It's that time of year again; summer and Field Day! Each year the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsors Field Day as an emergency preparedness exercise. The event takes place during a 27-hour period on the fourth weekend of June. For 2001 the event starts at 1800 UTC on June 23rd and continues till 2100 UTC on the 24th. The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) promotes its own version of Field Day for operation via the HAMSATS, held concurrently with the ARRL event.
If you are considering ONLY the FM voice satellites like UoSat-OSCAR-14 or AMRAD-OSCAR-27 for your HAMSAT Field Day focus, don't, unless you are simply hoping to make one contact for the ARRL rules bonus points. The congestion on UO-14 and AO-27 was so intense in 2000 that some stations running over 100 watts on the two-meter uplink to high-gain Yagi antennas couldn't make a single contact. A few extremely-well-equipped stations dominated the field and made it virtually impossible for those with small antennas and reasonable power levels to get through. The newly modified AMSAT rules now only allow ONE contact per each FM, single-channel satellite. Although it is doubtful that those stations with dual-band HTs using simple whip antennas will get through even with the new rule, it is hoped that more folks will at least get a chance to make a contact. Stations that have completed their single contact via a particular FM satellite, are encouraged not to make any further contacts via that satellite during the Field Day period, even if they are not participating in the AMSAT event. Diversify and gear up for other voice/CW or digital HAMSATS.
If you have worked the satellites on Field Day in recent years, you may have noticed that a lot of good contacts can be made on some of the less-populated, low-earth-orbit satellites like Fuji-OSCAR-20, Fuji-OSCAR-29 and RS-12/13. During Field Day the transponders come alive like 20 meters on a weekend. The good news is that the transponders on these satellites will support multiple simultaneous contacts. The bad news is that you can't use FM, just low duty-cycle modes like SSB and CW. AMSAT-OSCAR-10 can also be a lot of fun on Field Day if the solar panels are properly illuminated and it is in a good position in the sky for Field Day. Plot some orbits and check it out.
Here are the 2001 AMSAT Field Day Rules.
Text by Andy MacAllister, W5ACM (firstname.lastname@example.org). Feedback on this page to KB5MU.