Monthly Archives: September 2008

Satellite Operations: Action items

Things I need to purchase:

Things I need to do:

  • Complete the construction of the 2.4GHz parabolic antenna.
  • Mount the rotators and mast pipes.
  • Mount antennas to mast pipes.
  • Replace coax.
  • Setup better power distribution using the RigRunner 4008 and battery backup using the Super Powergate 40S and AGM batteries.
  • GROUND EVERYTHING!
  • Have fun.

Worked AO-16 from inside using???

I just worked a pass on AO-16. Heck yeah it was early. But having the bird all to myself at 5:45 in the morning means I get to test my antennas without stepping on anyone else. I did work N8OQ but it wasn’t easy. And I’m not really sure which antenna I was using because they aren’t labelled. That’s going to be something on today’s to-do list.

Anyway, on whatever I’m using now, I was able to hear the bird much further to the south than I was to the north. I was still inside the footprint when I lost it so I’m not happy with it quite yet.

Things to do today:

  1. Figure out which coax goes to which antenna.
  2. Measure for new coax.
  3. Account for the rotators and get them cleaned up.
  4. Buy rotator cable.
  5. Work AO-51 passes.

Satellite Operations: Antenna Support

Now comes the interesting part. How do I hold up my antennas so they can twist and turn as required? I don’t plan to be in the same location in two years so I don’t want to do anything permanent. I currently have a 30-foot pole up next to the house that has been attached near the top of the house for stabilization. I don’t know what kind of weight it can handle but I have been thinking about trying to mount the azimuth rotator to the top and then have a short piece of pipe hold the array up (including an elevation rotator. I wonder if anyone has ever done this.

Satellite Operations: 2m and 70cm Antennas

The most important part to a radio station is the antennas. You could probably lump in the feedline as well but I think I have that figured out for the moment.

So what antennas do I already have and what do I need.

Have:

  • 11-element 2m beam (single polarization, currently horizontal) – operational condition
  • 24-element 70cm beam (single polarization) – needs minor repairs to get it operational

Want:

  • M2 2MCP22 2m circular polarized yagi
  • M2 436CP42 U/G circular polarized yagi

There really isn’t anything wrong with the 2m beam I currently have. But I want to have better. Since I already own it I’ll probably just stick with it until I have everything else covered. Why fix it if it isn’t broken.

The 70cm side of the house is another story. I don’t think my current antenna is appropriate for satellite operations. It is rather large and is going to be difficult to mount, turn, elevate, etc. I’m not sure of what it is worth but I might be able to sell it in order to pay towards a shiny new M2 antenna.

Of course M2 is quite proud of their work. The436CP42 U/G has a price tag of $420 for 16.8dBdc of gain and their 436CP30 is $357 with 14.15dBdc of gain. I’m not exactly sure which one I should look at. With a couple of HEO satellites in process of being launched I wonder what it will take to reach out and touch them reliably. I don’t want to have to use a pre-amp to receive the signals coming back to Earth as this sometimes causes more problems.

On the 2m side I’m facing the 2MCP22 at $360 for 12.25dBdc of gain or the 2MCP14 at $245 for 10.2dBdc of gain. Again, I want to be able to reach out and touch a HEO without the use of amplifiers or anything other than my 50-watts out of my TS-790A. Simplicity is best, I feel like.

Now this just covers a Mode B or Mode J system and nothing else. I think the 1.2 GHz and 2.4 GHz is going to be just as important as the 2m and 70cm side of the house but I also think that if I can base my operations in Mode B or Mode J then I can move on up from there.

Satellite Operations

I’m ready to take the next step. I have a set of azimuth and elevation rotators and I even have a 2M beam. I think it is time I get serious about my satellite operations. Not that I don’t have fun working the FM birds via my HT and an Arrow Antenna but I think it will be more fun to automate some of it and be able to work from the comfort of my chair inside.

Here is a list of things I need to buy, build, or gather:

  • 2m and 70cm Antennas
  • Antenna Support
  • Software
  • Rotator Control
  • 1.2 GHz
  • 2.4 GHz

I’ll try to cover in detail each of these items in later blog entries so I can keep track of what I want to do.

Humor Posts via Packet

Every day or so my local packet BBS receives a humor post from W1GMF in Massachusetts. I really enjoy the jokes but I’m really impressed by the path the message has to take to make it to Yorktown, Virginia. The path looks like: KR4MA N9NDS KB0OFD N0KFQ KB8DM N4JOA N9ZZK ON0AR F4BWT VE2PKT N1UAN W1GMF W1GMF. Wow, lets see where all these stations are.

  1. W1GMF – Abington, MA
  2. N1UAN – Kingsport, TN
  3. VE2PKT – Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, Quebec, Canada
  4. F4BWT – Chartainvilliers, France
  5. ON0AR – ?, Belgium
  6. N9ZZK – Diamond, IL
  7. N4JOA – Boynton Beach, FL
  8. KB8DM – Aurora, CO
  9. N0KFQ – Branson, MO
  10. KB0OFD – Forsyth, MO
  11. N9NDS – Cloverdale, IN
  12. KR4MA – Yorktown, VA

Wow, now that’s a lot of hops across a couple of continents to get my daily joke! Thanks for being there guys!

432MHz Antenna for Home

I’d like to point out that this is what happens when the wife stays late at school.While unsupervised, I took it upon myself to pull my 432MHz yagi out of the storage shed.  I bought it from a gentleman at the Maysville Hamfest a number of years ago and haven’t done anything with it until today.

It looks a little rough.  Some of the elements are sliding through the boom or are spinning freely.  Apparently they need another squirt of silicone to keep them in place.  Another thing I noticed is that the mounts are missing.  I should have two: one for the boom and one for the two support arms.  I don’t remember loosing them so maybe I never had them.  This weekend is the Virginia Beach hamfest so maybe I can find something there.  Now all I need is some feedline… but that’s another story.

September VHF QSO Party is over…

Well, I survived my first VHF QSO Party. Last week I got the idea to put up my 11-element 2 meter beam in the horizontal mode so I could play around on SSB and CW. Then I learned of the QSO Party coming up and thought I’d test out my gear then. I have a Carolina Windom up for HF which tunes well for 6 meters and I have a 70cm loop up that I’ve never done anything with except to look at it. All antennas got exercised over the weekend and I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it.

Lessons Learned

Every time you operate you should learn something. I learned a lot. Here is the short list:

  • Antennas don’t need to be up high to be effective. I worked five states (Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania) during the contest. With the exception of AA4ZZ, I worked everyone I heard.
  • You better run good feedline. I mentioned I have a 432 loop up. It sits at about 30 feet AGL and is fed with RG-8 feedline because I was testing it out and didn’t have anything better laying around to hook to it. That was a mistake. I could barely hear a nearby station. I’m going to remedy that soon, though.
  • An antenna rotator makes life easier. I’m guessing anyway. I generally kept my antenna pointed towards the north but I would run outside and turn it towards the southwest occationally to see if I could hear anyone else. This is a process in my house, however. It goes something like this: spin around in the chair, run down the stairs, unlock the deadbolt on the front door, open the front door, make it across the acorn covered driveway and around the side of the house in bare feet, startle the cat behind the trash can so he can do the same to you as he makes his getaway, try to figure out where the radio gods want the antenna turned and spin it around, make your way back into the house, lock the front door, notice wife laughing at you, run back upstairs, sit back in chair, spin around, enjoy. Of course I quickly realized the bands were really performing towards the north so I would repeat the above process to get pointed back to the north. Repeat as necessary. I plan on remedying this problem as well.
  • A supportive spouse makes everything work well. Mine is a doll (and she’s cute too). Not only did she fix me lunch but she brought it up to me and ate with me in between contacts. Now if I can just get her to pick up the microphone more often.

The Other Guys
Here’s who I contacted during the event:

6 meters
K4CML – Newport News, Virginia
N2XOM <- for some reason I don’t remember this contact. We’ll see.
NG4C – Elizabeth City, North Carolina

2 meters
K4CML – Newport News, Virginia
W3SO – Wopsononock Mountain near Altoona, Blair County, PA, in the Allegheny Mountains, at elevation 2500 feet
W3IP – Maryland
W4IY – Virginia
W4MYA – Goochland, Virginia (SW of Richmond)
K8GP – Spruce Knob, West Virginia
WB2KWF – Smithfield, Virginia

70 centimeters
K4CML – Newport News, VA

The Score
Well, I didn’t think I was going to make two contacts the entire weekend but ended up with eleven on three bands, ten grid multipliers which equals a claimed score of 120. Now I know I worked two stations (W3SO and K8GP) who will easily turn in scores of 100k or more. But I’m taking my 120 points to the bank. I did as good a job as I could and I’m happy I did what I did. I will be working on my station over the next few months to improve things and maybe get a better score come the next contest.

QSLs
I worked hard on getting all my cards filled out and stuffed in envelopes with addresses and stamps and all that in hopes of getting them in the mail today. Nope, left them right by the front door. They will be in the mail tomorrow, though.

ARRL September VHF QSO Party in progress!

I meant to post this last night but I’m up and active on 6m and 2m SSB for the ARRL September VHF QSO Party.  I can almost say that I’ve worked everyone that I’ve heard but AA4ZZ in Boone, NC is going to make me a liar.  In my defense, he was really low and I don’t think he was pointed at me.  I heard him on 2m and 6m but couldn’t make the contact.

So far I’ve worked five states:

  1. North Carolina
  2. Virginia
  3. West Virginia
  4. Maryland
  5. Pennsylvania

I have already identified a few things I need to work on here at Radio W4OTN but I’ll outline those later.

CQ CQ CQ this is W4OTN W4OTN W4OTN calling CQ CQ CQ!