Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Easy Sat?

The AO-51 monthly schedule ought to come in handy, once the control team news is better.

Unbeknownst to me as I finally purchased my first 70 cm rig (FT-470 dualbander, actually), intended for use in making my first 2-way satellite contact, the only remaining satellite I've got a reasonable chance of using had hiccuped 24 hours before I brought the rig home from NEAR-Fest.

At 1848Z 11 OCT over Europe, the software on AO-51 crashed, shutting down both transmitters. Subsequently the repeater and BBS will be down for several days while the command stations reload.

Bad luck.

Patience, old man, patience. It's been more than three decades since the first desire, you can wait a few more days.

Postscript November 4

AO-51 is back to life, though I haven't heard QSOs on every suitable pass.

AO-27 and SO-50 are possibilities, too! I thought the former was no longer operational and the latter simply didn't come to my attention sooner. (Seems like a lot of "easy sat" articles and attention on the web from 2002 through 2004, but little to no updating since then. Not sure why.)

Satscape and Heavens Above are very handy and cool.

A gain antenna for receive will be necessary. The popular (legendary?) Arrow II would be nice, but a simple 70 cm yagi might be adequate.

Postscript November 28

I opted to build an 8-element 435 MHz yagi based on WA5VJB's design, using bronze welding rod ($3) and a wood boom ($0). After days and days of practicing with it, tracking passes for 10 minutes or more, I gained the courage to make a call. The intended station didn't reply, but someone else did and we exchanged grids for that long-awaited first QSO, just before I lost the satellite to the horizon. Tnx, K8YSE!

Now that I know it works, I'm ready for more. Gonna hafta find a place other than the kitchen, though. (That's where the 7/8-wavelength 2-meter vertical on the roof terminates.)

Postscript December 3

The kitchen is still working out pretty well. I've now managed to complete exchanges with stations on each of the three easy satellites and the grid square total is rising.

Some station changes are still needed. I learned how difficult it can be to aim a yagi with one hand, press a PTT switch with another hand, and make log entries with a third hand. Now I understand why folks record passes on tape or digitally!

My next challenge was figuring out how to get Logbook of the World to accept my ACLog entries. Now that's done. I needed to label ACLog "Other" fields correctly (per AMSAT News Service):
  • PROP_MODE (SAT is the appropriate entry)
  • SAT_NAME (don't forget the hyphens, e.g., AO-27)
  • BAND_RX (70CM)

It worked. Pse QSL.

Postscript 2 years later

Inserted CM after 70 for BAND_RX.