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Beginner birds



Emily wrote:

I  don't see how 10M will do as much as 2m/70cm or 70cm/23cm for attracting 
new blood.  If you want young blood, go for something the techs can work 
right away.  

Wayne replies:

U.S. Techs are permitted to work every ham transponder ever launched, except RS-12 "Mode K" which required an Advanced license to use the 15m uplink.    Mode A satellites use a 10m downlink, and everybody is permitted receive on 10m.  But of course you can't operate a Mode A linear transponder with an FM-only radio, except to make slow chirpy CW contacts (and most techs don't know the code).  Techs would need a 2m multi-mode radio and a SSB HF receiver to operate mode A linear transponders.  The VHF multi-mode radio would be a good building block for getting on the "higher" satellites.  An HF receiver isn't particularly useful for other satellites, except when used with converters.  But a VHF/UHF FM radio is even less useful for the "higher" satellites.

RS-10 (Mode A) was the first ham satellite I ever heard and the first ham satellite I ever made a 2-way contact on.  One neat thing about Mode A satellites is that a large percentage of hams already have a suitable radio and antenna to LISTEN to the 10m downlink just to get an idea of what it's like to operate satellites.  I first heard RS-10 before I even had a tracking program, listening on my HF transceiver with a multi-band HF vertical antenna.  I just tuned up there a few times until I happened to hear a pass.  Unfortunately, the typical entry-level ham equipment has changed over the years.  10 years ago, entry level was typically a second-hand HF rig and an HF vertical or trap dipole.  Nowadays it's a VHF/UHF FM mobile rig and a dual-band collinear vertical (or even just a dual-band HT).  But a new ham can get a used HF transceiver and put up a 10m inverted Vee for less than $200.  Then the new ham could get a taste of HF SSB and satellite SSB if we had a Mode A satell!
 ite.

I suppose some people might consider the FM satellites to be better beginner satellites because less equipment is required.  This is true, but the FM satellites typically require a steerable gain antenna to hear the downlink reliably.  And many of us believe that the quality of the user experience is very poor.  I suspect that FM satellite chaos and congestion could never be eliminated, no matter how much resources we threw at the problem.  Suppose we had a "super Echo" that had 10 FM channels, each with 8W PEP downlink power.  It would be easy to hear with an HT, and all 10 channels would probably be congested during evening and weekend passes.  How many of those legions of users would be motivated to join and support AMSAT?  How many would be motivated to upgrade to HEO satellites?  I don't know, but FM satellites seem TO ME to be kind of a dead-end, with no gradual upgrade path to "better" satellites.  I think the best entry-level satellite is Mode A, which offers a quali!
 ty user experience and a very EASY TO HEAR 10m downlink.  The 2m SSB uplink is more difficult than FM satellites, but it offers an upgrade path to the higher satellites.  But maybe my thinking is biased by the fact that I'm an "old timer" who became a ham when HF SSB was the main attraction of ham radio.

Wayne Estes W9AE
Mundelein, IL, USA
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