[amsat-bb] Satellite Usage - 2012

John Papay john at papays.com
Tue Aug 28 10:10:49 PDT 2012

The Funcube Dongle postings veered off into a
discussion of the current state of affairs with
the satellites that are still working.  After reading
about how the activity on the linear birds was down, I
had to wonder a bit.  It has not been my experience.

I really expected the activity on the FM birds to diminish when AO-51
died.  We only get 7 minutes of AO-27 and that doesn't make
up for the much longer passes on AO-51.  SO-50 has never been
off the air since I started in 2006 but it is the most difficult
to hear throughout the pass.  For that reason, activity on SO-50
was fairly low.  If you can't hear it, you can't work it.  But
to my surprise, SO-50 activity dramatically increased when AO-51
went silent.  Those who work the FM birds became determined to
work through this satellite despite the difficulties in hearing it.
Of course, if you are not full duplex, you don't know when you are
hearing the bird and that sometimes results in those who call but
cannot hear the responses.  They might assume that there is no activity
on the bird when in fact there are many stations trying to make qso's.

I started using the ssb birds in late November 2007.  There wasn't much
activity on AO-7, FO-29 and VO-52 at that time.  But over the last two
years, activity on the linear birds has steadily increased.  Much of the
increase can be attributed to the newer people who started on the FM birds
and quickly decided to get involved with the linear birds.  I think the
availability of satellite capable radios has really helped.  If you have
a TS2000 you can be on a linear bird without much effort.  They are easier
to hear than an FM bird.  Some are using a pair of radios to achieve full
duplex with great success.  And I highly recommend SatPC32 which I have used
now since 2006.  It runs 24x7 on a Vista Quad machine and doesn't crash.  The
recordings on my website were made possible using the auto multi-satellite
tracking feature of this program.  Recordings are made without any outside

One of the things that powers DX on the HF bands are dxpeditions.  Groups
spend large amounts of money to travel to destinations all over the world
so that others can put that country in the worked/confirmed column.  With
satellites today it's the VUCC award that drives the activity.  When someone
shows up from a rare grid, the birds are sometimes overwhelmed.  ND9M has
worked from hundreds of USA grids and has also worked from his ship on the
linear birds.  UT1FG/mm has been very active over the past three
years and has created pileups on the ssb birds not unlike those on HF.  To
say the activity is down on the linear birds in recent years is simply
incorrect.  And more hams are operating satellites away from home than ever
before.  You work with what you have and make the best of it, fm or linear.

The future of AMSAT and the satellite phase of our hobby is all about the
new people.  When you hear someone new on the bird and it's a noisy signal
with an incomplete callsign, maybe without phonetics, call that station.
Giving out that first contact with a newbie far outweighs 100 contacts with
those that you have worked many times before.  Sometimes the effort doesn't
result in a qso, but maybe there is a possibility to follow up with an
email or postcard with an offer of help.  Just remember we all started out
at some point with no experience.  Most everyone can remember their first
contact and how important it was in terms of encouraging future operating.

So if you're reading the AMSAT-bb and are discouraged by the fact that there
are no High Earth Orbit Satellites, don't be.  Times change, technology
changes but we continue by using what we have to the max and working towards
improving our situation where we can.  AMSAT works very hard to explore
every possibility for building and launching new satellites.  It's a tremendous
effort that most of us don't realize is happening day after day.  We all
need to support this effort.  FOX I and II will be here before we know it.
These birds should give us some room for more qso's and new operators.

In the meantime, AO-7 continues to work at an altitude of 1450KM. FO-29 is
at 1200 or 1300 KM some of the time.  These birds provide an opportunity to
work DX if you can see down to the horizon.  If you can't, you can always
go to a location that is better and use your FT817 with an Arrow antenna
and work down to the horizon.  There is nothing wrong with using an Arrow
or ELK antenna to work DX.  WD9EWK has proven that point time after time.

A good ham radio operator is one that looks at a problem as a challenge
rather than a show stopper.  Ham radio ingenuity over the years has been
amazing.  So if you are having trouble and are frustrated, develop an
action plan to move forward.  The resources available to us today are
unprecedented.  And there are mentors out there that are willing to help.
Above all, stay positive and have some fun!

John K8YSE

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