I have listened to AO-85 transponder on its two last passes over Europe. Equipment is an Arrow antenna, FT-817ND for RX and FT-2D for TX. The signal is very good, peaking S9+ on the last overhead pass, and usually S7 or so (for comparison, SO-50 is usually S0 and peaks S1 or S2 sometimes).
However, the transponder is such a big mess. Many stations are overmodulating the receiver and are in fact very difficult to copy. Everybody stepping on each other's QSOs and people calling CQ without listening.
We should probably remind this: http://www.dk3wn.info/p/?p=64736
I tried to get on the transponder, but it seems impossible with just 5W and many people probably using high power. There have also been some reports that you might need a bit more than 5W to be heard sometimes.
Just to confirm: is there any offset on the uplink, or just 435.180 +- the usual Doppler should work?
Perhaps, until the novelty passes away I should limit myself to record and upload telemetry, because it seems quite difficult to get a QSO in this conditions.
My apologies for this small rant.