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Author Topic: Need a spot check on my satellite plans, please.  (Read 16001 times)
AK4KZ
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« on: January 12, 2012, 08:33:42 AM »

I have two bigger radio goals for 2012, one of which is setting up a satellite home station. I've done a fair amount of reading but.. you know.. without actually seeing and comparing, it's hard to make some judgement calls. And it's too much money to do over if you get it wrong. So I'm hoping that some of you more experienced sat people (Clint) might have some input.

Ultimately, I'd like to be able to talk to everything I can talk to and listen to everything else. LEO, HEO, intergalactic.. you name it. Of course, money is an issue but I understand I'm going to have to spend some. Like everything else, it's going to come down to cost/benefit. My biggest goal, right now, are the UV, VU sats since that seems to be where most of the freqs are. I may want to expand that up or down later. (One other side goal is to use this to hit local repeaters when I don't have my head above the clouds.. but that should go without saying. No problem there since I can hit many of them with my HT and a rubber ducky). One other big goal that comes to mind is that I'd like to catch as much of the pass as possible. That's probably pretty typical.

When I put this all together, I'd like to also do a video that starts out with the basics and culminates in something like "if you want to talk to satellites and build this station, this is what you need, this is how much it'll cost (including alternatives) and this is how it all goes together." From start to finish. A video Satellite for Dummies, if you will. My hope is to gather a lot of the information in one place for the next person interested in doing this and let them see what it all looks like.

So.. right now.. I'm starting out with nothing but a dream. For software, I have HRD but won't be using it. I'll be using MacDoppler from Dog Park Software. If it works there, it should work under HRD. Maybe for the video, I might switch over to HRD since more people are using Windows and I'd like to keep it familiar. (Ha.. maybe I'll do both. That's the least of my problems today.)

I want to put this on top of my house, if that's feasible. The yagis look like they may be painfully long. (You know, a 50' antenna over a 40' house isn't going to sit well with my wife. I might need to talk to outer space to find a new place to live.)

I'm looking at the Yaesu G5500 for the turret. And I'm planning on using the LVB Tracker from AMSAT to interface between the G5500 and the computer. I assume I'm going to want a 2m and 70cm with a circular pattern??

I thought about eggbeaters, which would certainly be cheaper but I have to think a directional yagi is going to be significantly more efficient that an omnidirectional antenna?? (I also thought that they would be better in a power outage but, if the power's out, I've got other problems like no computer, radio, etc. Maybe I just need to make sure I have power.

Not sure what I'm going to do for a radio yet. I own an IC-7000 and a Kenwood TH-F6, both of which will get me on the air. By the time it's all done, I'd like to have a real sat radio. Probably the TS-2000. (Although the Icom IC-9100 fills me with great joy and happiness. I just want to turn down the lights and put on some Barry White music. Still can't afford it.) I might end up picking up a used IC-910 or something too. We'll see.  (If MacDoppler or HRD would let me do seperate RX and TX radios, then I think I'd have full duplex with another receiver.)

Not too interested in telemetry but that's.. what?.. a packet modem away? Same deal with the BBSes. If I do jump into that, the main infrastructure's there. It could happen but it's not in phase 1.

So.. it's a work in progress but that's what I'm thinking so far. I don't think any of this is rocket science. (Okay.. maybe some aspects of it.. but mostly not.) But, like I said, it's too expensive to make big mistakes and do over. Especially when there's so much experience out there. Any suggestions on equipment? Antennas? Am I doing something you did that you would change if you could have a do-over? Am I overlooking anything? Am I limiting myself somewhere?

Thanks and 73,
Chris
AK4KZ


(As a side note, wouldn't it be fun to put a laser pointer on the turret next to a couple of PVC pipes painted black and have it follow people into the yard?)

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WD9EWK
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2012, 10:17:06 AM »

Ultimately, I'd like to be able to talk to everything I can talk to and listen to everything else. LEO, HEO, intergalactic.. you name it. Of course, money is an issue but I understand I'm going to have to spend some. Like everything else, it's going to come down to cost/benefit. My biggest goal, right now, are the UV, VU sats since that seems to be where most of the freqs are. I may want to expand that up or down later. (One other side goal is to use this to hit local repeaters when I don't have my head above the clouds.. but that should go without saying. No problem there since I can hit many of them with my HT and a rubber ducky). One other big goal that comes to mind is that I'd like to catch as much of the pass as possible. That's probably pretty typical.

If you build incrementally, you don't need huge antennas to work the current satellites.  The same Yagis and log periodics that many use for portable satellite work can also work in a permanent installation.  The longer-boom Yagis are useful whenever we have HEO satellites again - or as a starting point should you want to try EME.  This setup could also work for terrestrial VHF/UHF operating, depending on how your antennas are mounted. 

Quote
I want to put this on top of my house, if that's feasible. The yagis look like they may be painfully long. (You know, a 50' antenna over a 40' house isn't going to sit well with my wife. I might need to talk to outer space to find a new place to live.)

I'm looking at the Yaesu G5500 for the turret. And I'm planning on using the LVB Tracker from AMSAT to interface between the G5500 and the computer. I assume I'm going to want a 2m and 70cm with a circular pattern??

The current satellites most use (for FM, AO-27 and SO-50; for SSB/CW, VO-52, FO-29, AO-7) won't need circular-polarized antennas.  If you have them, great.  AO-51, which went silent in November 2011, had both left-hand and right-hand circular polarized antennas - which many worked with non-circular antennas. 

Quote
I thought about eggbeaters, which would certainly be cheaper but I have to think a directional yagi is going to be significantly more efficient that an omnidirectional antenna?? (I also thought that they would be better in a power outage but, if the power's out, I've got other problems like no computer, radio, etc. Maybe I just need to make sure I have power.

Eggbeaters are a good option for an omnidirectional satellite antenna.  A directional antenna - Yagi, log periodic, quad, etc. - would perform better than the omni antenna, plus you'd probably want to put a preamp at the antenna to help it on receive.  Otherwise, there are options for an omni satellite antenna besides the Eggbeater - simple 1/4 wave groundplanes, Lindenblad antennas, horizontal loops mounted 1/4-wavelength above a groundplane.  And be mindful of the coax - don't cut corners by using cheap RG-58 or RG-8, especially for longer coax runs. 

Quote
Not sure what I'm going to do for a radio yet. I own an IC-7000 and a Kenwood TH-F6, both of which will get me on the air. By the time it's all done, I'd like to have a real sat radio. Probably the TS-2000. (Although the Icom IC-9100 fills me with great joy and happiness. I just want to turn down the lights and put on some Barry White music. Still can't afford it.) I might end up picking up a used IC-910 or something too. We'll see.  (If MacDoppler or HRD would let me do seperate RX and TX radios, then I think I'd have full duplex with another receiver.)

The IC-7000/TH-F6A combination will get you on all of the satellites I mentioned above.  You won't be able to do computer control of the HT, but it will receive in FM and SSB/CW.  Just make sure to set the SSB tuning step to the smallest setting (33 Hz), so you have a good shot at fine-tuning signals.  I have a TH-F6A, and it is occasionally used as my satellite downlink radio - especially for SSB work.  My transmit radio for SSB/CW is an FT-817ND.  The IC-7000 would be a good transmit radio, since the HT won't transmit anything other than FM (or key the PTT to make it a CW transmitter) - and you have more power to work with. 

Quote
Not too interested in telemetry but that's.. what?.. a packet modem away? Same deal with the BBSes. If I do jump into that, the main infrastructure's there. It could happen but it's not in phase 1.

We don't have the packet satellites like there were 20 years ago, but there is a lot of telemetry you can download from other satellites.  For many of them, no special modem is required - just some software and your computer's sound hardware.  If you have an old 1200bps AX.25 TNC, you can use that with the ISS and some of the "cubesat" satellites.

Unlike in the 80s and 90s, you don't need a lot to get started on the satellites.  You have the radios already to work the satellites we have.  You could build a station that can be upgraded later, if we get a high-orbit satellite or you want to get a satellite-ready transceiver or possibly replace the TH-F6A with something that can be computer controlled.  For example, FT-817s.  They have been around in some form for over a decade, they can be controlled by a computer, and work well as a 5W radio for satellite operating. 

If you want some great advice in building a home satellite station, look up John K8YSE and drop him an e-mail.  John is a long-time HF DXer who started on the satellites a few years ago with the typical HT/Yagi combination, and has gone on to build a fully-automated station in his Cleveland QTH that can be operated remotely wherever he has Internet access (even the free WiFi at McDonalds locations across the country works well for him!).  He also has a fully-automated satellite station that can go in his pickup truck, using a TS-2000 and the Yagis sitting on an az/el rotator and tripod mount in the pickup bed.  He drove that around Lake Superior during the summer of 2010, working from lots of rare grids.  John is the current satellite VUCC leader, sitting at 965 grids confirmed and waiting for ARRL to process an endorsement to take him over 1000 grids - all done in only the past 4 or 5 years. 

To see what I use in my portable satellite work, you can visit http://www.youtube.com/va7ewk and see some videos I have posted of my satellite operating.  It really doesn't take a lot to work satellites, FM or SSB/CW.  I'm probably at the other extreme from what you want to do (and what K8YSE has done), but it works. 

Good luck and 73!





Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
http://www.wd9ewk.net/



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Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
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K6LCS
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2012, 10:46:23 AM »

>> ... My biggest goal, right now, are the UV, VU sats since that seems to be where most of the freqs are.

I do not understand this statement - help me!

>> ... My hope is to gather a lot of the information in one place for the next person interested in doing this and let them see what it all looks like ...

Hmmm ... some of us are doing just that right now ... (grin)

>> ... The yagis look like they may be painfully long ...

For working the FM LEOs - and the SSB birds - those huge antennas are not necessary ...

>> ... I thought about eggbeaters, which would certainly be cheaper ...

Not when to realize you'll need to also purchase a receive pre-amp ...

>> ... but I have to think a directional yagi is going to be significantly more efficient that an omnidirectional antenna?

Absolutely correct. My $15 tape measure beam out-performs my $200 M2 Eggbeater for the FM LEOs. Not that you'll be mounting a tape measure beam on your roof - but you know what I mean: the gain realized by a modest Yagi pointed at a sat will out-perform most other setups.

>> ... power outage but, if the power's out, I've got other problems ...

>> ... I'd like to have a real sat radio ... telemetry ... packet modem ... BBSes ...

Chris, I would like to see you slow down a bit, and really analyze what you want from this hobby right now.

You already have radios to work satellites. You are less than an hour away from being able to successfully work AO-27 and SO-50 - after building a simple DIY antenna project, you'll be there. All the other aspects of the hobby that you have written about are going to cost money - and you need to budget yourself for what will get YOU trhe best bang for your investment.

Counting up all the equipment you have mentioned, one would need a second mortgage. Working the FM birds this weekend might cost you ten bucks for parts for a DIY antenna project.

SO ... After knowing that you CAN work the FM LEOs and monitor the ISS with equipment you already have - how much more will spending a couple thousand dollars stimulate you? By no means  do I want to turn you off from automatic satellite tracking, multiple yagis on the roof, the great Yaesu rotator, computer control, et al. But I just don;t want to see you make all that investment in this one aspect of the hobby, and not be as "thrilled" as many are knowing they can work the birds with really minimal equipment.

Just my thoughts this morning ...

Clint KL6LCS
http://www.work-sat.com
909-241-7666
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Clint Bradford, K6LCS
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2012, 11:53:31 AM »

>> ... My biggest goal, right now, are the UV, VU sats since that seems to be where most of the freqs are.

I do not understand this statement - help me!

I mean to say that I'm not worried much about whats going on over 10 meters or the L or U bands at the moment. It looks like much, if not most of the sats are using 2m and 70m repeaters, beacons, etc.


>> ... I thought about eggbeaters, which would certainly be cheaper ...

Not when to realize you'll need to also purchase a receive pre-amp ...

I thought about that as well.

>> ... but I have to think a directional yagi is going to be significantly more efficient that an omnidirectional antenna?

Absolutely correct. My $15 tape measure beam out-performs my $200 M2 Eggbeater for the FM LEOs. Not that you'll be mounting a tape measure beam on your roof - but you know what I mean: the gain realized by a modest Yagi pointed at a sat will out-perform most other setups.

Ha.. it's possible. As soon as I buy the rotator, I know I'm going to want to do SOMETHING right away. I might end up with a tape measure up there till I get the yagis purchased and installed ;-)


Chris, I would like to see you slow down a bit, and really analyze what you want from this hobby right now.

You already have radios to work satellites. You are less than an hour away from being able to successfully work AO-27 and SO-50 - after building a simple DIY antenna project, you'll be there. All the other aspects of the hobby that you have written about are going to cost money - and you need to budget yourself for what will get YOU the best bang for your investment.

Counting up all the equipment you have mentioned, one would need a second mortgage. Working the FM birds this weekend might cost you ten bucks for parts for a DIY antenna project.

Ironically, I didn't think I had any interest in working the satellites. But I've since taken every opportunity to listen to them when they come overhead. It has become a technical challenge. My receive is pretty abysmal with a j-pole mounted 8' off the ground in the backyard. It's sort of the wrong tool for the job. It also makes my window very small because the signal is so weak. So part of my goal is to broaden that window as much as possible and strengthen the rx at the same time. (Granted, I can sometimes get ISS pretty clearly on my HT with the rubber duckie. My family thought I hit the lottery the first time I heard it. I kept telling them, "you're listening to a guy in SPACE"! How cool is that?") Essentially, I don't want to have the sat be on top of me to hear it.. much less talk to it. I'm thinking that the improved antenna will help me see the satellite much lower on the horizon.

I also don't want to stand outside and track satellites by hand. Not that it's beneath me or I can't figure it out, I just don't want to do it. I'd much rather work everything from the comfort of my chair and let the computer handle at least half of the duties I'd need extra hands for outside.. tracking, frequency adjustments, audio recorder, etc. That's why it's worth it to me to buy the rotator, etc.

Not sure about the second mortgage. (Actually, I'm hoping to sign on a house in the next day or two so they won't let me take a second mortgage yet ;-) My rough guess without looking again at prices.. is that the G5500 will run about $750, the LVB tracker is another $200.. the pole is negligible. It's a short cable run to the roof so, even if I run something like LMR-400 it's not going to cost much. (Or LMR-600 for that matter.. but I that would be a diminishing return).

The next real cash comes in antennas. For budgeting purposes, let's say $300/ea. Toss in the TS-2000 for another $1500 and I'm coming in about $3000 for a pretty decent satellite station. Now.. that's not small change by any means and I'm not rolling in extra cash. But, comparatively, it's less than most of the higher end radios on the market, including my beloved IC-9100. Any corners I can cut or gear I can find used, brings that number down. (I saw someone post a virtually new G5500 in the classifieds the other week for $500 and it galled me to walk away from it but I couldn't spare it quite now).

At the same time, I don't want to be stupid about it and make some classic (expensive) mistake that someone else has made over and over that, if I had only opened my mouth and asked, I could have avoided.

Just my thoughts this morning ...

Appreciated thoughts. Every input is considered. It may not be followed. But it's considered. After that, failure is on my head. We all get credit for success.

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2012, 12:20:39 PM »

The current satellites most use (for FM, AO-27 and SO-50; for SSB/CW, VO-52, FO-29, AO-7) won't need circular-polarized antennas.  If you have them, great.  AO-51, which went silent in November 2011, had both left-hand and right-hand circular polarized antennas - which many worked with non-circular antennas. 

See? This is why it helps to ask. I was not aware of that. I thought all the sats changed polarization as they arced over. That would be easy enough to deal with using a handheld antenna but would become more complicated with a fixed (howbeit on a rotator) antenna.. hence the circular antennas. I also assumed you could work them with a non-circular antenna but that you'd have to live with fading.

I'm really leaning away from omnidirectional antennas. I just don't think it's what I'm looking for in this project. And, if it goes on the roof, the coax run should be... maybe 20 ft. For that, I could spring for some decent coax.

The IC-7000/TH-F6A combination will get you on all of the satellites I mentioned above.  You won't be able to do computer control of the HT, but it will receive in FM and SSB/CW.  Just make sure to set the SSB tuning step to the smallest setting (33 Hz), so you have a good shot at fine-tuning signals.  I have a TH-F6A, and it is occasionally used as my satellite downlink radio - especially for SSB work.  My transmit radio for SSB/CW is an FT-817ND.  The IC-7000 would be a good transmit radio, since the HT won't transmit anything other than FM (or key the PTT to make it a CW transmitter) - and you have more power to work with. 

I've been listening to the birds on both radios. (And now, talking about it, I can't wait to get home and see if one is overhead.) I do prefer using the IC-7000 just for the automatic tuning. As I was telling Clint, I'm hooked into a J-Pole right now so they pretty much have to be close to me to hear. But that's part of what I'm trying to fix.

Like I told Clint, I didn't even think I had any interest in satellites. A year ago, I was like, "Meh.. whatever.". But now it's a bug. I've probably sat there for hours listening to see if I can tell if the static is fading at all as the satellite might be coming into range. The program is telling me it's in range. Why can't I hear anything? Are my Keps updated? Can I hear it now?

I like to think I don't have a compulsive personality but.. hey.. whaddya know? I guess I do.  Grin

Thanks for your input Patrick. I'll be sure to get in touch with John. I'm definitely interested in what he's doing.

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
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WD9EWK
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2012, 02:54:34 PM »

Hi Chris!

I thought all the sats changed polarization as they arced over. That would be easy enough to deal with using a handheld antenna but would become more complicated with a fixed (howbeit on a rotator) antenna.. hence the circular antennas. I also assumed you could work them with a non-circular antenna but that you'd have to live with fading.

Most of our satellites tumble in orbit.  AO-51 had a mechanism that kept it pretty stable, but satellites like SO-50 will fade no matter what your antenna setup is.  Consider that AO-27 and SO-50 are cubes measuring 9" on each edge.  Not much room for antennas, and sometimes simple (like the whips mounted on SO-50) is all you have to work with.  You'll probably have to live with some amount of fading, no matter what antenna you decide to go with.

Quote
I'm really leaning away from omnidirectional antennas. I just don't think it's what I'm looking for in this project. And, if it goes on the roof, the coax run should be... maybe 20 ft. For that, I could spring for some decent coax.

Although some will work with Lindenblads, Eggbeaters, or other omni antennas, most will move toward directional antennas for satellite work.  Some will start out with the dual-band Yagi/log periodic on a TV rotator, pointing up 15 to 20 degrees above the horizon, instead of springing straight away for the az/el rotator.  A 20-foot coax run won't be too bad, something you may be able to do with hgih-quality coax to directional antennas and *maybe* avoid using preamps.  Antennas are one area where you can homebrew and save some pesos, which can be applied to other items like the transceiver(s).  

Quote
I've been listening to the birds on both radios. (And now, talking about it, I can't wait to get home and see if one is overhead.) I do prefer using the IC-7000 just for the automatic tuning. As I was telling Clint, I'm hooked into a J-Pole right now so they pretty much have to be close to me to hear. But that's part of what I'm trying to fix.

For listening right now, sure - go with the IC-7000.  Otherwise, you would probably want to replace the TH-F6A with something that can be computer controlled, and the IC-7000 could be your transmit radio.  Don't worry about using any narrow receive filtering when tuning with the IC-7000.  If anything, having the standard or wide filtering will help you deal with any Doppler effect on the downlink signals.  The J-pole will probably work for the satellites when they are near the horizon, but not do as well when the satellites are higher in the sky.  

Look for VO-52 passes if you're trying to hear SSB via satellite for the first time.  It's passing by 2 or 3 times every morning, a similar number of times every evening, and has some activity on almost every pass.  Even though VO-52 has a 60kHz transponder, look for activity around 145.900 MHz +/- a few kHz.  Its downlink is rather strong, when compared to other satellites.  AO-7 still works well, but will switch between "mode B" (70cm up/2m down) and "mode A" (2m up/10m down) every day between 2330 and 0000 UTC.  Many more work mode B due to the smaller antennas compared to something for 10m, the mode B uplink receiver is more sensitive, and the mode B downlink transmitter is a little stronger.  Look around 145.950 MHz +/- for activity on AO-7 mode B, and I think 29.450 MHz +/- for mode A.  Then you can try FO-29 if it is on the air, with a 2m uplink and 70cm downlink available in the mornings and early afternoons.  You can hear FO-29 activity around 435.850 MHz +/-.  

Quote
Like I told Clint, I didn't even think I had any interest in satellites. A year ago, I was like, "Meh.. whatever.". But now it's a bug. I've probably sat there for hours listening to see if I can tell if the static is fading at all as the satellite might be coming into range. The program is telling me it's in range. Why can't I hear anything? Are my Keps updated? Can I hear it now?

I like to think I don't have a compulsive personality but.. hey.. whaddya know? I guess I do.  Grin

I had the gear to get started on the satellites for many years, but it was on the ham "bucket list" of things to try sometime in the future.  I'd read the AMSAT-related articles in the ham magazines, and even made a couple of satellite QSOs in 2000 and another one in 2003.  It didn't keep my interest then.  After talking to an astronaut in 2005, that changed.  I still enjoy other facets of ham radio, but really enjoy working satellites.  Unlike what I can do on HF, I have a fully-functional station that goes where I go in an old laptop bag.  Not needing lots of power, I can confine my radios to QRP power levels in the FT-817NDs, TH-F6A, and a couple of others I poke around with - and have a station just as capable of working the satellites as those with the fancy home stations with antennas on towers and a computer controlling it all.  

If you have questions about the pass predictions from your tracking program, there are a few web-based options that can help confirm what your program is showing.  AMSAT's web site has one of them, as does the N2YO.com site.  Many others are out there.  Enter your location (lat/lon, grid locator, or enter your city/town) along with the satellite you're interested in, and see what comes from those web sites.  There are apps, free and $$$, for many of the mobile phone platforms you could also try.  

Quote
Thanks for your input Patrick. I'll be sure to get in touch with John. I'm definitely interested in what he's doing.

I'm not an expert at building a home station, as I have never done that for satellite work.  K8YSE has done what I'd probably like to do for myself.  His son, Doug KD8CAO, has a similar setup that can be remotely operated from an iPhone app.  I think John's setup still uses a laptop that connects to his home station with a VPN, and then Skype is used to send and receive audio from the radio at the home station.  

73!




Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
http://www.wd9ewk.net/

« Last Edit: January 12, 2012, 02:59:05 PM by WD9EWK » Logged

Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
http://www.wd9ewk.net/
WD9EWK
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2012, 03:25:38 PM »

Chris,

Going back to something in your original post...

So.. right now.. I'm starting out with nothing but a dream. For software, I have HRD but won't be using it. I'll be using MacDoppler from Dog Park Software. If it works there, it should work under HRD. Maybe for the video, I might switch over to HRD since more people are using Windows and I'd like to keep it familiar. (Ha.. maybe I'll do both. That's the least of my problems today.)

<snip>

  (If MacDoppler or HRD would let me do seperate RX and TX radios, then I think I'd have full duplex with another receiver.)

I don't have a Mac at home, and haven't tried HRD for satellite work.  If you wanted the option to control two separate radios, the SatPC32 program does that - and supports many radios.  The author is a German ham (Erich DK1TB), and he regularly answers questions from users.  His web site has lots of useful information as well.  When I settle down and try setting up my netbook to control my two FT-817NDs, I will first try SatPC32 since this is an option that others already do.  If you want to try the program, download it for free from:

http://www.dk1tb.de/downloadeng.htm

The demo version is fully functional, other than having to enter your callsign, location, and parameters related to your radio(s) and antenna every time you start the program.  The license key allows that data to be saved, so you don't have to enter it every time.  The online store at http://www.amsat.org/ sells the license keys.  DK1TB receives nothing from the license keys, as he uses that as a fundraiser to help AMSAT-NA in the USA, AMSAT-UK in England, and AMSAT-DL in Germany. 

73!




Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
http://www.wd9ewk.net/

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Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2012, 07:50:25 PM »

Hi Chris..  just a few comments ....

I use two home-brew Egg-Beater II antennas and made several contacts on several different birds with the Egg Beaters sitting on the ground and about 50 feet of RG-8.  I then put them up on my tower about 15 feet up and have about 100 contacts on AO-51, AO-7A, AO-7B, FO-29, HO-68, and VO-52.  (modes: CW, SSB, FM).

I use the TS-2000 it works good, but JUST BE AWARE OF IT'S INTERNAL BIRDIES... yep it has a birdie +/- 436.795mhz which makes it nearly impossible to work A0-27 and SO-50.

So if you have a radio that works the frequencies it doesn't take much of an antenna system, to at least give Satellites a try.

73.. have fun.  and look for me on AO-7 and VO-52...  greg
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2012, 11:57:23 AM »

I use the TS-2000 it works good, but JUST BE AWARE OF IT'S INTERNAL BIRDIES... yep it has a birdie +/- 436.795mhz which makes it nearly impossible to work A0-27 and SO-50.

That's good to know too. There's something in my house or close by in the neighborhood that hammers 145.800. I haven't really gone looking for it yet but I've had to lock that channel out of the scan. So much for ISS for the time being. I'll figure it out if it follows me when I move to the new digs. I've used the HT to listen to ISS before so I doubt it's internal. But I never thought about internal birdies before.

I'm gonna have to start making notes ;-)

73,
Chris
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2012, 04:54:17 AM »

Okay.. for the sake of anyone reading the thread in search of satellite info, this is where this all stands.. what?.. a week later?

Facility (my house): Still haven't closed on it but I did get to go visit again and measure from the window to the tree line for antenna cable. Has nothing to do with the satellite project. I'm just sharing.

Radio: Thought a lot about adding a second radio to do cheaper full duplex. Looked at the Icom PCR receiver. That might be a good option and would give me a great scanner (although I wasn't crazy about it requiring a computer to use). MacDoppler supports the PCR. The Kenwood TS-2000 would be ideal to do full duplex but those internal birdies are a problem for some of the FM sats. I found a site that referred to an inexpensive downsample solution. I'll think about it. Decided in the meantime that the Yaesu FT-817 would be good. It all comes down to software...

Software: MacDoppler (my program of choice) doesn't do two radios any more. I guess MacDopplerPRO did but it was a support nightmare. Okay, that's cool. But that also leaves me with no MacOptions unless I get a full duplex rig. (Still drooling over that IC-9100). I can run SatPC32 under a Windows VM when I actually want to talk on the birds.. but, man, that's an in-elegant solution (you know.. having to run a separate operating system just to get the job done). The TS-2000 would solve that since MacDoppler supports it as well.

Decisions... decisions... (hmm.. if I sold my IC-7000 that would drop the final cost of that 9100 significantly ;-)

Antenna: I scaled back my antenna plans and think that I could pick up a portable antenna like the Arrow II, mount it to the rotator and probably have pretty decent performance. Not a huge investment and it's certainly upgradeable if I need to later.

I haven't changed my mind on the Yaesu G5500. It's not prohibitively expensive and looks like a great unit.

So.. that's where it is. May not be useful information for anyone but you can follow the thought process. And maybe it is useful. I guess, at this point, it's time to start laying down some cash. I'm just delaying because there's a hamfest 2 and a half weeks away and I want to see what's there.. and until I get the closing costs paid on the house. (If I couldn't get into this house because I spent money on radio gear, I think that might taint my wife's view of my hobby goals thereby influencing her support of said hobby.)

73,
Chris
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WD9EWK
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« Reply #10 on: January 18, 2012, 06:49:32 AM »

Okay.. for the sake of anyone reading the thread in search of satellite info, this is where this all stands.. what?.. a week later?

Welcome back! 

Quote from: AK4KZ
Radio: Thought a lot about adding a second radio to do cheaper full duplex. Looked at the Icom PCR receiver. That might be a good option and would give me a great scanner (although I wasn't crazy about it requiring a computer to use). MacDoppler supports the PCR. The Kenwood TS-2000 would be ideal to do full duplex but those internal birdies are a problem for some of the FM sats. I found a site that referred to an inexpensive downsample solution. I'll think about it. Decided in the meantime that the Yaesu FT-817 would be good. It all comes down to software...

John K8YSE is working with a TS-2000 and a 435/28 downconverter for the FM birds, so he can continue to use his TS-2000 as his satellite transceiver.  Then he is able to avoid the 436.795 MHz birdie that plagues the TS-2000s.  FT-817s should be plentiful on the used market, or your favorite ham store would be happy to separate you from some $$$ for a new model.  And as you know, a new TS-2000 costs a lot less than a new IC-9100, the only other satellite-ready transceiver in current production.

Quote from: AK4KZ
Software: MacDoppler (my program of choice) doesn't do two radios any more. I guess MacDopplerPRO did but it was a support nightmare. Okay, that's cool. But that also leaves me with no MacOptions unless I get a full duplex rig. (Still drooling over that IC-9100). I can run SatPC32 under a Windows VM when I actually want to talk on the birds.. but, man, that's an in-elegant solution (you know.. having to run a separate operating system just to get the job done). The TS-2000 would solve that since MacDoppler supports it as well.

Being able to run Windows VMs under Mac OS X with an Intel-based system is a nice option, but not as elegant as using a program written for the Mac OS.  I don't know of any Mac satellite-tracking programs that support two radios simultaneously.  If one exists, maybe someone will chime in here.  Otherwise, you at least have that option to run a VM without having to install a Windows PC along with your Mac in your shack.

If not the TS-2000 or IC-9100, there are always options using older radios like the IC-910, IC-821, FT-847, etc. that could do the job. 

Quote from: AK4KZ
Antenna: I scaled back my antenna plans and think that I could pick up a portable antenna like the Arrow II, mount it to the rotator and probably have pretty decent performance. Not a huge investment and it's certainly upgradeable if I need to later.

I haven't changed my mind on the Yaesu G5500. It's not prohibitively expensive and looks like a great unit.

Without the G5500 or similar az/el rotator, going with an antenna like an Arrow 2m/70cm Yagi or Elk 2m/70cm log periodic (or similar homebrew designs) would still be a good option.  Just point the antenna up 15 to 20 degrees above the horizon, and you get about 80-85% of all possible passes. 

Quote from: AK4KZ
So.. that's where it is. May not be useful information for anyone but you can follow the thought process. And maybe it is useful. I guess, at this point, it's time to start laying down some cash. I'm just delaying because there's a hamfest 2 and a half weeks away and I want to see what's there.. and until I get the closing costs paid on the house. (If I couldn't get into this house because I spent money on radio gear, I think that might taint my wife's view of my hobby goals thereby influencing her support of said hobby.)

That hamfest would probably be a good place to look around for possible additions to your station.  Then make sure to keep your wife supportive of your radio hobby.   Smiley

73!





Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
http://www.wd9ewk.net/

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Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2012, 10:13:38 PM »

Okay, I'm going to join the conversation here and tell the story of my shack as an example of a satellite setup on a relatively small budget.

When I was studying for my license last year, I never expected to get into the satellites.  But then I heard about the ARISSat test transmission on Yuri's night and decided to give it a go.  At the time all I had was a Kenwood TM-2530A 2M FM and a mobile whip to listen to the repeaters, so I picked up a Cushcraft A124WB 4-element yagi from HRO to up my chances of hearing something.  Sadly, the night was a bust (not my fault), but the gauntlet was thrown.  I picked a new target, UO-11, loaded up JSatTrack for tracking, and tried again.  This time, it worked, and I proved to myself that a small antenna strapped to a camera tripod with a shoelace could hear a satellite from indoors.  The big outdoor antennas with an AZ/EL rotor was optional.

Since then I've added a M2 440-6SS antenna for 70cm and picked up a TR-751A for 2M all mode and a TS-811 for 70cm so I can hear the linear birds.  All together, I've spent less than the cost of a new TS-2000, and I've had countless hours of fun challenging myself to see what I can do with my little setup in the sunroom at the back of the house.  I've heard ARISSat, UO-11, AO-27, AO-51, VO-52, the ISS, and have heard myself on AO-7 and FO-29. 

I will admit, it's not an ideal setup for transmitting since I'm running "Mode Octopus" where I'm juggling two antennas, two radios, a mic, etc. but for something to learn how to listen for the satellites, it's been great.  With two people running the setup, we managed to get a good QSO going on AO-7 once so it's more than capable of getting a signal out from indoors on just 5-10W.  Once I get the antenna situation improved (move the antennas to the roof with a rotor at some point), I should be able to get transmitting down to something a little more manageable, but I'm still enjoying myself in the meantime.

So my advice is take it one step at a time and use each success as the incentive to justify the next piece of equipment.  Maybe get a good yagi like the Arrow, Cushcraft, or M2 and put it up with a cheap TV rotor at a fixed 20 degree elevation as the next step.  From there the Yaesu G5500 becomes a lot easier to justify when the funds free up, and so on until you eventually reach the satellite setup you've been dreaming of.

Good luck.

Scott/K7WDO
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« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2012, 12:14:03 PM »

Although some will work with Lindenblads, Eggbeaters, or other omni antennas, most will move toward directional antennas for satellite work.  Some will start out with the dual-band Yagi/log periodic on a TV rotator, pointing up 15 to 20 degrees above the horizon, instead of springing straight away for the az/el rotator.  A 20-foot coax run won't be too bad, something you may be able to do with hgih-quality coax to directional antennas and *maybe* avoid using preamps.  Antennas are one area where you can homebrew and save some pesos, which can be applied to other items like the transceiver(s).

This is kind of the direction I was planning on going. I tried the LEO satellites a long time ago, messed around a little with AO-40 before it went QRT, but I never had a station capable of solid copy on a pass.

The Elk 2m/440 log periodic tilted to 20 degrees up or so looks like a pretty good option on a small rotator - wideband enough to cover repeaters, too.
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2012, 06:48:27 AM »

Just an update..

We've moved into the new house so the fun (or madness.. however you want to look at it) can begin.

Of course, we know my dream machine is the Icom IC-9100 but I just bought a house. That's not going to happen soon. I figured that, if I buy another lower end radio now, at some point, I could sell my IC-7000 and the other radio and be most of the way to paying for a 9100.

I had strongly considered the TS-2000 but was put off by the internal birdies. It's a fixable problem but I just didn't want to have to deal with it. I looked long and hard at the FT-817, which is where I was going. But I picked up a used Yaesu FT-736R at the hamfest. I may have taken a gamble on it working and paid a little too much for it but it was there, I had money.. what more can I say? I wasn't even sure it was full duplex. It just had a "satellite" setting. So I took a chance. If nothing else, I could use it for a packet station.. if it worked at all.

In the meantime, I had ordered 150 ft. of LM-400 and the Arrow II antenna. I didn't get the duplexer because my HT just isn't what this antenna is for. Since my run up to the sat antenna will be pretty short, most of this is to go to my dipole out back with plenty left over to use on the 20 or 25 ft to the satellite antenna.

Turns out.. the FT-736R is absolutely full duplex and pretty cool to boot. Unfortunately, the 1.2Gig module wasn't included and costs as much as I paid for the radio. So I'm not going to go that route quite yet. The radio did have the PL board, CW keyer and CW filter in it so I guess I didn't pay TOO much. Didn't take long to figure out it receives and transmits on FM. One of the first things I noticed though is that it didn't hold freqs when the power was off. A little web searching and I found out the CMOS battery is a common CR2032 behind the front panel. I've been looking for a cheap CAT cable since I bought the radio but started thinking I'd wait until I was sure the radio worked completely before I sunk more cash into it. (common sense sometimes just happens. I can't seem to help it)

Last night, I picked up a pack of CR2032 batteries from Target for about $7. (I got two in case the heat from the soldering iron trashed one. Never soldered to a battery before.) Pulled the covers off and turned down the front plate. Peeled off the tabs on the old battery and soldered them to the new one. While I was in there, I also cut the wire that leads to the key beeper... a horrible annoying feature, in my opinion. Put it all back together and, Bob's your uncle!.. it works perfectly. So.. now the only question is.. does it pick up SSB?

I haven't compared signals yet but it doesn't seem as sensitive as my IC-7000 on the rcv. No big surprise there. (I must say the audio is really good though). I spent the last two days pulling up MacDoppler and manually tracking sats as they go by. Of course, I'm still on my j-Pole delicately (thrown) mounted in a tree. So I wasn't expecting too much. And then.. this morning.. I caught AO-7 on a pass right over the house and heard CW and someone calling CQ.

So.. the radio works and I think I like it. Still not sure on the sensitivity but it WILL pull a signal. (In the worst case, I could run a preamp but I won't know if I need one until I can get the antenna up.)

The next step is to get my antenna up. Maybe this weekend. I don't have a rotor yet. I'm thinking just a cheap one from Radio Shack.. mount the antenna at 20 degs and rotate it as necessary. Not sure that's going to happen this weekend but, in the meantime, I'll point it slightly southeast and catch what I can catch. That'll all get me significantly closer. Once I get the antenna up and cabled, I'll try getting on the air. (hmmm.. is it still really "on the air" in space?)

I'm getting there. Once this part is done, everything between here and where I want to be is just about upgrades.

73,
Chris
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WD9EWK
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« Reply #14 on: March 02, 2012, 10:02:42 AM »

I had strongly considered the TS-2000 but was put off by the internal birdies. It's a fixable problem but I just didn't want to have to deal with it. I looked long and hard at the FT-817, which is where I was going. But I picked up a used Yaesu FT-736R at the hamfest. I may have taken a gamble on it working and paid a little too much for it but it was there, I had money.. what more can I say? I wasn't even sure it was full duplex. It just had a "satellite" setting. So I took a chance. If nothing else, I could use it for a packet station.. if it worked at all.

Yup, many still use the FT-736s for satellite work.  Nice choice.

Quote
In the meantime, I had ordered 150 ft. of LM-400 and the Arrow II antenna. I didn't get the duplexer because my HT just isn't what this antenna is for. Since my run up to the sat antenna will be pretty short, most of this is to go to my dipole out back with plenty left over to use on the 20 or 25 ft to the satellite antenna.

Make sure to factor in two coax runs to the Arrow - one for each antenna feedpoint.  Hopefully that still leaves you with more than enough for your dipole.

Quote
Turns out.. the FT-736R is absolutely full duplex and pretty cool to boot. Unfortunately, the 1.2Gig module wasn't included and costs as much as I paid for the radio. So I'm not going to go that route quite yet. The radio did have the PL board, CW keyer and CW filter in it so I guess I didn't pay TOO much. I started looking Didn't take long to figure out it receives and transmits on FM. One of the first things I noticed though is that it didn't hold freqs when the power was off. A little web searching and I found out the CMOS battery is a common CR2032 behind the front panel. I've been looking for a cheap CAT cable since I bought the radio but started thinking I'd wait until I was sure the radio worked completely before I sunk more cash into it. (common sense sometimes just happens. I can't seem to help it)

For now, you won't miss anything by not having the 1.2 GHz module.  AO-51 was the last satellite that had a 1.2 GHz uplink, which was occasionally activated.  Might be useful for terrestrial work, or EME, if you go in those directions.  Those modules are out there on the used market, but fetch a premium price. 

Quote
I haven't compared signals yet but it doesn't seem as sensitive as my IC-7000 on the rcv. No big surprise there. (I must say the audio is really good though). I spent the last two days pulling up MacDoppler and manually tracking sats as they go by. Of course, I'm still on my j-Pole delicately (thrown) mounted in a tree. So I wasn't expecting too much. And then.. this morning.. I caught AO-7 on a pass right over the house and heard CW and someone calling CQ.

So.. the radio works and I think I like it. Still not sure on the sensitivity but it WILL pull a signal. (In the worst case, I could run a preamp but I won't know if I need one until I can get the antenna up.)

Great!

I have played around with an IC-7000, but only on HF.  Its receiver at 2m and 70cm may be more sensitive than the FT-736, but - as you mentioned - a preamp may be needed to help the '736.  Get your antenna installed, connect it to the FT-736, and see what happens.  Maybe even connect the antenna to the IC-7000 (you'll need a diplexer to deal with the single 2m/70cm port on the back of that radio) to compare its performance with the FT-736.

If you still have that TH-F6A HT you mentioned in your first post on this thread, it too could serve to test your antenna setup.  Its receiver is not as sensitive as other radios in SSB/CW, but it has the all-mode receiver that could come in handy.  Or transmit from the FT-736 and listen to yourself on the HT, making sure you have a good clean signal.  Having 2 radios that can transmit and receive in SSB and CW on 2m and 70cm, along with a third radio with an all-mode receiver, you have the tools to test your station before you try the satellites - a good thing! 

Quote
The next step is to get my antenna up. Maybe this weekend. I don't have a rotor yet. I'm thinking just a cheap one from Radio Shack.. mount the antenna at 20 degs and rotate it as necessary. Not sure that's going to happen this weekend but, in the meantime, I'll point it slightly southeast and catch what I can catch. That'll all get me significantly closer. Once I get the antenna up and cabled, I'll try getting on the air. (hmmm.. is it still really "on the air" in space?)

I'm getting there. Once this part is done, everything between here and where I want to be is just about upgrades.

Sounds like great progress in a relatively short amount of time.  Good luck with the rest of your satellite project.

73!
« Last Edit: March 02, 2012, 10:06:20 AM by WD9EWK » Logged

Patrick WD9EWK/VA7EWK
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