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FM satellites...


It is interesting to see all the messages and opinions on
the "Organized Chaos" thread(s), and similar threads in the
past, when it comes to the FM satellites.  Sad, also. 

FM satellites, whether you want to accept this fact or not,
serve as the entry point for those interested in satellites
but not interested in a large outlay of $$$ for a satellite
station.  Many hams have the gear - a 2m/70cm FM dual-band 
transceiver, or separate 2m and 70cm FM transceivers - to 
give this a try.  Some try it, make a few contacts, and go 
away.  Others stick with it, never progressing beyond these 
satellites but enjoying hearing other people who come and go 
on these passes.  Some go on to assemble nice stations for 
use with all sorts of satellites (I want to do this, once my 
situation stabilizes in the next few months).  AO-51 provides
opportunities to try something other than 2m and 70cm, a nice
resource for those building stations for use with future 
satellites using 1.2 or 2.4 GHz or digital modes for example.  
AO-16 has been a nice challenge, with its 70cm DSB downlink - 
especially when using a portable station without the benefit of 
computer control.  Although I have been unsuccessful in my 
attempts to make QSOs via VO-52 with my portable gear, I have 
not given up on that satellite.  

Here in North America, there are some crowded passes that don't 
allow for much more than an exchange of call signs and grid 
locators - not unlike working a big DXpedition or contest station 
on HF.  Other passes have maybe a couple of other stations, and 
those are fun for having a little more of a chat to make use of 
the pass.  There are people who will work an HF contest for up to 
48 hours, with very little communication going on there - an 
enjoyable activity to them.  Look at the results in CQ magazine
for their big international contests, or the ARRL web site and 
QST for the ARRL contests, to see that.  Others like me enjoy 
getting on the satellites for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, working 
whoever happens to show up. For me, it has been much easier to 
make time for these passes than to work any significant portion 
of a weekend HF contest.  

I see in the QSL cards I receive lots of "thanks for my first 
satellite QSO" or "thanks for my first Arizona satellite QSO" or 
"thanks for a new grid (or new grids)".  My log has well over 600 
unique calls in the 3800+ satellite QSOs I have made in the past 
2 1/2 years, from dozens of locations in 4 states and almost 20
different grids.  Sure, there are some who show up regularly, and 
those stations have been very helpful to the new operators.  We
need more of that.  I've also engaged in lots of e-mail exchanges
with those just starting out, giving suggestions and advice for
those wanting to get started or wanting to improve on their 

As for those who insist that FM satellite operation is about equal
to the same degree of difficulty to cell phone operation... I'd 
like to know what cell phone requires one to adjust the receive 
frequency to deal with Doppler when making or receiving calls, 
for example.  I don't remember seeing a VFO on my Nokia phone, 
either.  A computer-controlled station takes care of the 
frequencies and antennas, allowing the operator to just make 
contacts - but this is hardly an "apples to apples" comparison 
with using a cell phone.  If this was the case, that FM satellite 
operation was as difficult (easy) as cell-phone operation, why are 
demonstrations and presentations at hamfests and clubs popular 
events?  We can build large and complex stations that many people 
think of for satellite operation, but there is the other extreme 
(handheld radio with handheld Yagi or long telescoping whip, for 
example) - like those using a used 100W rig with a dipole on HF, 
compared to towers and big Yagis and new rigs with amplifiers.  

I have read about those who used to travel all over, putting many
different grids on the air in the past.  There are some like N5AFV,
W6GMT, and KD6PAG here in the US (among many others) who have done 
this for a long time and still enjoy doing that.  I've done a little 
bit of that in recent months, operating from 11 different Arizona 
grids since March.  There are a few Mexican hams who have been doing 
the same thing - XE2AT and XE1MEX have done this for a long time; in 
recent times add stations like XE2HWB, XE2JA, and XE2RV (among many
others) who are doing the same thing in their areas.  All of this
is happening on the FM satellites.  Why do we do this?  Because it
is fun!  

Would I like to have a high-orbit satellite to use?  Sure!  I 
would enjoy the opportunity to travel and put grids on the air
for those outside of North America to hear and work.  I would
enjoy hearing other continents without dealing with propagation
as on HF.  I was not around this part of the hobby for the days 
of AO-10, AO-13, and AO-40.  Like everyone else, I'm hoping to 
see P3E, Eagle, and the Intelsat-AMSAT venture (or anything else) 
put a high-orbit bird into operation.  Until then, I will use what
we have now - the FM birds, work on my station for VO-52 and AO-7 
(I've heard myself in SSB through VO-52, but have to work better 
on hearing myself clearly on the downlink when transmitting when 
not using computer control), and have fun.  


Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK 

(going to DM44 and maybe the DM43/DM44 line northeast of Phoenix
on 24-26 May, then I'm off to a hamfest DM34 in the morning followed 
by DM25/DM35 in the evening on 31 May - all on FM satellites, with 
maybe a try for VO-52 during the upcoming weekend for my first 
non-FM satellite QSO)

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