[amsat-bb] Tucson hamfest and DM51/DM52 on Saturday (27 March) - report

Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK) amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Mon Mar 29 12:08:19 PDT 2010


Saturday was another fun day, between the Radio Society of Tucson's
spring hamfest and my drive to the DM51/DM52 boundary in southeastern
Arizona after that.  The hamfest had a good turnout, despite its 
location being changed at the last minute.  The trip to the grid 
boundary was also enjoyable, since I had not been out there in almost 
a year.  I had been in the general area after another hamfest in Tucson 
last October, but on that day I drove to the Arizona/New Mexico state 
line in DM52 for some passes that afternoon instead of heading to a grid 

This was the second time the Radio Society of Tucson hosted a hamfest
in the springtime.  Last year's event was a huge success, after many
years of a mid-October hamfest in Tucson.  These events have been 
held at the same location southeast of downtown Tucson, but there was
a change last Wednesday to the location.  Thankfully, it only moved 
across the street next to a baseball stadium.  People were showing up
as early as 0530 local (1230 UTC), even without any lighting turned on
for the lot where the hamfest was at.  As everyone started setting up, 
using flashlights or vehicle headlights until sunrise, small groups
would wander to see the merchandise before the official start time
(0700 local/1400 UTC).  I had an AMSAT table set up then, and was on 
an AO-51 pass just after 1330 UTC.  This would be the only FM satellite
pass for the morning, and I had a nice crowd listening to this western
pass despite it being a half-hour before the official start of the 

As the sun came up from behind the mountains to the east of Tucson, I 
was able to do a couple of other demonstrations for the hamfest crowd.  
AO-7 went by just after 1400 UTC, and I was able to work a few stations.
Lots of hams were curious to know how and when AO-7 came back to life, 
and I was happy to explain that.  There was a low VO-52 pass just after 
1530 UTC, where I worked one station on that pass (Roger W5QEP, in 
Louisiana).  Thanks to Jeff K7WIN, who used my phone's camera, I have 
a YouTube video from this VO-52 pass. You can see it at:


Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, a few miles/km east of the hamfest site,
made working FO-29 impossible at the hamfest.  There is a data-
communications system on the F-16 aircraft at this base, and that system
wipes out the FO-29 downlink.  FM satellite downlinks don't seem to be 
affected by this system.  It also plays havoc with 70cm repeaters in the
Tucson area.  Otherwise, I would have liked to try that satellite for 
some of my demonstrations.  

At most hamfests, I'll get lots of questions on how someone would start 
out on the amateur satellites.  This time, I had more detailed questions
on that topic.  I was asked about specific radios and antennas, and 
whether those would be suitable for satellite work.  I've been making the
trip down to Tucson for the past year and a half for their hamfests, and
others have done this before me, so it is nice to see that some are 
thinking beyond the "what do I need?" types of questions to see if they 
already have the gear to try this out.  

Throughout the morning, I saw a few satellite operators like Leo W7JPI,
Ron W6ZQ, Rafael XE2RV, Ed N7EDK, and Jeff K7WIN who all live within
an hour's drive of Tucson.  It's fun to chat with fellow satellite 
operators, just as I enjoy answering questions from those who are 
interested in trying this part of the hobby.  Thanks to the Radio 
Society of Tucson for allowing AMSAT a space at their hamfest, and to 
those who made contacts with WD9EWK during the 3 on-air demonstrations. 


After a quick stop for lunch before leaving Tucson, I drove a little
more than an hour to the spot I have stopped at in the past along the
DM51bx/DM52ba grid boundary.  This location, 32 0.000 N 109 54.927 W 
(you can put that into the Google Maps web site, Google Earth, and
possibly other web sites and programs), is along a road west of US-191 
and south of the I-10 freeway in Cochise County.  I like this spot, 
since I am off the main highways yet have a decent view of the sky from 
here.  Only shallow passes to the west are problematic at that location.

I had enough time to set up and be ready for the first pair of passes
to the east.  AO-27 was passing by at 2111 UTC, and SO-50 would be in 
view as AO-27 shut off.  Lots of activity on both passes, and I was
surprised to hear Drew KO4MA call me at the end of the SO-50 pass at
2126 UTC.  Since Drew has been working the satellites much longer than
I have, it was a pleasant surprise to hear Drew tell me he needed both 
of those grids.  

After those passes, I had almost an hour and a half until I had three
passes (AO-27, then SO-50, then AO-51) stacked up.  I went to a nearby
convenience store to get some drinks.  When I pulled up, there was a 
cat sitting on top of a drink cooler just inside the front door of the
store.  With camera in hand, I snapped a couple photos of the cat.  I
then went inside to buy some drinks, and went back to the grid boundary
for those passes.

AO-27 switched on around 2252 UTC.  I could only hear about 2 of the 7
minutes starting around 2254 UTC, since this pass only had a maximum 
elevation of about 6 degrees out there.  I needed all 6 degrees for the
portion of the pass I could hear.  I worked a couple of stations, then 
a station on the SO-50 pass that went down the Pacific coast as AO-27 
shut off.  Then I swung my antenna eastward, and worked a very busy 
AO-51 pass.  

After those 3 passes, I had a break in the action until the next AO-51
pass at 0043 UTC.  I worked a few stations up and down western North 
America, then it was time to set aside the FM setup and go SSB.  I had
an AO-7 pass just as AO-51 went away from me starting at 0057 UTC, and 
then an FO-29 pass about an hour later.  

AO-7, at least in mode B, has quickly become a favorite of mine.  I use
two FT-817NDs and my Elk handheld log periodic without computer control,
and now I am looking to do this when I'm away from home.  I worked 4 
stations, including one in Mexico (XE1/VE3OQC).  I heard another station
calling me (4B1AO), but was not able to make the QSO with Omar.  There 
were a few others on that pass that I was not able to hook up with.  I 
hope to get more time on AO-7 during road trips out here, so I can be 
confident I can get on trips where I fly to the destination and can't 
have everything with me (not without paying a huge sum for baggage fees).

By the time FO-29 was coming up at 0150 UTC, there was almost no sunlight
left in the western sky.  The mountains in that direction helped make 
darkness arrive sooner.  In any event, I worked four more stations on 
this pass to wrap up the day on the radio.  I had a nice chat with KC7EQO
in Washington state, who I had not heard on SSB previously.  Thanks for 
the call, and for chatting a few minutes!  At the end of the pass, George
WA5KBH called me in CW.  I switched my transmit radio to CW, and made a 
quick QSO with George as FO-29 was going away from me.  George - I 
apologize for my subpar CW sending.  I need to work on that, since I am 
copying in my head without needing to write anything down.  I'm trying 
to improve my left-handed CW sending - I'm not left-handed.  I am 
enjoying FO-29 since its recent return from the dead, and will be on it 
more in the near future.


On the radio, I made 10 QSOs on 3 passes at the hamfest Saturday morning
followed by 60 QSOs on 8 passes at the DM51bx/DM52ba grid boundary in the
afternoon and early evening.  I have not plotted the grids I worked from
either location, but know I worked stations throughout the USA as well as
Canada and Mexico.  I already have blank QSL cards at home for the 
DM51/DM52 grid-boundary QSOs, and will update my card for the hamfest 
(grid DM42me) to show the new location.  If you would like a card for 
QSOs made with WD9EWK on Saturday, please e-mail me the QSO details.  If 
you are in the log, I will send a card your way.


Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK 

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