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FM Satellites (Millennium Project)

Bob Bruninga wrote:
> Tones do nothing on a busy channel.  Tones only have value when the
> channel is not in use.  The uplink to an amateur bird sees 100% RF and
> always from the strongest station. There is no way to break into such a
> situation no matter how urgent your situation...due to the FM
> capture effect (except with more power).
I agree.  Equal antennas, equal power, equal access.  However, a gain
antenna (with directivity)  could select from several birds in the sky
on the same frequency.  An omni antenna would not.

                 *** The Millennium Project ***

Ted notices his breath turning to vapor as he slides out of his sleeping
bag, being careful not to bang his head on the Appalachian Trail
lean-to, in which he and Alice spent the night. The morning chill
invigorates Ted as he begins his morning ritual.  

It is October 17, 2001.  He reminds himself to wish Alice happy
anniversary.  "Has it really been 6 years," he mutters aloud.

He makes pancakes and eggs before waking Alice.  Together, they plan the
day.  Ted wants to make it to the top of Standing Indian Mountain by
3:00, so they can spend some time working the Millennium Satellites. 

Ted talks.  Alice notices a spider has climbed into her hiking shoe, and
her hair feels damp and icky.  "Happy anniversary," they both croon in
concert.  "It has been a fabulous 5 years," adds Alice.  Ted tries not
to show his confusion, as he counts fingers, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999,
2000, 2001.  "Damn, she's always right," he thinks to himself.

By 7:30, they have broken camp, and are steadily climbing out of Bear
Pen Gap.  The rhododendron are radiant as the rising sun begins to burn
the haze from the side of the mountain.  Mountain azaleas flame in
splendor and hearken the hikers to quicken their pace.  A red shouldered
hawk flies overhead, screaming for his mate.  

Ted is in his element. Alice is glad Ted is in his element.  She
imagine any place she'd rather be than with Ted.  Besides, she had
talked Ted into taking his test.  Now he too could share her great love, 
working the amateur satellites.  Vacation, and this hiking trip, allow 
her to take the time to work some new stations, and perhaps give out a 
couple rare grid squares to fellow operators.

At 3:40, Alice scrambles over boulders for the final ascent to Standing
Indian.  The Nantahala mountains never looked so beautiful to her
before.  Looking out over the valley, towards Picken's Nose, she slides
her hiking shoes apart to steady her stance.  It's not hard to get woozy
looking out over the tops of clouds.

Ted finally lumbers over the rocks to join Alice.  He lagged her by 4
minutes.  "I warned you not to wear those new boots," she exclaimed. 
"There really wasn't anything wrong with the old ones, and THEY were
broken in!"

Ted settled in on a piece of granite in the sun.  He painfully removed
first one, and then the other boot from his tortured feet.  He rummaged
through his pack and found his corn huskers lotion, and a package of
mole skin patches.  "On the road repairs," he mused.  Alice was intent,
and didn't hear or notice Ted.

Alice was gazing at her PalmPilot computer.  She noticed from the
tracking software that Millennium D, L, and P were all visible from this
vantage point.  She snapped the elements onto the mast of the dual band
antenna, fastened the coax to the preamplifier, and connected the jumper
to the HT.  With practiced precision, she hit the power button at the
same time she pointed the array towards the SE.  Immediately, Millennium
L is audible.  W4JEF, and K5PK are in QSO.

Carefully, Alice inspected the display of her rig, toggling the power
switch until she is sure the rig is set to the 1 watt setting.  Her
mentor has taught her well.  Bob had been the conscience of the
Millennium project.  He made sure the ERP requirements of the satellites
were established, documented, and widely circulated.  Unlike the aging
18 minute satellite, AO-27, order reigns on the Millennium birds.

Waiting for her chance to jump into the QSO, Alice keyed the rig and
transmitted her call.  "AT4DB, Appalachian Trail portable," she
asserted.  Jeff responded by telling Steve that it looks like Alice is
joining them, and must be somewhere on the Appalachian trail.  "Where
are you?" asked Jeff.  "Standing on top of Standing Indian Mountain, in
the middle of the Nantahala National Forest," Alice enthusiastically

For several minutes, Alice talked with Jeff and Steve, telling them a
little about their adventure, and what plans lie ahead.  Of course they
both were excited to work Alice from atop a mountain, and Jeff
wondered in just which grid square they happened to be located.

Alice signed with the other operators, and decided to point the antenna
towards AM-D.  Besides the obvious dah-dit-dit periodically audible as a
signature on the bird, she has mastered the ability to recognize many of
the birds by their tonal qualities.  Millennium D sounds a little flat,
or scrunched to her.  

This pass is over the east coast, and out into the Atlantic.  There is
quieting on the signal, but no operators.  "CQ, CQ, CQ, AO-D, this is
AT4DB calling from the Appalachian trail," Alice chimed.  No response. 
Rotating the antenna back over her shoulder, she ascertained the rig was
still working.  Jeff and Steve could still be heard on the other bird. 
Studying the rig, she sees she has not changed the tone for AM-D, but is
still transmitting the tone for AM-L.  Seizing a pause in the QSO, she
asked, "did I just QRM your QSO? I forgot to change the tone!"  "No, we
didn't hear anything Alice," Jeff replied.  "OK, thanks again, see ya,
AT4DB QSY," she finished.

Pointing the antenna back to the east, she tried calling AM-D.  Still no
takers.  Well, it was the middle of the week, and maybe everybody was
still at work, she rationalized.

At this point, she heard the scream.  A blood curdling, mortal coil sort
of scream.  Primal, guttural, loud.  It took a second to register that
the scream came from Ted.  Alice spun around on the rock in time to see
Ted dancing barefoot on the rocks, as an Eastern Diamondback rattle
snake made his retreat from the gyrating victim.  Beads of sweat built
on Ted's upper lip and brow.  "I've been bitten!" he cried.

Alice lay the antenna and rig on the rocks and scrambled over to be with
her mate.  "I didn't see the thing sunning on the rocks.  I must have
put my foot down right on top of it," exclaimed Ted in a pained voice. 
"He bit me right on the ankle."

Alice instructed Ted to lay down on the rocks, and keep his leg elevated
on his pack.  She would get help.  Alice grabbed the radio and pointed
the antenna towards the west.  She spun the knob to memory 99 where she
had programmed tone and settings for Millennium emergency activation. 
"Break, medical emergency, AT4DB," she asserted into the rig.  No
return, and just the steady hiss of white noise.  That bird must be over
the horizon, she figured.  She spun to the east twisting the antenna in
the air.  "Break, medical emergency, AT4DB," she repeated several times.

"Alice, what's wrong?  This is W4JEF.  Do you have an emergency?"  

"Yes, Ted has been bitten by a rattle snake.  We need emergency medical
assistance immediately!" Alice bellowed.

"Stand by, I'll get my dispatcher on the radio.  Tell me again where you
are.  Are you still on Standing Indian Mountain?  Do you know what
county you're in?"

"Yes, Standing Indian.  I think we're in Franklin County," Alice

"Stand by!"

Jeff works as an officer for the Jefferson County Sheriffs office.  He
contact with his dispatcher, who made contact with Franklin County EMS. 
Within 20 minutes, Ted is airlifted from atop the mountain to the
Franklin hospital.  

Ted lived to hike again.  Alice was grateful to Jeff, and for use of the
Millennium satellite system.

A couple weeks later, Jeff received a QSL card in the mail.  Across the
front of the card was a caricature of Jeff wrestling a rattle snake. 
The words, "Snake Bit!" graced the front.  It was for a very rare grid

73, Mike in Fort Myers, FL
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