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Author Topic: Easysats from shack - what's needed?  (Read 28915 times)
N4UFO
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Posts: 182




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« Reply #30 on: April 05, 2013, 07:06:38 PM »

Once could be a fluke... but twice, not so much.  Grin   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.  Cheesy 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.  Wink

73, Kevin
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K7WDO
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« Reply #31 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.
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N4UFO
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Posts: 182




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« Reply #32 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.  Grin

Thanks!
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KQ6EA
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« Reply #33 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!
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N4UFO
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Posts: 182




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« Reply #34 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.  Grin

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.  Cheesy

Kevin
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KQ6EA
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« Reply #35 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
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N4UFO
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« Reply #36 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! Grin

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.  Shocked

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
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W4HIJ
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« Reply #37 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
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KQ6EA
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« Reply #38 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!
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N4UFO
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Posts: 182




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« Reply #39 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.)  Cheesy  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.  Grin  Geez! At least I know I'm not suddenly starting to lose my touch!  Roll Eyes


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.  Grin

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
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W4HIJ
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« Reply #40 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
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N4UFO
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Posts: 182




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« Reply #41 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.  Smiley

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.  Grin

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.  Roll Eyes


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
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KQ6EA
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« Reply #42 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
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K0JEG
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« Reply #43 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.
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N4UFO
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« Reply #44 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.  Shocked (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...  Grin

#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 Tongue ) 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.  Wink 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...  Grin


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??!!!  Cool
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