Hamradio: Working Satellites (from Amsterdam)
I recently (and finally) bought myself an Arrow Antenna, so I am finally equipped to work satellites. So how do I do that and which ones are my (current) favorites? Glad you asked….
Amsterdam as a location comes with some limitations but also many advantages.
- It is pretty flat, so I am more worried about high buildings blocking my line of sight instead of mountains
- Far up north, at least compared to other countries like Germany. It seems like a lot of satellites orbit through the “middle” of Europe, so as long as you can point the antenna south you should be able to get them.
Currently and as a beginner I have a rather simple setup
- Anytone 578 plus
Which is also my everyday portable, it has the nice feature of bluetooth, so I am able to use a headset, which makes it easier to concentrate in louder environments. Also it supports duplex and the required CTSS tones to operate many of the Funcubes.
I must confess after a while working with it, it is maybe not the best handheld to do satellites. Pain free option is to create a channel with all frequencies, but you can not account for doppler shifts. Setting the frequencies by hand is also a challenge.
But it is a digital (DMR) radio after all, so maybe not the first choice.
- Arrow II (Model 146/437–10WBP)
The Arrow Antenna is the go-to-standard when it comes to operating satellites. Most satellites will be over 2m and 70cm FM up and downlink. The 10WBP means the Antenna is build for up to 10W (HANDHELD) and comes with a duplexer.
There is some software you don’t want to miss out on, especially like “Look4Sat”, an android app which shows the next fly over of the selected satellites as well as their azmuth and direction. So as you will need to point the antenna into the direction of the satellite, this becomes really useful. The software also shows the frequencies and modes used by the satellite. One more nice feature to have is that it is also available on F-Droid.
How to work satellites
Having some hard- and software in place, the idea of working satellites becomes rather easy. But from my first steps I can say that only the idea becomes easy. Point antenna towards the sky and say “hello hello”.
So let’s take a look at the general (AMSAT recommended ) QSO, as well as some personal notes.
- Use an app and select an upcoming satellite pass by.
- Check and estimate the general expected direction of the satellite
Yes, an app like Look4Sat will give you more details, but a pass by will last around 10min max, so you want to have a general direction.
- Have your QTH (Location) ready, mine is JO22JI for example and there are websites to help you (like https://www.egloff.eu/qralocator/).
- I prefer satellites with a CTCSS tone, simply because you get a reaction from the radio as soon as you have a connection, below I have a list of FM satellites.
Keep in mind that satellites passes are fast, so you do not want to start a conversation about the meaning of life, make it short and leave time for others to be heard and recognized
- Listen if the satellite is already busy.
- If free, give you call sign (ex. PD8JO).
- If you get a response from someone, acknowledge
(CALLSIGN YOUR_CALLSIGN QTH -> example DL1XYZ PD8JO JO22JI).
- Move on.
Satellites heard, seen and definitely on the list
The first hour after assembling the arrow antenna started out to be great. I opened Look4Sat and saw Fox 1D approaching. So I opened my window, got a good look and feel for where it should show up and simply pointed my antenna. After some wrist turns I heard some static and fired my callsign. After a second I heard it being repeated, so that’s awesome, but I lost signal right after that.
Below is a list of the FM satellites I have been able to find so far, some seem to be LSB or USB satellites actually, but some of the information online is a bit contradictive.
Name | Uplink (MHz) | Downlink (MHz) |Tone (CTCSS)
AO-91 | 435.250 | 145.960 | 67Hz
SO-50 | 145.850 | 436.795. | 67Hz
PO-101 | 437.500 | 145.900 | 141.3Hz
CAS-3H | 144.350 | 437.200
IO-86 | 145.880 | 435.880 |88.5Hz
AO-27 | 145.850 | 436.795
ISS | 145.925 | 435.600
CAS-7A | 145.950 | 435.455 CAS-7C | 145.900 | 435.690
Tevel (1-8)| 145.970 | 436.400
FOX-1A | 435.170 | 145.980 | 67Hz
FOX-1B | 435.250 | 145.960 | 67Hz
FOX-1C | 435.300 | 145.920 | 67Hz
FOX-1D | 435.350 | 145.880 | 67Hz
RADFxSat-2 | 145.860 | 435.760 | 67Hz
The FOX satellites have been pretty kind to me so far, so they are definitely my favorite.
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