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Re: AO-40 FD



Jess wrote:

It was pretty easy to tell the experienced operators from those who got
on for FD.  I think most of the AO-40 operators were "regulars".  I know
I'm bucking the trend but those tracking radios drive me nuts -
especially in the hands of the inexperienced operators...  When
the offset is not set right on the tracking radios you wind up chasing
one another up or down the band but even when it is set right there is
often an unexpected frequency shift when I switch from receive to
transit.


Wayne replies:

I think every "tracking VFO" radio has an easy-to-use method to temporarily "untrack" the VFO's to get the TX offset frequency adjusted.  With the FT-847 it's as easy as turning the Sub-Tune knob.  Probably many of the Field Day operators were complete satellite newbies operating a satellite station that was set up by an experienced satellite operator.  Over a period of hours they become more and more off-frequency as the Doppler changed.

Actually, what annoyed me the most were the 5 or so stations that had good uplinks but poor receive capability.  They would call CQ for hours, and then ask for MANY repeats to get the callsign, class, and section out of the noise, if they even heard the reply at all.  In some ways it was amusing to hear them take 2 minutes of repeats to get the information that I could hear perfectly on the first try with my 2-foot dish, G3RUH patch, and AIDC3731 downconverter (no preamp!).

For this year's Field Day I flew from Chicago to Dallas/Fort Worth with 91 pounds of luggage to operate with K5XB 1A NTX, 45 miles southwest of Fort Worth in EM12ag.  I hand-carried an old 486 laptop (with InstantTrack/InstantTune) in a carry-on bag.  The luggage contained all the equipment I needed for Field Day except for AC power.

Equipment in the 43-pound plywood box:
G3RUH 60cm dish, patch feed, TSI 3731 downconverter, with 42 feet of RG-6 coax and SSB "protector"
7x7 Arrow 435 MHz antenna (RHCP) with 42 feet of flexible 9913 coax
2m: 3-element Arrow antenna (linear) with 38 feet of flexible 9913 coax
Velbon DF-60 camera tripod
homebrew 4-section wooden crossboom
40-foot headphone extension cable to adjust antennas "by ear" while listening to the AO40 beacon

Equipment in the 48-pound suitcase:
FT-847 wrapped in 2-inch thick foam
Astron SS-30M power supply
Heil Proset, spare microphone, spare headphones
Palm CW mini-paddle
Desk lamp
50-foot AC cord w/ 3 outlets

All the antennas were set up on a camera tripod with "Armstrong" az/el adjustment.  I knew this setup would be extremely inconvenient for LEO satellites, but I did manage to make 8 contacts on 4 passes of FO20 and FO29.  Many times I could hear the satellite well but couldn't hear my uplink signal.  After four eveining Fuji passes I dismantled the 2m antenna waited for AO40 to rise.  Operating AO40 was tough at first when the bird was to the east with high squint.  But I made a total of 94 AO40 contacts, including 7 contacts with European stations.  I think that's pretty good considering that my uplink antenna was small and the antennas were manually pointed.  Thanks to AO40 I made more contacts than last year even though last year I used rotors and much larger antennas.  33 of the 102 contacts were CW, so the AMSAT FD score for K5XB is 168 points.  There was a LOT of CW activity during the first 4 hours of the AO40 pass because conditions were tough for SSB.

Overall, I think that 102 contacts was really good for a genuinely portable "2 suitcase" station with only one operator.  My only regret was that I didn't even attempt to work the International Space Station.  Thanks to all the other FD and home stations for making those contacts possible.

Wayne Estes W9AE
Mundelein, IL, USA
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