Getting started with satellites

Discussion in 'N0JY - Jerry Buxton' started by n0jy, Sep 3, 2016.

  1. n0jy

    n0jy Jerry, N0JY

    Did you know that you can get a taste of amateur radio satellites by just listening with your HT?
    Even with your stock "rubber duck" antenna, you should be able to copy AO-85 on a pass that is greater than 10 degrees above your horizon, provided that you have some directions that you can clearly see down to 10 degrees. Even if you don't, you can listen on higher passes that do clear your local obstacles.
    With a better antenna such as one of the higher gain whips or a telescoping antenna, you should have no problem at all.

    First, you'll want to know when the satellite is visible, from a radio standpoint. It will never be visible to your eye even at night, it is way too small. To find out when you will have a visible pass go to
    Enter your grid square (six helps) and click Calculate Position or if you already have it, enter your latitude, longitude, and elevation. Then select AO-85 from the drop down list at the top and click the Predict button.

    From the results, select a pass that has a maximum elevation higher than your visible horizon. When the AOS (acquisition of signal) time comes, go outside and tune your HT to 145.98o MHz (FM). Open the squelch. Listen for QSO activity or if there is none, the voice ID from the satellite which is transmitted every two minutes when there are no QSOs. Try orienting your HT at various angles with respect to the horizon and ground, for the strongest signal. There is no up and down (vertical or horizontal) in space so the satellite antenna may be at any angle to you and not in the way you typically hold your antenna vertical.

    Between the AOS time and the LOS time shown for the pass, you should be able to copy AO-85 at least during the middle of the pass when the satellite is at its highest elevation. You will hear QSOs, typically hams exchanging their grid squares or the voice ID "Hi! This is amateur radio satellite Fox-1"

    Try it out if you want to dip your toe in the satellite portion of the hobby, it doesn't take any more equipment than you probably already have and you might find out that you want to try working the satellites. You will not be able to work the satellite with just your HT antenna, but you can certainly find out a little bit about who is on and what is going on!
  2. 4Z1UG

    4Z1UG Eric, 4Z1UG

    Jerry - thanks for this post. I have a dual band base station. What kind of antenna would you recommend outside to operate to get started?