If you’ve been listening to the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast, you’ve no doubt heard Mark Smith (N6MTS) talk about his “secret squirrel” project. At BayCon 2022 this past weekend, Mark revealed that the “secret squirrel” is a new product he’s designed called SOAR (Satellite Optimized Amateur Radio).
Mark announced that SOAR is basically a radio that’s “optimized for operating FM satellites.”
That’s a very modest description for a radio that can not only handle full duplex FM satellite communications, but also leverage the power of a GPS and CPU to help predict passes, aim an antenna, and adjust for doppler shift on the fly. And, oh yeah, it even records.
SOAR actually does much more than this.
If full duplex satellite work is the sort of thing that interests you, I highly recommend watching Mark’s BayCon presentation:
The Halibut Electronics website has only recently been launched, so there’s not a lot of info there at time of posting. For the latest news, I suggest you follow Mark on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/SmittyHalibut
This is just too funny to keep to myself. My good friend, who I call Mr Satellite, Kob, E21EJC in Bangkok apparently was too bored to work BG7XWF on normal CW via the RS-44 linear (SSB/CW/FT-4) satellite again, so, they went to “voice CW (SSB).” You can even hear them adjusting for Doppler shift.
E21EJC and BG7XWF Voice CW on RS-44:
Ain’t ham radio great!🤓😁
Yes it is, Dan! Ham radio is great!
This gave me a good chuckle–thank you for sharing!
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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!
Many 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.
“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.”
To 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!
This article has been re-posted from my shortwave radio blog, The SWLing Post.
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!
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.
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.