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W9VNE input on transceiver question



I was in a similar situation several months ago. I had a pair of M Square antennas along with the elevation rotor and a Ham M to turn the antennas. What to do for a rig. Well I bought a brand new Icom 910H. A great rig. I use SatPC32 software which interfaces to the Icom via Icom's interface accessory (plug and play). You forget about your doppler shift once set up. I still control antennas manually with both rotors. The Icom 910H is a top of the line satellite transceiver. The only thing I would improve on it would be the RIT control. It only offers a 1 khz range but that is no big deal.

 It sounds like you are going to setup for the SSB satellites. They can become very lonely. AO7 is  used but by a handful of USA stations (you will not work Europe from CO. It suffers from some stations using excessive power and generating trash up and down the band too. FO 29 and VO 52  (both SSB/CW) also have a handful of operators.  No hashy trash because they are newer birds. AO7 is 34 years old and easy to trash it with hash if you use excessive power. 

If you live on the East Coast of the USA you could work Europe. QRZ.COM shows your location is in Colorado. Forget about working Europe. The FM satellites are very popular with AO 51 being the most popular. It suffers too from some poor operating at times. Most of the time it is OK. That early evening pass can be bedlam. SO 50 is useful but not used very often enough. It works well in my opinion. AO 16 is interesting but will be off the air very soon. 

The reason I mention all of the above  is because it impacts your selection of a rig. If you want to work a lot of grid squares which many of us do, the FM satellites are where the action is located. You do not need an Icom 910H and the money it represents to work the FM satellites well. You can do that with a HT (hand held). There are other dual band 440/144 FM rigs available for a fraction of the cost of an Icom 910H. The Kenwood TS2000 is a good rig but it has a birdie on SO 50's downlink making it impossible to use that FM satellite. 

There is a big difference, in my opinion between the FM and SSB/CW satellites. FM being used to its capacity on AO 51 and the SSB/CW birds suffering from inactivity. Just a fact of life. Some may disagree with these observations. I was on the satellites back in the 1970s and  came back in August 2008. I have made QSOs with 15 countries and 200 Grids and 45 states in that time. I think my intense 3 months of operating provides me with enough observations to make these statements.

 I am often asked why not more activity on non-FM satellites. My answer has always been : 1) Doppler shift and 2) equipment. Unless you have software to manage the doppler shift on 435 mhz  your signal will travel quickly across the band. Some experienced ops can do it manually but they are pros. Equipment for SSB/CW is relatively (emphasis) scarce compared to FM only rigs. You do not need software to control Doppler shift on FM. . . . you can control it in other ways. 

To choose a transceiver depends on how you want to spend your time. If you are preparing for the HEO (German venture) then go with the Icom 910H type rig. If you just want to get on the satellites for the satellite experience you may find an FM only rig is more suited for you. Of course since you are not currently on the satellites ( my inference ) you would not have the benefit of personal knowledge. I hope my observations are helpful.

Selection of the gear depends on how you are going to use it. If you do not know that there are really two different roads to currently travel you could be wasting your money. 

Just my 2 cents and probably not worth even that amount of money. 
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