[amsat-bb] Hard times for satellite radio buyers?
n8hm at arrl.net
Mon Mar 20 12:11:07 UTC 2017
When you step back and look at the state of the satellite transceiver
market, it's not all that different from the 1990s. The difference is that
Yaesu doesn't produce one, otherwise each of the "Big 3" have only produced
one model at a time. The other difference is that both the Icom IC-9100 and
Kenwood TS-2000 are "shacks-in-a-box" which increases costs for those who
already have or don't want HF capability. The TS-2000 is also lacking
because of its birdie on the SO-50 downlink frequency which prevents me
from ever recommending it.
The other downside is that both of those options are not exactly "field
friendly." The Icom IC-820H, 821H, 910H, and Yaesu FT-847 are all small
enough to be used in the field. Many have remarked that the Icom IC-910 and
an Arrow antenna is the simplest and best performing portable satellite
station available. These transceivers are not to difficult to find on the
used market, but the prices can be a bit high owing to continued demand.
If you want to buy new equipment for the field, Norm's suggestion of two
Yaesus is not a bad one. Dual FT-817s are very commonly used. NJ7H has used
his "FT-1634" to activate 250 grids and 7 DXCCs on satellite over the past
year. I use a "FT-1634" plus a small dual band amplifier (a Microset
VUR-30) and preamps for a well performing portable setup. Others have used
the "FT-1674" (a Yaesu FT-817 and FT-857 combo) with great results. The
downside is that you often need filtering to eliminate desense between the
two radios. A common diplexer such as those made by MFJ or Comet works for
As suggested, the future lies in the SDR realm. At the present time, these
solutions are not ideal for the field. Many have used SDRs such as a
FUNcube Dongle or SDRPlay as their downlink receiver paired with an
all-mode transceiver for the uplink. Properly configured, this can work
very well, but use in the field can be difficult due to glare on laptop or
tablet screens. Many have used this type of setup with great results in
home stations. Another downside is SDR processing delay and its
difficulties with full-duplex operation, but this can be mitigated with
more efficient programming and/or more processing power.
When it comes to a full SDR transceiver setup, as Norm suggests, this is
doable today. While Flex no longers offers the Flex 5000 and V/U modules,
there are other options that could work quite well. The downside is that it
is not "plug and play" at the moment, you need to add filtering and
amplification to the available SDRs. I don't think any user friendly
software exists at the moment either, but there is definitely an
The AMSAT Ground Terminal team is working on a full SDR based ground
terminal for use with digital 5 GHz uplinks and 10 GHz downlinks, to be
used with a number of future AMSAT satellite projects/payloads in GEO, HEO,
When you consider all the options, there are likely more options for
getting on the satellites today than have existed in the past. There might
not be as many plug and play boxes available from major manufacturers, but
there are lots of ways to build a ground station for home or field use, and
ways to do that to meet almost any budget.
On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 03:20 Norm n3ykf <normanlizeth at gmail.com> wrote:
> Ettus B210. Tested with another radio as the uplink. Blasted away with
> 50 watts (accidentally) and the B210 didn't complain (or croak).
> It has other advantages, as it's rx goes out to 6 GHz.
> The amps/control hardware need way more testing before cabling all the
> stuff together and trying it out. Creating a smoking pile of junk
> makes me want to cry. No oopsies so far.
> Computer control (using windowz) is a nightmare due to lack of support
> for the B210. Lots of promises. No one has delivered. There is a Linux
> solution. The dark side beckons.
> Simple enough amplifier circuitry. Biggest wow was the amount of heat
> produced (wasted power). Fans, heat sinks, power supplies with
> regulation and filtering....
> Test setup is runs from +24VDC battery stack (D cells) using surplus
> power bricks. Lots of documentation on how to make them RF quiet.
> The down side of these bricks is that for them to meet spec, there
> must be a minimum load.
> Currently portable with an 857d and an IC 7000.
> The longer a product is produced, the more spare parts available and
> the better the support (most of the time). The 857d is a great radio.
> Strapping two together would make a great station. Much to be said for
> this approach.
> Norm n3ykf
> On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 1:33 AM, Mike Diehl <diehl.mike.a at gmail.com>
> > Ken,
> > I too wish for a V/U purpose built rig and in particular a portable one.
> A rig with dual VFOs and full duplex capability. I don't see this type of
> rig offered from the "Big 3" anytime soon.
> > I think instead of everyone trying to get them on board, we should
> pursue the smaller manufacturers. I see these Xiegu HF rigs and they look
> pretty nice. My guess is a company like this has facilities to produce a
> nice, modern sat rig. Perhaps we should send our votes of support to a
> company that would cater to a niche market.
> > As far as ancient tech goes, I think it still works pretty good. Used
> two 817s to work Russia from a park in LA county about a week ago on AO-7,
> launched back in 1974. It's not the most ideal rig but it can still get the
> job done.
> > 73's
> > Mike Diehl
> > AI6GS
> >> On Mar 18, 2017, at 10:53 PM, Ken M <va7kbm at outlook.com> wrote:
> >> Hello all,
> >> Is it not hard times for new and prospective satellite operators (like
> >> me) in terms of equipment choices, at least in terms of the "big three"?
> >> (And, to be clear, I'm talking about current, in-production models
> >> I'm looking for an HF base/mobile radio, and also a VHF/UHF-only
> >> all-mode base/mobile radio that I can use for the linear satellites but
> >> - wait - there are no VHF/UHF-only all mode radios! That means I need to
> >> buy a "shack in a box" but - wait - there are only two choices (at what
> >> I will call moderate prices), the ancient TS-2000 and equally ancient
> >> FT-857D. There is the new and somewhat more expensive FT-991A and,
> >> although that sounds like a very good radio, for HF at that price point
> >> I might prefer the IC-7300 but that would mean no satellite work.
> >> I'm also looking for a portable HF QRP radio, and a portable radio I can
> >> use for the linear satellites. Again the venerable but ancient FT-817ND
> >> is pretty much the only game in town. As with the HF base radios above,
> >> if I am only interested in HF QRP I would probably rather put my money
> >> toward a KX2 or KX3 of newer design but, again, that would mean no
> >> satellite work.
> >> So as a new operator, to get into linear satellites it seems I am forced
> >> to either (1) troll the swap meets for ancient gear; (2) buy new gear of
> >> old design (which in my mind is even worse); or (3) buy new gear of
> >> modern design that works for satellite and HF, but is not necessarily
> >> the radio I would choose for HF alone.
> >> I should add that the situation is not much better for HT/mobile radios
> >> for the FM satellites, but at least there are some cost effective
> >> workarounds including the less expensive Baofeng/Wouxun/Tytera radios
> >> and their clones.
> >> Thanks for indulging my shopping frustrations, and my inexperience, but
> >> I have to think there are others new to the hobby that are having
> >> similar thoughts. Do Amsat members see this as a problem?
> >> Probably off to spend some new money on an old radio...
> >> 73 - Ken - VA7KBM
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