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Author Topic: Need a spot check on my satellite plans, please.  (Read 16833 times)
AK4KZ
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« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2012, 08:11:06 AM »

This has been on the back burner for a few weeks. Not that I've lost interest. But I've been working on a lot of HF upgrades.. new coax, new headset, higher antenna, etc. But I've put a little time into it.

I've just come to accept that the FT-736R isn't going to be my perfect satellite radio. When I plug in my CAT cable, the radio has a low hum. Picking up noise from something, I suspect. Or is it internal? I don't really know. And it almost doesn't matter because software support for it is almost non-existent.

HRD will run it but only as a hack. You have to run a serial port emulator to support the translator program that sits between the FT-736 and HRD (which is actually running an FT-847). MacDoppler supports it but it feels if-fy. In all fairness, I don't think it's the software as much as the FT-736R CAT control. (I believe I saw something about not being able to access the VFO over the CAT.) And.. with the hum... it's just kind of a hassle. I haven't tried SatPC32 yet. To be honest, I haven't put much time into SatPC32. (It kind of intimidates me and reading the help file is too much like stopping and asking for directions. But I guess I might have to if I want to try and use it.)

Okay.. well, part of me longs for simplicity (read.. no computers). So.. onward. I can work the VFO manually. (If I could figure out how to use the Keps manually, I wouldn't need a computer at all. Hmmm.. add that to the list.. for later.)

I have my cheap rotor but don't have a ladder to get up on the roof yet. I DO have a pole out in my yard where the previous owners mounted a couple of DirecTV dishes. (Wish I could use those for something.) I thought that, while I'm waiting for a ladder, I could remove those dishes and "mock up" my roof setup. I can put the rotor on, mount the Yagi and run the cables into my radio room. So.. tonight.. barring rain.. I'll pull those dishes off and see what I can do about mounting that rotor on the remaining pole. (I haven't resorted to any kind of duct tape yet)

And then I'm going to go lust over the Icom IC-9100 again and struggle with myself over spending money I can't afford right now or being responsible. (My new headset would work so great with that radio ;-)

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2012, 07:28:34 AM »

Dropped the dishes off the pole in the front yard. The cool thing is that that assembly has notches on it that mark elevation (I assume in degrees). It's not exact but I adjusted it for flat, noted the number and did the math to get my 20 degree elevation. Took the foam handle off my Arrow II and electrical taped the antenna to the end of the post that held one of the sat dishes. Ran one of my RG-8X cables to the UHF and made up a length of LMR-400 for the VHF. I'll use the LMR-400 for the UHF when I get a couple more PL-259s. I need to make a couple of smaller RG-8X jumpers to put between the antenna and the LMR-400. It's just too stiff to pivot freely. I presume I want them to be fairly short.

I can't mount my cheap rotor yet because I either need to separate two sections of pipe that seem to be inseparable.. OR.. I need to get another piece of pipe. Maybe tonight.

So.. here's the drill..  I watch for a satellite to be coming in MacDoppler, note the direction it's coming from and go outside to manually swing my yagi around. Now, this is not a hit-or-miss operation. While I guess at the inbound direction of the bird, I'm measuring the bearing at the antenna by comparing it against the compass on my iPhone. High tech, huh? Anyway.. I run back inside, look for the signal and listen until it's overhead.. then I run back outside, swing the antenna 180 degrees and listen to the bird fade into a fond memory. Not exactly the automated technical bliss I was looking for.. but it's a start.

I will say that using the Arrow II gives me a WAY better signal than my omni-directional j-Pole. I mean, yeah, that's obvious. But it's nice seeing it in practice.

I think the next step is to actually.. you know... talk. Maybe tonight.

One problem I am having is figuring out how to get the FT-736R to tune for V/U on the FM sats. I guess I'll read the manual today. I'm hoping it's in there.

73.
Chris
AK4KZ
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KB1PVH
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« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2012, 08:23:34 AM »

Chris,

 I would ditch the RG8X and shoot for either 9913 or LMR400 ultra flex if you can afford it. The RG8X has too much loss at UHF and VHF frequencies.

Dave - KB1PVH
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #18 on: April 16, 2012, 07:54:22 AM »

Well.. the RG8X pieces are fairly short sections. It's probably 5' total in each line. But, I think I am going to swap those out. I definitely have to do something because I have LMR-400 running up onto my rotating antenna and it's pretty hefty cable to be swinging around. I don't know how long it would last, not to mention the wear and tear on my rotor. So I have to do something more flexible long term.

I also took out my SWR meter. I was wondering why I didn't seem to be hearing much. Not sure if it was the meter or the cable between it and the radio but it doesn't matter, both are outta there.

I mounted my antenna rotor and the Arrow II about 20 deg (although I want to go back and verify that). That was interesting. I was looking for a foot length of pipe. Opted to go for PVC. That should work for testing, right. Well.. not the 1.5" PVC cause it wouldn't mount in the rotor. Went back out and got some 1 inch. Sweet. Mount the antenna. hmm.. that droops like it's sad. Clearly a 2 foot length of PVC will not support my antenna (mostly because of the hefty bracket it's mounted on). Okay.. I can cut the PVC down to about 4 inches off the top of the rotor. Hey.. perfect! Hmmm.. the 1" PVC isn't big enough to clamp on to. Well.. in lieu of duct tape (which fixes everything), I used the 1.5" pipe and some of the rest of the 1" pipe and made some sheathes I could clamp down to. It's a kludge but it'll work for now.

I've rotated it almost all the way around a few times and the cable strain relief seems to be okay. So now I can sit in my room/shack and turn the antenna. That's awesome. Followed a couple sats around and I'm, at times, getting a REALLY decent signal. I guess the next step really is to transmit.

There's something to be said for the relative simplicity of going out with a handheld and a portable antenna ;-)

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2012, 09:41:35 AM »

And after about 8 months... I made my first satellite contact from SC to TX! It's a step. (Thank you, N5AFV, for being so gracious with my fumbling.) Maintaining the contact was a little like treading water with rocks in my pocket but I got it done. I'd have him just fine, switchover to the transmit and try and bring my signal on freq (he apparently heard me), then I'd have lost his transmit and have to switch back over to the rx vfo and dial it back in. By the end of the QSO, I couldn't find myself at all. It was ugly. But I got it done.

A few days ago, I determined to get something going on the satellite thing. Got up on YouTube today to look for satellite videos. Surely there must be something to gleen there to help me. I was specifically looking into tuning. I’m wasn't acquiring the satellites. I could hear that I wasn't not making it up there. The most logical thing was tuning. But I have my super-cool sat radio (FT-736R) that tunes the Rx and tx at the same time. What could go wrong?

After a little digging and a few rabbit trails, I’ve got it. Tune in your Rx and then tune your tx independently. Perfect. Hey.. wait.. they’re running LSB on the transmit! Whoa.. gosh that would take me way away from the right freq. Next couple of passes were beautiful. I still couldn’t hear me. Huh. Next pass maybe...

Couple more passes… well let’s try the FM bird. Tuning around to find the signal. You know? I'm not hearing the bird and the receive (static) sounds funny. Wait! There’s no UHF antenna hooked up. What a dope! Now.. it WAS hooked up so that hasn’t been my problem all along. But that day? Yeah. That’d do it.

So.. FINALLY.. I got a decent pass. Heard someone call and jumped in. Flailed wildly but it was a done deal. (I think computer control would've helped a lot. I can do it by hand but it'll take a little bit of practice.) Sweet! And in all my excitement, I completely forgot to log it. Ugh.. so close. I had his callsign from when I initially looked it up. But didn't even look at satellite position and all that. Take a guess, fill in the blanks and try and do better.. next pass maybe...

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
http://ak4kz.wordpress.com
« Last Edit: August 23, 2012, 09:45:03 AM by AK4KZ » Logged
K0JEG
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Posts: 669




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« Reply #20 on: August 24, 2012, 06:20:59 AM »


So.. FINALLY.. I got a decent pass. Heard someone call and jumped in. Flailed wildly but it was a done deal. (I think computer control would've helped a lot. I can do it by hand but it'll take a little bit of practice.) Sweet! And in all my excitement, I completely forgot to log it. Ugh.. so close. I had his callsign from when I initially looked it up. But didn't even look at satellite position and all that. Take a guess, fill in the blanks and try and do better.. next pass maybe...

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
http://ak4kz.wordpress.com

A voice recorder or sound recording program on a PC helps a lot. That way you get the contact now and fill out the log later. It also helps if you record a few passes to get the feel for operations, especially on the FM sats.

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ free sound recording software for most/all platforms. Just use your soundcard interface to get from the rig to the PC.
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AK4KZ
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« Reply #21 on: August 27, 2012, 09:23:33 AM »


So.. FINALLY.. I got a decent pass. Heard someone call and jumped in. Flailed wildly but it was a done deal. (I think computer control would've helped a lot. I can do it by hand but it'll take a little bit of practice.) Sweet! And in all my excitement, I completely forgot to log it. Ugh.. so close. I had his callsign from when I initially looked it up. But didn't even look at satellite position and all that. Take a guess, fill in the blanks and try and do better.. next pass maybe...

73,
Chris
AK4KZ
http://ak4kz.wordpress.com

A voice recorder or sound recording program on a PC helps a lot. That way you get the contact now and fill out the log later. It also helps if you record a few passes to get the feel for operations, especially on the FM sats.

http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ free sound recording software for most/all platforms. Just use your soundcard interface to get from the rig to the PC.

I probably would if I thought about it. That still wouldn't have helped me with the position of the bird and all that that the log was looking for. I'm guessing that information's not real critical but I'd like to keep track of it all. But I should record my contacts for that time I forget the other persons call. (Oh you KNOW it's gonna happen sooner or later ;-)
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WD9EWK
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« Reply #22 on: August 28, 2012, 08:49:53 PM »

And after about 8 months... I made my first satellite contact from SC to TX! It's a step. (Thank you, N5AFV, for being so gracious with my fumbling.) Maintaining the contact was a little like treading water with rocks in my pocket but I got it done. I'd have him just fine, switchover to the transmit and try and bring my signal on freq (he apparently heard me), then I'd have lost his transmit and have to switch back over to the rx vfo and dial it back in. By the end of the QSO, I couldn't find myself at all. It was ugly. But I got it done.

Congratulations!  Allen N5AFV mentioned your QSO with him on this evening's Houston AMSAT Net.  An excerpt with Allen's comments is available at: http://www.amsatnet.com/964snip.mp3


Hope to hear you soon, in SSB or FM.  73!



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