[amsat-bb] Satellite Basics (Part 2) article by KX9X

Ryan Noguchi ai6do at yahoo.com
Sun Jun 9 00:21:38 UTC 2019

Sean KX9X posted another introductory article on satellite operating on https://www.onallbands.com/satellite-basics-part-2-making-qsos-via-satellite/. Check it out.

I did have a few exceptions to the advice given, as I believe they suggest less-than-ideal operating practices. Rather than contact Sean directly, I figured it would be worthwhile to post them here. If they're controversial, perhaps it will stimulate some thoughtful discussion. I want to start off by saying that I applaud Sean for providing some very thoughtful contributions to help introduce potential new satellite ops to the birds. My intent is really to provide constructive suggestions for improvement of the advice that we as a community provide to new satellite operators to set them off on the right path. 

"Currently, all FM satellites in orbit require a CTCSS (PL) tone of 67.0 Hz on your transmit frequency." Mostly true, but LilacSat-2 and PO-101 don't follow this model. 

"These instructions assume you are using a hand-held directional antenna. If you’re using your standard dual-band vertical antenna at home or on the roof of your car, you can ignore those instructions."  Oh, man, I really don't think we should be encouraging newbies to try to work satellites using a vertical to receive the downlink. Also, very unsure why vertical antenna ops should ignore any of the rest of the instructions...  Maybe okay to use a vertical to transmit, but to receive they really ought to be using an antenna with gain or with the ability to rotate to match polarization, ideally both. Please, let's not encourage more alligators! 

"A suggested frequency list of the three active FM satellites at the time of this writing (May 2019) is in Figure 1." Rather than provide yet another frequency list, can't we just reference an authoritative source elsewhere, e.g., on the AMSAT-NA web site? We all remember that recent ARRL article that posted many wrong frequencies; let's try to avoid risking a relapse of that. A frequency list like this can be helpful, so perhaps AMSAT-NA could include a list like this on the Frequency Summary page? FM Satellite Frequency Summary – AMSAT

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FM Satellite Frequency Summary – AMSAT




"Listen for a QSO to end, then give your callsign and your grid square, using standard phonetics." I don't think we should be suggesting that ops drop their call and grid on a busy FM pass. Unless you've already worked everyone else on the pass, there's really no good reason to just drop your call and grid. Find someone who is solid into the bird and appears to be hearing other stations well, and call them directly. (But not immediately after they've called someone else!) If you've already heard a callsign a couple of times during the pass, it'll also be easier to repeat it on the first try. When you wait until someone calls you, you run the risk of not being able to catch their full call on the first try and needing a fill. I think having the new op initiate the QSO gives them the best chance of having a successful first QSO. 

"KX9X: “Whiskey One Alpha Whiskey, thanks, Echo November Five Zero, Illinois, QSL? W1AW: “QSL, Fox November Three One, Connecticut, QSL?”" Much of this back-and-forth is extraneous. KX9X already provided his grid in his first transmission, and W1AW already provided his grid in his first transmission. Neither asked for a fill. Unless a fill is needed, KX9X would normally just end the QSO with his second transmission (KX9X:  "W1AW QSL KX9X") which is really the norm. The other commonly heard pattern is when a rover is working from a rare grid. If KX9X is the rover, that first KX9X line in the sample QSO doesn't happen; the rover often announces their grid when responding to a caller, and the rover's transmission is often followed by that of a new caller calling the rover. If we want new ops to recognize when QSOs have ended, it's good for them to know how 95+% of successful QSOs really go down so they can more quickly recognize the pattern. Also, there's generally no need to identify state, unless it's a rare one. CT may be one of the few worth mentioning, but most states are not. 

"With one hand holding your radio and the other holding your antenna, how are you going to log your QSOs?" Recording the pass isn't the only way to handle this, and may not even be the best approach for newbies, at least as a primary method. I've posted in the past about the benefits of operating with one's writing hand free, and logging by hand during the pass when receiving, transcribing calls and grids as I hear them. It would be a useful technique to suggest to new ops, particularly those who may not already be experienced phone contesters, as an alternative that might also help to improve their ability to work the pass. Reading a callsign you've already written down can be much easier than recalling one you only heard verbally. I cannot overstate how immensely this practice helped me. 

"If you are using two HTs, you will need a diplexer, which isolates your transmitted signal from your receive radio. Without it, you will likely overload the front end of your receive radio, which will make contacts impossible. Several manufacturers such as Comet and MFJ offer diplexers; the Arrow antenna has an optional diplexer that is stored in the antenna handle." I haven't needed any filtering when using two HTs and an Arrow to work AO-91 or AO-92. Also, the BLP-200+ filter may be a useful option to suggest in lieu of those larger diplexers if one is using an Arrow antenna. 

73, Ryan AI6DO

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