Category Archives: Satellites

A potentially justifiable impulse purchase…

So I made an impulse purchase last week.

Well, to be honest, it was a purchase I planned to make, but not until much later this year or early next year.

Except I didn’t.

Don’t judge me.

Confession time

Last Sunday, I hopped over to the QTH.com Classifieds to price out a nice 100 watt radio for a friend whose daughter is new to the hobby.

Normally, I use the search functionality at QTH.com and seek out classified ads for particular radio models. Since I wanted to offer him several examples, I decided to simply load all ads for that day and skim through the list.

The very first item that came up on the list was a Yaesu FT-817ND. I opened the ad and looked at the photo.

The owner was selling the radio along with everything that originally accompanied it–the box, antenna, manuals, the whole lot–plus side rails he’d purchased and installed. He described it as “like new” with only five hours of operating time on it. He said he was selling it because, “I just can’t do QRP.”

The price was $350 shipped.

I bought it.

My justification

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you might recall that it was only last year when I purchased an FT-817ND from my buddy Don. I did this after realizing I missed the FT-817 I originally owned shortly after it was introduced to the market in 2001. It didn’t help that I really wanted to build and try the FT-817 Buddy Board by Andy (G7UHN). [Andy: V4 is next on my bench..I promise!]

I honestly think I appreciate the FT-817/818 now even more than I did after it initially hit the market. I’ve been enjoying the FT-817ND in the field and have used it in a number of park and summit activations.

A recent activation at Island Mountain Educational State Forest with the ‘817ND

But that’s not why I purchased this one.

I’ve been wanting to get in on a bit of satellite action as, perhaps, a bit of a stepping stone into QRP EME (I mean, the antennas point upwards, right?) and also my ham daughters are both interested in satellites.

My future QRP full-duplex portable satellite system

 

 

Ages ago, I’d seen and read about hams who’d paired two FT-817s or FT-818s to create a full duplex portable satellite station.

My buddy Eric (WD8RIF) reminded me about this earlier in the year, too, and it stuck in my head because I really liked the idea.

Why? Besides all of the advantages of using a full duplex station, two FT-817s is still a very portable set-up. Hypothetically, I could use it for both satellites and HF during a park activation. Plus, two portable HF radios, right? Right! What’s not to love–?

Seriously: I see the system as quite a value when compared to other full duplex systems including pricier HTs.

As described

I had not done research about FT-817ND pricing before pulling the trigger–indeed, I still haven’t–but I felt $350 shipped was fair. I know I’ll get $350 of fun out of it!

After taking delivery and unboxing it, I expected it to show normal signs of wear, but the seller described it accurately: it was like new. In fact, it still had the protective film on the screen (yes, I pulled it off) and I could tell the microphone had never even been taken from the box. It was flawless and included every single original accessory mostly in the original bags.

I like the side rails, too: They prop up the radio at a perfect viewing angle. I have no idea who made these, but they’re nice.

Speaking of side rails…

Dual Escort?

I’ve been very pleased with the Portable Zero side rails and bail that came with my first Yaesu FT-817ND.

Using a dual FT-817ND system in the field, though, I’ll require either a bag to hold them, or a dual side rail system.

Turns out, Portable Zero makes side rails that hold and space two FT-817/818s perfectly.  I gulped a bit when I saw the price, though.

Still: they obviously make a great product and, for me, it’s an elegant solution. Before I bite the bullet, though, I might investigate homebrewing something or see if there are other options.

In fact, if you’ve seen other solutions–or have owned the Dual Escort yourself–please comment!

Or an affordable carry bag?

W9WSW’s Satellite Gear in this Amazon Basics DSLR bag (Photo swiped from W9WSW’s excellent site)

Another (and perhaps better?) option for portability might be this $28 camera bag from Amazon.com (affiliate link).

The bag would allow me to house both transceivers, a battery, cables, digital recorder and basically everything I’d need to operate full duplex portable in the field.

Another advantage of using the bag would be that I wouldn’t need to remove the side rails I already have on each FT-817ND (assuming the camera bag could accommodate them).  In addition, the bag might make for less dangling cables as I operate.

The fact that numerous satellite gurus like Sean (KX9X) use this same bag is a pretty strong recommendation.

Arrow heading my way

On the advice of Eric, and numerous other portable satellite ops, I ordered an Arrow 146/437-10BP Satellite Antenna.

I assume I’ll use the the BNC connectors on the front of the radio rather than the SO-239 connectors on the back.

SSB filtered!

The FT-817ND I purchased last year came with a 2kHz Inrad SSB filter. I replaced it with a 500 Hz Collins filter I purchased from Steve  (WG0AT)–thanks, Steve!

I opened the new FT-817ND yesterday morning and installed the SSB filter. It sounds great.

If I chased you in POTA or SOTA yesterday, and you logged me, it was with the new FT-817ND running 2.5 watts off of the included NiMH battery pack.

I gave the FT-817ND a thorough work-out and it seems everything functions as it should.

Any other dual FT-817/818 owners out there?

If you have any advice about mounting or packing dual FT-817/818s, I’m all ears.  Also, if you use the FT-817/818 with an Arrow antenna, I’m curious what you use in terms of cable assemblies.

I’m a complete newbie to the world of amateur satellites, so any tips or hints are most welcome.

This weekend, I’m going to the first hamfest I’ve attended in 19 months. Let’s hope I can resist other impulse purchases! For what it’s worth, I’ve zero buyer’s remorse about this purchase!

73 friends,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Say “Hi” to Juno as it passes by Earth today

EFB_publicmap1-675Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Troy, who emailed me about a really fun and unique opportunity for amateur radio operators:  to send the NASA spacecraft Juno a Morse Code greeting [specifically, “HI”] when it passes over Earth tomorrow, starting around 18:00 UTC.

The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains:

“NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fly past Earth on October 9, 2013, to receive a gravity assist from our planet, putting it on course for Jupiter. To celebrate this event, the Juno mission is inviting amateur radio operators around the world to say “HI” to Juno in a coordinated Morse Code message. Juno’s radio & plasma wave experiment, called Waves, should be able to detect the message if enough people participate. So please join in, and help spread the word to fellow amateur radio enthusiasts!

This page will be updated with additional information as the event approaches. In addition, we have created a Facebook event page where you are welcome to a discuss[ion of] this activity.”

ham_morsecode_ditsTo be clear, this is a coordinated and unified message to the Juno craft; there will be no opportunity to hear a response from it.  Rather, the Waves instrument data containing the message will be shared by the Juno team after the flyby.  But still, what fun!

If you’re a licensed ham, and this sounds like something that you’d like to be part of, please check out the the NASA JPL page dedicated to this event. It has all of the information you’ll need to transmit to Juno, including a countdown clock–or to simply listen to everyone who does. Be sure to check out Juno’s Technical FAQ (click on the FAQ link) which answers a lot of the questions participants have already asked.

I’ll certainly do my best to be a part of the unified greeting to Juno.

I should note that I’m pleased to see the JPL page is running despite the US government shutdown. Many other NASA web pages have been affected.

Hi, Juno; we send our greetings!

juno-banner

This article has been re-posted from my shortwave radio blog, The SWLing Post.

FITSAT-1 will write messages in the sky with CW

(Photo: Space.com)

At first, I thought this news item was sience fiction, then I realized, “no, it’s just the coolest thing ever.”

Thanks for sharing, Eric!

(Source: Space.com)

The robotic Japanese cargo vessel now en route to the International Space Station is loaded with food, clothes, equipment — and a set of tiny amateur radio satellites, including one that will write Morse code messages in the sky.

[…]One of the [satellites], FITSAT-1, will write messages in the night sky with Morse code, helping researchers test out optical communication techniques for satellites, researchers said.

[…]One of FITSAT-1’s experimental duties is to twinkle as an artificial star, said project leader Takushi Tanaka, an FIT professor of computer science and engineering. Tanaka’s research interests include artificial intelligence, language processing, logic programming and robot soccer, in addition to cubesats.

Tipping the scales at just under 3 pounds (1.33 kilograms), FITSAT-1 carries high power light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that will produce extremely bright flashes.

“These, we hope, will be observable by the unaided eye or with small binoculars,” Tanaka says on a FITSAT-1 website.

After its deployment from the orbiting lab, the cubesat’s high-output LEDs will blink in flash mode, generating a Morse code beacon signal.

Read the full article on Space.com.

Work a satellite–QRP style

Clint Bradford, K6LCS, recently posted a link to his website on the HF Pack group. He has a great article about working satellites AO-51 and SO-50 from low power rigs. QRP HF rigs like the Yaesu FT-817–which have VHF/UHF–are ideal for this type of satellite work. This article is well written and contains good references. I should mention that Clint is an AMSAT Area Coordinator in California and uses this document in his presentations.

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