Playing with the portable satellite gear on SO-50 and FO-29

Yesterday, the weather was good enough (just) that I felt like taking the gear out into the garden to try and use the satellites. I was particularly interested in FO-29, which is one of the SSB satellites.

Shortly before Christmas, a very kind benefactor gave me a diplexer and I was keen to give that a whirl, connecting up both the FT817, FT790 and using the both on the Elk antenna.

So, out into the garden we go, with the FT817 and Palm Paddle, for 2m transmit, the diplexer, the FT790 for 70cms receive, the Elk antenna and a Lead Acid battery! I got it all setup prior to the pass and started to have a listen around. Signals started coming through on 70cms, which was good. However, there was obviously a poor connection somewhere, as when I try to send a few dits on 2m, there were a lot of crunchy noises on 70cms. It sounded like a connector not done up properly, as I was able to make it go away – mostly.

By this time I’d missed much of the pass, but I did just manage to find myself on the satellite downlink. However, I did discover that it is not possible to hold and aim the antenna, tune the 70cms downlink and send dits all at the same time! Patrick, WD9EWK suggested that I could probably send dits and tune the TX with one hand which is probably the way to go.

For the next pass of FO-29 which was quite a low one (12 degree elevation) I decided that I wouldn’t lug everything back out into the garden (especially as it was starting to gently rain at this stage), so I just took the FT817, the battery and the Elk out.

Ages ago, Pete 2E0SQL had suggested to me that if I transmit on 145.945 up it would come out on around 435.862 at the start of the pass. So I decided to make it a half duplex pass and give that a go. Despite the rather weak signals from the low pass – and the fact that it was mostly behind the lime tree at the end of our garden, I was pleased to be called by F6CTW with whom I was able to make a scratchy QSO. We’ll do it better another time, I’m sure. It was good to make an FO-29 QSO again and I’m excited to try it again, be it full duplex, which will be much better of course, or a cheap and cheerful half duplex. If you hear me gently drifting down the transponder, that will be why.

Later in the afternoon, I thought I would get on SO-50. I particularly wanted to look out for Ken G0PPM who has been working on getting QRV and I wondered if he would be able to be on. I decided to use my trusty Baofeng UV-5R. In some respects the UVB-6 is nicer, but there’s something a bit strange about the squelch that I couldn’t quite set completely off. Must have a look at that.

The satellite seemed to take ages to ‘arrive’, but it did and as it was a nice overhead pass, signals were great. First station heard was Dave M0SAT – not far away, near Watford (we last worked on 70MHz). I signed with Dave and heard G0PPM’s call, so was delighted to be able to work Ken, who had a great sounding signal from his portable location. Ken is often on the road, so it will be fun to work him from various locations around the south and south-west of England and occasionally, South Wales. R1AO then put a call through and worked a couple of stations – I was delighted to be able to catch him for a new country on the satellite. With DG0BBE and an OE6 coming through, but not worked, I was pleased to be able to work Branko 9A3ST just before the pass was over.

A really exciting satellite day and a good bit of encouragement for me to get on a bit more often – when the weather allows!

Tim Kirby, G4VXE, is a regular contributor to and writes from Oxfordshire, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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