio Club's "Springfest" hamfest, held in a church parking lot yesterday (Saturday, 19 March) morning. This hamfest is one of the 3 major hamfests for the Phoenix area in the non-summer season, and the good weather helped to bring the crowds out. Lots of buyers and sellers, and lots of interest in AMSAT and amateur satellites.
With the launches of AO-85 and the 9 Chinese amateur satellites in the past 6 months, many hams are taking a closer look at this part of the hobby. For some, the recent launches and projects currently in the pipeline are bringing some back to the satellites. Along with talking about satellites, many copies of AMSAT's "Getting Started with Amateur Satellites" flew off my AMSAT table. Demonstrations, whether at 6am (1300 UTC) or 11am (1800 UTC), had nice crowds.
It was nice to have AO-85 available during the morning, as SO-50 was not passing by during the morning. I also had 4 other satellites that were used for demonstrations - AO-73, XW-2A, XW-2C, and XW-2F. The three XW-2 satellites were passing by in the first couple of hours, and AO-73 and AO-85 came by later in the morning. For all of these passes, I used my SDRplay SDR receiver for the downlinks, connected to an 8-inch Windows10 tablet and HDSDR software running on the tablet.
As I have seen at other recent events, using an SDR receiver makes for more conversations - and not just in the context of working satellites. With all of these satellites employing a 70cm uplink and 2m downlink, I didn't have to worry so much about the sunlight making the tablet's LCD panel unreadable. Once I set my downlink frequency on the tablet, and for AO-85 activate AFC in HDSDR to track the downlink, I only had to worry about using the wheel on a Bluetooth mouse for fine-tuning. Despite some QRM in the area of the hamfest site, northeast of a nearby airport, the SDRplay did a decent job hearing all of these downlinks. For AO-73 and AO-85, I was able to play back the RF recordings I made with HDSDR later at home, so I could upload telemetry to each satellite's telemetry server from those passes. By the way, HDSDR's recordings do a much better job picking up AO-73 telemetry than I ever saw when I used the FUNcube Dashboard to directly receive the telemetry and then upload the data to the FUNcube data warehouse server. Same thing for copying AO-85 telemetry - HDSDR's RF recordings do better for capturing the data than I saw when using the FoxTelem software to directly control my FUNcube Dongle Pro+.
For those who worked WD9EWK during those demonstrations - THANK YOU! The demonstrations make a positive impression on this part of the hobby for the crowds. My mockup of the AO-85 satellite - a 4-inch cube of wood, with two whips representing the antennas coming out of two sides - also helps to reinforce that small satellites can do more than "beep" in orbit. AO-73 and AO-85, in particular, are great examples of what we can do with small satellites. I have uploaded my log to Logbook of the World from these demonstrations, and am happy to send QSL cards to anyone who would like one for QSOs during the hamfest (just e-mail me with the QSO details - no need to send me a card and self-addressed stamped envelope).
Thanks again, and 73!
Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK http://www.wd9ewk.net/ Twitter: @WD9EWK