Many hams don’t have the financial resources to buy some of the more exotic equipment you see in the full-page QST ads. Don’t worry, you don’t have to feel left out! What almost every ham DOES have is a dual-band HT. Clint Bradford, K6LCS, has created
an excellent THE go-to resource to show you how you can easily work the FM birds with minimal equipment — most of which you probably already have! His site is truly a wealth of information.
He shared this with me:
It has been my mission in life the past 8+ years to show those who have never worked an amateur satellite that they CAN do it – with equipment they probably already own. I mean, when I first saw an AMSAT table at a hamfest several years ago, I just walked on by, wrongly believing that I needed 100W of TX power, multiple Yagis on the roof (which has led to divorces in my state), and that expensive Yaesu rotator.
Clint lays it out step-by-step:
- Radio options
Clint uses a Yaesu FT-60R with a speaker mic, but you can use most dual-band HTs that feature the ability to program “split frequencies.” Ideally, you could use a second radio (or scanner) and work in full-duplex mode. According to Clint, there are discontinued HTs which support full-duplex including the Kenwood TH-D7/TH-D79, Icom IC-W32a, and the Yaesu FT-470/FT-51/FT-530.
- Antenna options
Clint recommends the Arrow Antenna Model 146/437-10WBP or Elk Log Periodic Model 2M/440L5, but these very nice (but expensive) antennas aren’t your only option. He suggests that you could build a simple and inexpensive tape measure beam with very acceptable results. Just want to listen? Well, Clint shares that although it takes more patience and finesse to work satellites with “lesser” antennas, one of the first 2-meter reception reports from the ARISSat-1 was from someone using the stock antenna on his Yaesu VX-9 HT!
- Find an “easy” satellite
Clint recommends starting off with SO-50 or even the ISS (International Space Station). He has a great satellite schedule page on his site which lists the current status/availability of each bird and the necessary frequencies and CTCSS. Of note, some birds may require the transmission of a certain tone to activate a timer. After that, a different subaudible tone is used for the duration of the QSO. He does note that SO-50 can be a little “finicky” — for best results, work it full-duplex.
- Track the satellite
You have to know both when the satellite will be “visible” to you, and where you’ll need to point your antenna. Clint has a tracking page on his site which lists some of the programs and apps he recommends. While there are a variety of commercial options, he offers some good free options including AMSAT’s Online Satellite Tracking and Heavens-Above.
- That’s it! Have fun!
If you haven’t already done so, download and print his 4-page PDF guide called Work FM Satellites with your HT! to use as a reference. Thanks for the hard work, Clint. We appreciate it!