In June 2014 I posted about my “top picks,” satellites to work. Since the landscape has changed slightly, I decided to create a new post for 2016.
My recommendations for satellites during Field Day 2016:
1. FO-29 – Has the largest passband 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. If you are running an amplifier, you should probably be taken out back and beaten with a rubber hose.
2. Chinese XW-2 linear satellites: XW-2A, XW-2C, XW-2F. If you can’t hear them, you should probably give up satellites permanently. Because they are mode B (U/V) birds, they are easy to hear and should work even on mediocre antennas with bad coax. However, because they are mode B that means adjusting for Doppler is more challenging for some people. Remember, tune the higher band (in this case, the UPLINK – 70cm.)
3. AO-73 – Easy to hear as the XW-2’s. Can be difficult to adjust for Doppler for those who are new. Normally just active when transponder is in darkness. It should be in transponder mode even in full sun, but very likely will be put there by AMSAT-UK by Friday night. A solid bird. Don’t try using computer control.
4. UKube-1 – Recently active, we don’t know if it will be in transponder mode during Field Day, but you should give it a try if you’ve made it this far. It is comparable to the XW-2’s and AO-73 but with a quirk: When the primary beacon comes on, everyone is basically shut out of the satellite for a brief period. Expect this 2-3 times during a pass. Another easy one to hear and also avoid computer control.
5. AO-85 – FM, likely a zoo. This will be your best bet for an FM contact. I’d try a descending pass (coming from North to South.) Don’t expect to use an HT and Arrow, but it could work. It should be easy to hear with an Arrow, but hard to get in with 5 watts.
6. 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. The old bird is especially weak right now and has been known to shift modes unexpectedly due to QRO stations. My advice: avoid unless you really know what you’re doing or you have plenty of time to play and be shut-out.
7. 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. If you do work SO-50, please make one contact and then remain silent. Even if others call you, you’ve made your one QSO. Let someone else have their turn.
8. AO-51 – FM. If this satellite is still on your Field Day list, you are a moron and should surrender your license, throw your radios in the garbage, and probably give up driving automobiles, too.
PS: Don’t rule out the ISS (packet) and NO-84 (PSK31 transponder.) This blog post focuses on voice.
I have no bias against FM transponders. In fact, I love them. I just think they are a poor choice for Field Day. If it’s all you have, good luck to you. Try AO-85 and possible SO-50. We will be lucky if LilacSat-2 is turned on for us.
Finally, don’t be a turd and run QRO CW on a bird.
If you need to send more than a few dits to find yourself, slow down and look at everything. Chances are, you’re doing something wrong!!!