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Made my first HT satellite contacts yesterday - fun!

Discussion in 'General Ham Radio Discussion' started by Moleculo, Jul 12, 2009.

  1. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    Yesterday I made my first contacts using the A0-51 (Echo) satellite as it went directly over head at about 6pm local. I used my Yaesu VX-8r and the Arrow 2m/440 handheld yagi, which I just wrote a review about here:

    http://www.worldwidedx.com/amateur-...handheld-2m-440-satellite-antenna-review.html

    While hams have been doing this for years, this is a first for me and MAN WAS IT FUN!! :w00t::D(y). The action happens fast and furious since when the bird comes into range you only have a few minutes to make contacts. I made about 3 contacts, although the action went too fast to record call signs. I know one was in Wyoming.

    I attached a PDF file that I found on the internet that gives you the basics on how to do it. I also downloaded Satsape for free from Satscape - Free satellite tracking program for Windows, Mac and Linux to track the birds and find out when they would be in range.



    A couple of first time observations:

    The attached PDF mentions twisting your wrist while holding the yagi to adjust for the changing signal polarity. I can't stress enough how important this is. When you start to hear stations, twisting your wrist will really let you pull in the satellite. You have to constantly adjust it also while you're tracking through the sky.

    It also helped a lot that I planned out the approach and path of the satellite in advance. One thing that the document doesn't mention is that you need a good compass. I use this one that I have for hiking made by Silva:

    [​IMG]

    Using the compass, pick an object in the distance in each direction that you will use to orient you with the starting and ending locations of the pass. If you don't know how to use one of these compasses, let me know and I'll explain it.

    I also understand why they recommend using a voice recorder - you can't write down the callsigns quickly enough even if you have someone helping you. I don't keep any station logs, but I would like to look up where the stations are located after the pass.

    The attached document also recommends a 440Mhz preamp. I can also see why this is a good idea. Rather than purchase the expensive Mirage unit recommended, I ordered this $15 Ramsey kit from Amazon that has similar RX specs.

    Amazon.com: Ramsey PR40 Low Cost 440 MHz Receiver Preamplifier Kit: Electronics

    When it comes in, I'll take better pictures of the build and report on the performance.

    There are other antenna ideas around on the internet for fixed or portable use also. But if you have an HT and haven't tried this yet, you should definately try home brewing or purchasing a handheld yagi and give it a try!

    This is just about the MOST fun I've had with radio in a while, and I can't wait to get back outside to try another satellite pass! (y)(y)(y)(y)
     

    Attached Files:

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  2. Robb

    Robb Yup

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    I know that you have your MARS certification.
    Is the satellite link part of that program - too? The satellite you are hitting must be in a low Earth orbit to be able to pass over so quickly and be unusable. Can any satellites at a higher orbit also be used?

    Talking to WY on 2m is cool enough.
    I do it on AM/SSB/11 meters.
    Is there a way to use 11 meters off a satellite - too?
    Curious...
     
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  3. Quiksilver

    Quiksilver Active Member

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    Coooool!
     
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  4. Sonwatcher

    Sonwatcher Administrator

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    That's pretty cool Mole ! Did you get the duplexer with the antenna ? I downloaded the software. It's neat. I'll have to do a little more reading up on this. I have a dual-band HT so I think this could be a cool adventure.:)
     
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  5. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    ANYONE with a tech ticket can do this. Most of the Low Earth Orbit satellites (LEOS) are available in the VHF/UHF range, although there are a couple that are sometimes operational on 10m. AO-51 also has 1.2 and 2.4Ghz frequencies you can use!

    These are strictly amateur radio satellites - there is no way you're ever going be able to use 11m to get into them.

    Sonwatcher - yes I got the one with the duplexer built in.

    I found many pages on home-brewing antennas for cheap, if you're not concerned about portability and space. Let me know if you would like me to post up some links. You guys have GOT to try this out...IT'S GREAT FUN!
     
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  6. Sonwatcher

    Sonwatcher Administrator

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    Yeah, go ahead and post the links ! :)
     
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  7. Captain Kilowatt

    Captain Kilowatt Professional Amateur Staff Member

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    I remember my first satellite contact thru AO-27. I used an IC-2000 for the 2m uplink and a scanner for the downlink. It worked but was a crappy setup. After I got the Kenwood THG-71A dual band HT it was much better. I use the Cushcraft A270-10 yagi which has five elements on 2m and five elements on 70 cm. It has been a long time since I worked the birds but maybe I will start up again. The problem I have here is that most passes I can work are also covering southern Ontario or the USA north east and there are hundreds of stations trying.
     
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  8. Sonwatcher

    Sonwatcher Administrator

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    I have a 2m/440 yagi on the roof on a rotor. Is it possible to use this setup ?
     
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  9. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    Yes, although you're going to need to either change your rotor to one that you can adjust the elevation on, or figure out how to make it adustable manually. The polarity could be an issue, too...but you should be able to make contacts.

    I JUST made a few contacts again on the pass that went over a few minutes ago. This is too much fun! (y)
     
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  10. Radio Tech

    Radio Tech Radio Operator

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    Congrats Mole!
    I remember one of my first contacts. It was feild day. Was on Ao-10 or 13. Can not remember which bird. Made a contact to Japan. Lasted about 30 seconds. Man them high orbits were fun. But many years ago.
    I work a lot on AO-7 now. FM sats are nice but ssb is a trick.

    As far as the LEO birds the polarity is not as important. I have worked them with omni antennas just fine.

    I run Yaesu 726 and 736 rigs.

    Anyway here is a pic of my homemade sat antennas.
     

    Attached Files:

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  11. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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  12. Radio Tech

    Radio Tech Radio Operator

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    The turnstyles work ok. I have used the "Texas Potatoe Mashers" quite a bit. The biggest problem is when the bird is low on the horizon. That is when the yagi has advantage.
     
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  13. Moleculo

    Moleculo Administrator Staff Member

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    I was able to get on again last night and made a few contacts on A0-51 again. I'm going to start trying a few of the other birds also. I'm terrible at remember the call sign that was just spit out rapidly at me so I can call it back, though. No matter...it's still a lot of fun. I got a 440Mhz preamp kit in, so I'm going to work on putting that together to make the RX even better.
     
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  14. Radio Tech

    Radio Tech Radio Operator

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    mole,
    Are you only on the FM birds? If so, wait till you work a ssb bird. Now that is a blast also.

    Now, I will not question you ability or anything but I have to ask this. If you are using FM only then why the preamp? Reason I ask this is because I have been using sats for a long time. And have not used a preamp since the HEO birds were up. Now not saying they will not hurt but if you are receiving a noisy signal then a preamp is only going to amplify the noise.

    I started in sats before I even had my ticket. A freind of mine got me to go to feild day with him in the early 80's. We used seprate radios to work the birds. The UHF up link antenna was a home brew 64 element. (which I still have) The VHF was a 24 element. Back then we ran 400 watts uplink and ARR preamps. They were GaAsFET and high dollar back then. The rigs were single band units.

    I got my ticket and my first sat rigs were the Yaesu FT-221R 2 meter all mode and a KLM Echo 70 with added crystals. I later picked up a KLM multi 2700 tranciever. That has 2 meter all mode with a 10 meter receiver built in. That was one of the first rigs designed for sats. It was great for the old spunknic birds and also when AO-7 started.

    I now have 2 Yeasu FT-726 rigs and a Yaesu FT-736. I do not have a 1.2 gig module but I work all other modes. No amps and no preamps.

    Oh, sorry for hijacking your thread with my boring history....
    but here is a pic of the old 64 element. It was cut back a year ago for EME.

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. W9WD

    W9WD Guest

    Was your EME successful?
     
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