Friday, July 30, 2010

Five Steps to OSCAR Tracking

Article 2. OSCAR/VU2TQC/02/300710

Five Steps to receiving Satellite Signals (HAMSAT; VO-52)

Step 1. Note down the pass timings of VO-52 for the day , and focus on the passes having maximum elevation above 30 degrees (you may refer this blog or download satscape a free software from, ensure that your are prepare and keep yourself ready atleast 15 minutes before the start of the satellite pass.

Step 2. Store the following frequencies in your VHF Rig (read your respective operating manuals)

145.890 MHZ
145.895 MHZ
145.900 MHZ
145.905 MHZ
145.910 MHZ
145.915 MHZ

You are storing these frequencies at a gap of 5khz to adjust the Doppler effect ( shall discuss this subject separately in another posting, but this will not hamper your current goal of satellite tracking)
Note: The downlink frequency band for VO-52 is ( 145.870 MHZ to 145.930 MHZ)

Step 3. Trigger your rig to check if your antenna (any fixed antenna which you have installed for regular VHF QSO) is triggering the repeater in your area, just to ensure your antenna feed-line is connected to your rig (at times due to excitement in the entire process we may miss out the connection).

Step 4. Start your monitoring of frequencies as mentioned in step 2 from 145.915 MHZ, and keep coming down by 5khz to 145.900 MHZ (be patient here you may not copy anything till the 2 to 3 minutes from the start timing of the satellite pass).

Step 5. Note down the call signs you hear ( you will hear the QSOs as clearly as your regular line of sight VHF QSOs ; the only difference is you may not see any pixels on the bar graph of your rig).
Note: Please make sure do not transmit (uplink) on these frequencies as it would not reach any where and jam the satellite band.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Satellite communciations for the beginers


It is a common perception that tracking the satellite requires sophisticated equipment and large circularly polarised antenna arrays to work amateur satellites. While this may be true for using some of the high altitude ‘birds’ or on the higher bands such as 23cm, it isn’t the case for all satellites. There are several low Earth orbiting satellites which can be worked with relatively simple transceivers and antennas. Our focus shall be to track the LEO (Low Earth Orbit) Satellites.

But before we being lets understand some of the terminologies commonly used in Satellite communication.

OSCAR – Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio.

LEO – Low Earth Orbit ( 500km to 1500 km from earth)

Uplink Frequency- The frequencies on which you can transmit

Downlink frequency - The frequencies on which you shall receive the signal

To successfully work an amateur satellite, you need to have transceivers suitable for the satellites you wish to work. All of the FM satellites use 2m and 70cm, with one of these bands being used for the uplink, the other for the downlink. There are a wider variety of frequencies in use by linear transponder satellites.

For antennas, VHF/UHF omnidirectional antennas will work in a pinch. The typical VHF/UHF collinears typically have a low angle of radiation, and better results may be obtained with a simple ¼ wave groundplane, or for the more serious, a turnstile antenna.

Regardless of the rig you use, it has to be capable of tuning in 5 kHz or smaller steps, to enable you to follow the Doppler shift as the satellite passes overhead.

Also important to know is the amount of Doppler shift that will be present on the uplink and downlink frequency. Doppler shift is a phenomenon that all of us will recognise in a different situation. Imagine you're waiting at a railway crossing. A train passes at high speed, blowing its horn. As the train passes you, the pitch of the horn appears lower than when it was approaching. That apparent shift in frequency is Doppler shifting caused by the relative speed of the train to you shortening, then later lengthening the wavelength of the sound as seen by the observer.

As the satellite approaches, you should be listening to the downlink frequency, with the uplink ready to transmit when needed. Remember to allow for any Doppler shift (for FM, it will only be significant on 70cm – around 5-10 kHz). If the uplink is on 70cm (usually the case for HAMSAT), tune 5-10 kHz below the nominal uplink frequency (the Doppler shift will make it arrive at the satellite on the correct frequency). If the downlink is on 70cm, you’ll have to tune the 70cm receiver 5-10 kHz above the nominal frequency.

While calling, pay attention to your signal as heard on the downlink. Too much noise may indicate a need to move the uplink antenna, increase power or adjust frequency to compensate for Doppler shift. If you can’t hear the downlink at all, don’t attempt to transmit, as you may interfere with someone else. Also, keep things short while using the satellite. Only one person can use the transponder at a time and the satellite is usually only accessible for about 10 minutes. Others will appreciate your efficiency and courtesy. Most FM satellite contacts are usually an exchange of callsigns, grid position, signal reports and occasionally a comment about the weather.

IMPORTANT:- For the beginners , start copying the HAMS AT (VO-52) satellite signals through your current VHF setup.

I shall upload the steps for receiving HAMSAT signals in the next article.

Best Wishes


Friday, July 16, 2010

Ham population around the world

It is interesting to know the population of HAMs (Amateur Radio Operators) for different countries. While surfing the net for satellite CO-66 details, i came across a site which the census of HAM populations countrywise. Although the data seemed little outdated but it gives a good comparison at the scroll of the mouse. The link for the site is

Visit the site and enjoy.



Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shifting of Shack

21st January 2008 was the day when i received my amateur radio license from Wireless Planning Commission (Government of India). It has been more than two years since i came on air using my VHF rig ICOM 2200. With time added the HF equipments (IC 718 along with the antenna tuner AT-180).

My radio shack was established in the ground floor of my 2 storied house. However almost all through the year (except monsoon), my rag chewing on VHF had been happening from the open balcony on the first floor. It had been a make shift arrangement kind of operating condition. My HF communications were happening through my shack in the ground floor shack.

After initial showers we received in the month of June 2010 at Navi Mumbai (my home
QTH), when i had to rush my some of the rigs inside to protect it from rain. This was the time i firmed up my thoughts of shifting the entire radio shack to the first floor. This was easier said than done, it required convincing my wife to be allowed to shift it to the first floor room adjacent to our bedroom. Surprisingly concurrence came easily.

That was half battle won. Then came shifting the cables running from my roof tops to the first floor. A friendly help from OM VU2AF (Adolf), by lending his drill machine and drill bits.

Shifted my shack table and the rigs. Fixed a soft-board panel and fired the rigs one by one. All the signals tested, SWR under control.
It was a great feeling after the task was accomplished. During this period even HF band condition also improved. I was back on band with a bang.

Antenna Setup for the rigs are

1. VHF (2 meter) - 5/8 , mast height 15 feet.

2. Antenna for Satellite Communications

2.1 UHF - Di-pole the elements facing east west (mast height -15 ft)
2.2 UHF - double 5/8
2.3 UHF Slimjim

3. HF communications

Inverted di-pole (20 m & 40 m) (mast height- 20 ft)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Eye ball with VU2GUR

Last week of June 2010 was an interesting milestone in my satellite communication journey. I had the chance of having an eye ball with OM VU2GUR at Mumbai.

I am sure most of my HAM friends must be aware of the achievements of OM VU2GUR, from Bangalore. He has been the pioneer in Satellite communications using HAM radio in India , you can google and find out more about him. But i remember him for doing maximum satellite QSO's using simple slimjim and di-pole sets of antennas. Many times through the rubber duckies .

It was kind enough of Mr. Guru to have informed me when he arrived and took out some precious moments from his purpose of visit to Mumbai. We had fixed up our meeting at 18:30 hrs which got little delayed by an hour, due to my pre-occupation with the audit getting stretched. I rushed down the moment my morning QTH activity got over.

Like all genius, he was humble and forthcoming on all the topics of bird watch. The discussions started from the activities on satellite communication to the visit to ISRO (the Indian Space Research Organization), Bangalore, which unfortunately i could not visit (due to my morning QTH pressure).

We occupied a table in the lobby of the hotel and his lessons started. During the initial course of our discussions he could judge that i won't be able to remember all the info he was providing me. He took my diary and started scribbling from page to page. The information flowed seamlessly from the master to the disciple. I was thrilled with wonderful moments and information, there were finer aspects of transponders, inverting transponders, the difference between them, the bandwidth, SSB, SSTV, CW , in satcom, functioning of new satellite SO-67. The time flew by and i saw that the time was past 21:00 hrs, i remembered he had to attend a wedding reception. Till the time of drop to the venue we kept chatting on the subject.

It was a brilliant day for me. Promised OM Guru to have our next meeting at Bangalore in few weeks time.