The first thing you should do before trying to make a satellite contact is listen. If you haven’t tried receiving a satellite try one of the FM Fox birds as they have strong downlink signals. They can be received with an HT and a rubber duck antenna. They’re that strong. FM Fox birds are: AO-85*, AO-91 and AO-92. You should listen to satellite passes until you understand the protocol/flow of communication before trying to make a contact.
Never transmit if you can’t hear the bird. On FM birds you don’t need to call CQ. Just say your callsign and grid square. On linear/SSB birds it’s okay to call CQ as there is a whole passband to tune around on and multiple QSOs can happen at the same time and you need to be able to find people while tuning around.
Someone just asked me this:
“I have listen to a few passes of SO-50 and holy cow do they talk fast! How do you get a word in when it is happening so quickly?”
In case you run into that issue here is my answer:
“Normally you will want to use phonetics to say your callsign. That solves the rolling off the tongue problem. As far as getting a word in, try late night passes or early morning weekday passes where it’s less busy or work the sats when they’re mostly out over the ocean or unpouplated areas. Then you can practice with less people on. Other than that, listen to the callsigns and repeat them back in your head immediately. That helps me so once I want to call someone I don’t have to struggle to remember what they said. Just repeat it in your head even if you don’t know if you’ll call them.”
Tom Shuessler, N5HYP has some similar recommendations here:
* AO-85 is running at low voltage currently, possibly due to a bad battery cell. Don’t use it when it’s in eclipse (darkness). Due to this issue it may be hard to work or off frequency, but sometimes it works well despite the issue. Full info here: https://www.amsat.org/satellite-schedules/