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eHam Forums => Satellites => Topic started by: N4UFO on March 27, 2013, 11:17:03 PM



Title: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 27, 2013, 11:17:03 PM
Hi all,

I used to work RS-12/13 a lot back 10-15 years ago before it burned up in a solar storm. (was AC5DK then) So I know the basics of working sats. I've looked into a lot of the portable sat ops with HTs and handheld antennas, but honestly... I'd rather work from my shack. One, because I don't even own an HT and two, I already have a TR-751A 2m all mode sitting here hardly being used.  So I want to ask how simply I could get on the one (as I understand it) working FM bird and as a second question, how simply I could get on the birds I hear are coming later this year.

My 2m is hooked to a squalo about 5 feet above the end of my house... run of RG-8X coax about 40-45 feet to it. What would I need to HEAR the bird... do I really need a directional antenna? Could I get away with a UHF squalo as well... or maybe something like an egg beater? I'm trying to steer clear of having to put up a rotor or physically go outside and point a small yagi. Secondly, what do I want to get for a UHF radio? Would a typical scanner be enough to receive in the interim? Given my desire for not much in the way of antennas, would a 4-5 watt UHF HT fill the bill, or do I want a UHF base radio? I would prefer the latter, but who knows what I'll find available.

So as to the question of 'birds to come'... I know Fox-1 will be U/V FM... but did I read that there are some analog birds planned? And if so, how sensitive will they be. Are we talking dual yagis on az-el rotors just to work them or Q5 copy with eggbeaters? Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but I'm finding it hard to find any comprehensive information. I'm trying to figure out how feasible the various levels are and what I want to shoot for. If it's just to play, a Chinese HT and cardboard antennas might do... but to have something in the shack is much preferred. I have an extra 3' tripod I might could mount some antennas on, but I loathe the expense of rotors, HQ coax and preamps.

Somebody give me a clue, please...  ::)

73 es tnx in advance, N4UFO
(You may now commence the jokes about my callsign and working sats.)   ;D


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on March 28, 2013, 06:12:46 PM
Well, to start with, you'll probably never get "Q5 copy with eggbeaters".

I've used both the M2 units, and some homebrew ones based on the K5OE designs, and they ALL needed good quality, LOW NOISE preamps, like the units from SSB or ARR.

Yes, you'll hear the satellites, but it won't be "Q5 copy". You'll definitely WORK to make contacts on an FM satellite with eggbeaters!

Many people have had good luck using an "Arrow" antenna at a fixed elevation angle, mounted on a small TV type rotator. I kinda question leaving one out in the weather 24/7, but I guess that depends on where you live.

My opinion, if you really want "armchair copy", you need some directional antennas, with good quality LOW LOSS feedline (ditch the 8X), and an azimuth rotor.

Preamps would be a plus.

Gulf Alpha used to sell a "Dual Band Easy Satellite" antenna that has the VHF and UHF elements on a single boom, but I don't see it listed any more. Since Pete builds ALL his antennas on a custom basis now, I'm sure he could make one for you. Excellent antenna, and I ran it at Field Day for several years.

Just mount it on an azimuth-only rotor at about a 15~20* angle so it points above the horizon, and you're off and running.

I've been through this all before, trying the eggbeaters, hearing nothing, adding good preamps and making a few contacts, and finally doing what all the experienced guys had been saying all along.....get some gain antennas.

I'm sure others will chime in, but this is what works for me.

73, Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K7WDO on March 28, 2013, 07:29:26 PM
Considering I have the same radio (TR-751A), I'll describe my satellite setup as it sounds like something that may fit your requirement of keeping it all in the shack.

In addition to the TR-751A, I have a TS-811A for 70cm, a pair of yagis (Cushcraft 4-element 2m, M2 6 element 70cm) strapped to a camera tripod, and a ARR 70cm preamp.  I tend to listen to the linear sats (AO-7, FO-29, and VO-52) and it works remarkably well for an indoor setup.  I usually leave the antennas at a fixed tilt and just give them a spin as the satellite goes by.

Even if you're not interested in the linear sats, try and see if you can hear VO-52's beacon (145.860 MHz plus or minus for doppler).  That will probably answer the question of whether your current antenna will work.  It's probably the strongest signal up there right now (unless you catch the ISS during a school contact) so if you can't hear it, you'll be better served with a stronger antenna.

If you're wanting to work FM, check to see if your Kenwood has the board for sending PL tones installed as you'll need them for SO-50.

Hope this helps.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 29, 2013, 12:35:20 AM
Jim, Scott... thanks for the thoughtful replies.

Jim, it came back to me after I posted, that I even had a 10m Mirage preamp on my HF rig for RS-12/13... and like you basically say, wasn't required, but sure made the low part of the passes easier. (I used the statement 'Q5 with eggbeaters' as an extreme, not a serious expectation.)  :D You know, I might have even bought that preamp from Jerry... I enjoyed working him and chatting by e-mail. Wonder if he is still working sats? Anyway, I never did get around to building an eggbeater from his plans... I got an HF beam up and had more luck using the 15m uplink and eventually got rid of the 2m all mode rig I had at the time. I was using an old Heathkit HW-5400 on HF back then and was actually turning the manual bandswitch on each over! I confirmed over 150 grids on that bird... it's a wonder I didn't wear that bandswitch out.  ;D

Scott, thanks for relating your situation... it really helps. And yes, if I manage to get my hands on a UHF all mode, I would MUCH rather work the linear birds... by far! I guess I was under the delusion that if guys are working the birds with HTs now, they must be much more sensitive... but the phrase 'working the birds' can mean many things and run a wide gamut. I'm getting the idea that while it can be done, even repeatedly, it's not necessarily optimum and definitely not 'armchair' as I might have allowed myself to think. The idea was to get my juices flowing with some QSOs on the FM birds to motivate myself to then get on the linear birds... with the assumption the former was far less expensive than, and a stepping stone to, the latter. But in my case, not necessarily so.

INDOOR antenna array... now THERE is an idea that never crossed my mind. You have me intrigued, Scott!!! How much did/does the signal have to go through in your case? I am in a manufactured home and judging by the amount of RFI the inverted vees I used to have over the end of  house both got and gave, I don't think there is any metal sheeting in the roof, at all. I've seen some inexpensive camera tripods around, and the cardboard antennas on the AMSAT website are certainly in my price range and ability.   :D  (I recently built a few 'Wi-fi' reflectors out of cardboard, aluminum foil, tape and glue; works very good to create a link between two buildings. So I have some experience in the media.)

Sounds like I need to keep my eye out for a UHF preamp and some sort of UHF rig... whether FM or all mode. Might be a while before 'funds allow' but you have helped me arrive at the point of 'targeting' the next step. As luck would have it, an HF project jumped to the forefront today and has it's eye on my 'allowed funds'. (translation: XYL approved it) I figured out my beam setup has the perfect height and top loading for use as a 40m vertical. (See my QRZ page for pics of the setup... easier than trying to explain) The mount is insulated from ground (bolted to railroad ties) and connecting a feedpoint to the base of the tripod and a tuned counterpoise resulted in a resonance at 7.127 MHz and 1.6:1 or less across the band. Only problem is, my remote coax switch at the base of the antenna is only a two port... this new project together with an idea rolling around for a 30m vertical will require four. Guess what I'm shopping for at the next hamfest...

I will have to make a point to try listening for VO-52... like you say, that will be a good indicator. And I'll keep my eye out for a cheap tripod... I know I've seen some for $10; cardboard and wire, I got. Oh ,one other thing... have either of you seen these little directional TV antennas with the motors built in? A ham down the road has one on his house for TV. Some even come with broadband preamps built-in. I can't believe the build quality would be very good, but I've seen them go for $20-40. Certainly cheaper than a TV rotor! Wonder if it'd be worth fooling around with to see if it could hear anything. (Obviously not for transmitting)

Thanks again for the time and thought... I appreciate it. True ham spirit.  :)

73, Kevin, N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on March 29, 2013, 10:35:30 AM
OK, I wasn't sure what you expected from using eggbeaters.

The sad thing I've met people who actually believe they can get "Q5 copy" with a pair of eggbeaters, NO preamps, and crummy feedline!

I started when I was in my apartment, and I was lucky the landlord gave me the run of the roof. It was a large two story commercial building with 6 apartments on the second floor, and I had a 360* unobstructed view of the horizon. I wanted something small that was dedicated to satellite use, so I went with the eggbeaters.

Then I realized I *needed* preamps, and added those. It 'kinda-sorta' worked, and it was really easy to take everything down and drag out to the Field Day site my club uses, but on passes under about 25* or so, my terrestrial weak-signal 2M/70cm antennas actually worked MUCH better.

It's a testament to what having some antenna gain can do for you!

There's some posts over on QRZ from guys that have homebrewed some small Az/El antenna postioners, and they're pretty impressive.

I'm still using the weak-signal antennas for satellite work (M2 2M7 and 420-450-11 with SSB preamps), but not that I'm in a house, I have them on a Glen Martin 9' "roof tower" sitting off to the side of the house, and other than losing signals when they dip behind the roof, they work incredibly well.

Too may people still think you need long boom circular polarized Yagis to work the satellites, like you needed when AO-10 and AO-13 were out at apogee.

All you really need these days is 4~5 elements and a way to point the antenna, and you're good to go.

Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K0JEG on March 29, 2013, 04:30:37 PM
I tried using an Icom R-10 for a downlink when starting to build a duplex station. It did a fair job at picking up SO-50 and almost nothing on linear satellites. I could pick up the VO-52 beacon when the satellite was directly overhead, but that's about it.

Later I bought a used FT-817. Difference was night and day. And it wasn't too expensive either. I think I have more in coax and antennas than the cost of the 817.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K7WDO on March 29, 2013, 06:31:02 PM
Unless you live in a concrete block house, operating indoors is not too bad for 2m & 70cm.  My shack is in the sunroom in the corner of the house and I don't notice much difference between aiming out the window, through the roof, or going through the rest of the house.  I usually need to let the satellite get up about 10-15 degrees before I hear anything, but I'm good from there.  As far as transmitting, I can hear myself on CW with just 5-10W, but I need to crank it up a bit more for SSB.  Moving the antennas up and outdoors would let me work down closer to the horizon, but it's been functioning well enough that I haven't been in a hurry to move the yagis outside so far.

The camera tripod setup evolved out of giving ARISSat-1 a try and getting hooked on chasing satellites.  I had the 2m yagi strapped on to the tripod with a shoelace so my arm wouldn't get tired.  From there, I picked up a 70cm radio and antenna, upgraded to the TR-751A for 2m all-mode, and after juggling two radios and an antenna for a while, the 70cm antenna was tied to the 2m antenna to free up an arm.  I've been running this configuration for a while and so far nothing has fallen over (the 2m antenna is horizontal with the 70m yagi sitting vertically).  The nice thing with camera tripods is they have a tilt/pan head on them which makes aiming easy.  Just make sure it's nice and sturdy (something rated for a medium format camera, for example) so it won't tip over with an antenna or two hanging off of it.

Considering your setup, I'd say the next thing to get is a 2m antenna with some gain, either commercial (4-element 2m antennas seem to go for around $100) or just build one.  It should be enough to let you start listening for the Mode B downlinks on VO-52 and AO-7 or the telemetry signal on UO-11 (145.825 MHz FM, when it's on).  I'd save the preamp for after you get a 70cm radio and antenna.  I picked up a 70cm preamp to hear FO-29 better, but I've been able to get by without one on 2m so far.

The other thing that might be worth looking in to is see if you can hear AO-7's 10m downlink when it's on Mode A.  It's more challenging to hear than the 2m or 70cm downlinks, but since you were able to work RS-12/13 it might be worth a try.  Check the satellite status page http://oscar.dcarr.org/ (http://oscar.dcarr.org/) to see what mode AO-7 is in as it alternates between Mode A and B on roughly a 24-hour cycle.  It doesn't seem to be as active as Mode B, but if you have the 10m setup, it can't hurt to try.

73, Scott.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 30, 2013, 01:18:47 AM
Wow. All good stuff guys, thanks!


Jim - It's easy to get misconceptions... people have no idea what is involved with something until either they try it or ask; I like to ask first. Hence this post.  ;D  I knew some of these new LEOs were better hearing birds, as I inferred from the many HT demos out there on the internet, but I didn't know how much. And I needed to dust the cobwebs off my own experiences... like finally remembering I had a 10m preamp. I might have earned my VUCC-Sat, but that certificate has long since found it's way to file 13. (moved a number of times, once cross country) And I agree with you... gain over power. (You made really good points in another thread... nothing worse than an alligator damping down the bird!) But probably the MOST useful thing you told me were the last two statements.... I know what range to shoot for now. That's what I was after here... thanks!

Oh, you also reminded me why I got rid of the 2m all mode I had before (besides the VFO shifting after warmup)... When RS12/13 was in Mode A, I could get into it with 25 watts and an MFJ double 5/8 wave antenna. But most of the time it would be in K or KA. And even in KA mode, my HF was much easier to get in than with than the 2m despite competing with HF terrestrial signals. And mode T??? Fahgetaboutit... Now if I'd had a small 2m YAH-geeee!  :D


Eric - FB on the R-10 comment... what I needed to know. Doubt I'll waste time/money on an RX only setup for UHF. And wow... I had no idea that the FT-817s did UHF all mode! I thought they were just for the QRP/backpacking crowd... (Not knocking QRP!!! used to do it; had a solar powered Argonaut 509 station, but lost interest. When it only got used once a year for FD, sold it.) Granted, since they seem to go for as much or more than I spent on my current HF rig (90s vintage; would you believe a big UPGRADE for me?!!) it might be awhile before I could acquire one, but at least I know I'm not hunting for that zebra known as an 'inexpensive used UHF all mode rig'. I guess the 817 has two VFOs and can do split, but not likely that it works full duplex. Still, my 751, an 817 and a small UHF amp with preamp... couple antennas and good to go. Not bad at all...


Scott - FB on all info... indoor antennas, I think I'll be getting around to trying that first. My ham shack is on the south end of the house, and up off the ground a little. No trees around and not much else to obstruct the horizon other than the house itself. To the north... not only is the majority of the 40 feet of house that way, but a hill. (Guess which passes I'd start late on; due N-S... right.) I have the whole room for my shack, and while a little cramped, as long as I can figure out how to "fold up & stow" between passes, that would work. Short (inexpensive) coax run, no need for weatherproof construction (read "cardboard & tape"), one man manual operation (I love a challenge) and jump in to dampen feet. Then I work on getting things together for a proper outside antenna installation... which I already have an idea for.

I still know where a few 9'4" tripods are and I could duplicate my HF beam tripod installation, but just off the end of my house where the feedline run wouldn't be so long. I still have about 14' of mast left from an antenna that got blown over that is the perfect size for the tripod AND would put the antenna mounting a couple feet above my roof line. Mind you this is all several projects down the pipeline and maybe a year or more away, but I like to have a long term vision in mind and it gives me something to keep my eye open for (meaning bargains & finds). Scott, the most useful idea I got from you is the indoor antennas... never even crossed my imagination until you mentioned it. Good indoor project for either hot summer or cold winter and my daughter will enjoy it. (She likes the activity and enjoys it when I am 'tinkering'.)  :D


And you've all have made me realize that linear birds are feasible... Something that raises my interest level a whole lot more than being limited to FM birds. Because I've been like "EME... Sats... EME... Sats... EME needs what?" for a while now. Despite no super duper elliptical orbit wonderbird, Oscar Zero just lost out to modern technology I'm afraid.  :D

So... here's my takeaway:

1. Build a 2m cardboard antenna, develop an ear for current sats, get an idea of reception at location to plan/inspire projects to follow

2. Continue to play/develop indoor setup as interest/time/funds/bargains permit. Maybe get a UHF HT, a preamp, build a cardboard UHF yagi and try FM, etc.

3. Gather hardware as i/t/f/b permit towards an outdoor setup. Acquire a tripod, watch hamfests/ads for feedline, preamps, Az-El rotors setup AND proper antennas.

4. Save up for a rig capable of UHF allmode... 817 or otherwise. (TS-790a; used one a few times on terrestrial 2m... drool, drool)

5. Work you guys on every satellite operational.  ::) :D


That about covers it. Seriously, it might be a bit, but I AM going to try out listening for those birds. I just ordered some stuff yesterday for an HF antenna project and I'll be busy with that in between home projects. (gravel for drive, repair deck, cleaning dryer vent, drain hot water tank) But I will get to it. You guys have seen to that. I usually have at least one or more projects in mind beyond the one I am currently working on. keeps me busy. And I don't think this thread is going anywhere, so I will refer back to it for information later. Might drop one of you guys a line or bump the thread if I have any questions. I really, REALLY appreciate it! Thanks a bunch... Good to know the elmer spirit is still alive and well somewhere.


73 es thanks,

Kevin, N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on March 30, 2013, 12:32:24 PM
Yeah, and then there are people like me who read and listen, and figure out "I know better" and promptly go out and make all the same errors that countless others have made.

 ;D

I used to listen to the RS birds on my HF rig, and was amazed at hearing the Doppler. That's when I *knew* I'd heard my first satellite.

It was a few years before I could get the scratch together to get a multi-mode rig and the antennas. I tried the K5OE (yes, Jerry's still around) units, bought some preamps, and made a few contacts, but it was always iffy. I figured maybe store bought antennas would be better, so one year my tax refund went for a pair of M2 antennas with the radial kits.

My homebrew K5OE antennas actually were a bit better! I kept the M2 units for Field Day as I didn't have a semi portable Yagi setup to drag out with me.

And the first time I tried my horizontal VHF/UHF Yagis for weak-signal work on a satellite, I was stunned. I still had to control the rotor by hand, but I had SatPC32 controlling the Doppler on my FT-847, and as long as I picked passes that were under about 20* elevation, I made contacts.

I even heard my downlink on AO-10 before it went completely silent.

You don't need a whole lot of antenna these days, but having some gain, and front-to-side and front-to-back rejection definitely helps!

Never tried EME. I've read where the Super Stations, like W5UN, can work a station running a single long-boom Yagi, and about 100 Watts to the antenna.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 30, 2013, 03:22:52 PM
Too bad you weren't in on the heyday of RS-12/13... that was a hoppin' bird! I first tried it as part of the CQ 50th anniversary awards... one part of one of the awards was to make a QSO by satellite. I only had an HF station at the time and thought no way. Did some reading (this is pre google & internet days... 1995?) and figured out I might be able to do it. So with nothing more than an 8088 laptop, a 4BTV vertical on my back deck with a few radials, I managed to work someone on RS-12 in mode K. I was both so nervous and excited... more so than my first Novice QSO back in '77. (Then, my elmer was sitting beside me and I wasn't talking through a 'BOX IN SPACE!') When I finished the QSO I jumped out of my chair and started hollering... scared my wife half to death. Ah... good times.  ;)

I worked 48 CONUS and if only for that guy in RI that got mad when he got flooded with QSL cards and refused to reply they'd have all been confirmed. Not sure how many countries I worked as you could get into central America and the Caribbean, but one day I got called by an Austrian station while the bird was over NA... The band was open and he was 'skipping' into the bird. A little watery like AU but easy enough to copy. I like to have fell over... wish I'd have kept that card. Wish I'd have kept my VUCC-Sat with the 150 endorsement! Can't tell you how many guys today have read that on my QRZ page and commented, admiring it. to anyone I knew back then it was either just another piece of paper or 'when you gonna work some real grids'.  :D


I still had to control the rotor by hand,

I used to work in broadcast radio back in the early 80s... actually spun records. You had to keep your eye on a script, talk into a mike, adjust levels with big round knobs and reach around clicking buttons & flipping switches without missing a beat. For me, having to watch the computer screen, adjust the frequency, control the rotor, copy CW and write in the log... well that's just FUN!  This is back when my computer was a 286, I downloaded keps off the packet BBS and ran a monochrome graphic tracking program that was not Y2K compatible. (Anyone know when year 100 is gonna be?) I gotta tell you... fun. And fortunately my wife already understands to check in on when the sat passes are in order to plan what time dinner is going to be. She had this mantra... "life revolves around sat passes"... said just like the guy on TV, 'time to make the donuts'.  ;D


I've read where the Super Stations, like W5UN, can work a station running a single long-boom Yagi, and about 100 Watts to the antenna.

Yeah, I did, too... and it got me all interested. But you have to 'read the fine print'; if you have AT LEAST 100 watts and AT LEAST 10 elements or more you MIGHT be able to, blah blah blah... The statement is assuming you have low loss coax and preamps, etc. ALREADY. Which I do not. Then the pay off is I get to work a very few stations that will be carrying the load with their monster arrays. Beyond working those few stations, you got to have a whole lot more. Once I figured out that the functional limits of what I can reasonably afford to mechanically & financially do, it just doesn't seem very appealing... Suddenly sats started looking a whole lot better again, even with Az El rotors. (By the way, I didn't find those discussions on QRZ about the rotors... can you give me a link or a hint?)

I have also thought up another plan for the interim to work SO-50 maybe... I remembered I have this little 2m go bag rig. I traded a busted short wave receiver for a busted 2m rig a couple years back. I got the 2m running to some degree, but the squelch is intermittent. Sometimes it works, sometimes it stays open until you slap it. (Thinking of future U/V birds, you leave the squelch open anyway, right?) But it's small, it's 10 or 25 watts, I have it set up to plug into an accessory jack in the car and I have one of those Hershey kiss base mag mounts for it. Sounds like an uplink rig to me!

So when I am done with my current HF antenna project I will have an MFJ remote coax switch left over. They go for $75-80 new and not many used out there... maybe I can sell or trade that for one of these cheap HTs with UHF. And I ran across the CJU antenna. I have seen them before... even saw one for sale once with a UHF preamp mounted to it. (Wish I'd known then what I know now; I passed it up because it didn't have any 2m to it. DOH!) But I've also seen pics with the CJU practically built onto the HT. (I've probably got the parts laying around.) The guy held the handheld to aim the antenna. What do you guys think about that? How well do you think that would work without a preamp? And if I need a preamp... what's out there now? Mirage, ARR? any others?


Okay... I'm going to stand in my driveway next to my SUV and wave this home made wire contraption around at the sky with neighbors that already think I am trying to talk to god (seriously, I had a hexbeam looking thing that resembled a dish pointed straight up because it was so low to the ground; one neighbor asked the other if I was trying to talk to god.) Or they think I am trying to call down aliens. I'll be standing there saying loudly, "This is N - 4 - U - F - O  in Echo Mike nine five, Over!"   ::)  :D


Seriously though... maybe not inside, but if I go outside with an unobstructed view, do you think I'll hear much with just the antenna and no preamp? If so, I'm all over that... daughter has been wanting to do things outside as soon as it warms up. She'll love that.  Thanks!!! Enjoying this thread!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on March 30, 2013, 07:00:04 PM
Yeah, I had several friends who make lots of contacts on the RS birds.

I never got interested in paper-chasing, but I QSL 100% on satellite contacts.

I've done a bit of broadcast work at DirecTV, and went to the "Los Angeles Broadcasters School" until it closed. I was more a behind-the-scenes kinda guy, but the school was very comprehensive, so I spent a good bit of classroom and lab time spinning records, reading commercials, and learning how a commercial radio station worked.

My wife knows that when I get the satellite station set up on the patio it's time to order pizza, so no problem there!

I'm partial to SSB Electronic preamps, but others have had very good results with the ones ARR sells. And if it's for receive only, you can build a kit from Down East Microwave, or roll your own. I'd stay several counties away from Mirage stuff! I just don't think their reliability is very good, and you can always check out the preamp reviews here on eHam.

SO-50 is the only FM sat up there now, and I've never tried working it with a handheld, so I don't know how well the CJU would work with it, but it seems like a pretty clever design.

For Az/El setups, check out the following links:

http://kc4ri.com/index.php?p=1_7_SLCP-Sat-Tracker

http://home.wavecable.com/~ko6th/

http://www.aa5fr.com/el-cheapo-az-el-satellite-antenna/

http://users.wbsnet.org/n0yk/cushcraft.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrc4Q5Tzhj4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWBh29MyqWU

I can't seem to find the QRZ thread, either.

Just Google for "small homebrew az/el rotors" and you should find lots of hits.



Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K7WDO on March 30, 2013, 07:53:25 PM
Ah, all this talk of broadcast radio is bringing back memories of my time as a DJ on the college radio station.  Fun days.

But back on the subject of satellites, I'll vouch for ARR's preamps as that's what I'm using (10m & 70cm).  Not too expensive and work incredibly well.

I'd almost say go for the linear sats (VO-52, AO-7, and FO-29) rather than SO-50.  I never had any problem getting the 70cm downlinks on AO-51 or AO-27, but even with the preamp, I have always had an awful time trying to hear SO-50. 

Another potential option if you're getting antsy to make contacts would be to see if you can find a 70cm-10m downconverter to put on your HF rig.  Between that and your TR-751A, you could work Mode J (V/U) in the interim which would cover both FO-29 and SO-50.

Finally, one more link for rotors.  Norm's Rotor Service, which carries the old Alliance U110 rotors http://www.rotorservice.com/press3-alliance.htm (http://www.rotorservice.com/press3-alliance.htm)


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: W4HIJ on March 30, 2013, 09:55:56 PM
Hmnn, just coming in on this thread  but you sound a lot like me. I'm hoping to be able to work the upcoming birds from the comfort of my shack rather than standing out on my deck with a camera tripod antenna juggling HT's. In fact, awhile back circumstances had me using HT's in the shack with and Az/El system outdoors! When I first got into sats, I had a Kenwood TS-2000X hooked up to a couple of homebrew WA5VJB "cheap yagis". The antennas  were mounted with a couple of old  Gemini Orion OR-360 TV rotators that were controlled by a Homebrew tracking box called the "SAEBRTrack" which was built around a BASIC STAMP. I had a mast mounted AR2 preamp on the 70cm side and SATPC32 controlled antenna pointing and doppler correction. I was proud of that setup and I worked, FO-29, VO-52, AO-7, AO-51, SO-50, and AO27 with it. I had some major medical expenses come up though and eventually had to sell my TS-2000X so I actually eventually just ended up with an old  2 meter HT and a newer  dual band HT hooked up to the whole shebang.  I no longer had computer doppler correction or all mode capability but I still had PC controlled AZ/EL pointing for FM sats. Eventually though I got away from it and ended up taking the antennas down and selling my preamp and HT's and my tracking box now controls the Azimuth of my HF mini beam.
 I seem to be getting the itch again though and I'm actually thinking of putting something back up. I've been experimenting with one of the USB DVB-T dongles  as an SDR RX for satellites. I have it hooked up to an omnidirectional scanner antenna fed by RG-6 quad shield. I can barely make out VO-52's downlink down in the noise and can't hear SO-50 at all. I'm hoping building a broadband preamp like the one AMSAT is selling will remedy the situation. Of course the dongle was never designed for this use and has a wide "front end" so desense problems while trying full duplex may make it all a pipe dream. At any rate, even if I have to go with two HT's from the shack again, I plan on having some sort of outdoor antennas with PC controlled Azimuth pointing. You can homebrew the "cheap yagis" for next to nothing, weatherproofing isn't a big deal, and they work great. I just wish SATPC32 had an option for using the up/down button function on an HT for doppler correction. It's not really needed, you can do it well enough by hand but I just like to have everything automated and I'm lazy :-) Maybe I should ask Erich....
73,
Michael, W4HIJ


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 30, 2013, 10:11:33 PM
Thanks for the links, Jim... I'll have a look over them and do some googling. A quick look, very interesting stuff. I think I agree with your preamp recommendations. But I imagine if I find a bargain, I'll take whatever I can get.  ;D  I'm going to keep researching the CJU antenna... I remember watching a video of a VE ham using one with a preamp and doing exactly what I am talking about... seems easy enough to build and those Chinese radios are unbelievably cheap... $40 on Amazon... AMAZON! Who ever thought they'd be selling ham gear on Amazon?!!  But like I say, I know I've seen a pic of a vid one of one of those CJU antenna built onto a small piece of plastic pipe and that was attached right to the SMA/BNC adaptor attached to the HT. Must be able to hearing SOMETHING or wouldn't have done it.


Scott, did that, too... I worked at some broadcast stations in high school and on college break, but was the manager of one college station and 'Chief Operator' of another. (paid position filling then legal requirement normally filled by chief engineer) Wife and I had back to back shows our senior year of college to get an extra senior credit.  :D

I never had any problem getting the 70cm downlinks on AO-51 or AO-27, but even with the preamp, I have always had an awful time trying to hear SO-50.

AH... I need to pay close attention to that. Possibly the HT mounted CJU antenna sans preamp was being used on something other than SO-50. Thanks for that... you might have just saved me some money buying an HT that will never do me any good. You know, I am acquainted with a local ham that is into V/U weak signal work and he is anxious to get me on it. Maybe he has a preamp I can borrow or buy cheap to try it out. Especially if he thinks it will lead to me one day putting up some base antennas.  ;D

I did a quick search for a down-converter... only thing I find is something custom built/homebrew or made for ATV. You have anywhere to point me for something current? Maybe I can find one of those Ten Tec 2510s somewhere... most people have no idea what they are for and treat them like a boat anchor. Usually not expensive when you run across them, but pretty rare any more. (I see one went for under $80 about a month ago.) That would work on VO-52 and I guess AO-7 Mode B.

And yeah, I know about Norms... biggest problem with a U110 is my wife knows all about 'clunk, clunk, clunk' and the sound might carry through the house.  :o


Michael, thanks for telling your story. Yeah, sounds like same plot of ground I'm trying to tread. I'll check out the 'cheap yagis' for sure and the dongle idea actually occurred to me, but after building and maintaining several repeaters in years past, i assumed exactly your fear... too wide of a front end for duplex work. But I'd be VERY interested in the outcome if you try... dongles would be something cool to play with. - The AMSAT preamp; built and in enclosure... $50?!!! That's very doable. Wonder if the broadband nature wouldn't cause problems with desense. Might be worth a try though, thanks for mentioning it.


Thanks again, guys... keep the good ideas, coming. I have plenty of researching to do until my remote coax switch arrives on Thursday.  ;)


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: W4HIJ on March 30, 2013, 10:57:21 PM
I'm actually going to try and roll my own version of the preamp.  I have the MAR-6 thanks to the generosity of someone on the amsat bb. I just have to figure out the PC board. Don't really have any experience etching them. I was thinking of maybe using my Dremel to rough out something crude. I don't want to sound cheap and I'd love to buy one of the units from AMSAT to help Fox but money is really tight and I bet I can build the thing for ten bucks. Besides, this is just an experiment.
Michael, W4HIJ


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 31, 2013, 02:12:36 AM
I have the MAR-6...

Just FYI, he comments in the documentation that he switched from a MAR 6 to a MAR 7 to get away from the MAR 6 going into oscillation from overload. You might be okay depending on your location and setup. But moreover, I mention the documentation because you might appreciate the pictures & drawing of the PCB on the second page.

http://store.amsat.org/catalog/docs/preamp.pdf (http://store.amsat.org/catalog/docs/preamp.pdf)

In the past I have used perfboard and tinned bus wire to simulate a PCB board, but never with surface mount components...  :o

Good luck!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 31, 2013, 03:42:11 AM
By the way... I found the pic of the guy working a sat with a CJU built right onto his HT: http://www.jerryclement.ca/HamRadio/HamRadio/10282516_SCgV88/2212090504_qgJp2Bw#!i=2212090504&k=qgJp2Bw  (http://www.jerryclement.ca/HamRadio/HamRadio/10282516_SCgV88/2212090504_qgJp2Bw#!i=2212090504&k=qgJp2Bw)

And another where he adds an ARR preamp to it for use with his FT-817: http://jerryclement.smugmug.com/HamRadio/HamRadio/10282516_SCgV88/1701720934_mKL566n#!i=827495115&k=sNNxBCL (http://jerryclement.smugmug.com/HamRadio/HamRadio/10282516_SCgV88/1701720934_mKL566n#!i=827495115&k=sNNxBCL)

He doesn't say what sat he is working in the first pic, but he mentions that he added the preamp due to loss from the cable. I have read that some people have worked SO-50 with this antenna. So who knows. I have some of that small drinking water pipe under the house, I believe... or they sell 2' pieces at Home Depot for about $2. Some large gauge solid copper wire, hot glue gun, piece of coax and a BNC connector, some tape... might need a clamp. Would also mount right onto that AMSAT preamp.  :D

Now as for working the linear birds and having fun... how about this way: http://jerryclement.smugmug.com/HamRadio/HamRadio/10282516_SCgV88/1701720934_mKL566n#!i=1689200187&k=zB327Ps (http://jerryclement.smugmug.com/HamRadio/HamRadio/10282516_SCgV88/1701720934_mKL566n#!i=1689200187&k=zB327Ps)

73 all,

N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K7WDO on March 31, 2013, 09:02:41 AM
Sorry I don't have any current leads on a new down-converter.  Most of the ones I've seen for sale were old ones floating around at a hamfest so shop around and you might get lucky.  The most popular use for them theses days is as a way to get around a birdie on the TS-2000 that's in the middle of SO-50's downlink frequency.  I used one once to hear FO-29 on my HF receiver so they do work, but I never owned one as I eventually went and bought a 70cm rig.

As for my SO-50 problems, I've listened for it on a different antenna setup with good copy so it might be something with my location or antennas.  The downlink is less powerful than some of the previous FM sats so it's a more challenging target to hear than AO-51 was, but it's not like you need an EME setup to hear it.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: W4HIJ on March 31, 2013, 09:20:15 AM
I have the MAR-6...

Just FYI, he comments in the documentation that he switched from a MAR 6 to a MAR 7 to get away from the MAR 6 going into oscillation from overload. You might be okay depending on your location and setup. But moreover, I mention the documentation because you might appreciate the pictures & drawing of the PCB on the second page.

http://store.amsat.org/catalog/docs/preamp.pdf (http://store.amsat.org/catalog/docs/preamp.pdf)

In the past I have used perfboard and tinned bus wire to simulate a PCB board, but never with surface mount components...  :o

Good luck!
Yes, I read the comments but I live out in the boonies so maybe it won't be an issue. I'm probably all wet anyway with the cheapie approach but I just can't afford to do anything else right now and it's costing me next to nothing to at least try. I don't know if a Funcube dongle pro would  work but then again I can't afford one. What I wish was available was some type of kit for a 2m/70cm all mode SDR optimized for sats. You can already link doppler control from SATPC32 to HDSDR, we just need the hardware.  It doesn't seem like to me that it would be that hard to design but then again since I don't have the knowledge and talent to do it, what do I know? ::)
Michael, W4HIJ


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on March 31, 2013, 09:59:03 AM
Well, I have yet to venture into SDR, Michael... for me it's like a microwave oven was once upon a time; mysterious and beyond comprehension. Just hard to believe the software can do so much with the hardware being so little. Just too far from the HW-101 I built as a Novice, I guess. - And yes, Scott, I'll be keeping my eyes open for an opportunity for either a down converter or a 70cm rig. Still have my weak signal ham friend to talk to and some hamfests coming up.

But in the mean time, I decided to dip my toe in the water and take a step, by getting on SO-50. My 50th birthday is just over a month away, so I asked my wife to spend $50 on me.  ;D  I ordered a Beofeng UV-3R, a programming cable and a BNC adapter off the famous auction site. The total came to just a few pennies shy of fifty bucks. Amazing to think one can buy a dual band HT so little. And it IS LITTLE! My gosh it's small... I told my wife if I quit using it for satellite, I can throw it in the glove box of my SUV for emergencies. And I read that these new Chinese radios are essentially SDR rigs. So what the heck... I'm in. I already have a Captain Kirk flip top communicator for a phone (and that's OLD tech already, they tell me)... the Dick Tracy wrist TV phone can't be far off now.

Oh, and I found a BNC patch cord, a few pieces of PEX pipe and some #12 insulated solid copper wire to make a CJU antenna... just have to borrow my wife's hot glue gun and charge up my drill. And if that doesn't work well enough, come my birthday, I'll tell her I forgot about my present already (getting old... memory fading) and ask her to $50 on me and get an AMSAT preamp. (Don't think it'll work more than once, do ya?)

I'll keep you guys apprised. Pics on my QRZ page as always. Can I make it on SO-50 with my $50 radio, by the time I turn 50? - As for now, I need a nap... stayed up too late researching HTs and sat antennas.  :D

73 all and thanks for the help... I'm making definite progress.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on March 31, 2013, 10:31:24 AM
A steady hand and a Dremel have made many a PCB!

I've used X-acto knives to cut our the pattern, and then heated the copper with a soldering iron to peel it off.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: W4HIJ on March 31, 2013, 05:33:40 PM
I apparently had a crimp on faulty F connector that I didn't realize was affecting reception through my DVB-T and Omni scanner antenna. After replacing it NOAA was much stronger and tonight when I listened to a pass of VO-52, I could actually copy the callsign of someone calling CQ on SSB. It wasn't Q5 but I'm encouraged. I think a preamp up at the antenna will make all the difference in the world. Of course I haven't approached the question of desense yet but things look a little more promising. It is cool to watch SatPC32 and HDSDR track doppler together with a 20 dollar USB stick for an RX!
Michael, W4HIJ


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on March 31, 2013, 06:00:45 PM
Ah, yes....bad connectors!

I *only* use the compression connectors like Snap-N-Seal on RG-6.

Once you learn how to install them, they're bulletproof!

Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 05, 2013, 07:22:34 AM
SUCCESS!  My Baofeng HT came in the mail yesterday while I was sleeping. I got up late last night and spent most of the night figuring it out and programming it. Also had to program in the SO-50 uplink into my 2m shack rig. There was a pass this morning around 7:30a local that would be practically overhead. I set up a couple tracking webpages and had everything ready.

Sure enough a couple minutes into the pass, I finally started to hear something and copied two stations in the northern US working each other. Then a '4 call' came on and called one of them. When they were done I announced, "N4UFO, first time on the bird," and KK4NWC came back to me. He gave me his info and I gave him mine... then nothing. Either the receiver went wacky, I adjusted the doppler wrong or the bird whooshed overhead right then and I failed to turn the antenna the other way in time. Finally after 30-40 seconds of fiddling, and asking if he copied, I heard him come back again and confirm. I apologized for my difficulties and signed with him. After the pass, I e-mailed him to be sure and he sent me back an audio file recording of our QSO from his end. Kinda cool!

Observations and conclusions:

- Despite being duplex, I never heard myself over the bird. I was unsure if my TX antenna was up to the job and I probably had the power set too high; the antenna is probably 15-20 feet from my head. I'll try lower power next time and see if that helps. But I definitely think operating from the shack is do-able.

- I need a headset. The earpiece mic that came with the HT is... well, pretty worthless. It was terrible sounding and being in just one ear didn't help. I hope I can find a mini TRRS plug to adapt a set of cheap headphones for use with it.

- A preamp would be a big plus. The fellow I worked was using a $10 Ramsey preamp... If I end up not being able to hear duplex anyway, I could mount it in a plastic case like he did with no worries.

- My logging program is not satellite friendly. I'm a paper logger out of old habit. then I type into Winlog 32. It has a 'Prop' box, but not a RX band, RX freq, or a SAT field. I ended up using TQSL to create a single QSO file to upload. Still unsure if I did it all correctly. The QSO is there, but no match yet. (He does LotW, but did he upload yet?)


So... going back to my original post, I 'have a clue' now.   ;D The HT in the shack with a small antenna (CJU) does work for receive, given a good pass, at least. Would it work equally as well on a UHF uplink bird, only time will tell. Would my 2m HEAR well on a 2m downlink bird... I still need to try listening for VO-52; been busy. Do I want to get an all mode rig for UHF, yes I do... do I want to put antennas up outside, yes I do. But both are a funds dependent project. Just have to see what the future brings, but it sounds like something I'd eventually like to do. - But for now, I will probably continue to have a little fun with the HT and SO-50 and let it inspire little projects here and there; antennas, preamps, headphones, and whatever gizmo aids come along. Was definitely worth the time and investment so far.

Thanks for all the help here... and as time permits I'll put a picture of the little HT and shack rig, etc. on my QRZ page... probably at the bottom.

73 for now,  Kevin, N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: WD9EWK on April 05, 2013, 08:59:15 AM
SUCCESS!  My Baofeng HT came in the mail yesterday while I was sleeping. I got up late last night and spent most of the night figuring it out and programming it. Also had to program in the SO-50 uplink into my 2m shack rig. There was a pass this morning around 7:30a local that would be practically overhead. I set up a couple tracking webpages and had everything ready.

Sure enough a couple minutes into the pass, I finally started to hear something and copied two stations in the northern US working each other. Then a '4 call' came on and called one of them. When they were done I announced, "N4UFO, first time on the bird," and KK4NWC came back to me. He gave me his info and I gave him mine... then nothing. Either the receiver went wacky, I adjusted the doppler wrong or the bird whooshed overhead right then and I failed to turn the antenna the other way in time. Finally after 30-40 seconds of fiddling, and asking if he copied, I heard him come back again and confirm. I apologized for my difficulties and signed with him. After the pass, I e-mailed him to be sure and he sent me back an audio file recording of our QSO from his end. Kinda cool!

Congratulations!

Quote
- Despite being duplex, I never heard myself over the bird. I was unsure if my TX antenna was up to the job and I probably had the power set too high; the antenna is probably 15-20 feet from my head. I'll try lower power next time and see if that helps. But I definitely think operating from the shack is do-able.

I don't think the Baofeng radio is capable of cross-band, full-duplex operation.  Even if it has two VFOs on the display, I don't think the radio was designed for that. 

How did you sound on the recording the other station sent you?  If you were only using the HT and no external amplifier to increase your transmit power, you're doing fine with just the power out of that HT.

Quote
- A preamp would be a big plus. The fellow I worked was using a $10 Ramsey preamp... If I end up not being able to hear duplex anyway, I could mount it in a plastic case like he did with no worries.

If you are looking for a preamp, you might want to consider the broadband preamp AMSAT has on sale:

http://store.amsat.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=84 (http://store.amsat.org/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=84)

It comes assembled, works for 2m and 70cm, just don't transmit into it. 

Quote
- My logging program is not satellite friendly. I'm a paper logger out of old habit. then I type into Winlog 32. It has a 'Prop' box, but not a RX band, RX freq, or a SAT field. I ended up using TQSL to create a single QSO file to upload. Still unsure if I did it all correctly. The QSO is there, but no match yet. (He does LotW, but did he upload yet?)

Did your ADI file contain at least the following 7 fields:

CALL
QSO_DATE
TIME_ON
BAND
MODE
PROP_MODE (this must be SAT)
SAT_NAME (from the list at the bottom of https://p1k.arrl.org/lotw/faq (https://p1k.arrl.org/lotw/faq) for this field)

Other fields like FREQ, FREQ_RX, and BAND_RX are optional, but may be good to include in your QSO records.  Then your LOTW uploads will have all of the frequency/band information for each contact.

Download this PDF as a good reference for uploading satellite QSOs to LOTW:

http://www.arrl.org/files/file/LoTW%20Instructions/N5JB.pdf (http://www.arrl.org/files/file/LoTW%20Instructions/N5JB.pdf)

Quote

So... going back to my original post, I 'have a clue' now.   ;D The HT in the shack with a small antenna (CJU) does work for receive, given a good pass, at least. Would it work equally as well on a UHF uplink bird, only time will tell. Would my 2m HEAR well on a 2m downlink bird... I still need to try listening for VO-52; been busy. Do I want to get an all mode rig for UHF, yes I do... do I want to put antennas up outside, yes I do. But both are a funds dependent project. Just have to see what the future brings, but it sounds like something I'd eventually like to do. - But for now, I will probably continue to have a little fun with the HT and SO-50 and let it inspire little projects here and there; antennas, preamps, headphones, and whatever gizmo aids come along. Was definitely worth the time and investment so far.

Good luck, and 73!



Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 05, 2013, 09:13:34 AM
I don't think the Baofeng radio is capable of cross-band, full-duplex operation.  Even if it has two VFOs on the display, I don't think the radio was designed for that.  

How did you sound on the recording the other station sent you?  If you were only using the HT and no external amplifier to increase your transmit power, you're doing fine with just the power out of that HT.

I wasn't transmitting on the HT... I was transmitting on my TR-751A 2m allmode hooked to a 2m Squalo mounted about 5 feet above the peak on the end of the house.

The recording was fine... I sounded a little more hick than I remember  ::), but good copy on his end.

Quote
If you are looking for a preamp, you might want to consider the broadband preamp AMSAT has on sale:

It comes assembled, works for 2m and 70cm, just don't transmit into it.  

OH... I didn't realize it was good for both 2m & 440... that is a definite plus. But how not to transmit into it, hmmmm... have to think that one over.

Quote
Download this PDF as a good reference for uploading satellite QSOs to LOTW:

Yep, I was reading that handout earlier, thanks!  Now if I can just get back on the linear birds.... but no rush.  ;D

Thanks!!!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 05, 2013, 10:32:30 AM
Congrats, Kevin!

Ramsey used to sell a little RF activated switch kit that you could probably use, along with some relays, to switch the preamp in/out of the circuit.

Or you could use a "sequencer" type of circuit that switched it out when you key up.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: W4HIJ on April 05, 2013, 10:43:40 AM
The fact that you did not hear yourself could be caused by desense. It's a common problem that can be solved by separation of antennas, reducing power or using a diplexer at the antenna as a filter. I do wish everyone would set themselves up to work full duplex into the birds, it makes it easier on all concerned.
Congrats on the contact,
Michael, W4HIJ


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 05, 2013, 11:32:57 AM
+1 on what Michael said.

It's not hard to do, and while it's "nice" to have on the FM birds, it's a MUST have on the linear birds!

Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 05, 2013, 05:49:23 PM
Thanks for the nice remarks, guys. Yeah, RS-12/13 would have been about the only linear bird that you could get away with half duplex. The short time I had a 2m rig to do full duplex on it was sure weird though... hearing yourself I mean.

In my case, I would be relatively sure it's desense, Michael... and if not, then it's something squirrelly with the radio. I've caught it doing things I didn't program it to do, hearing weird noises that don't act like actual received noises, etc. I'm told these radios are SDRs... nothing more than essentially a dongle and a small processor; and not a particularly powerful one, one would assume. But I am definitely aiming for full duplex though.

I saw that RF switch, Jim. Only problem is, it costs twice as much as the preamp! That's like renting a safe deposit box for your penny jar. I try to program the HT so even if I do hit the PTT, it won't fire, but haven't tested if that actually works. Next problem is putting it inline. The antenna is mounted on the HT. I would have to mount the preamp in a box with a BNC jack to mount the antenna on... then run a cable to the radio. Maybe an Altoids tin and a jack from Radio Shack would do it...Just have to see how sturdy that would be. I assume it would run off a 9V battery. Just have to take time to get to it. I'm far more interested in finding a way to adapt the radio to a pair of regular headphones. The UV-3R I have has the single TSSR plug... I went by Radio Shack today, and found they have NO plugs of that type, only adapters. And none of the adapters are wired correctly; audio was distorted in one ear.

I am going to play around with the HT some more and work a few more passes before deciding on anything and spending more money. I have some other things to evaluate as well... like how well my 2m will receive. As I type this I am listening for VO-52 to come over the horizon with my 751 and squalo... WOW! Only 3-4 degrees above the horizon and I can already hear the beacon!!! Ten degrees and I can start to copy... made out 'The Dutch'.  Fifteen degrees and no problem copying... I eventually found someone in the passband 'making sounds tying to find their signal, but nothing I could make out. Definitely says to me, 'great QTH for sat station... get up some nice antennas!'

I put up a couple pics of my HT and rig on my QRZ page; scroll down to the bottom:  http://www.qrz.com/db/N4UFO (http://www.qrz.com/db/N4UFO)

73, Kevin

Thanks again...


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 05, 2013, 07:06:38 PM
Once could be a fluke... but twice, not so much.  ;D   Got on for the evening pass of SO-50 and made three QSOs... I only got the bird clearly for a brief period either side of peak, so a preamp would be a big help. (Knowing how to make brief QSOs from chasing DX sure helped!) And I did hear myself a bit over the bird this time, although noisy. I was able to tell when someone else was also keying up and trying to talk. I don't have a watt meter accurate on VHF, but I think the low power setting in my 2m rig needs to be turned down some more... (has an internal adjustment pot). Between the two of those, I should be able to get to full duplex and be copyable to myself.

My daughter came in and listened and had lots of questions afterward. She thought it was interesting... moreso than HF.  :D I'm betting if I setup outside, she'd enjoy it even better. Maybe when I get the RX improved or a way to follow tracking away from the PC. (Sorry, I don't have a smart phone... 'what's an App?')

I think we're having fun now... oh, and that's at least two comments now on my callsign. Guess it's a natural for sats.  ;)

73, Kevin


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K7WDO on April 05, 2013, 08:11:22 PM
Congrats on two sats in one day with multiple QSOs.  Sounds like you're on a roll there.

Quote
Maybe when I get the RX improved or a way to follow tracking away from the PC. (Sorry, I don't have a smart phone... 'what's an App?')

It's called track by post-it note.  Just mark down the upcoming pass times for AOS, LOS, and highest elevation with the AZ/EL measurements on a post it note and stick it to your radio.  All you need to do from there is keep an eye on the clock so you know where to aim based on your notes.  It gets you pointed close enough to hear something and then you can fine tune your aim by signal strength.

73,  Scott.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 05, 2013, 08:50:46 PM
Just mark down the upcoming pass times for AOS, LOS, and highest elevation with the AZ/EL measurements on a post it note and stick it to your radio.
That's what I had planned... but until/unless I get good and 'routine' with the other steps, I realized during these two passes, that without the computer to glance at quickly and adjust, I may not keep track of the time well enough. Maybe if I go to the 'voice recorder' technique and quit writing down QSO information, I might could manage it. I have one of those stored in a closet somewhere... guess I should dig it out and check for batteries.  ;D

Thanks!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 05, 2013, 10:22:22 PM
Yep, many people use a little voice recorder. It was something I'd never even considered until I saw a post from Patrick some years ago about using one, and the lightbulb in my head went off.

Good job so far, Kevin!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 06, 2013, 03:22:42 PM
Well, you guys are gonna love this... dreams really do come true. On an instinct, I checked the area Craigslist this morning for ham radio gear. - I just brought home an Icom 451A UHF rig... the internal power supply needs fixing, but it runs off 12v DC, so no worries. It was part of a club station at a kid's science type museum and is in pristine condition... came in the original box! Supposed to be a 10 watt rig; I have no meter to check that for sure... but it does TX & RX and it's drawing several amps according to my VOM, so probably is okay. I traded a piece of non-ham gear for it and got some cash to boot to start working on a mounting base for some antennas.  ;D

Not enough to do the whole job and buy rotors and outside antennas just yet, but a start and something to work towards. First the mount, then feedline, then some simple antennas, preamps... work my way up. In the meantime, maybe I will get a cheap preamp and mount the CJU to it for indoor use and use the rig instead of the HT... plus try the linear birds. Ah, more toys to play with... I can't wait.  :D

Kevin


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 06, 2013, 03:28:51 PM
Uh-Oh!

He's been bit hard by the satellite bug!

Just wait until you get on the linear birds......

Are you using any tracking program, or just getting on-line predictions?

Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 06, 2013, 04:08:14 PM
Bit? Yes... but remember, I used to be all over RS-12/13. I even had a webpage to tutor hams new to using it and ran a forum for help and making skeds. Got 47/48 states, over 150 grids confirmed and several DXCC; it was a ball. I know how much fun linear birds can be... I just only had the ONE. Now there will be several! ;D

I've been using N2YO for now... last time I had a tracking program on my computer, it was monochrome and running on a 286.  :o

Lot's to catch up on before I am quite there... I'm going to be "knee deep in the hoopla" with antenna projects for a while. I have a concurrent HF antenna upgrade going, just waiting on parts.

Kevin


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: W4HIJ on April 06, 2013, 07:27:48 PM
When you do get to the point of wanting a tracking program, I highly recommend SatPC32.  It will do just about anything you want as far as tracking for antennas and tracking doppler if your radios are capable. Erich is very responsive to questions and has even added features at the request of individual users. You also support AMSAT by buying it. There used to be a membership option where it came with it. That's how I got mine. Congrats on the "new" radio!
73,
Michael, W4HIJ


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 06, 2013, 10:15:10 PM
+1 on SatPC32.

I've used/tried/bought most of the others out there, and SatPC32 really does do it all, and do it correctly.

Some people complained that the supplied maps weren't "pretty" enough, but you've *always* had the option of installing the (FREE!) "Blue Marble" maps from NASA, and now Erich includes them.

And when it comes to "pretty, but broken" vs "not-quite-so-pretty but 100% functional", I'll take functional every time!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 07, 2013, 06:53:02 AM
Wow, WoW, WOW!!!  I gotta get some antennas built and get a rotor!!!

So, I got the new radio hooked up... had to rearrange the desk a little bit. Going to need to do lots of things like make/get a power distribution gizmo (power supply connections can handle two wires, no more), a way to switch CW key between rigs, move mic hangers, etc. Anyway, there was a decent pass of SO-52 this morning, so I put the little IO antenna I built for the HT on the end of a short patch cable. I figured there might be a little loss from that, but wanted to see how the new radio received. AND with the new rig, I can use HEADPHONES! Yaaay! So I was able to aim the antenna and could eventually hear myself over the bird. And having the headphones on, I finally heard that the bird has a 'squelch tail' like a regular repeater does. (So much white noise and garbage from the little HT speaker, I never realized.) I did hear another voice momentarily, couldn't make out what they said, but no one ever answered me on the bird. Oh well, it was early Sunday morning. Bottom line: I definitely need a preamp for SO-50 receive, but the rig works and is better than using an HT... And easier to TUNE! There are two FM settings; one where the meter shows signal strength and another where the the meter shows center of carrier... how handy!

Then I thought, "Okay, what about a linear bird?" So a few minutes at N2YO and got them all tracking... VO-52 would be around with a 76 degree pass in an hour or so. But I didn't expect too much based on my beacon reception the other day. (Apparently it wasn't as high of a pass or something.) So I did a little research online and compiled frequencies & passbands, etc. Got myself a bowl of cereal and watched a couple videos of a British ham working VO-52. I got to thinking, might be much more likely to hear something (if at all) if I use CW... a little trial and error on which cable was which and I had it ditting away. - So time came... started to hear a weak beacon. Switched VFOs up to the passband. Picked up the IO to aim it, went to hit the key and adjust the TX VFO to find myself when I realized...  I don't have enough hands! AHHHH!!!

I managed to lean the IO up against something long enough to tune around and... HEAR MY SIGNAL! Wow... I'm going through the transponder with 10 watts to a couple pieces of wire leaning precariously on the desk of my shack AND I'm HEARING it back with a 2m squalo on the roof! What in the world will I manage with outside antennas, much less something high gain & directional!!! But then the bird went over head and my signal faded... couldn't figure out how to lean the antenna over the other way. My wife was up by now, so I hollered for her to come help. I showed her how to hold it (AWAY from her bottom, by the adapter on the cable) and not to look at it. (Okay, okay, I know, not the best idea to have 10 watts radiating that close to anyone, but hey... it's a proof of concept thing... just this once.)  :D  But morale to the story, I did it enough times to determine I was for sure in the bird and not just hearing some crossmod... AND, I kept hearing myself down to like 15 degrees. I also heard some signals sweeping by and I think someone may have finally tried to call me, but I had just about lost the bird by then. But wow... I heard my own signal really well... well enough to hold a QSO, for sure.

Also, dawned on me why I was having so much trouble sending CW... (I was worried there for a sec.) I finally realized... I was not listening to the TX rig's sidetone, I was listening to my downlink over the bird. And the brain to finger processing was having a hiccup because of the slight delay.  ;D  Geez! At least I know I'm not suddenly starting to lose my touch!  ::)


Okay... the bug bit so hard this morning, Jim, it left a welt!  Now I gotta research antennas and what I want to build. (Suggestions?!!) Already making arrangements to go pick up a big tripod... might have enough left over for a rotor, etc. Could possibly trade something that will be left over from my HF project for some feedline and rotor cable. Just depends on what gas will cost to get it all and the price of all the "small stuff". (Oh, can't forget a preamp.) But hopefully it won't take too long. Gimme a month or so and I'll be on the birds.  ;D

This is way better results than I expected. If I can do this at these power levels and from IN the shack, I shouldn't have any problems once I get my bigger plans in place. - Once again... thanks for all the encouragement and advice, guys!

73, Kevin N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: W4HIJ on April 07, 2013, 02:49:10 PM
I'm telling you Kevin, go check out the WA5VJB "cheap yagis". Almost foolproof to construct and as the name says....cheap. I've built them with wood booms and PVC booms before.  The PVC eventually gets brittle in the sun. A square wood boom is easier to drill and you can weatherproof it  with spar varnish. At one time I had 11 elements on 70cm and four on 2m and could work any LEO bird I wanted. I had AZ/EL but you really can get by with just AZ and pointing them up at a fixed angle.  I believe 30 degrees is what is usually recommended but it's been awhile so someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
Michael


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 09, 2013, 10:46:16 AM
Okay, Micheal... I think I'm going to build some type of antenna, whether yagi or what, i dunno yet, but I had actually looked at the cheap yagi site before... just got lost in the noise.  :)

Here's my update. Turns out my Kenwood 751 has problems... going in for repair. I'm also moving forward on outside antennas. Have a mounting project going forward that will put the top of mast (rotor) at about 17 feet... which clears my house peak, some 35' away by 3'. But I have some planning questions I could use some elmering on.

1. Should I go to all the trouble & expense of burying PVC conduit again to get the feedlines over to the antenna base OR is it an okay idea to suspend the feedline in the air from the corner of my house to the top of the tripod (both 10 feet off the ground) a distance of about 24 feet. If I bury the feedline, it means 5-8 extra feet of feedline and not easily changed out later, not to mention a problem to run the conduit in this particular location. With the 'through the air' idea, I have a screw eye already placed at the corner of the house which is right above where the feedlines will come out from underneath the house skirting. I just don't know how much sag there will be or if it is potentially damaging to the feedline. This is on a back corner of the house and XYL and/or visibility issues are not a concern. And how would I 'get a bite' on the feedlines... would it be enough to tie a piece or cord.rope around them and hoist away? (I would want to raise and lower the house corner occasionally to give slack for lowering the tripod to work on antennas.)

2. Assuming I suspend the coax through the air, the feedline would run 55-60' to where the rotor would be. I have no idea if I will use single boom, or put a cross bar and use dual booms. But assuming 65' max... can I just use RG-213 since it is readily available to me? According to charts and a little figuring, 65 feet should result in a loss of 1.7-1.8 dB with 9913 or LMR-400. RG-213 would be about 3.4 dB. So what... 1.6-1.7 dB difference? My logic says that is not noticeable, but I've also never put in a sat station at home. Sure, if cost were only slightly higher, get the better stuff. But in my case, I can probably trade some used gear for new RG-213... but the other, gotta pay cash. PLUS... I'm not crazy about all I hear about how stiff LMR-400 is and people using jumpers. If the 213 makes somewhat sharper turns, all the better to me.

3. On 2m... using PL-259s. The back of the Icom is an 'N' jack. I bought an N to SO-239 adapter at Radio Shack, just to test it out. I'd like to use 'N's, but same story... I have a huge bag of good PL-259s... N connectors are $6 apiece not including shipping. And i thought about maybe using one at the rig, but then I can't hook up a watt meter or anything else without several adapters.  My question is... is this enough of a loss/impedance bump to worry with N's? Again, my logic says no, but I want to hear learned and experienced opinions.  ;D

4. At the antenna end... preamp on UHF, definitely; two meters not sure. The Icom UHF rig can send +12vdc up the feedline at the flip of a switch, easy peasy. Also... mast mount the preamp... cross piece (if I use one) or right on the antenna boom? What is practical, what is a must?

5. What size coax will deal with the flexing of turning the rotor? Sounds like LMR-400 would require a loop of something else. And the RG-213, I simply don't know about... Guys, I used RG-8X on HF... I run 100 watts and the loss is negligible at the runs I have. I heard a guy the other day talking about using hardline on an HF tower. WHY? I know it's done, but I just don't get that one... Seems like a effort in spending as much money as possible for the least gain to me.  ::)


Thanks for any and all replies. I'm off to the post office to mail in the daughter's defunct gaming video card... thanks goodness for warranties! That think was expensive!!! - 73


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 09, 2013, 11:39:21 AM
Good questions, Kevin!

Sorry to hear about the Kenwood. I'd recommend Cliff at Aavid. As far as I'm concerned, he's "Mr. Kenwood"!

I've used "aerial runs" of feedline before, and as long as you can securely tie it off on each end, it shouldn't be a problem. If you use cord to hoist them, and leave it out, be sure to get something that's UV resistant, like the "Black Dacron" stuff. Paracord might also work. There are several "knots" you can use to secure to a round object like a cable or pipe, but even though I can tie them, I can never remember their names!

Yes, LMR-400 is pretty stiff due to its solid center conductor. 9913F, Davis 'Bury Flex", and the similar "low loss" coax from other vendors are much more flexible. I use Bury Flex, as I bought a 1000' spool of it some years back. It's plenty flexible enough to use with rotors.

Keep in mind that besides the loss, the cable attenuation will also affect your Noise Figure. This is very important if you run preamps in the shack. If you run the preamps *at the antenna*, then coax type is not quite as important. I always get the best, lowest loss coax I can. For my 1.2GHz runs, I use 1.5" Heliax, but that's overkill for your station.

Many people use "UHF" connectors, and at 2 Meters, or even 70cm, and you can "get away with it", but make sure you weatherproof them! I use Type-N connectors, but then I have bags of those left over from a business I used to run.

AO-7 and VO-52 have 2 Meter downlinks, so a preamp is a good idea. Mount your preamps no more than 5'~6' from the feedpoint to keep the loss ahead of the preamp low, as it affects the overall Noise Figure of your system.

It's also a good idea to have a bandpass filter ahead of your 70cm preamp the help with desense. You can use an inexpensive duplexer for that, or get a filter from PAR Electronics. I'm also using a 2 Meter bandpass filter at the output of my FT-847 to try and keep any 3rd harmonic from going up the feedline, but it's probably overkill.

Some guys use hardline on HF because once it's properly assembled, it will quite literally "last forever". I've helped dismantle commercial radio sites where the hardline was 40 years old, and it still tested and looked like new. It's a solid copper, corrugated outer conductor covered with a thick jacket that's bonded to the outer conductor. Water ingress is just about nonexistent if the connectors were properly installed and sealed. And the HF users may have runs of several hundred feet from the shack to the antennas, and in that case, even at HF, the loss becomes significant.

Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K0JEG on April 10, 2013, 07:18:11 AM
1. Should I go to all the trouble & expense of burying PVC conduit again to get the feedlines over to the antenna base OR is it an okay idea to suspend the feedline in the air from the corner of my house to the top of the tripod (both 10 feet off the ground) a distance of about 24 feet. If I bury the feedline, it means 5-8 extra feet of feedline and not easily changed out later, not to mention a problem to run the conduit in this particular location. With the 'through the air' idea, I have a screw eye already placed at the corner of the house which is right above where the feedlines will come out from underneath the house skirting. I just don't know how much sag there will be or if it is potentially damaging to the feedline. This is on a back corner of the house and XYL and/or visibility issues are not a concern. And how would I 'get a bite' on the feedlines... would it be enough to tie a piece or cord.rope around them and hoist away? (I would want to raise and lower the house corner occasionally to give slack for lowering the tripod to work on antennas.)

Coax on its own is not "self-supporting." Most tower sites have a tray running from the tower to the shack with all the cable runs laying on it. In the CATV industry (which I'm much more familiar with), nearly all hardline cable is strapped to a steel strand using a spiral lashing wire. The RG-6 drop has a steel messenger wire that is used for physically supporting the coax. Over time, a coax cable will stretch and thin out, changing the characteristic impedance, sometimes dramatically. The way the coax is attached to the building and mast will also create a flex point that will eventually cause a mechanical problem from the wind blowing the cable around. By keeping the load on the steel messenger, the coax is able to maintain it's integrity. 24' isn't all that far, but I think it would be worth the extra time and effort.

It should be fairly simple to come up with some way to lash up a coax line to a steel messenger, using anything from zip ties to actual lasing wire. Check at hardware stores that sell fencing, or maybe at an electrical supply house. And don't spend too much, it's not an expensive item.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 10, 2013, 02:15:14 PM
As for #1... Thanks, Eric. You bring up something I hadn't thought of... stress points at the ends of the 'hang'. Being it is a short run, what if I simply wrap the coax from one end of the run to the other in a spiral of rope? I have about 30' of that black 1/4" UV resistant rope in the closet left over from another project (guy ropes for my beam - 900 lb break strength). If it's tied at both ends by the rope, the coax might get squeezed a little over the length, but if I do one wrap every foot or so, would that not just have the coax being cradled in the rope? Or would it make stress points again. Maybe I can attach the coax to the rope another way... with clips, loops or lash it like your hardline with 1/8" Dacron rope I also happen to have. Correct me if I'm wrong on my thinking here... but sure would like to fix the problem with rope rather than having to string up a metal cable.  :o (BUT I may also total up the price of conduit next time I'm at Home Depot.)

#2 RG-213 is it... I took my Kenwood over to be repaired and traded some extra "accessory gear" I had for a roll of 213 and a hand full of connectors. If it turns out to be problematic, I'll just purchase a run of 9913 type stuff, which I'd have had to do anyway. To me, if I trade stuff I already had, it's almost like I got something for free... I tell myself that anyway. Shhhh...  ;D

#3 Thanks Jim... the fellow gave me two N connectors (I guess in case I mess one up) to connect to the rig and then some Amphenol PL-259s... done. And I already have enough coax seal to choke a horse. (I am going to try some 3M Temflex 2155 on my new HF remote coax switch... might use that instead.)

#4 Ordered a Ramsey UHF preamp and an 'RF Sense' kit last night. Will build and likely put into a piece of PVC pipe, possibly for use with my handheld antenna. If it does a good job and seems suitable (and no one up and gives me an ARR preamp like happened years ago :P ) I'll probably purchase more Ramsey kits and make up some mast/boom mounted preamps. And if I feel lazy or can't find homebrew parts to make bias tee injectors, I noticed that MFJ has a new product out... MFJ-4119. It's a Bias Tee suitable for VHF-UHF.

#5 See #2.  ;) Again, thanks for the advice Jim.


Okay with those details out of the way (except for the coax run; hang or bury)... I'm good up to the top of the mast. Next is the rotor and... lemme see... what was it... OH, yeah! ANTENNAS! After watching some videos, google searching images and reading some webpages, I think I've come up with a two stage plan. Since I am likely to start off with a cheap AZ only TV rotor and be manually steering it, I am going to look at something without too much gain and a broader beamwidth. I don't want to have to be constantly bumping away at a rotor control that is not likely to be very accurate anyway.  I'm really leaning towards just building an IOio antenna with maybe PVC and possibly mounting the preamps right in there. With the gray PVC you can get 30 degree elbows and maybe I can just use that and a junction for a tee and even have a PVC mast. (making the antenna tilt up 30 degrees from the horizon) Make the elements from large gauge copper wire (would take maybe 14 feet). Not only is this a cheap way out, but something about the IOio antenna really appeals to me.

Then later on, I can get a better feel for what I want, and 'upgrade'. This is all going to be mounted on a tripod that tips over after removing a single bolt. The whole idea of this project in the first place is to give me 'something else to play with'. So why start out with top of the line "store bought" antennas?  I can try some 'cheap yagis', try things in different arrangements, etc. Why I'm practically giddy at the mere thought. (<-- comical exaggeration) But it will give me something to play with and parts to search around for at hamfests. I mean, hamfests are just not as fun if you aren't on a mission to find something...  ;D


Thanks again, guys... I really appreciate it. I'll be sure to keep you apprised.

Oh, almost forgot... I was talking to be neighbor last night outside after dark explaining the sat thing and lo & behold, here comes the ISS across the sky! I recognized it from seeing it before. It was a perfect example of explaining how fast the sats move, etc. Now c'mon! How cool is THAT??!!!  8)


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 10, 2013, 02:48:45 PM
One tip on using coax seal.....put down a layer of good quality (Scotch 33 or  33+) BEFORE you use the coax seal.

When you have to take the connections apart (and someday you will...), you'll thank yourself for using the tape.

I quit using that goop years ago. Now I use these 3M self-fusing silicone cable boots. They're tubular, and you slide them over the cable before you mate the connector to the antenna, preamp, whatever. After the connectors are tightened, you pull the plastic "string" out of the back of the cable boot, and as it comes out, the boot collapses on, and seals, the connector.

Really neat things, but I can't find the data sheet I have, so I can't give you a link to the 3M website.



Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 10, 2013, 06:28:25 PM
Those boots sound awesome! And yes, I learned the 'tape underneath' trick long ago... In fact I was just glad of it the other day when I took the feedlines off the MFJ two port switch to install my new Ameritron.  ;D  Also, if you ball up the goop and use it like a ball of cotton dabbing on the connector or other surface, you can get any remaining stuck goop to come right off... Some guys resort to some cleaner or mineral spirits, but isn't necessary.

73


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: K0JEG on April 10, 2013, 07:51:20 PM
As for #1... Thanks, Eric. You bring up something I hadn't thought of... stress points at the ends of the 'hang'. Being it is a short run, what if I simply wrap the coax from one end of the run to the other in a spiral of rope?

If you can lace the coax with a marline hitch (use figure C on the link below) it should work without causing problems, but over time it still might get loose in spots. I've used zip ties to attach .625 hardline to strand and they've held up for years (temporary fixes that are good enough sometimes become permanent). Given the cost of a bag of UV resistant zip ties I would think that and the dacron rope would be the cheapest/best way.

http://blog.makezine.com/2009/07/28/lost-knowledge-cable-lacing/

BTW: Off topic, but in my headends, cable lacing is most certainly NOT lost knowledge!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 11, 2013, 03:06:09 AM
Eric... that looks so cool I think I'm going to hang the coax in the air, just to try this.  :D  And since I built my own HW-101 as a Novice, I know what cable lacing is, just never knew what it was called! The wiring harness came pre-made, so I never had to do that... just the point-to-point "monkey-wiring" as it used to be called.

Question... assuming 2 runs of RG-213 and a rotor cable (4 or 6 conductor, I haven't decided yet) and a 23-24 foot stretch, how close together should I make the marline hitches? And the reason I haven't decided on the cable is, 'do I want to power the preamps on the feedline?' or 'do I want to run power up the rotor cable?' I was going to do it on the feedline, and may still, but I have to buy or build Bias Tees for the shack end. On the flip side, I'm not sure if running the rotor and preamp power wires together has any problems I have not foreseen yet. (Anyone?)

I think I also figured out that the way I am mounting the tripod, when it is tipped over to the ground, I will not be required to unhitch the cable from either end. BUT, I have to test this theory with a rope and a pole, because the math is more than I want to calculate.  ;D


By the way, while I am posting... does anyone have any recommendations about whether to choose a 22.5 degree or a 30 degree tilt to my antennas? I'm leaning towards 30 degrees, based on the observations of one ham (on Youtube) who is/was using an IOio antenna like I am considering.

Thanks guys, great stuff! This is why I enjoy venturing into new aspects of the hobby... you learn stuff!


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 11, 2013, 12:01:38 PM
GO, Kevin!

The difference in elevation between 30* and 22.5* is probably insignificant UNLESS you're running antennas with a LOT of gain, where they tend to be pretty "pointy".

Stop and think.....If the beamwidth of the antenna is 30*, a few degrees in pointing error doesn't have much of an effect.

I'm not sure if you'll be using the "Cheap Yagis", so I can't answer the beamwidth vs elevation question, but you should be able to figure it out. You can always experiment a bit to see what works best for you, with your antennas.

Power-up-the-coax is quite common, but I've never heard of anybody running their preamp power up the rotor cable, unless they have more conductors in the cable than they need for rotor control.

I *was* running it up the coax, supplied by my FT-847, BUT, I blew the transistor on the 2 Meter side by not checking the 2 Meter bandpass filter I have to see if the center coax conductor was grounded.

It was.......

So now I just run some of the red/black 'paired' cable (looks like red/black zip cord) to the DC connector on the preamp.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 11, 2013, 05:22:38 PM
Well, I'm planning on building an IOio antenna... making it out of PVC and large gauge copper wire. I originally had a choice of using a 60 degree elbow and end mount the antenna (giving it a 30 degree tilt) or use a 22.5 degree elbow and a tee. I took an exploratory trip to Home Depot today to see what parts were available in what size and made a lot of notes; I still have to figure exactly what to do, but likely I'll go with a 22.5 and a tee.

I've seen one IOio constructed where the UHF and VHF sections were built 90 degrees off each other. (the VHF horizontal and the UHF vertical) I am assuming this was done to minimize interference from one band to the other. I may try this... unless somebody gives me a good reason not to. (Again... anyone?) Well, to answer my own question, wouldn't be able to do much terrestrial weak signal with the UHF vertical... but with only 10 watts, I think my best advantage is to use the separation to help duplex reception.  Anyway, I would assume the bandwidth is fairly broad in both the horizontal and vertical direction, no matter which way it is mounted. The biggest advantage for me with this antenna is 'small & cheap'... and for some reason it just looks cool.

You'd think your rig would have some sort of protection to prevent that... I had a SW receiver once, even if you shorted across the antenna at the antenna connector, it didn't hurt anything. But in my case, it's fool with a tee or run power up the rotor cable. And yes, I will have extra conductors. The radio shop near here has several 1000 foot rolls of 5 conductor cable, which know one buys anymore so they sell it CHEAPER than 4 conductor... and I'm buying a 3 conductor rotor.  ;D  Normally you give the ground on the rotor two conductors... and if they preamp and it are compatible, I may let them share the ground.

In addition to the Home Dept list of 'lego parts' to design my antenna, I have made up my lists of 'needs' in the way of connectors and such... most I have found sources for; just a matter of purchasing them when I get the money. I got the lawn mowed this afternoon in advance of rain/storms tonight and marked off the spot for the base of my antenna tripod and proceeded to obliterate the grass in a 6.5' by 3' rectangular box on the ground. Tomorrow when the ground is soft, I will go back out and do my best to shave it flat. Then it's a matter of getting the railroad ties, cutting 1.5' cross pieces off the ends of each and setting them in place.

OH... I DID the geometry and trigonometry calculations today after a bit of measurement. If I did it right (my wife the math teacher says I did) I will have around 3 feet of slack in the feedlines when the tripod is tipped over to the ground. So I can secure the house corner end and not worry about raising and lowering. That'll be nice.  :)


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 11, 2013, 05:32:36 PM
I'm not familiar with that antenna, but I'll give it a look.

Mounting them at 90* to each other is a good idea, as it will help (some) with desense on 70 cm.

Even though my antennas are about 8' apart on the cross-boom, I still mounted each of them at 45* to the cross-boom, so they wind up being at 90* to each other.

And the tip about using an inexpensive duplexer as a "Mode J" filter also helps. I'm using a Comet CF-416, but the next time I put the station together, I'm going to try the PAR Electronics filter I bought a few months ago.

Desense can be very annoying, and I've taken some pains to minimize it on my setup!

Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 14, 2013, 07:35:06 AM
I've used/tried/bought most of the others out there, and SatPC32 really does do it all, and do it correctly.

And when it comes to "pretty, but broken" vs "not-quite-so-pretty but 100% functional", I'll take functional every time!

I started looking at tracking programs last night for the first time... I didn't download any, just looked at screen shots. I wonder if you would elaborate on your comment... In my case, I will have no computer control on either my rigs or my rotor, so for me, is anything about these other programs really "broken"?

For someone like me that is being 'screen dependent' for information, I found SatPC32 to be lacking... it doesn't show a track, just an arrow. Clearly it was designed for anyone using auto-tracking. And I read some ham's comments last week complaining to someone else about people "lazily" adjusting their doppler due to adjusting it manually... Geez, have sat ops gotten that picky? 10-12 years ago, it was understood that the other guy might be a little off frequency. And in the case of RS-12/13 in Mode K, it was 'adjust RX' anyway... I can't imagine that everybody on the birds is computer controlled and ops expect that much... or is it that some of the ops are just 'that bad' at multitasking and letting it get way off. If that's the case, I might understand his comment.

Actually, other than lack of a full screen display, I don't see a need for anything more than the N2YO website. If I could figure out how to make that display bigger, I'd be fine. (computer screen is not on hamdesk, but rather 90 degrees to the right) I am looking at Satscape. Since mostly what I need is the ability to turn, glance and know if I need to shift the rotor. Which, has brought up another debate for me... I have a choice of a regular old TV rotor control with the standard dial to turn, OR, I can get another push button controller like I have for HF. With the push button controller, I set each button 30 degrees apart around the compass. When I want to turn the beam, I just push the right button. In the case of satellites, every time the Azimuth on the screen passes certain numbers, I just push another button. It would be easy because the buttons would all be in order, just either forwards or backwards but not random. The other nice thing about this controller is the ability to 'train it'; you teach it how far the 360 rotation of the antenna is and it remembers that and adjusts it's timer. With some cheap rotors they can be 10-15 degrees off in a 360 degree rotation. (Google U-106 if you want to see the controller.)

yet another of the many debates and decisions to be weighed through to get back on the birds...  :D

73 all, Kevin, N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on April 14, 2013, 09:37:35 AM
SatPC32 *will* display the ground track; it's turned off by default.

To enable it, go to the options box in the upper left corner of the display, and double click on the "G". This will show the ground track as a series of dots. I think the reason it's default is 'off' is that if you're tracking multiple satellites, the map will get covered with footprints and ground tracks pretty fast, making it hard to tell what's what.

You can make the display as big as you want by grabbing the frame of the display window and "stretching" it to as big as you want.

As far as adjusting for Doppler, there's a good article called "The One True Rule For Doppler Tuning", and it's available here:

http://www.amsat.org/amsat/features/one_true_rule.html

If all you need at this point is a graphical display so you have a rough idea of where to point, and when, then probably anything that strikes your fancy will work. Just keep in mind that you need to know your position, and the clock in your PC MUST be within a few seconds of the actual time. The LEO birds move pretty fast, and being 10 seconds off can make you lose the pass.


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on April 26, 2013, 07:54:50 PM
I just thought I would give an update on my sat station progress...

This afternoon my neighbor took me to get a 9' tripod and by 10pm I had the 14' mast pounded into it (extremely tight fit) and the whole thing bolted down to it's wooden 'railroad tie' base. I also picked up an Antennacraft TV rotor and some rotor cable, but it's going to be rainy next few days, so I won't get to do much more than play with it in the house probably. I picked out the rotor that was cheapest as well as the one with the type of knob on it that you can tell which way you are pointing it by 'feel'.

The antennas themselves are built... the mount is built except for gluing the two foot mast to the 'joining section'. I want to make sure that is the length of mast I will be happy with first. I have the Ramsey UHF preamp kit and the RF switch kit boards built, but not tested. (I haven't bought a 2m preamp yet.) I have the 2m coax connection mounted and glued together. (The cable from the antennas has a male BNC, the coax from the shack PL-259s; this mates them together.) When the preamp is done, it and the 2m connection (or later, the 2m preamp) will mount into the joining section and come off at an angle. (This will help with creating the 'rotating loop'.) The power wires for the preamp(s) will come down the center of the mast and run into the rotor housing where it will splice to two conductors of the rotor cable, which will supply power from the shack.

Basically, I need to finish the antenna, run the feedlines & rotor cable through the floor, solder on connectors, wrap the cables up with rope to be suspended over to the tripod and then mount the rotor and antennas on the pole. I have a 2m FM radio hooked up to use if my 2m all mode isn't repaired in time. Haven't heard anything from the repair guy yet... but he is usually very reasonable on cost, so I don't plan to rush him.  :)

I'm not going to guess on a time for completion as there are many other things going on around here this time of year (XYL is a school teacher)... but I am hoping to get finished up fairly soon. I'll try to post some pics of my progress on my QRZ page in a day or so... but it was a little too dark to take a picture of the tripod by the headlights of my SUV.  I didn't get started until after dinner and ran out of daylight, but I really wanted to get the tripod up, so with the rain coming working in the yard by flashlight/driving lights was not out of the question. ;D

I'll keep you posted... 73 for now.

Kevin


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on May 04, 2013, 02:34:23 AM
Further update... I have the preamp built and installed, the antennas are finished and up, connectors are soldered on, the feedlines & cable are run through the floor, my 2m all mode rig is back & hooked up and I'm just about done except for stringing the cable/coax through the air. (XYL held them up so I could mow under them yesterday.)  ;D  I also need to situate the cables on the mast a little better, the turning loops look a little weird at the moment.

I was still working on the hamdesk, running power wires and such, but I tried listening to a couple birds early yesterday morning. I heard the AO-7 2m beacon while the bird was out over the middle Atlantic... elevation must have been around 5 degrees. The next pass was over the eastern seaboard and I heard my own signal and called CQ but no one else was on. Then I tried a couple of VO-52 passes, but got disappointing results. On one pass, I would tune to what I thought was my signal, but it sounded more like the beacon. Then when I let up on the code key, it would disappear. In other words, anytime I transmitted on UHF, I would hear the beacon in the middle of the passband instead of my own signal. I don't know if I am experiencing some weird intermod in my own rigs/setup or something I was doing through the bird, but it had me scratching my head. Then the next pass, I heard two strong stations talking to each other, but I couldn't find my signal at all... I don't know if they might have been swamping the bird a little or I have a problem on my end. I was only transmitting with 8-10 watts on UHF to my 7 element yagi. But I don't know the characteristics of these birds yet... more experimentation needed.  :D

As for SO-50... I tried to listen to a pass, I think the day before, on my UHF rig and it was very difficult to hear. (As far as I can tell the preamp is working.) I have read that the stock IC-451A is a bit deaf and a mod is recommended to swap out the front end transistor. I have ordered one (only $3 but 2.5 - 5 weeks shipping time) and plan on trying that, but in the meantime I may experiment using my little Baofeng HT both with it's handheld CJU antenna and hooked up to the yagi. I used about 2 feet of RG-58 to run from the yagi feedpoint to the preamp. I needed something small and very flexible to go INSIDE the PVC. I know that some guys have noticed a difference between a CJU antenna mounted directly to their HT and same antenna with a short jumper cable. I hope that short run of RG-58 isn't causing me problems. Like I say, I HEARD the bird and made out a call or two, it just wasn't enough to work anyone. Could have been the pass, could have been tumbling (handheld antennas can be turned) or maybe the new FET in the radio will make the difference. Only time and experimentation will tell.

Any suggestions/comments on the issues I am experiencing are most welcome. Otherwise, just wanted to post my thanks for all the help and encouragement from the forums here in getting me motivated and back on the sats. First post to 'antennas in the air' only took a little over 5 weeks.  ;)


73 all,

Kevin N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on May 04, 2013, 04:36:17 PM
A long day of struggle and a steep learning curve, but I have worked a first QSO on AO-7, FO-29 and lastly, after three passes, VO-52! I need to figure out what is wrong with my preamp, I need an adapter so I can plug headphones into my 2m rig, but mostly I need some sleep!!! (Been up since the wee hours this morning)  And next sunny day I will try to get the feedlines strung up and get some better photos on my QRZ page.

To quote a campy 70s TV show character: I love it when a plan comes together!!!  (And on 'May the Fourth/Force be with you' day!) :D

73 all, mission accomplished with this thread

Kevin, N4UFO
sat operator  8)


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on May 04, 2013, 07:18:28 PM
and lastly, after three passes, VO-52!

Curses, Batman! Not in the log... I'll get you yet VO-52!

Oh, well... gives me more to strive for.  :)


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on May 05, 2013, 10:36:47 AM
Keep at it, Kevin!

You're  making good progress, and learning a lot.

And that's what counts!

73, Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on May 05, 2013, 04:31:41 PM
Thanks, Jim. Well, I found an adapter for my headphones, I got some sleep and I figured out there may be nothing wrong with my preamp... it's my radio.  :o

I got on for a late pass of SO-50 last night. It was going to be practically overhead, so I got out my HT and hooked up the little CJU antenna. I could hear the satellite on the HT, but my radio... heard almost nothing.  I even worked CO6CBF listening on the HT. I had just enough time to unhook the antenna from the radio and hook it up to the HT... I could still hear CO6CBF working others even though the bird was down to about 15 degrees. I couldn't really tell if the preamp was helping much, maybe I'll check that on another pass using the HT. Hard to tell without an S meter though.

Anyway, I have ordered a transistor for the RF amp in my radio's front end. Maybe not the best transistor I could use, but it's one known to work and has about the same impedance characteristics as the old one... therefore no required tweaking. (BF981 in place of a 3SK48) I don't have a good stable signal source to do any tweaking, but if I locate one, I may try that as well. I'm hoping that it will be enough improvement to make the difference. I was able to hear FO-29 enough to make a QSO... barely. THEN I can fret over preamp improvements.

If anyone has any experience with the Icom IC-451A, especially on receive, I would welcome any advice.


No satellite today though... R&R and some TV with the family.

73, Kevin


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KA4NMA on May 12, 2013, 09:52:50 PM
I have been reading this thread and I want to get involved with the ham satellites. I like the CJU and IOio style antenna's. I am disabled and unable to build an antenna.  Can somebody help me get an antenna?

Please send me an email.  pastor dot spaceboy at gmail dot com

Randy ka4nma


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on May 13, 2013, 05:03:42 AM
I don't know your disability, Randy, so not sure if you are wanting to use a handheld antenna or not. If so, have you seen the Elk or Arrow antennas? They would perform about the same as an IOio antenna and most likely be a lighter depending on what the other would be built out of. The Arrow is pretty reasonable in cost and they have one that breaks down for portability. Plus, if you plan on using one handheld, they sell a diplexer that mounts on/in the Arrow. http://www.arrowantennas.com/arrowii/146-437.html (http://www.arrowantennas.com/arrowii/146-437.html)

Keep in mind that if you want to use an FM only radio, there is only one FM satellite working right now... SO-50, and it is a little hard to hear. Hopefully, Fox-1, another FM bird, will be up by sometime next year. If you want to work any of the other satellites you will need a VHF & UHF radio(s) capable of SSB/CW. And if you are wanting to use base radios for that and mount antennas outside, there are a lot of other choices for antennas in that case. You'll have to tell us what you are interested in doing exactly. In this thread, I started out thinking I'd buy an HT and build a little antenna (which I did) but ended up with a rotatable set of antennas on a tall tripod in my yard. (See my QRZ page)


And to everyone else in the thread, as well... I got out and removed the Ramsey preamp from the UHF side of the antenna yesterday. Glad I did! There is a section below the preamp that wasn't glued (on purpose) and water had gotten in there... (we had a big rain storm Saturday evening) I dried it out, rewired the coax connection and sealed the UHF side up permanently. So, no UHF preamp for this antenna setup, unless I mount a box up there and run a jumper cable. And if I'm going to do all that, I'll likely just wait until 'antennas V2.0' and try a cross arm design. The jury is still technically out on the 2m preamp, as I can still get that side apart (with no danger of water leaking; the lip on those joints face down) but after lacing up the cables with my wife's help and getting them strung up, running over to the house, it 'feels' done.  :)


73,

Kevin, N4UFO



Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: VA7VO on May 15, 2013, 11:26:44 AM
Hi Kevin,

If you look for the Satellite handbook from about 12 years ago ( you can find these on ebay for cheap) there are instructions for building an egg beater antenna. This design is actually from about 1972 and the first one I built was in 1977 this worked well for me in its basic configuration for satellites and have used it with a ground screen about 15" down from the loops.

Designs that are made available to you are relatively inexpensive except for the M2 designs but they do work really well.

Now would be a good time to get a sat rig because most people are dumping their 821's, 736's and 910's because there is nothing really to work any more.You can get a 736 for about $450 but not from ebay with the two V/U modules the cw filter and usually the keyer. Remember the CW filter "Comes standard" with this radio so if you find one that doesn't ask why.

AMSAT is not once what it was and they have dropped the ball on many things the past several years after the AP-40 fiasco, (failing to remove the rocket covers before pre-launch resulting in half the spacecraft going ballistic).

AO-7 made in a garage in southern Ontario continues to send us some surprises. Practice with the FM birds and hopefully later this year or next AO-40 phase 3E will be up!

Keep it up and don't give up!

Glenn, VA7VO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: KQ6EA on May 15, 2013, 11:53:11 AM
AO-40 had a plastic cap left on a vent line for the propulsion system.

As a result, the lines could not be purged between engine firings.

During preparations for the second engine firing, this caused the two hypergolic propellants to mix in the lines and explode, resulting in a massive amount of damage to the spacecraft.

It was partially recovered and remained somewhat usable until the main battery failed.

I have no idea where you get your ridiculous notion about "failing to remove rocket covers" and "half the spacecraft going ballistic", as that did NOT happen.

If you're going slam AMSAT for a human error, which I agree should have been caught during close-out procedures (NOT "pre-flight"), then get your facts straight.

Jim


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on May 17, 2013, 09:29:12 PM
Hi Glenn, thanks for the post... I guess you didn't read all the way through the thread, it is a long one. But I am up and running with a couple of good homebrew directional antennas and have over 50 QSOs in the log. See my QRZ page for pics (at the bottom): http://www.qrz.com/db/N4UFO (http://www.qrz.com/db/N4UFO)

Now would be a good time to get a sat rig because most people are dumping their 821's, 736's and 910's because there is nothing really to work any more.

Thanks for this info. At the moment I am managing okay with the Kenwood 2m and my Icom UHF rig. I have looked at the 821s and 910s and thought the 821 would be something to watch for. Wasn't familiar with the 736... and I notice you didn't mention the Kenwood 790. it was many years ago, but that's the only sat rig I have actually laid my hands on... it sure was a nice one. Of course, I have no idea how they have held up.

What I would actually like to get is an 847... I don't want to get rid of my current HF rig, but the 847 sure seems like a nice one to me. The biggest obstacle to all of this is money. For the time being I am probably going to have to run with what I've got, but it's always good to be wise to what's out there... That way, if I run across a bargain, I will know it when I see it. As opposed to finding an overpriced problem, AKA a money pit.  ;D

73 and thanks for posting.

Kevin N4UFO


Title: RE: Easysats from shack - what's needed?
Post by: N4UFO on June 11, 2013, 08:55:52 PM
What I would actually like to get is an 847... I don't want to get rid of my current HF rig, but the 847 sure seems like a nice one to me.

For any friends who were following this thread... I got one last weekend. Found an ad on the local Craig's list. The rig is like new... not a scratch on it. Worked the birds over the weekend, and all I can say is 'wow'. Now if I can ever get around to getting up the new preamps and antennas I acquired a couple weeks ago.  ::)

To help offset the expense of the new rig, I decided to sell my old ones. The 2m is gone, but if anyone is interested in a multi-mode rig for 430 Mhz, I placed an ad in the eHam classifieds.  :)

Kevin, N4UFO