Saturday, January 7, 2012

Enhance Your Easy Sat Experience!

December 7, 2012

Clayton, W5PFG, a very active satellite operator and grid activator, did a write-up on a very cheap and simple upgrade to your amateur satellite setup - one which will change your operating skills dramatically.  Below is his description of the upgrade:

Have you thought about upgrading your station to full-duplex capability?
I realize that many amateurs jump into the satellite fray by utilizing an existing handheld radio and an antenna like the Arrow, Elk, or tape-measure beam. It's a great way to get your feet wet and make that "first" contact via the birds.

Now, let's look at how we can do BETTER.

Full-duplex has a very important purpose in the satellite world. It allows you, the ground station, to know that your signal is being received and retransmitted by the satellite. I’m not saying it is a mandatory but once you see its benefit, you may never want to go “semi” again.

How do you really know you are being heard by the bird if you can't hear yourself? Answer: You don't.

How do you know another station wasn't already being captured by the bird and in the middle of a QSO when you transmit? Answer: You don't.

Let's talk about HOW to do full-duplex. First of all, you don't need base-station radios like the Icom IC-9100, IC-910, Kenwood TS-2000, or Yaesu FT-847. If you own two handhelds, chances are you have what you need!

What you need is at least one radio capable of transmitting on the uplink and one radio capable of receiving on the downlink. For example using AO-27:

1. A 2m-only HT, set to the satellite's uplink, ~145.85 MHz.
2. A 70cm-only HT, set to the satellite's downlink, ~436.795 MHz.

Technically you do not even need a radio capable of transmitting to hear yourself on the downlink. A scanner or pocket receiver works dandy!

To get into full-duplex inexpensively, there are numerous options. You can buy a NEW Baeofeng UV-3R for about $50-60 USD, shipped. This radio could serve as an uplink or downlink radio, depending on your need. I’m not peddling these radios but using them as an example.

If you have the Arrow with the built-in diplexer, simply bypass it by running a patch cord from each radio to the respective UHF and VHF beams. If you are running an Elk or tape-measure 2m beam, you will need an inexpensive diplexer to give you both 2m and 70cm feed points. One can be constructed easily or purchased from numerous vendors for $30-80.

Give full-duplex a try. You will not only help the satellite community by eliminating unnecessary hetero-dyning tug-of-war, it will generally make you sound better on the birds! Oh, and use a pair of earphones or a headset when you give it a try to avoid feedback.

Thanks & 73,

Here are some more example full-duplex combinations:

Wouxon HT - Downlink
2m only-HT - Uplink

FT-60R - Uplink
Baofeng - Downlink

Handheld scanner - Downlink
Dual-band HT - Uplink

Saturday, December 10, 2011

EN75vp Cheboygan Michigan Ops

December 7-10, 2011

UPDATE: Cards were mailed 12/26/2011.  Email me if you do not receive yours within 2 weeks.

During the beginning of December, our family made a short getaway to a cabin on Lake Huron about 12 miles east of Cheboygan, Cheboygan County, Michigan.  The trip only lasted four days, but I did have a few opportunities to work some AM SO50 passes along with one or two PM AO27 and SO50 passes.  Operating was confined to the cabin QTH (EN75vp) due to lack of equipment (I packed light) and lack of satellite passes.  This was my first outing since AO51's demise, and I really missed the strong signals and convenient evening passes.  The cabin was located in the woods, so I had a hard time hearing the birds until they got above 15-20 degrees or were out over the lake.  Even with the obstructions, SO50 was sounding really good.  I traveled with the TH-D7A HT, Arrow, and ARR SP432VDG preamp on 8AA batteries.  Below is a brief breakdown of our daily activities:

Wednesday the 7th was traveling day, and the trip from Ohio to Cheboygan lasted about 8 hours.  I was hoping to work some passes while mobile, but I did not bring sufficient antennas along to work mobile.  I tried to hear AO27 once, but all I caught was the suffix of a call sign.  Below is few pics of the cabin we stayed at.

Cabin lakeside view.

View of Lake Huron from the Cabin.  This is facing north.

On Thursday the 8th I was able to work three passes beginning with SO50 at 1320z.  N5AFV, KB1RVT, and WA4NVM were logged during that northwestern pass out over Lake Huron.  I enjoyed discussing the Wolverines with Rick, and how they humiliated us Buckeyes a couple weeks ago.  As I tell everyone else, we are in rebuilding season. ;-)

Later in the afternoon I jumped on AO27 at 1745z and worked VA3OR and KD8QBA.  A couple other stations were heard but were having trouble hearing.  This pass was in the trees, but the preamp helped take the edge off of the static.

After the AO27 pass, we jumped in the truck and headed up the shoreline to the Mackinac Bridge, and into St. Ignace.  It was amazing how seasonal the far northern towns were.  The economy in that part of the UP is sustained primarily by tourism, which lacks in December for the obvious reason that no one wants to vacation in sub-zero temps and snow (except us).  Very few shops and hotels were open.  Below are a few pics of the trip up to St. Ignace.

Approaching the Mackinac from the south.

Taken from the UP looking southeast.

This picture was taken of the UP shoreline facing east.  The lakes were beginning to freeze in the 15-25 degree day temps.
This picture was taken from the UP looking southeast.  The Mackinac is in the background.
Once we got back from the UP, I worked the 2150z SO50 pass and had QSOs with AC0RA, N8RO, N0KK, and N3YKF.  I lost the bird in the trees abruptly and left many ops calling me without response.  I really hate leaving a pass this way, but it happens every now and then.  I decided that I prefer hills instead of trees.  At least the hills end the pass whereas the trees keep you guessing if it is going to come back.

On Friday the 9th I woke up a bit early and worked the 1208z and 1350z SO50 passes.  KB0RZD, K4FEG, CO6CBF, N9IP, K8YSE, and KC0YBM were worked on the first pass which had good coverage of North America, and NX9B and K8YSE were worked on the second pass which rose 30 degrees to my NW.  I confused my north with my northwest during this pass, so I missed a large chunk of it.  Despite the QRM and fuzziness from operating while still half asleep, I believe at least 4-5 ops were able to log EN75 for the first time during those two passes.  

After the AM passes we ventured down to central-northern Michigan for the day, traveling to Indian River, Vanderbilt, and Wolverine.  My dad and I have been through these towns several times in the past during our canoe trips, so it was fun to see the scenery during a different season.  We traveled back into the Pigeon State Forest in search of some Elk, but we never did find any.  Below are some pics of the day's events.

The snow was falling fairly heavy on the trip down south.  This was taken off of US-27 south of Cheboygan.

One of the many back roads we traveled during the afternoon.  For you canoe enthusiasts, this bridge spans the Pigeon River.

One of the many Elk-less viewing points.

Inspiration Point in the Pigeon Forest.  We had about a 1/4 mile hike up to this point, and the windchill was around 0-5 degrees Fahrenheit at the top.  You can see the snow falling in the distance.

Once we got back to the cabin in the late evening, we were able to get a few pics of the beautiful sunset on Lake Superior.

The shorelines were beginning to freeze up for the winter.

On Saturday the 10th, I worked the 1235z SO50 pass, which was the last pass worked during the trip.  WA4NVM, N9IP, AB0XE, and K0TWB were all worked on this pass.  I had some local interference from an unknown source causing some QRM on the downlink which confused me a bit while trying to talk.  

During the brief four-day trip, 19 stations were worked with a total of 22 QSOs (3 were duplicates) on 6 passes (1 AO27 and 5 SO50).  All stations worked will receive a specific EN75vp Michigan QSL card in 3-4 weeks from 12/10/2011.  I will get them out ASAP once I receive them.  Also, all QSOs will be in LoTW under KD8KSN (not KD8KSN/p).  If you do not see a confirmation for our QSO in LoTW or do not receive your card within a month, EMAIL me and I will make any corrections.

Thanks for the QSOs!

Sunday, December 4, 2011


September 2011

In an effort to reduce the number of pages I have on this blog, I am moving this previous page to a post.  ARISSat-1 is also nearing the end of its flight, so this was a rather "seasonal" activity.

Below are some SSTV pics I have downloaded from ARISSat-1.  I am using MMSSTV.