Happy 20th Birthday to Fuji-OSCAR 29! FO-29, known as JAS-2 (Japan Amateur Satellite #2) prior to launch, was built by the Japan Amateur Radio League and launched on August 17, 1996 from Tanegashima Space Center on an H-II launch vehicle into a 1,323 km x 800 km orbit with an inclination of 98.5 degrees. In addition to a 100 kHz wide analog Mode V/u (JA) transponder, the satellite also includes a packet BBS and digitalker. While the packet BBS and digitalker are non-functional, the analog transponder continues to provide excellent service to the present day.
With an apogee of 1,323 km, FO-29 provides satellite operators with excellent DX opportunities every few months when the passes over a certain area are at or near apogee. Intercontinental QSOs are regularly reported, including between Japan and Alaska as well as North America and Europe. Although the theoretical maximum range at apogee is 7,502 km, the excellent sensitivity of the transponder as well as it’s strong and solid 1 watt downlink signal allows that distance to be stretched when the conditions are suitable. The longest distance QSO made via FO-29’s analog transponder occurred on August 27, 2015 with an unscheduled 7,599.959 km contact between KG5CCI in Arkansas and F4CQA in France.
The sensitivity of the transponder and Mode V/u configuration also allow for the effective use of minimal equipment. QSOs have been reported using a single Yaesu FT-817 transceiver and the stock rubber duck antenna. Taking advantage of the large footprint and ease of use, the K1N DXpedition to Navassa Island made a total of 29 QSOs during two passes of FO-29 on February 12, 2015 using a single Yaesu FT-817 along with an Arrow antenna, activating that extremely rare DX entity on satellite for the first time since 1978. To this day, FO-29 remains the most widely used linear transponder satellite and an ideal satellite for beginners looking to become active on the linear transponder satellites to try first. The FO-29 control station maintains a blog (in Japanese) at http://blog.goo.ne.jp/fo-29. The JARL also offers an award for confirmed QSOs with ten different stations via FO-29.