Satellite Setup Tips

Somebody asked me the following:

I just got my hands on a really nice sat antenna, an arrow 146/437-10WBP. I also have a Yaesu Vx8-DR. What else would you recommend to help me in the field?

Here are some things to consider:

A real compass not the compass on your phone
One of the mistakes I made when I first got back into satellites was looking up the predicted direction where the sat was coming from and just using Google Sky’s compass on my phone to figure out where to point my antenna.

Later I found much more accuracy by looking up the specific degrees the satellite was coming from (azimuth) and using an actual compass to find the exact direction. Then I looked for an object in that direction in the distance and marked it in my mind. I did this for the beginning of the pass (AOS), the middle of the pass, or max elevation (TCA), and the end of the pass, (LOS). (AOS/TCA/LOS definitions)

Don’t forget to lookup your local difference between magnetic north and actual north so you can calibrate your compass properly. Mine is -8 degrees here in North Carolina on the east coast of the United States.

Something you can record the audio of the pass with
This is almost a necessity because QSOs happen very fast on a satellite and while holding the antenna you won’t have time to log contacts by hand. This could be as simple as an app on your smart phone or a standalone voice recorder or audio recorder. I use an Olympus WS-822 voice recorder. If you hook the recorder directly into the audio out of the radio you may need an audio splitter so you can record and listen to the audio at the same time.

A camera bag
With a camera bag you can put your radio, audio recorder or anything else you need and hang it around your neck. That way your hands are free to hold the antenna and hand mic…

A hand mic or a headset, or at least some headphones
At the very least get some headphones so you can hear the audio well. It will help when aiming the antenna. You can hear the noise go down as the satellite first comes over the horizon, and throughout the pass you can easily hear any crackle or static, indicating you need to adjust the antenna. I use a handmic and headphones but some people prefer a headset. Use whatever you’re comfortable with.

It should be noted I don’t mount my antenna on a tripod. If I did the setup would probably be very different and some of these recommendations wouldn’t be relevant. Some people prefer to hold the antenna and some prefer to mount it on something. Neither is right or wrong. Use what works for you.

Antenna Tips

I use the commercial Arrow II Satellite antenna. I have both the standard boom version with no duplexer and the backpacker version with a split boom and a duplexer that feeds into an SMA connector. You can get one that feeds into a BNC connector as well.

As far as whether or not to get the Arrow with a duplexer, the best setup is whatever setup provides you with full duplex capability. If you only have one HT chances are it isn’t full duplex.

The only currently in production HT that is truly full duplex is the Kenwood TH-D72. When you transmit on 2m it won’t desense on 70cm. This is important for SO-50 which is 2m up and 70cm down. There are several older radios that are truly full duplex, for example the Yaesu FT-530 is one.

If you only have one radio and can’t afford another then get the Arrow with the duplexer.

If you don’t have the Kenwood TH-D72 or one of the older full duplex HTs and you can afford to buy another HT then get one  plus two coax cables to connect them to the Arrow and skip buying the duplexer from Arrow. With two radios you should be able to operate full duplex without desense.

All of these choices are available at the following link. The standard one is listed as 146/437-10 for $83 and the backpacker one with split boom and duplexer is listed as 146/437-10WBP for $149. For what it’s worth, I actually purchased the backpacker and the duplexer separately, which you can do too. The duplexer alone is available here.

http://arrowantennas.com/arrowii/146-437.html

 

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