[amsat-bb] Re: equal time

n3tl@bellsouth.net n3tl at bellsouth.net
Sun Jun 14 07:34:12 PDT 2009

Pat and all,

A while back, when AO-51 went into two consecutive weeks of non-Mode J configuration, I expressed concerns to some folks within the AMSAT community because I didn't - and still don't - believe that was appropriate. In response, an AMSAT official suggested that I "take a look at the big picture" of satellite operations. He explained that, although there are few owners and users of L and S band gear - especially when compard to those who regularly use AO-27, AO-51 and SO-50 with V/Ugear - those of us who can work Mode J and Mode B have many more options than those who want to experiement with L band and S band. He was, and is, right about that. So I took his advice.

It was, in fact, precisely because of his advice that I focused more attention on the other satellites - something I hadn't really done. As a result, I have four European countries and Africa in the log on AO-7, which is something I never expected to accomplish. My log also includes multiple contacts on all of the SSB/CW satellites using a fully rechargeable station powered by its elements' internal battery packs. Being an old QRP addict, the coolest of all are the milliwatt contacts I've made on AO-7 using the Elk, handheld, from inside my home. 

AMSAT's mission, simply stated, is to "keep amateur radio in space." That mission doesn't include assuring that you or any operator has a "fair chance" at using AO-51 or any other satellite. It wasn't AMSAT's fault, for example, that I struggled for months with some issues here that kept me from effectively working AO-7, FO-29 and VO-52. Now that I can, I often talk to myself for an entire pass because nobody else is around. Neither AO-27 nor SO-50 are used nearly so much. It's hard to argue that AO-51 is the most popular and most-used amateur satellite in low Earth orbit - except for those times when the International Space Station ham gear is configured in its FM voice repeater mode. 

I don't believe it's appropriate to connect your support of AMSAT with your ability to work any satellite.

AMSAT charges membership dues, not user fees.

To be consistent with that line of reasoning, I should have been one of the first stations the K5D DXpedition worked on the satellites because I supported AMSAT's efforts by donating my Arrow antenna to the gear being assembled for loan to DXpeditions. I was not one of the first; I'm grateful I made the log at all, to be honest. Had I not, I would not have regretted supporting efforts to expand opportunities to expose AMSAT and its mission of keeping amateur radio in space to a much broader community.

I miss contacts - often - because stations you refer to as "regular repetitive users" begin making calls. It happened last night during the 23:30 UTC pass of AO-51 when I had a very short window to try to work HK6IOP in Colombia. I heard him clearly and called him a few times - with 5 watts from an FT-817ND into the Elk antenna I was hand-holding and manually pointing. Was I disappointed not to work him? Of course. But those other stations have just as much right as I to work the satellite with any gear configuration that is legal for use under FCC Part 97 - even if it's a Jingtong HT! You alluded to this in your post - but I could have chosen to physically move a part of my shack so I could have used a radio with up to 50 watts out on the uplink. I chose not to. That choice is important to note. 

You have stated your choice of not increasing power, moving forward, to get into the satellite. That IS your choice.

This time last year, however, I didn't have a choice like that to make. A Yaesu VX-7R HT was the only amateur radio I owned, having donated all of my original ham gear to an ARES group in 2003 because I'd been off the air since early 1992, and they certainly were going to make more use of it than I had in the preceding decade. After looking into the ARISS program, I ordered an Arrow antenna because I wanted to work the ISS. All the satellites and, more importantly, all the friendships I've made on them, have been wonderful blessings that I'm very grateful for.

That information relates directly to my final point. I made my first-ever satellite contact last June 28th. Less than a month later - 28 days later - I worked my 100th grid. It took me more than twice as long to get the QSL cards I needed to apply for VUCC than it did to work the grids - ALL with a half-duplex, handheld satellite station running no more than 5 watts out.

Two nights ago, on the usually busy evening pass of AO-51 to my west (and it was busy that night), I made four contacts using a Yaesu VX-3R HT and my Elk antenna, which replaced the Arrow last fall. On its internal battery pack, the VX-3R's high-power setting is 1.5 watts out. I had already worked three stations when a neighbor walked across the street after his curiosity got the best of him. As he listened to the call signs of stations working AO-51, I "located" for him those stations I was familiar with. "That guy is in Florida. He's in Louisiana. That guy is up by Chicago."

About that time, KG6NUB threw out his call from CM87 in San Francisco. "You mean, that guy is in San Francisco ... for real?" my neighbor asked. "He is, and I'm going to try to call him." It took three tries, actually, but we worked. My neighbor was flabbergasted that a radio not much larger than a Zippo lighter and an antenna I could hold in my hand enabled me to talk to a guy in San Francisco because we each bounced our signals off a 13-inch-cube satellite orbiting roughly 500 miles above the Earth.

I just saw the post from Ben, N1WBV, who I worked on the early pass of AO-51 two nights ago when he was mobile. He's right, and everyone would do well to read the guide - shameless plug or not! hihi - as I and others have. Of course, that hasn't kept me from make more contacts on a given pass than I should have. It happens to all of us, even if we're only running a few watts from a fully handheld station.

I include what I did about earning Satellite VUCC all handheld, and about the AO-51 passes two nights ago, because if I can do it, anyone can - including you. Maybe you should focus more on what you CAN do than what you can't, without blaming others for your inability to regularly get into AO-51. I do here, all the time, on a little HT and a crappy ol' Elk antenna. Go figure.

I am sorry if you are offended, Pat - but I felt like you needed told.

73 to all,

Tim - N3TL

-------------- Original message from "Thomas McGrane" <n2oeq at aceweb.com>: -------------- 

> To the regular repetitive users of Echo 
> Please refrain from hogging the satellite every pass for multiple contacts. 
> I cant get into the satellite anymore and I am not going to use the amplifier to 
> fight everyone. 
> Sorry if you are offended but you need to be told. 
> My support of amsat is directly proportional to my ability to use the satellite. 
> pat 
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