Back to the Future

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…. I was a satellite enthusiast. In those days, we had assets in both high and low earth orbits. I lived on AO-13 for several years and you could send messages to me via KO-25. Good times. And then it all fell apart. AO-13 burned up and the Internet took the place of messaging via amateur radio — in all forms.


Most of us retreated to HF, where I’ve been ever since. Until this weekend, when I made a return to the friendly skies. I’d been planning to get back into this facet of the hobby for months. I picked up the required hardware at Dayton last week and next thing I know, I’m in the backyard with a handheld transceiver in one hand, and an Arrow antenna in the other.

Fox-1A, better known as AO-85, was streaking across the horizon when I worked Bill, W1PA in FN42 — my first amateur radio contact via satellite in over 16 years.

It felt familiar though in earlier days my shack was climate-controlled and fully automated. The computer in the shack steered the Az-El rotor on the roof as well as tuning the radio for Doppler while I simply played the role of operator. Being a human rotator and radio frequency manipulator requires dexterity and at least three hands, four is better.

Back to the future, back to space. See you on the birds!

Author: Jeff Davis


2 thoughts on “Back to the Future”

  1. I’ve always wanted to do satellites but just haven’t had luck in the past. Now I’ve got a TS-2000, ground plane UHF antenna with a copper j-pole as well. Think I’d have any success?

  2. Hi Dave. The TS-2000 is prime hardware for sat use but I think you will have better results with an antenna you can point. There are some fixed-position antennas used with some success, but before I did anything I would listen to several passes of SO-50. Depending on its elevation with regard to your position, a vertical antenna like a ground plane may be usable. Try it and see.

    One other note, hams have had a lot of success working the ISS (or via the ISS using packet) using a vertical antenna so don’t miss that opportunity!

    Finally, I’d suggest joining the AMSAT-BB mailing list where your question will attract the attention of hundreds of satellite enthusiasts, many will have experience with a setup like yours.

    Good luck and hope to see you on the birds very soon!

    73, Jeff KE9V

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