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the truth about amateur satellites (was RE: system comparison)

I personally think this BBQ dish debate is pretty much exhausted, but 
some of the following comments I find so important that I must add my 
two cents....

On Thursday, Feb 6, 2003, at 07:03 US/Central, Jon Ogden wrote:
> So these people with BBQ dishes don't get on.  They give up on 
> satellite
> because they don't have the space nor rotors nor microwave skills to 
> get a
> bigger dish and build a patch feed.  They resign themselves to the 
> common
> belief in ham radio that satellite operations are for an exclusive 
> "club" of
> extremely techie hams.  They are fed up with the FM birds at this 
> point too
> since you can't have a sane conversation on them.  So they "throw 
> their BBQ
> dish in the trash" as one person has suggested and never get on.

I'm new to satellites....just learning and I've learned a lot from this 
reflector. I have wanted to get on the satellites FOR YEARS, but 
complications and long periods of inactivity have prevented that.  I 
know many people like the FM birds, but I don't. Maybe I'm just too shy 
to jump into the middle of an on-going "QSO" (if you can call them 
that), but the FM birds remind me of CB radio at a truck stop. I just 
don't see the point. I don't knock anyone who likes them, but they 
aren't for me.

I really wanted to get on AO-40. I'm not going to pay a huge amount for 
expensive rotors and I have space limitations. I've seen the K5GNA 
dish/downconverter combo demonstrated by a number of users in portable 
settings, and at the AMSAT conference in Ft. Worth. I purchased one, 
never expecting it to be the ultimate antenna setup to use with my 
IC-910H, but I looked at it as a beginners package - a place to start. 
It's in the air, I've made a few contacts and I'm now waiting to get 
the down-converter fixed after I fried it --but that's another story. 

My major frustration here is that I believe  SOME in the satellite 
community are completely distorting the truth about the use of 
satellites. I was certainly "suckered in" by these misrepresentations! 
"It doesn't have to be expensive!", they say. "It's easier than you 
think!", they boast. The fact is, unless you are willing to limit 
yourself to the FM birds (and that gets very old very quick), getting 
on satellites is EXPENSIVE and HARD. The older easier satellites have 
died. How many digital satellites can be worked with the standard 1200 
or 9600 TNCs and AFSK?

After a short time on satellites, I have  concluded  the following:
1. too expensive to justify casual contacts;
2. you need lots of time and patience to get set up;
3. too few really usable satellites;
4. because of the limitations of #1 and #2, growth will be very limited
5. increasing costs of development and launch and  the limitations of 
#1,#2,#3 mean that ultimately this section of the amateur radio hobby 
will die out.

I hope I'm wrong on the last point, but the only way to prevent this 
section of the hobby from joining the dinosaurs is to get an infusion 
of people.  I'm going to keep plugging away with my BBQ dish and 
someday I'll probably get something better....provided I don't get so 
discouraged that I drop out of satellites entirely.

> The whole fact is that it's not an idea setup.  It's a start.  But 
> neither
> is a dipole at 20 feet for HF!  Yet a lot of guys work DXCC this way.  
> It's
> easier having an 8 element Yagi at 75 feet for sure, but not everyone 
> can do
> that.

Funny. My main HF antenna is a dipole at 25 feet, using a K2 usually 
running 900 milliwatts. This works well for me, although I've notice 
that my "UR 579" signal frequently drops to "having trouble copying" 
when they find out my power level!  ;-)

> Is a BBQ dish the ultimate receiving setup?  Not even close!  Can it be
> improved - sure.  Should it be improved.  It all depends on what the 
> end
> user wants.  There's lots of guys that never get a better HF antenna 
> than a
> dipole at 20 feet.  Let's not scare away.  Let's encourage people to 
> get on
> and operate properly with appropriate levels below the beacon.  But who
> cares what they use for an RX antenna as long as they are happy.

Amen! Except, please don't knock my 20 foot dipole! It does a great 
job. ;-)

Steve Muncy, NI5V    <mailto:ni5v@arrl.net>
Dalllas, TX USA         <http://homepage.mac.com/smuncy/hamradio/
QRP-ARCI #10330  FISTS #7412  QCWA #30705  AMSAT #33939
ARRL Life Member

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