2m SSB, which radios?

Discussion in 'Satellite and Space Communications' started by KD0KZE, Sep 14, 2012.

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  1. KD0KZE

    KD0KZE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm quite new to satellites, and unfortunately see a lot of good passes of AO-27 and SO-50 while I'm cloistered at work. Just need to be more patient. I note that some of the other satellites that pass overhead (http://www.amsat.org/amsat-new/satellites/status.php) use modes that I'm currently not able to work, for example 2m/70cm SSB for beacons, etc.

    What are some affordable, portable and versatile radios well-suited for a variety satellite communications?
  2. W5PFG

    W5PFG Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Right off the bat, there are very few full-duplex 2m/70cm SSB radios available NEW. The Kenwood TS-2000 and Icom IC-9100 are the only two that come to mind.

    Used market there is a wide range of full-duplex 2m/70cm SSB radios at an even wider range of prices. Yaesu FT-847, Icom IC-820h, Icom IC-821, Icom IC-910h, Yaesu FT-736R, Yaesu FT-726. Sometimes these radios are outrageously priced and sometimes you'll find them in a reasonable range for their age.

    A lot of people use two radios for SSB full-duplex. It works great. I have an Icom IC-910 for home/portable, but most of the time on the road/car I use a Yaesu FT-817 for receive (downlink) and an older Yaesu FT-100 for transmit (uplink.) You can find a wide range of 2m/70cm single-band radios on the used market. A popular combination is to use two Yaesu FT-817's or an FT-817D and an FT-857D. You can really dig around and find some old single-band radios such as Yaesu FT-290/790R's cheap.
  3. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    I still use my 25 year-old Yaesu FT-736R for this. It is full duplex for sat work, and the TX can track the RX automatically like a good sat rig should do.

    Never had a single problem with it in 25 years. They were sold (on the market) for a long time and aren't rare.
  4. KQ0EA

    KQ0EA Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The Icom 820's and 821's have a reputation for being quirky and not very 'user friendly' for satellite work.

    The Yaesu FT-726 requires a satellite module to be full-duplex, and the module is rather hard to find.

    Ft-847's work perfectly, and can be had for $800~$1200 on eBay, depending on condition and options/accessories.

    Kenwood TS-790's also work very nicely. I have both a TS-790, and an FT-847, and I prefer the '847 for satellite work.

    What's your budget? As with most things these days, that's the driving factor for a lot of people.

  5. KO4MA

    KO4MA Ham Member QRZ Page

    Heh. Ya know, I have a 847 AND a 726 right now, and much prefer my past 821s and current 910.

    I guess the important thing is, any radio is better than no radio. If portable is high on your list, an 857 and 817 combo, or two 817s is hard to beat.
  6. W5PFG

    W5PFG Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    726 & 736's seem to be selling far over what a radio of those ages should be, in my opinion. A relative of mine has restored and repaired several 736's and sold them at a real premium.

    I'm looking at picking up an IC-821 from a local right now. He bought it for AO-40 and never used it for anything but local repeaters. If I can get him to the right price, I will consider mounting it in the car.
  7. KD0KZE

    KD0KZE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Not sure how much I want to drop into another radio for some rarer modes I'll likely not use very often. Main rig now is a Kenwood TS-590 (no VHF/UHF), but I've done a couple passes of satellite work with the humble Yaesu FT-60R HT. It handles split frequency okay, I guess, when run with the duplexer on the Arrow II. Ideally, I'd like a radio capable of 2m SSB that comes in an HT for portable/outdoor operations. Maybe it's not terribly worth the effort.

    I see the Yaesu FT-817ND appears to offer 2m, and SSB. Price point is still a bit high for my comfort levels, but maybe that would be a decent rig for portable satellite QRP work on a reasonable variety of modes?
  8. W5PFG

    W5PFG Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just for clarification: 2m SSB is not all you need. You will need 70cm SSB for the mode B/mode J satellites. Mode B are 70cm uplinks and 2m downlinks (VO-52, AO-7.) Mode J are 2m uplinks and 70cm downlinks (AO-27, SO-50, FO-29.)

    The FT-817 by itself is capable of working all current satellites but limited to half-duplex. This poses a major handicap on certain satellites, more so on SSB but FM as well. I would not recommend it by itself, only paired with another radio. Experience can make up for the handicap but you'll always be drifting across the satellite passband with no good way to know if you're moving into someone else' QSO.

    Now here's a thought... Since you have an FT-60R, you could look for a good used FT-817. It would give you a second radio to use as a receiver or transmitter, upgrading your station to full duplex. Now you would have a gateway into the SSB birds by allowing you to listen to them. It would give you a portable/QRP radio for the HF bands as an added bonus. Used FT-817's go anywhere from $350-450 from what I've seen. A lot of people try to bundle all kinds of accessories, selling theirs more than the cost of a new one, but I avoid such deals.

    If you want to upgrade your current FM satellite station to full duplex inexpensively, grab a UV-3R or equivalent Chinese HT for $50-60.
  9. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    There's a lot more to 2m SSB than satellites.

    I worked the very first pass of OSCAR-VI almost 40 years ago and have made thousands of sat contacts over the years following, but lost interest a long time ago when it simply became "too easy." I guess kind of like why some like sailboats over power boats. A sailboat is a challenge requiring some training and skill, and a powerboat is more like a car on the water that can't stop as fast. I lost interest in power boats also and sold my last one almost 20 years ago.

    Serious 2m SSB ops use big antennas and search for very weak signals that most can't hear, pushing the envelope all the time. Those who can't install adequate antennas at home often build excellent portable stations and go operate from advantageous locations like mountaintops, beaches or whatever you have. It's serious fun but does take some dedication.
  10. KD0KZE

    KD0KZE Ham Member QRZ Page

    I worked AO-27 this afternoon's pass around 2:25 pm central time (anyone have 9/16/2012 recordings?). I don't have full duplex on my setup, so I don't know exactly when I'm getting through, or whose toes I'm stepping on. I hope to rectify this in the near future.

    My two sons weren't even interested enough to watch -- they were glued to videogames. But if I've converted things correctly, AO-27 isn't even 1 foot square, going almost 17,000 mph, and was at least 400 miles away up in space. That's pretty amazing, even if it's relatively easy to work. My main challenge was the number of hams on it, and trying to write down the calls while I'm simultaneously working the radio and manipulating the antenna. I've failed in a sense, it's not a proper QSO unless you get at least good copy of the callsign. I'll be ordering a digital audio recorder in the near future.

    Still, this really is a lot of fun. Once I get better at this I'll attempt the ISS. Perhaps next year. Then eventually EME moonbounce with JT-65. If I get bored at that point, I'll have to get involved in Project Argus (SETI) or something alot further away... :)
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