Tag Archives: Field Day

A Portable Satellite Station Part 1 – A Simple Station for AO-85

Our club has quite a few members who are interested in space communications. We decided to build a simple portable satellite station last year for our 2016 Field Day operation to learn about satellite communications and to create something new for folks to work with during 2016 Field Day.

Simple Portable Satellite Station
Simple Portable Satellite Station

Our 1.0 Portable Satellite Station was a relatively simple setup built around an HT, an Elk 2m/70cm satellite antenna, and some gear to improve the receive performance and transmit power output of the HT. All of the gear was mounted on a board to make it easy to transport and it is powered from a LIPO rechargeable battery. The gear in our 1.0 station is made up of the following:

Improved Satellite Antenna Support
Improved Satellite Antenna Support

Our first contacts with our 1.0 station were made using the Elk Antenna hand-held. Later, we created a “plumber’s special” setup with a camera tripod to make pointing the antenna easier. Note the angle meter from a local hardware store which measures the elevation angle of the antenna.

AO-85 (Fox-1A) U/V Mode FM Cube Satellite
AO-85 (Fox-1A) U/V Mode FM Cube Satellite

This setup worked great for making FM contacts through AO-85 (Fox-1A), a  U/V mode FM EasySat. We used the 1.0 station on multiple occasions including Field Day 2016 and several of our club members used it to make their first satellite contacts. The Full-Duplex HT allowed us to hear our own signal coming back from the satellite which was an important tool to help with aiming the antenna properly. The ELK Dual-Band antenna is also a good choice because it uses a single feed point and a single polarization for both the 2m and 70cm bands.

1.0 Station Team Operating Approach
1.0 Station Team Operating Approach

We used the team operating approach outlined above. This worked especially well for new folks who had not made a satellite contact before as it enabled each of the three team members involved in making the contact to focus on a specific part of the contact. We used orange plastic tent stakes to make AOS, Time of Closest Approach, and EOS to mark headings for each satellite pass. Small flashlights used at the stakes made them glow for night-time passes.

We certainly had a lot of fun with our 1.0 Satellite Station and I expect that we’ll continue to use it. As we gained a little experience with AO-85, we decided that we wanted to build a more capable Portable Satellite Station which we could use to operate with linear transponder satellites and which included a tracking system and better antennas. I know from experience with our home satellite station that DX contacts are possible using higher altitude linear transponder satellites like FO-29.

We would also like to be able to use APRS and other digital modes through satellites as well as receive SSTV pictures from space.

These goals have become the basis for building our Portable Satellite Station 2.0. More on the new station in Part 2 of this series.

73,

Fred (AB1OC)

Our Club Moving Forward Into 2017

Our club has accomplished a great deal in the last year. We have grown to over 130 members. We have introduced many new people to Amateur Radio, helped them to earn their Licenses and worked with them to  get on the air and develop their knowledge and operating skills. We’ve also worked hard to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about Amateur Radio for members of our club and for the Amateur Radio community which we are a part of.

Much of the credit for our club’s success this past year belongs to you, our members. We very much appreciate all that you have done to contribute to our success and the fun that we have all had as part of what we have done together. Your enthusiasm and support provides great encouragement and inspiration to the many new members who have joined us as well as to all of us who are part of our club’s Leadership Team.

We, as your club’s Executive Committee, have been working on a set of goals and plans to continue on this path during 2017 – to provide even better opportunities for our members to learn more about and to enjoy Amateur Radio, to continue to encourage people to join the Amateur Radio Service, and to provide opportunities for STEM learning for young people.

Our goals and focus for 2017 centers around continued success in and focus on the following areas to benefit both our members and our community as a whole:

To do these things and to be successful as a growing club, we are also pursuing status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit. This will enable our club to more effectively secure support from other groups to further our work towards these goals.

Each of us has taken ownership for creating a focus on meeting different aspects of our goals for this year. We are planning to share more about our plans for 2017 at our February Club Meeting.

We are asking that each of you, as members, to consider how you can get the most from all of these and the other opportunities that our club provides. We are working hard to try to create something for everyone that can provide enjoyable opportunities to have fun, to contribute, and to expand the value that we all create and derive by being part of the Amateur Radio Service. We are also asking each of you, our members, to consider helping us with these initiatives in 2017.

  • Jamey Finchum, KC1ENX – Membership Chairman
  • Anita Kemmerer, AB1QB – Activities Chairman
  • Brian Smigielski, AB1ZO – Programs Chairman
  • Mike Ryan, K1WVO – Interim Secretary
  • Wayne Wagner, AG1A – Treasurer
  • Greg Fuller, W1TEN – Vice President
  • Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC – President

Time to Prepare for Field Day 2017

On Christmas morning, it always amazes me how the kids can rip the packaging off all their gifts in mere minutes.  The smile on their faces and their pure joy and excitement makes it all worthwhile.  What took months of planning, shopping, hiding, wrapping is over before you know it.  As they say, you get much more out of giving than receiving.

As you might imagine, there is a parallel here to field day.   Sure, you could just show up at field day on Saturday morning, and everything would be setup and ready to go.  However, much of the value comes from all the strategy, planning, preparation and setup activities.  Despite the large investment the club has made in towers, antennas, generator, etc., It takes a small army of volunteers to get this right.

This is my first year as field day chairman.  Truth be told, I only attended my first Nashua Area RC field day last June, and was truly impressed.  I was reluctant to volunteer last year, as I just didn’t quite know what I would be getting into.  I suspect many of you are feeling the same way this year.  Whatever the excuse; I haven’t been a ham long enough, don’t know if I can devote the time, I don’t know anything about field day, etc.  Trust me, you can and will add value to this event.  Like uncle Sam used we say, we need you!

Now that it’s the new year, we are going to start having a regular series of meetings to plan for Field Day 2017.   The first meeting will be centered around what we learned from field day last year.  I’m looking for some early ideas about new things we can do to make field day more interesting and relevant for each of you.  Please feel free to contact me at fd@n1fd.org anytime with your ideas.

Some of the preliminary feedback I have received is tactical in nature.  It includes the following:

Current N1FD electrical distribution setup.
  1. The Electrical distribution system needs help. The current system consists of a Honda ES-6500 Generator with 240v distribution lines to step-down transformers at the tents.  The main distribution panel needs to be completely rebuilt and reduced in size.  Additionally, the whole setup isn’t currently weatherproof.  The existing distribution “cables” are single-conductor THHN wires taped together which certainly isn’t optimal.  Ideally, we should start with a clean sheet of paper and rebuild this properly.  Perhaps a small transfer switch so we can run two generators (so one can be serviced while still operating), with twist-lock plugs on the distribution cables and transformers, and proper SJOOW cable.  This effort alone would exceed the club budget for field day, so we could use donations of time and materials.
  2. The club owns a significant amount of coax cable. However, much of it is quite old and the connectors have seen better days.  I will look to schedule a tech night to put on new connectors and weatherproof using head-shrink with adhesive-lined backing.  We also need to make-up some short patch cables to connect to the club’s bandpass filters.  We should also label all club cable with the club call.  Finally, we need to determine the best strategy to coil and store the coax without kinks.
  3. The iron anchor stakes for the towers need to be modified to have a sharp point at one end. Someone with a grinder could do this in relatively short order.  We could also benefit from having a large hammer drill on-site with a ground rod bit to drive them in.
  4. We need to review the hardware and storage containers used to assemble the towers. There was a recommendation to use shoulder bolts that are smooth and unthreaded through the tower to prevent crushing. Also, many of the storage containers are cracked and need replacement.  Need to inventory and rebuild these kits.
  5. We have a trailer, affectionately referred to as BOB (the Big Orange Box) at the Nashua Wastewater Treatment Center. I understand this could use some re-organization.  We need mount some brackets to the wall to get things up off the floor.  Also, we should group each of the tower kits together.

So what should you expect from me?  I will be looking to divide the work up into a series of teams, and assign leads for each.  The teams will include a site readiness team, electrical, tower and antenna construction, safety, transportation, food, and potentially others. Many hands makes light work, and there’s something here for everyone.

The preparation begins now.  Who said it can’t be Christmas in June?  Let the excitement begin!

Dave, K1DLM

Nashua Area Radio Club – 2016 Year In Review

Our club has had quite a year in 2016. We initiated many new activities and our members learned some new skills. Most importantly, we contributed a great deal to the Amateur Radio Service through license classes and other educational and outreach activities.

Highlights From Nashua Area Radio Club’s 2016 Activities 

We made a video as a sort of memory book about our club’s activities and accomplishments in 2016. We hope that you enjoy it!

Fred, AB1OC