Tuesday, August 24, 2010

QRP via Amateur Satellite AO-51!

Yesterday I was able to make three "QRP" contacts through the satellite AO-51, woohoo!

I used my Yaesu FT-817ND coupled to an Elk 2m/440 log periodic antenna sitting on a tripod. The radio has 5 watts maximum output, so this was definitely "QRP"! So that I could quickly correct for the doppler shift, I programmed five memories into the FT-817ND, covering the base frequencies (435.300 downlink, 145.920 uplink) plus or minus 10 kHz on the uplink and 5kHz on the downlink:

1. 435.310 rx, 145.9150 tx pl 67.0
2. 435.305 rx, 145.9175 tx pl 67.0
3. 435.300 rx, 145.9200 tx pl 67.0
4. 435.295 rx, 145.9225 tx pl 67.0
5. 435.290 rx, 145.9250 tx pl 67.0

I tried three passes total. On the first pass (6 degrees maximum elevation above the horizon, to the east) at around 3:30pm I heard nothing -- not too surprising given that I have a large hill to the east. On the second pass (57 degress max el, east) at 5:00pm, I heard quite a few stations on the satellite (yay!) but the downlink was so crowded I didn't have any luck with calling. Finally, at 6:48pm there was another pass (16 degrees max el, westerly pass). I was hoping that the position of AO51 out over the ocean would reduce the number of users quite a bit. Also, to improve my chances, I set up in an area with a clear view to the west -- operating "portable" in the back of the truck. As soon as AO51 came across the horizon I could hear it well, and right away was able to make three contacts -- KA6SIP in CM97, NN6T in DM25, W7IN in DN27 -- yay!! I heard KL7XJ in BP40 as the satellite continued towards Alaska, but wasn't able to make contact. Signals on the downlink didn't get much above S1 or S2 at peak, but it was easily possible to communicate over the satellite with S0 signals.

Overall, this first set of sat contacts was a lot of fun! I had worked satellites back in Oklahoma in the mid-90's, and it's nice to get back into this mode.

Monday, August 9, 2010

QRP UHF From Mt. Lassen

For the ARRL August UHF contest, I took the FT-817ND and an ELK 2M/440L5 antenna to the very top of Mt. Lassen. Parking at the Summit Trailhead at 2pm, it took just over 2 hours to hike the 2 miles and 2000 feet up to the summit. Weather was cool (60F) but no clounds and chance of precipitation. The overall summit of Lassen is very exposed and was extremely windy, with views in almost 360 degrees. The true summit is a small cluster of rocks about 200' high, on the north section of the summit area. I was able to find a space shielded from the wind to set the equipment up; it was nice to be out of the wind! In my backpack I had the FT-817ND, spare AA batteries (2500 mAH), the ELK antenna, a lightweight photographic tripod, 6' of RG-58C cable, the logbook, compass, water, food, and importantly WARM clothing. It took about 10 minutes to set up, and right away I heard a few stations calling CQ Contest on 432.100. I was able to work all of the stations that I could hear using either 5 or 2.5 watts (yay for QRP!).

I made around 9 QSOs from the summit, with signal reports ranging from S1 to S7; grids were CM88, CM87, CM98, CM97, and DM09. The 70cm and 2m beacons from KJ6KO in CM88ws were coming in S9+. After 2 hours at the summit it was time to head back down, and was down just a bit after sunset. Fun! Overall, if the weather cooperates, the summit of Lassen was a great place to operate radio from!!