Thursday, May 17, 2018

Working the FM "Easy Satellites": Fancy Gear NOT Required


Last weekend, the XYL and I took a trip for 4 days to Centralia, Pennsylvania.  To those that haven't heard the story, it's a town where in 1962 a coal fire started a seam of rich anthracite on fire that has been burning underground ever since.  The town was almost completely abandoned, save for 3 homes still standing.  It's the rural PA version of Love Canal.

We went with clothes and whatnot, but I also brought along some simple CW gear for 40m, which consequently did NOT work very well in our Extended Stay hotel.  But, I also brought along my ever-faithful and hard-working Baofeng UV5RA with the 19" whip antenna.  This is a radio that has worked SO-50 before, but with rather poor results. 

AMSAT's Fox-1B and Fox-1D satellites, better known as AO-91 and AO-92, respectively, are recent additions to the Amateur Satellite Service that are incredibly easy to use, and with simple gear.  Who would have thought that a $15 HT with a $19 whip could be a satellite rig??

There are plenty of websites that get into the specifics of FM operation via these satellites, so I won't begin to be repetitive. 

As the XYL and I were walking through the almost-deserted town, I knew that at 1:30pm, AO-91 would be passing over Centralia with a 50 degree pass.  And, right on queue, there she was.  Once I announced "KB2HSH/3 Centralia, PA FN10", the feeding frenzy began.  I was even called by my friend Chuck, N3CRT, in Mt Arlington, NJ for a fast contact.

As a Field Technician for Spectrum/Time Warner Cable, I am constantly on the move.  It's better than a gym, but can be quite hectic with abbreviated time lines and unreasonable customers.  But every now and then, during our downtime, we have time to do things that we want...and in my case, it's operating the FM birds.  In the past few days, I have made at least one QSO per pass on 91 and 92 during the day.  This has been great, because since moving from my Williamsville QTH in 2012, I haven't been on the satellites with any regularity.  Sure, there's the OCCASIONAL ping via APRS through NO-44, but that's about it.  And without the eggbeater farm that I had when I was married and had property, compromise antennas just don't make the cut in the satellite world.  But the new Fox Class birds hear so well, and have so much power (estimated between 500mW-1W), that HT operation is possible and COMMON.

The best part about operating with the Baofeng, is that the user can define the split between TX and RX.  On 2m, it's 600 KHz, on 70cm, it's 5 MHz.  On AO-91, it's 289.29 MHz, with a 67 Hz CTCSS tone.  That's IT.  145.960 MHz downlink, with a 289.29 + shift, allowing for a 435.250 MHz uplink.  And just like operating a terrestrial repeater, the UV5RA is set for FM Sat duty. And since the UV5RA can go either way (VHF or UHF) in each VFO while in VFO Mode, I have the top VFO set for AO-91, and the bottom VFO set for AO-92. 

I'll be posting QSO audio (that I capture with my new Samsung Galaxy) after work. 

Try it...you may get bitten by the satellite bug. 

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