[amsat-bb] Re: satellite activity and future sats...

Michael Adams mda at n1en.org
Tue Aug 28 06:48:20 PDT 2012

Despite my callsign, I am a relatively new ham....and I am very, very new
to the birds.   I'm also new to the reflector, so please forgive any
naïvete I exhibit.

I wonder if what you're seeing is a generational shift, or at least a shift
in the direction by which new hams are finding their way into the hobby
(and the skills and interests they bring to the table), because there are
plenty of new hams out there.

Many of the new hams I've run into have either gotten involved in the hobby
for emcomm purposes, or at least found emcomm early on their path (the
latter is true for me).  Some of them expand on from emcomm as they are
introduced to other aspects of the hobby.   I fell into satellite work by
starting out playing with APRS and Winlink-over-packet.   Then I learned
about the ISS digipeater...and I realized that the challenge of trying to
complete a contact during an 8-minute pass is kind of fun, and didn't
require any equipment that I didn't already have.   Then at Field Day, I
got to see a demonstration of working AO-27.  That looked like fun, so I
got an Elk, plugged it into my spare HT, and a few minutes later heard an
XE station calling as SO-50 rose above the horizon.   That was cool, even
if the neighbors think I looked nuts standing in the driveway, juggling an
antenna, mic, and voice recorder, with an HT over-filling a shirt pocket.

I suspect that a sizeable proportion of the new ham population would be
considered "appliance operators", or at least they assemble and operate
their stations with more of a hacker's mentality, rather than following the
classic homebrew path.  Personally, my fabrication skills suck, but I love
finding new ways to use/abuse computers and equipment that I find.
 Building a tape-measure beam is certainly within my skillset, but building
a complete setup of satellite antennas, with az/el rotor...it wouldn't be
impossible for me, but I'd need a really strong incentive to do so (and
even then, I'd probably keep an eye out, looking to see if I could buy,
rather than build).   When I look through what I'd need to do to be able to
move beyond AO-27, SO-50, and the ISS...it seems like a lot of work (or
expense), without too many opportunities to enjoy the effort.   I'll
probably do it someday, assuming the satellites are still operational, but
there are plenty of items that are on my "to try" list that have a better
ratio of (probable fun):(erg of effort or dollar of expense).

Also, I trust you're aware of what transceivers are on the market.  While
shack-in-the-boxes are not uncommon, there are only a couple of rigs being
sold new that look really good for non-FM satellite work, neither of which
really mesh well into the other-interests/budget decision-making process.
I dislike the TS-2000 for various reasons, and the IC-9100 is a lot of
money for the limited additional utility I'd get out of it.   My starter
rig was an IC-7000, which does have VHF and UHF sideband, but it's
full-duplex machine, and working uplink-and-downlink doppler adjustments on
it is a pain.   I think other entry-level VHF/UHF sideband capable rigs are
similarly challenged.   I occasionally look around to see what's available
used....but here too the "how much will I have to spend, and what
additional fun will I get out of it" factor comes into play.  I'm sure the
major manufacturers (or even some not-so-major manufacturers) would put new
gear on the market if there were demand...but where's the demand?

Add in the other complications at my location (an inconveniently-placed
hill, lots of trees, an XYL who has opinions about aesthetics), and I
percieve a big hurdle to move beyond the FM birds.

So; why do I mention all this?

First, count me among the "they" in "build it and they will come".   None
of my station challenges are insurmountable; I just haven't had enough
motivation to tackle those challenges.  Get a few more satellites up and
have activity on them, or put up something in a molniya orbit, and my
motivation level will increase significantly.  I suspect other potentially
interested folks have similar views.

Second, consider the learning curve some of us new guys face, especially
those of us who (for better or worse) don't have the homebrew skills that
were more common in the past.  There's plenty of simple, accessible
information available for getting initiated into working the FM birds, but
from the outside graduating to other satellite work seems daunting.    Or,
when building "it", consider what equipment is commonly available these
days for "them" to come with.   Perhaps this, in addition to the economics,
is influencing the direction being set for future birds.

Third, has someone considered putting together (as an example) a "VO-52 for
dummies" set of videos for online consumption; something that would show
the assembly of a minimally-suitable station, and working the satellite?
I'd love to be proven wrong about how much I'd need to do to be able to
work the linear birds.   I plan on continuing to dabble even without such
hand-holding, but I wouldn't object to having that wonderful "A-ha! I can
do this!" moment accelerated.

*Michael D. Adams* (N1EN)
 Poquonock, Connecticut | mda at n1en.org

On Mon, Aug 27, 2012 at 8:00 PM, Bob DeVarney W1ICW <we1u at myfairpoint.net>wrote:

> I am afraid you're right, Tom, and it pains me to admit it. I am not sure
> why activity has dropped off.. but I can say in my own case I lost interest
> in satellite operating after AO-40 died and have gone on to other things (
> EME ) to use the existing equipment I had.
> From northern Vermont I can work pretty much all the active satellite ops
> on the FM birds ( within my potential mutual footprint at least ) in a
> weekend's worth of passes, so there was little incentive for me to
> continue. I _have_ gotten back into sat operating recently, if only to work
> the cobwebs out of my station.
> I wonder how many satellite operators still have AO-10 or AO-13-class
> stations any more. I get the impression that many aspire to have a Yaesu
> FT-847, Icom 910, or TS-2000 and an Arrow antenna. If that much. I hope I
> am wrong.
> We as a community need to revitalize things.. the future does NOT lie with
> more Cubesats.. or if it does, then I want no part of it. We need to
> restore the legacy and primacy of AMSAT in space. I think if we could get
> another LEO bird in the air we would see activity increase dramatically.
> I've been an AMSAT member since 1980, albeit on and off, and been on the
> birds since 1987 give or take. Some of my most fun moments were working the
> Russian RS birds, believe it or not.  I was also an AMSAT Area Coordinator
> for some years. I would love to participate in a dialogue of how to get
> folks interested in satellite operating again, and/or representing AMSAT at
> the local hamfests.  But it might just echo the general lack of interest in
> ham radio in general that I have observed.
> Guess I need to make a point of getting back on FO-29 and VO-52 more
> often...
> 73 de W1ICW

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