Newbie Needs Advice

Discussion in 'Satellite and Space Communications' started by K5XS, Jun 14, 2021.

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  1. K5XS

    K5XS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Been a ham forever, and have never worked a satellite. I'm ready to get into it, but find the options very broad.

    I'm not one to get engaged in something and then drop it, so I'm not particularly interested in "Dip your toe in it before you commit to it." I'd like to go in with a reasonable commitment and not just dabble in it.

    I've considered the FM/hand-held/Arrow approach, but the notion of hand-pointing and hand-holding the antenna isn't appealing. At the same time, I'm not inclined to FULLY commit with elevation/azimuth rotators and, pointing software and two Yagis.

    I have a TS-2000 I can commit to satellite operations, and am considering getting a 432 MHz and 145 MHz eggbeater antennas. I have a pretty good view of the sky.

    I've read the AMSAT primers/tutorials, but I'm left uncertain of what to do to get started.

    So my questions are:

    - Is the TS-2000 adequate to have some fun?

    - What mode should I plan on? Does that pair of egg beaters give me access to enough satellites on the right modes to have fun?

    - Should I get a mast-mounted 432 MHz pre-amp at the outset?

    What pitfalls should I beware of?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. KC3RN

    KC3RN Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm a relative newbie myself. I started on the satellites in June of 2020, so it's been just about a year. I'm currently using a Kenwood TH-D72 HT and an Arrow antenna. It's actually not as hard as you might think, and it forces me to spend some time outside of my shack. I started out using 2 HT's, but that grew tiresome pretty quickly, so I bought the D74 (about 4 weeks before Kenwood discontinued it...). I'm having a lot of fun with that rig.

    I would recommend you start out on the FM satellites - AO-27, RS-50, PO-101, and AO-91 (daylight passes only on this one). The TS-2000 is perfectly capable of working the linear sats (SSB/CW), but correcting for Doppler shift during a pass is not for the faint of heart. Like I said, you should try to work AO-91 during daylight passes only, because it has battery issues. AO-92 was a fun satellite, but unfortunately it died a few months ago.

    From what I've read, the eggbeater antennas are at best, a compromise. They work fine for high passes (45 degrees or more), but what you'll find is most passes are closer to the horizon than that, so those antennas might leave you disappointed. Yes, they are convenient, but not always the best choice. Maybe someone with more experience can comment.

    You'll need good tracking software so you can find the satellites. There are a number out there. I use the satellite tracking program that's part of Ham Radio Deluxe on my shack computer. It's okay for planning purposes. However, I really like ISS Detector on my phone. It's available for both Android and iOS. It allows you to track azimuth and elevation during a pass. That's very helpful with a handheld antenna. The basic program is free, but if you want the amateur satellite data it will cost you a couple of dollars. I think it's still $1.99.

    Since you already have the radio, I would check out some pass predictions to see what you can hear. You can use your current antenna system on a decent pass - something higher than 30 degrees should come in pretty well. That will also give you the feel for how QSOs work during a pass.

    Good luck. I hope to hear you soon.
    K3RW likes this.
  3. W5WTH

    W5WTH Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have found Patrick’s YouTube channel to be a good source of demos, equipment, procedures, etc.

    GL es hope to see you on the birds!
    WE4B likes this.
  4. N4UFO

    N4UFO Ham Member QRZ Page

    If you don't want to do handheld and AZ/EL is a big commitment to start (I didn't either), I would consider some small yagis tilted at 15-20 degrees on an Azimuth only rotator (like a simple TV rotor) before I would recommend eggbeaters. Doesn't have to be fancy antennas, could be what I did... copper wire and PVC. What would help most beyond this is a proper UHF preamp which would still be usable if you moved on to a full AZ-EL setup later.

    sat antenna.JPG

    The plans I used were WA5VJB's Cheap yagis (amsat version) to make a 7 element UHF yagi and then I made the VHF part of a IOio antenna, but a 3 element 2m cheap yagi would work just as well.

    And why do I suggest this over the eggbeaters? Because IMHO the eggbeaters hear equally poorly in all directions. I have heard and NOT worked many frustrated ops using eggbeaters. With a low angle yagi (not too much gain) you will be able to hear/work most of a satellite pass... the only thing you miss is the short part where the sat is over about 40 degrees. But consider that a satellite does not get that high on ever pass and when it does it is moving it's fastest relative to your position. So you miss out on a minute or two of a pass... the period when doppler is changing the fastest and you are most likely turning the rotator around 180 degrees anyway.

    As always, your mileage may vary and no warranties implied or expressed... and in the end, it is supposed to be fun, so do whichever you feel you will enjoy.

    THAT said... the holding an antenna and pointing, especially from a rare gird can be a LOT of fun! Ask me why I think that:

    73, Kevin N4UFO
    KR4EE and KE4AL like this.
  5. N4DJC

    N4DJC Ham Member QRZ Page


    I see you already have several towers, is there a 2/70 beam already up?
  6. K5XS

    K5XS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for all of the responses.

    As to “is there a 2/70 beam already up?”…

    There is a very directional 11-element cross polarized 2m beam. (I use an omni-directional collinear for 440. Nothing for 432.)
  7. KH6IDF

    KH6IDF Ham Member QRZ Page

    I only occasionally work satellites, but recently I made a contact via the ISS repeater using a handheld (Yaesu FT60R) and an arrow antenna on a tripod. I also tried out of curiosity just using my Comet GP-1 dual band vertical during a pass from inside the house with my Yaesu FT-817ND. With the vertical, I could hear stations during a good (almost 90 degree elevation) pass, but didn't make any contacts. And of course during the middle of the pass the vertical was at a disadvantage as ISS was nearly straight up viewing the antenna end on.

    I was considering making some cheap eggbeaters for 2m and 70cm, which would be better than the vertical, but it sounds like my best bet is just to take the arrow antenna outside.
  8. KS1G

    KS1G Ham Member QRZ Page

    TS2000 is an excellent satellite radio with one caveat - it has a birdie on 70cm that clobbers portions of the SO-50 and AO-27 downlink. Use another radio (mobile, HT, SDR) for RX or pick up a cheap 70cm-10M converter from one of the Ukranian ebay sellers. 2 caveats if portable - kinda heavy and power hungry.

    Antennas - there are plenty of ways to mount an Arrow or Elk on a camera tripod or speaker stand - check around here and a general web search. If you want rotator control and have an azimuth rotator available, mount antennas with a slight elevation built in (15 deg-ish) will work fine. You don't need a huge amount of gain, as people are setting distance records with Arrows; a quiet location and ability to quickly match antenna polarization with the satellite is more important than raw gain.

    You could try several of the low-orbit U/V birds with the vertical for uplink and yagi for downlink. I would not try the reverse, you want some gain on the downlinks. And be careful about running lots of power, it's usually not necessary. Test with what you have first to decide if that's do-able. That yagi even aimed at horizon may work really well on low elevation passes. Directivity may be your greater challenge. I think it would work great on CAS4A and B, the XW birds, and PO-101 (when it's on) or AO91 (daytime only!). Preamps - I have 50ft of LMR400 to a cp yagi (M2 LeoPack) and need the preamp on 70cm. Toss up on 2M, it amplifies the local noise as well as the sat signals!

    Good luck! 73 Steve KS1G
    K4BAD, KC3RN, WD9EWK and 1 other person like this.
  9. KC3RN

    KC3RN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Okay, you piqued my interest. Tell us more about mounting the Arrow on a speaker stand. I have 2 in my garage unused at the moment...
  10. W5SAT

    W5SAT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I still have my TS-2000 and found it to be a great radio for satellite work. I used mine under computer control using SatPC32 software (free unlimited time demo). You will just need to connect up to the serial port.

    Yes, that birdie kind of sucks. But it only affects a small portion of available satellites.

    Eggbeaters... I don't have any personal experience with them but looking at where you live it's pretty rural and maybe with a low ambient noise floor they will work OK for you. On the other hand, that's a LOT of money to spend if they prove unsatisfactory.... Maybe pre-amps will make them more usable? On the other hand a full on M2 LEO pack, rotator and computer control will cost you over $1600 before cost of coax.

    Perhaps a TV rotator with Elk or Arrow mounted on it as cheap and easy start?

    Or a TV Rotator with M2 LEO pack as a better start. Then you could upgrade to G5500 rotator and computer control down the road if you feel it is worth while.

    I will be in a similar situation myself soon - repurposing my TS-2000 to my mountain cabin and will need to figure out an antenna solution.
    K4BAD likes this.

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