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Re: the truth about amateur satellites (was RE: systemcomparison)

on 2/6/03 8:36 AM, Steve Muncy at smuncy@mac.com wrote:

> I'm new to satellites....just learning and I've learned a lot from this
> reflector.

Welcome and good!  :-)

> The older easier satellites have
> died.

They have?  FO-20 and FO-29 are still chugging along.  As is AO-7.

> How many digital satellites can be worked with the standard 1200
> or 9600 TNCs and AFSK?

All of the 9600 baud digitals can be worked with a standard 9600 baud TNC.
The 1200 stuff is a little different, but from what I've been told, your
sound card in your computer can do an amazing job decoding stuff!

> After a short time on satellites, I have  concluded  the following:
> 1. too expensive to justify casual contacts;

Oh Steve, this is just not true.  If you want to believe it then it will be.
I thought that way too and I know how you feel.  But let me tell you how I
got started:

I saw a guy on my local packet cluster selling the KLM 2m and 432 large CP
Yagis for about $100.  I bought them intending to use them for VHF/UHF work.
I had purchased Yaesu FT-690, FT-290 and FT-790 for 6m through 432 VHF/UHF
work.  OK, so the radios were an expense, but they were not originally
purchased with the idea of satellites.

Another ham gave me an Alliance "pass through" rotor.  I bought a larger
sized TV antenna rotor at Dayton.

I put all this together and successfully started in satellites.  I later
sold all the individual radios and bought an FT-847 and actually had money
left over (I love eBay!)!

So my "cost" to get on satellites war marginally more expensive than my cost
to set up a VHF/UHF station.  And I've had great fun.  I had a blast on
AO-10 and worked stations like 8J1RL and FO0AAA with this setup.

At Dayton a couple years ago, I found a Yaesu G-500A elevation rotor for
$100.  I just bought a Ham-M as an azimuth rotor for $150.  My S-band setup
cost me about the same as yours did.

Anything in the hobby costs, but you don't have to spend thousands to get on
the birds.  You are going to spend the money anyhow most likely to do
terrestrial work.

> 2. you need lots of time and patience to get set up;

I disagree here, but that's all in one's definition of building a station.
Yes, it takes longer than throwing up a dipole.  But building a tower and
assembling an HF beam takes time too.

> 3. too few really usable satellites;

Agree with you there, but there are currently 3 more in development that
will be up in the next couple of years.

> 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.
Totally disagree with you here.  The accident on AO-40 was a tremendous
set-back to this portion of the hobby.  No doubt.  If everything had worked
as planned, Amsat and Amsat-DL and all the other local Amsats, would be
flush with members and cash.  It has hurt.  But as long as there are hams
and hams who want to tinker and experiment there will be satellites.  One
example is WB4APR who put together a low cost packet digipeater that works
quite well.

> 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 BBQ dish will work fine.  If that's all you want.  We need people.  If
we had 100 more guys with BBQ dishes (and I am sure that many bought them),
there'd be plenty of guys to work.  The problem is that all the "experts"
have scared them away.  That or they expect the bird to sound like their
local FM repeater and it doesn't so they give up.

Microwaves require tinkering - no doubt.  But that's what some people enjoy
doing.  Maybe it's not your bad!

> 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!  ;-)

Who knows.  Maybe the 579 was being generous.  I've never seen anyone
suddenly back peddle on a QRP op.  QRP HF ops are becoming very popular
right now.

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

If it makes you happy, great.  That's what's important.



Jon Ogden
NA9D (ex: KE9NA)

Citizen of the People's Democratic Republik of Illinois

Life Member: ARRL, NRA
Member:  AMSAT, DXCC

http://www.qsl.net/na9d   <- Updated on 1/22/03!!!

"A life lived in fear is a life half lived."

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