Thursday 12 January 2017

Getting started with FM satellites "the easier ones!"

Christmas 2016 saw a lovely addition to our radio kit, a brand new Alaskan Arrow II dual band yagi style antenna. This can mean only one thing... James is off to try Satellites...

The arrow antenna using only 2 sections (yes it's cold outside today!)

Firstly, go grab your old Baofeng radio, blow off the dust and find that programming cable (Or borrow one) 
Next grab a copy of the programming software called CHIRP from this link  
Then grab a copy of our "code plug" from this link, should work on several radio's

Update your Baofeng in the usual way *search google / YouTube* or ask us if you need help!
We can write a separate blog post if needed, or we can program your radio for you (just cover postage)

Now you will need a decent satellite programme to know when a satellite is going to be passing your location. I use Go Sat Watch on my iPhone it’s about £8, however you can choose / test from the following list at the amsat website  for PC based software.

The most important piece of equipment is the aerial, you can spend a lot of money on the Arrow or Elk type antennas, however you can very easily build your own, I suspect our club will be running another build-a-thon to build a satellite antenna and frequency splitter in the next few months, take a look at this link which shows how to make a very cheap dual band antenna with enough gain to work into the FM satellites.

So now you are armed with your fully programmed radio, some software to predict a satellite pass and an antenna to proudly wave around and amuse the public.

Check the status of the Satellite here: 
Some satellites have 2 modes telemetry(data) and voice, please check to avoid disappointment!

The FM Satellites you will want to look out for are:

ISS (mainly to listen to school contacts / digipeater / SSTV when on)

Initially I would suggest the first several passes get used to tuning the radio and tracking the satellite (pointing the antenna)

from our "code plug" start at sat name in position 3, point the aerial in the general direction suggested by your software / app. Depending on your aerial configuration, if it is crossed you will need to twist side to side a little to get best reception. as you start to hear the satellite slowly track (move the antenna along the horizon) when the reception starts to break up move to the next channel (4) on the radio programme. keep moving the antenna, and tuning the radio for the duration of the pass.

Once you have listened to a few passes it’s time to try and make a short QSO, it’s all about timing and not having enough hands to talk, change frequency and point the antenna...Have your butler help you out.

My first attempt for a QSO on SO-50 satellite, I was heard in Guernsey
Have a listen to the recording here

My first full QSO between Peter 2E0SQL and myself M0JFP was via BY70-1
Have a listen to the recording here (note this satellite is no longer in service)

Here are a couple of recording where I worked several stations in a pass, and what you can look forward to on the FM satellites. I was operating GB1DD

AO91 worked the following:  Sv55mc g0iiq ii2vzme G1EC f8dzy s54l
AO92 worked the following: ea1ciu and f8dzy M/ON4AUC

I really encourage you to have a go and see what results you can get, please share with us either e-mail or via our Twitter feed @m0jfp

73 and good DX