My Satellite Picks for Field Day 2014

Every year, many hams venture out to their Field Day sites hoping to make the 100 point bonus for a making a satellite contact.

Every year, many hams are disappointed when they cannot make the 100 point bonus for making a satellite contact.

Normally the latter is a result of poor planning.  Poor execution and lack of skill are often contributing factors but this blog post is aimed at addressing the issue poor (or non-existent) planning.

Choosing the right Satellites for Field Day:

1. FO-29 – Has the largest pass band and large footprint.  Doppler easy to manage.   Don’t go overboard with big yagis.  An Arrow is sufficient for Field Day.  FO-29 should be easily heard with 3-7 elements on UHF.  Good coax and a preamp make it even better.

2. VO-52 – Easiest to hear.  May be difficult for people to work who aren’t familiar with tuning their uplink.

3. AO-73 – Equally easy to hear as VO-52.  Can be difficult to adjust for Doppler for those who are new.  May not be in transponder mode, but likely will be put there by AMSAT-UK on Friday night.

4. AO-7 – Easily forced into Mode A during eclipse cycle by Alligators.  Difficult to use when there are several high-powered stations using CW or SSB.  Generally, I’d only recommend this one on very late night passes.

5. SO-50 – FM. Say no more.  I’d recommend it only for middle-of-the-night (graveyard shift) attempts.  During the day it will likely be a zoo.  Don’t bother even trying to make a contact if you are not actually participating in Field Day. Give the other suckers a chance.  And please, don’t call CQ.

6. AO-51 – FM.  If this satellite is on your Field Day list, you are a moron and should surrender your license.

7. AO-27 – FM.  Since AO-51 won’t work for you, maybe you will try AO-27.  Not only should you forfeit your license, future generations in your family should be barred from every obtaining a license.

It is important to pick the right satellites for optimal Field Day success.

Some tips:

  1. Generate your list of satellite passes well in advance of Field Day, at least a week.
  2. Ensure your Keplerian orbital elements, time, and location data used to generate the list of satellite passes is accurate.
  3. Do not bet the farm on making an FM contact for your 100 points.  I have personally witnessed many failed attempts.
  4. Pick a good place for the Field Day satellite station.  Realize that some Field Day sites may not accommodate satellite contacts due to local RF noise and structure or terrain the blocks the horizon.
  5. Focus.  Don’t turn your satellite contact attempts into a demonstration.  Often this gets people flustered, unable to focus, and opens us up to making rookie mistakes.  If you want to do a satellite demonstration, wait until you’ve gotten your bonus points.  OR demonstrate listening to telemetry.

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