W5PFG’s Observations and Recommendations on antennas for SO-50

Antenna Opinion Recommendation
Stock Duck Worst Useful in a pinch; good to show signals from space *can* be heard. Able to make contact on some passes with right elevation and few users.
Improved Whip Bad A little better. Still exhibits behavior of an omni. Definite handicap for SO-50! Wouldn’t recommend anyone buy one specifically for satellite use.
Eggbeater OK Costly solution; especially poor on SO-50. Poor economics. Preamp would be a necessity. (slightly different performance story for SSB transponders)
Groundplane OK Much better economically than Eggbeater; poor reception on SO-50 for most passes. Preamp would be a necessity. If you had one, it’s worth trying but still I wouldn’t buy one for satellite use.
2m Tape measure beam Marginal Economical & novelty value high. Can be used on a good elevation pass. No wind! Lack of attention to detail during construction can lead to very poor performance easily. I would not recommend someone make this their primary satellite antenna.
Elk ** Good Not the best on SO-50 from my experience but better than any of the above. Works better for using as a 2m uplink on SO-50 than reception on 70cm. Portability and ruggedness make value high.
Arrow ** Better Solid copy of SO-50 from AOS to LOS in good environments. Slight improvement over Elk for SO-50 on 70cm reception. As with Elk, portability and ruggedness make value high.
Homebrew yagis cut to proper frequency Best Hard to beat an antenna that is resonant at the frequencies you are using. TheWA5VJB Cheap and Easy antennas for the AMSAT LEO‘s is probably the simplest design and can be built for not much more money than a tape measure beam.
Commercial linear yagis Best You don’t need expensive circular polarity or large element yagis to achieve great results. A 3 element VHF and 4-7 element UHF work well. (think Arrow or Elk)

The table above is based on my observations and not those of any lab or antenna shoot-outs. It is imperfect as am I. If you want I can give you a rough idea how many contacts I have made with each of the above solutions for comparison. I didn’t just try these once and give up. Out of thousands of contacts I can give you a very good idea how many were made with each of the above. Obviously the poorer performers I used less and less since it was apparent they weren’t going to make the grade.

(and remember this is MY observations on SO-50 ONLY — the performance on other sats is most definitely different.)

** Arrow & Elk are both good antennas. I believe Arrow performs slightly better on SO-50. Open for debate as is your favorite light beer, truck manufacturer, or football team.

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