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Re: 2005 Field Day Fun on the Satellites ( l o n g )

John P. Toscano wrote:

> Well, the 2005 Field Day exercise has come and gone.  I participated 
> with the Twin Cities Repeater Club out of Burnsville, MN (Twin Cities 
> refers to Minneapolis and St. Paul, for those of you who don't know 
> much about Minnesota geography).  We were operating as W0BU, 3A, MN, 
> with a GOTA station and a VHF/UHF/Satellite station (which I was in 
> charge of again this year).  It was a whole lot of fun, and I thought 
> I'd share a few thoughts with this group on how we made it fun.

Here are a  few lessons I have learned over the years doing satellite 
Field Day, based on experiences, both positive and negative I have had.:

Use proven gear, even if it isn't state of the art, rather than trying a 
bunch of hardware you have not had a chance to test out. Try to find 
ways of simplifying your station without compromising your ability to 
communicate, and have a backup plan if a piece of gear fails.  There is 
a nice, satisfying "geek factor" in having a station with all the bells 
and whistles, fancy computer controlled antennas and nifty displays, 
polarization switches, preamp,  etc. to show off to other hams and the 
nonham public that comes out to see. It is also hell to set up all that 
stuff in a couple of hours, particularly those of us with day jobs.that 
don't have time and money to set up a dedicated station for field day 
that can stay at least partially prewired the rest of the year.

Make sure your antennas actually load at frequencies you plan to use. I 
made this mistake with a 70 cm crossed yagi that I got at a Hamfest. 
Nice compact antenna with 10 horizontal and 10 vertical elements With 
short coax, I figured it would be nearly as effective as my KLM 44CX fed 
with nearly 100 feet of coax.. The antenna loaded at 432 MHz and 446 MHz 
but terribly at 435, no matter how I adjusted the gamma match. Ended up 
making a midnight run home to get my KLM-44CX off the home mast. The 
campers must have have cringed as I hammered,  grunted, and cursed  my 
antennas together in the 3 AM darkness, but most was forgiven when I 
made more contacts in 2 hours than the HF station did in that time.

For the HEOs, you can dispense with a rotor and all the fuss associated 
with setting it up with a manually steered mast and cross boom. Use good 
proven antennas on it. If you plan to work only the  LEOs, you can 
probably dispense with a powered rotor with willing volunteers and a 
combination of an omni antenna and short yagis that can be manually 
pointed. Signals won't be as good as the long yagis though, but long 
yagis need good directional control.

This year, I did decide to do the whole rotor thing once more, after 
throwing my hands up in disgust at all the broken wires and rusty 
bearings  a few years ago. I still had my old home station cables 
intact, so it wasn't as much a problem as before. Still, it is a lot of 
wires to hook up.  I also wanted to shake down my old gear which has 
been in storage for a year and a half before setting it up again. The 
antennas and rotors worked, but my backup power supply didn't. Another 
ham had an extra, so I didn't have to hook my 736 to my truck battery, 
though I was prepared to do so.

If your home station is effective with 100 feet of RG-214 for your 435 
MHz uplink with 100 watts, it will be just as effective with 30 watts 
with 25 feet of RG-214. Not only do you need to bring less cable, but 
you can leave your power amps home too! On the downlink, 25 feet of 214 
loses less signal than 100 feet of Hardline, and 25 feet of LMR 400 
loses practically nothing,  so you probably can leave your preamp home. 
Keeping your coax cables no longer than necessary pays many dividends.

Bring plenty of extra connectors, tools, and cables. Somebody else might 
need them if you don't. I loaned out plenty of tools last Saturday when 
I wasn't using them. Field Day is as much about pooling talent and 
resources as it is operating. Try to bring something to the party that 
nobody else has. One YL ham was a hit a couple of years ago when she 
brought a bag of unusual wrapped chocolate candies she found at a local 
ethnic market.

Print out hard copies of your satellite tracking data. and keep them in 
a binder. That way, if the old clunker laptop dies during Field Day, you 
are not put out of business. The listing sheets  work well in a bright 
site where daylight tends to wash out many older laptop screens. This 
year, I also did a quick-reference spreadsheet  with  mode and frequency 
information on each  satellite, with color coded pass data to see at a 
glance if one of the LEOs was worth fooling with. Passes of less than 10 
degrees usually are not, and I coded them red. For higher passes, I 
coded them yellow, green, and blue to indicate progressively higher 
passes. I also had detailed charts for each satellite pass I printed 
from NOVA, with position information updated every 2 minutes for LEOS, 
every 10 minutes for AO-40 when it was active. The spreadsheets, summary 
pages, and tracking data were also good visual aids for explaining to 
non-hams and non-satellite hams what you were doing.

The tracking summary data was also good to help schedule that most 
precious Field Day commodity of all:

Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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