AMSAT Field Day on the Satellites

Field Day
The view from the Palomar Amateur Radio Club W6NWG Field Day site.

2020 AMSAT Field Day

Rules in downloadable format.

It’s that time of year again; summer and Field Day! Each year the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsors Field Day as a “picnic, a campout, practice for emergencies, an informal contest and, most of all, FUN!” The event takes place during a 23-hour period on the fourth weekend of June. For 2020 the event takes place during a 27-hour period from 1800 UTC on Saturday June 27, 2020 through 2100 UTC on Sunday June 28, 2020. Those who set up prior to 1800 UTC on June 27 can operate only 24 hours. The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) promotes its own version of Field Day for operation via the amateur satellites, held concurrently with the ARRL event.

This year should be as easy as last year since we have more than 10 transponders and repeaters available. Users should check the AMSAT status page at http://www.amsat.org/status/ and the pages at https://www.amsat.org/two-way-satellites/ for what is available in the weeks leading up to field day. To reduce the amount of time to research each satellite, see the current FM satellite table at https://www.amsat.org/fm-satellite-frequency-summary/ and the current linear satellite table at https://www.amsat.org/linear-satellite-frequency-summary/.

If you are considering ONLY the FM voice satellites, there are SO-50, AO-91, AO-92 and possibly LilacSat. It might be easier this year to make that one FM contact for the ARRL bonus points with so many FM birds. The congestion on FM LEO satellites is always so intense that we must continue to limit their use to one-QSO-per-FM-satellite. This includes the International Space Station. You will be allowed one QSO if the ISS is operating Voice. It was suggested during past field days that a control station be allowed to coordinate contacts on the FM satellites. There is nothing in the rules that would prohibit this. This is nothing more than a single station working multiple QSO’s. If a station were to act as a control station and give QSO’s to every other field day station, the control station would still only be allowed to turn in one QSO per FM satellite while the other station would be able to submit one QSO. The format for the message exchange on the ISS or other digital packet satellite is an unproto packet to the other station (3-way exchange required) with all the same information as normally exchanged for ARRL Field Day,
e.g.:
W6NWG de KK5DO 2A STX
KK5DO de W6NWG QSL 5A SDG
W6NWG de KK5DO QSL

If you have worked the satellites on Field Day in recent years, you may have noticed a lot of good contacts can be made on some of the less-populated, low-earth-orbit satellites like FO-29, AO-7, EO-88 or the XW satellites. 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.

NOTES ON 2020 DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

AMSAT has followed the ARRL when it comes to the date, times and most rules with regard to Field Day. The below article appears on the ARRL website. With that in mind, AMSAT is going to have to adapt as well.  What we will do for AMSAT Field Day is concentrate on Rovers and operating from home. As with all of our rules, rovers will be battery powered or generator powered. however, at home, you could be hooked up to batteries, generators or commercial power. We will treat them as we always have. However, we are going to have to change the awards. We will still have the top 3 club stations (if there are any). Instead of top home operator on emergency power (battery or generator), we will have the top 3 operating stations. For the rovers, we will have  certificates for the top 3 roving stations. There is no limit as to the number of operators your home station however, you can only use one transmitter. This will allow stations to operate 24 hours and not have one operator burn out. Rovers will have to abide by the one or two person rule with the ARRL.  Remember you still have to use the proper ARRL category.  I left out Class A for clubs. It was rather lengthy.

4.3. (Class B) One or two person portable: A Field Day station set up and operated by no more than two persons. Other provisions are the same for Class A except it is not eligible for a GOTA or free VHF station. One and two person Class B entries will be listed separately.
4.4. (Class B – Battery) One or two person portable: A Field Day station set up and operated by no more than two persons. All contacts must be made using an output power of 5 Watts or less and the power source must be something other than commercial mains or motor-driven generator. Other provisions are the same for Class A except it is not eligible for a GOTA or free VHF station. One and two person Class B – Battery entries will be listed separately.
4.5. (Class C) Mobile: Stations in vehicles capable of operating while in motion and normally operated in this manner. This includes maritime and aeronautical mobile. If the Class C station is being powered from a car battery or alternator, it qualifies for emergency power but does not qualify for the multiplier of 5, as the alternator/battery system constitutes a motor-driven generating system.
4.6. (Class D) Home stations: Stations operating from permanent or licensed station locations using commercial power. Class D stations may only count contacts made with Class A, B, C, E and F Field Day stations.
4.7. (Class E) Home stations – Emergency power: Same as Class D, but using emergency power for transmitters and receivers. Class E may work all Field Day stations.

Field Day 2020 — A Time to Adapt
03/27/2020

Many individuals and groups organizing events for Field Day 2020 have been contacting ARRL for guidance on how to adapt their planned activities in this unprecedented time of social distancing and uncertainty.

“Due to the unique situation presented this year, this can be an opportunity for you, your club, and/or group to try something new,” ARRL Contest Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE, said. “Field Day isn’t about doing things the same way year after year. Use this year to develop and employ a new approach that is in line with the current circumstances.”

Social distancing and state and local requirements very likely will impact just how — and even whether — you are able to participate in Field Day this year. ARRL continues monitoring the coronavirus situation, paying close attention to information and guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If social distancing means that Class A with a 30-member team set up in a city park won’t work this year, then it’s time for a Plan B. Part of the Field Day concept has always been adapting your operation to the situation at hand. At its heart, Field Day is an emergency communication demonstration. Field Day rules are flexible enough to allow individuals and groups to adjust their participation and strategies in a way that still addresses their needs while being fun. Some possibilities:

• Encourage club members to operate from their home stations on emergency power (Class E).
• Use the club’s repeater as a means for individual participants to keep in touch during the event.
• Family members interested in operating Field Day and unable to participate as part of a larger group may want to consider setting up a portable station in the backyard with a temporary antenna.
One big impact this year will be a decline in public visibility and any interaction with the visitors. Prudence may dictate dispensing with the ham radio PR table to attract passersby, should you set up in a more public location. It’s okay not to score all the bonus points you may have attempted in the past. Local and served agency officials may be unwilling to visit, which is understandable under the circumstances. Do be sure to reach out to them as part of your preparations and remind them that you look forward to continuing your working relationship with them in the future.

The impact will differ from place to place, so ARRL recommends that all amateur radio clubs participating in Field Day stay in regular contact with local or state public health officials for their advice and guidance on hosting Field Day activities.

Demonstrating an understanding of the health crisis we all face and your willingness to adapt will show that you and your club or group are good working partners with local or served agencies.

“With any emergency preparedness exercise, it’s not about adapting the situation to your operation, it’s about adapting your operation to the situation that presents itself,” Bourque said. “Try something different. Learn something new about how you prepare. It may be a challenge, and you may have to ask yourself if you’re up to the challenge. We hope to hear you on the air over the June 27 – 28 weekend.” — Thanks to Paul Bourque, N1SFE, and Dan Henderson, N1ND

THE 2020 AMSAT FIELD DAY RULES

The AMSAT Field Day 2020 event is open to all Amateur Radio operators. Amateurs are to use the exchange as specified in ARRL rules for Field Day. The AMSAT competition is to encourage the use of all amateur satellites, both analog and digital. Note that no points will be credited for any contacts beyond the ONE allowed via each single-channel FM satellite. Operators are encouraged not to make any extra contacts via theses satellites (Ex: SO-50). CW contacts and digital contacts are worth three points as outlined below.

1. Analog Transponders
ARRL rules apply, except:
– Each phone, CW, and digital segment ON EACH SATELLITE TRANSPONDER is considered to be a separate band.
– CW and digital (RTTY, PSK-31, etc.) contacts count THREE points each.
– Stations may only count one (1) completed QSO on any single channel FM satellite. If a satellite has multiple modes such as V/u and L/s modes both turned on, one contact each is allowed. If the PBBS is on – see Pacsats below, ISS (1 phone and 1 digital), Contacts with the ISS crew will count for one contact if they are active. PCSat (I, II, etc.) (1 digital),
– The use of more than one transmitter at the same time on a single satellite transponder is prohibited.

2. Digital Transponders
We have only APRS digipeaters and 10m to 70cm PSK transponders (see Bob Bruninga’s article in the March/April, 2016 issue of the AMSAT Journal). Satellite digipeat QSO’s and APRS short-message contacts are worth three points each, but must be complete verified two-way exchanges. The one contact per FM satellite is not applied to digital transponders. The use of terrestrial gateway stations or internet gateways (i.e. EchoLink, IRLP, etc.) to uplink/downlink is not allowed. For the Pacsats (FalconSat-3) or ‘Store and Forward’ hamsats, each satellite is considered a separate band. Do not post “CQ” messages. Simply upload ONE greeting message to each satellite and download as many greeting messages as possible from each satellite. The subject of the uploaded file should be posted as Field Day Greetings, addressed to ALL. The purpose of this portion of the competition is to demonstrate digital satellite communications to other Field Day participants and observers. Do not reply to the Field Day Greetings addressed to ALL.

The following uploads and downloads count as three-point digital contacts.
(a) Upload of a satellite Field Day Greetings file (one per satellite).
(b) Download of Satellite Field Day Greetings files posted by other stations. Downloads of non-Field Day files or messages not addressed to ALL are not to be counted for the event. Save DIR listings and message files for later “proof of contact.”

Please note AMSAT uploaded messages do not count for QSO points under the ARRL rules.

Sample Satellite Field Day Greetings File:
Greetings from W5MSQ Field Day Satellite station near Katy, Texas, EL-29, with 20 participants, operating class 2A, in the AMSAT-Houston group with the Houston Amateur Television Society and the Houston QRP club. All the best and 73!

Note that the message stated the call, name of the group, operating class, where they were located (the grid square would be helpful) and how many operators were in attendance.

3. Operating Class
Stations operating portable and using emergency power (as per ARRL Field Day rules) are in a separate operating class from those at home connected to commercial power. On the report form simply check off Emergency or Commercial for the Power Source and be sure to specify your ARRL operating class (2A, 1C, etc.).

AND FINALLY…

The Satellite Summary Sheet should be used for submission of the AMSAT Field Day competitionand be received by KK5DO (e-mail) by 11:59 P.M. CDT, Friday, July 17, 2020. This is earlier than the due date for the ARRL submissions. The only method for submitting your log is via e-mail to kk5do@amsat.org or kk5do@arrl.net. I have not had a mailed in entry in over 5 years, probably even longer than that. Add photographs or other interesting information that can be used in an article for the Journal. You will receive an e-mail back (within one or two days) from me when I receive your e-mail submission. If you do not receive a confirmation message, then I have not received your submission. Try sending it again or send it to my other e-mail address. Certificates will be awarded for the first-place emergency power/portable station at the AMSAT General Meeting and Space Symposium in the fall of 2020. Certificates will also be awarded to the second and third place portable/emergency operation in addition to the first-place home station running on emergency power. A station submitting high, award-winning scores will be requested to send in dupe sheets for analog contacts and message listings for digital downloads. You may have multiple rig difficulties, antenna failures, computer glitches, generator disasters, tropical storms, and there may even be satellite problems, but the goal is to test your ability to operate in an emergency situation. Try different gear. Demonstrate satellite operations to hams that don’t even know the HAMSATS exist. Test your equipment. Avoid making more than ONE contact via the FM-only voice HAMSATS or the ISS, and enjoy the event!