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Author Topic: Newbie Questions  (Read 5384 times)
WA2HKA
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Posts: 10




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« on: November 24, 2012, 12:52:26 PM »

I am a newbie looking for information on satellite software.  Also, what hardware/software set up do I need to put together an automatic motor to follow the satellites?

Thank you all for your input!

73!!!

Mike, WA2HKA
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AE5QB
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Posts: 270




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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2012, 08:37:14 PM »

This is a huge step you are contemplating.  Be sure you are ready for it and ready to spend some dollars. 

There are several satellite tracking software packages available.  Some of them work better than others.  While they all track satellites OK, the interface to a rotator varies in ease and functionality.  If you go to www.amsat.org and go to the store, you can download a trial version of SatPC32.  The download is a full blown version, but unless you pay your money and get your key, you will need to enter your QTH information each time you start it up.  The trial version will give you the opportunity to play with it and see if it will meet your needs.  Another program is called NOVA.  It can be had at  http://www.nlsa.com/   I like the looks of NOVA better, but SatPC32 is easy to get loaded and working.  Some others programs to play with are Orbitron and Ham Radio Deluxe.  I have not tried to interface these, but from what I am told, each has its challenges.

OK so now you have some software loaded.  You are going to need an ALT/AZ rotator to point your antenna(s).  The Yaesu G5500 is one good choice if you have about $700.  Then you need an interface to go between the rotator controller and your PC. The LVB tracker is a nice one and it can be had at www.amsat.org also - $220.

You will probably want a couple of new antennas as well.  The M2 circular polarized yagis will fit the bill.  You will need one for 2 meter and 1 for 70 cm - $600.  You can get by with an arrow antenna but if you buy all of the above, you will probably want to upgrade your antennas also.

A preamp would be good also, but not absolutely necessary.

You will also need a good solid mast or a tower to mount all of this onto.  Lots of bucks involved there.  And it is not going to much of a portable system.  It will take up a good piece of real estate and is quite heavy, so don't plan on dragging it to the park on weekends.

There you go.  I am not trying to discourage you.  If you want to do it - go for it.  Just be prepared to spend some $.  You don't need all of this stuff to make casual satellite contacts, and frankly, the number of viable satellites is dwindling. 

Why not just get an arrow antenna and use a handheld for a while until you can figure out you just can't live without a full blown satellite station?  You will learn a great deal and have a good time doing it.  If you decide it isn't what you thought it would be, you won't be out a great deal of money.

I am in the process of putting together two systems for an ARISS contact.  The second system use a static eggbeater type antenna system so it isn't nearly as sophisticated as the primary system.  Never the less, I have about $3,000 into the two systems, not including the radios, so it is not a cheap endeavor.  If you don't have a source of free stuff, you are looking at about $2,000 to put together a reasonable system not counting the radio(s).

Good luck to you.  I hope this is the type of information you wanted.
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WA2HKA
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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2012, 07:04:02 AM »

Thank you for the reply!  I really appreciate it!!!!!!

I am a little familiar with the items in your explaination.  That setup is more of a dream set up.  :-) 

A few months ago, I visited the AMSAT booth at a convention.  The set up was a laptop running SatPC32 with a tripod with a fake anntenna with a working motor for show.  I understand the motor and tripod need to be of heavier grade but this is a setup I am looking for. 

Is something this small a reasonable setup for me?



 
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K0JEG
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Posts: 672




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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2012, 09:31:31 AM »

Another good program for tracking is Gnome Predict. It's open source and has a lot of options for controlling both radios and rotators. It was designed for Linux, but has been ported to Windows and MacOS. It might be a little more difficult to get working than SatPC (I haven't tried SatPC, so I can't compare), but it's free to try and I've had good results.

http://gpredict.oz9aec.net/

I'm in the process of upgrading the RF side of my setup so hopefully I'll get some good contacts soon. When my Earthstation gets a little more reliable I'll put up some more videos of my (somewhat) inexpensive setup using a telescope mount.
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AE5QB
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Posts: 270




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« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2012, 12:49:39 PM »

Thank you for the reply!  I really appreciate it!!!!!!

I am a little familiar with the items in your explaination.  That setup is more of a dream set up.  :-) 

A few months ago, I visited the AMSAT booth at a convention.  The set up was a laptop running SatPC32 with a tripod with a fake anntenna with a working motor for show.  I understand the motor and tripod need to be of heavier grade but this is a setup I am looking for. 

Is something this small a reasonable setup for me?
 

I am not familiar with the setup you are speaking of.  I have seen a YouTube video of a gentleman who has designed his own motor drive system based on a small tripod.  I don't know how practical it is for operations, although the educational opportunities in putting such a system together are quite exciting to me.  It may well be very practical from a portable/setup and operate/take it down perspective.  Depending on the the antenna you use, you will need to assure the drive train is capable of handling the torque and potential wind load you will be putting on it.

Go for it and have fun with it.  If it doesn't work, all you are out is the cost of admission.  Hopefully, that won't be too much.
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WA2HKA
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« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2012, 01:44:27 PM »

I guess that is all part of the hobby..... the building of your own items. 

Can you tell me what item connects the tracking software to the motor that moves the antenna?

Mike
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KQ6EA
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Posts: 609


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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2012, 02:30:19 PM »

You need a rotator interface to connect between the PC and the rotor control box.

The Yaesu rotors have an 8-pin DIN connector on the back of the control box that the interface plugs in to.

I'm using a FoxDelta ST2 interface that I built from a kit. This box is a clone of Howard's "LVB Tracker"  that's available from AMSAT.

The interface box reads the voltage from the position pot in the Azimuth and Elevator motors so it knows the position of the antennas.

It compares that to the information being sent from your tracking program, and moves the antennas so they're in the correct position.

I'm using SatPC32 since it controls the Az/El rotors, AND tunes the radio to correct for Doppler shift.

I've experimented with all the commercial and free software out there, and SatPC32 blows them all away for ease of use.

Some people complain it's not as "pretty" as Nova, but it's easier to configure, and Erich (the author) has now included the NASA "Blue Marble" maps so you can change from the simple 5-color 'political' map to a nice "view from space" type of map.

SatPC32, the "LVB Tracker", and Yaesu rotators are all well documented and supported by the satellite community, and 99% plug-and-play. The only downside is that a new Yaesu G-5500B goes for over $700, although you can usually find good used ones for $400~$500.

73, Jim
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W4HIJ
Member

Posts: 367




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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2013, 11:36:44 AM »

Thank you for the reply!  I really appreciate it!!!!!!

I am a little familiar with the items in your explaination.  That setup is more of a dream set up.  :-)  

A few months ago, I visited the AMSAT booth at a convention.  The set up was a laptop running SatPC32 with a tripod with a fake anntenna with a working motor for show.  I understand the motor and tripod need to be of heavier grade but this is a setup I am looking for.  

Is something this small a reasonable setup for me?


  
Here's an older tracker design I use. https://sites.google.com/site/marklhammond/saebrtrack The interesting thing about this one is the OR-360 rotator version which I use. The OR-360's are nothing more than small DC motors operating a gear train to turn the antenna. Like most ham rotators they rely on a position potentiometer to give info back to the controller box as far a position.  Seems to me it would be relatively simple to design a small tripod mount system using this tracker driving a couple of small DC motors and position pots.
Michael, W4HIJ
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N1KCG
Member

Posts: 51




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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2013, 02:09:15 AM »

okay so tracking aiming hardware and software is $500 to $1000 which is typical for any new hobby facet. seems it takes "BOAT" ( break out another thousand) to get into anything new.

can a new ham instead just get good at manually aiming beam antennas, and using just satellite digipeters, and an alarm clock app?  kind of just set up to point at exact time, to send and recieve packets for the moments the digipeter is in view? 

how much could that investment run? 
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W5PFG
Member

Posts: 81




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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2013, 08:59:01 AM »

can a new ham instead just get good at manually aiming beam antennas, and using just satellite digipeters, and an alarm clock app?  kind of just set up to point at exact time, to send and recieve packets for the moments the digipeter is in view? 

how much could that investment run? 

I can get you into the satellite hobby for less than $300:
1. Buy two $50 Chinese handhelds (one for uplink and one for downlink)
2. Buy an Arrow 2m/70cm handheld yagi

You don't technically "need" prediction software since several websites offer this service for free.  Many, many people including myself have made 1000's of contacts with this setup or less.

For a little more money, you can setup a partially automated station (tracking):
1. Yaesu rotor ($300)
2. One of the inexpensive PIC-based rotor/computer control intefaces (<$100)
3. Yagi antennas ($200-300) set at 15 degrees fixed elevation.  You don't need big, high-gain circularly polarized antennas for current LEO satellites.
4. SATPC32 and one year membership to AMSAT-NA ($80)

If you drop the automated part, you can go with an inexpensive used TV rotor (<$150) and eliminate items 1,2,&4.
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