Sunday, August 29, 2021
Saturday, July 24, 2021
I joined the club and now I monitor that repeater frequently.
I don’t remember how we connected on social media, it doesn’t matter. I was doing APRS through the ISS and having fun with that but the ISS changed modes to crossband repeater voice. Rick suggested a full duplex radio for that, I didn’t have one. He suggested the TH-D72, I found a used one and purchased it. I already had a Kenwood radio and sort of knew the file architecture yet I knew Rick probably used software to program his. I promised myself not to program by software yet, I wanted to learn how to set the menu options by hand.
“Hey Rick, do you think you could upload a good batch of memory into my D72?” “Sure Adam, lets meet…” and after a couple of weeks, we meet at the library.
I was given a pretty thorough tutorial on satellite communications, tips that really helped and just a couple of weeks later, I found myself on vacation at the beach. I brought a book and my hand held antenna as well as my D74. I tried a couple of satellite passes but was meet with a big pile up of hams making QSO’s. I made a social media post of how frustrated I was but was not going to let it beat me. Rick read the post and I got a private message from him.
“There is a pass in a couple of hours, you want to try?” “Sure Rick, I’ll give it a shot.” Now mind you, I am in Imperial Beach (San Diego) and Rick is in Glendale (Phoenix) but the satellite we were going for was 400 miles up and moving at 17,000 mph. It was at a good angle for me but a not so good angle for Rick.
The time came and I used my cheat sheet and called CQ. The pass moved pretty quick but Rick called out my call sign and grid, “Adam, you are in the books.”
Another first for Rick and I.
A week later, I found myself at the ARRL Field Day in Flagstaff. Rick had invited me to Jack Lunsford’s home. I didn’t realize Rick was the Vice President of the club I had joined. He introduced me to the president and to Jack, a really cool and interesting old ham. We sat down at his satellite station and talked about the components of his station. A little later, he turned on the set and made about 6-7 QSO’s, one being Patrick Stoddard.
And with that, I will begin the interview.
Adam Trahan: Rick, I write these interviews in one piece and send them on to you. I’ve done about 50 or so now in all the different sports and activities that I do. I’m a writer and I use the power of the Internet to help track my progress in what ever it is I do. The interviews do a couple of things. They answer questions I have and they are sort of a reference where I can go back and re-read and learn again about the topic. I try to give the interview “flow” so it’s best you read it in it’s entirety first, then go ahead and answer the questions. Write as much as you want, I find the more you write, the better. When you are finished with it, send it back to me with some pictures that you might want with it and I’ll place it here.
I just finished the interview with Patrick Stoddard. I had no idea he was your Elmer, that is so cool. Everything I’ve read about him is interesting. Every time we are in contact, I learn something. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions here.
“How did you get into Amateur Radio?”
Rick Tejera: Short answer: On a dare. One of my other hobbies is Amateur Astronomy. I was up north near Dewey where we used to observe. It was well before dark, so me and two friends decided to do some geocaching (yet another hobby). While looking for a cache I noticed Steve had an HT on his belt. I asked and found out both he and Andrew were Hams. We talked a bit about it, but I kind of dismissed it a snot really needing another channel for disposable income. A few weeks later I was dropping my daughter off at a rehearsal and notice across the street a banner ”COMING SOON! HAM RADIO OUTLET”. Well, I mentioned it to my friends and Steve threw down the gauntlet: Get you license and I’ll give you one of my old radios. . A day later the license study guide showed up at my door. I put it down and went to watch TV. My came home and a few minute later the book lands in my lap ”What’s this and how much is it going to cost?” The rest is, as they say History. I passed my licensing exam a month later, received the call KF7DYK, which I quickly changed to my current K7TEJ. True to his word a day later a Kenwood TH-D7A showed up on my doorstep. I still have it. I had my extra within 20 months.
Adam Trahan: I have carried a radio in one form or another for decades however, I only transmitted on bands that I was allowed. But now that morse code is not required, I studied and passed my test and here I am.
I really enjoy how I can pick it up or leave it alone. But I really like how most people I meet in Amateur Radio are so kind, polite and helpful. I like that I can pick out an aspect of radio communications and figure it out knowing that if I get stuck, there is always someone willing to help, I just have to ask.
“What do you like about Amateur Radio? I know you enjoy satellite communications but is there something else? Is it the people? The community? Can you tell us a little bit about what drives you to do it?”
Rick Tejera: A bit of everything. Amateur radio is the most diverse hobby I’ve ever had. There are so many ways to participate, it is unlikely that al will appeal to everyone, you can pick what interests you and have fun with it. I know hams who hardly every key up a mic. For them the fun is restoring boat anchors or just building stuff. I know friend who says he has never had a mic on an HF rig. For him it Morse code. For me satellites were a natural fit given my lifelong interest in space travel and astronomy. I also enjoy HF operating including phone & Digital operations like FT8 & PSK and other digital modeless traveled. While I’m not the handiest person around, I do enjoy Homebrewing antennas. I’ve built several, including satellite and HF antennas. One of the most satisfying things you can do is hear a faraway signal come through an antenna you built yourself.
Over the years I’ve made quite a few friends, some of whom I’ve yet to meet in person. As a rule, hams are an outgoing and friendly group, always willing to share their knowledge. As you saw at Field Day, it’s more than just radio. I’ve had quite a few Elmers over the years, Including Patrick WD9EWK, Steve N1NM, Andrew KE7DNT (SK). All of the had Elmers willing to spend time passing on knowledge, and I believe in paying forward as well. It’s easy for me, as my wife says, I’ve never met a conversation I didn’t like.
Adam Trahan: Rick, I see you have other interests. I do too. We have some common interests in Astronomy and in our youth, model rocketry.
"Can you tell us a little bit about that?"
Rick Tejera: I’m a child of the Apollo Era. Spaceflight has always fascinated me. I idolized the NASA astronauts the way most kids my age idolized athletes. My teachers encouraged this, in fact my 4th grade teacher often had me narrate what was happening as we watched the launches. This naturally led to me building model rockets. My pride and joy was the Saturn V I got for Christmas in 1975. Took me 6 months to build, I finished it on July 4th 1976 to ring in the Bicentennial. I flew a month later. Somewhere there is 8mm footage of that flight. Astronomy was always something that interested me, but I didn’t really get into it, until my gave me a telescope for Christmas one year. I didn’t ask for it, she just thought I’d like it. Little did she know.
I took it out on the balcony of our apartment that still had two feet of snow on it and started to look around. I pointed it at the greenish yellow thing in the southeast. When I focused I realized I had just discovered Saturn! I could clearly see the rings and this other little dot nearby, which I later learned was it’s moon Titan. I called sue out and excitedly showed her Saturn. Her response? “That’s nice, I’m glad you like you telescope.” And she went inside. A few minutes later I hear the tea kettle and realized this was going to be a solitary pursuit.
Adam Trahan: Wow, we do have some common backgrounds. I took a couple of Astronomy classes in high school and college. The math involved is very interesting. Math is not one of my favorites but it really peaked my interest to know how far something was away and by breaking it down to a known distance and then how many times far that star or whatever is. And size, same thing, we can understand how big Arizona is, how large the United States is, the earth etc. And then just how large some of the stars that we can see in the sky is, or even how large our sun is.
"What fascinates you about Astronomy?"
Rick Tejera: I refer to my telescope to guests at our public events as a time machine. I point out that even the image of the moon you are looking at is as it was 1.3 second ago. If it is visible I will put the crab nebulae in the eyepiece and tell them that this is a remnant of a supernova that was visible in daylight in 1054AD, and the progenitor star actually blew up around 600 B.C. and what you are seeing is how it looked in 400 AD. That usually gets an OOOH. Then there is the scale of the universe, I tell them to put a 1 foot beachball at home plate at chase field. Earth is a marble, just past the pitcher’s mound. Jupiter would be a golf ball in deep center field. The nearest star is another 1 foot beach ball in Newfoundland Canada! The sheer scale of the universe is fascinating to me, But there is really nothing more relaxing than being out under a canopy of star under a truly dark sky, it puts a lot into perspective
Adam Trahan: Very cool. Seems like we are the same age as well. In the 60's and 70's and on to current times, I've always been interested in our space program, NASA. As a young boy, I lived a short walk from the Centuri factory, a model rocket warehouse. I remember walking over there and looking into the back loading door of their facility and seeing all kinds of boxes of rockets. My grandfather helped me build my first one and when we lit it, as a young boy in the early 70's, man that thing took off!
I was hooked!
My favorite model rocket was actually a rocket glider, much like the German ME-163 or the Space Shuttle or Virgin Galactic's Space Ship III. I like parachutes and I also like gliders but a gliding recovery rocket just seemed so cool, even back then.
"I understand you enjoy model rocketry, can you tell us about it?"
Rick Tejera: Well as I said earlier, as a teenager I built a lot of rockets with my best friend. We would launch them from a nearby school yard on days off from school. We kept pretty detailed records of each flight. If we could get other friends, we’d have them work homebuilt trackers and then later figure out the altitude each flight made. We had some spectacular failures as well, Lost a few that we intentionally over-powered. I did have one that had a movie film cartridge. We only had flight with the film cartridge, as they were expensive, and you had to send it back to Estes to get it processed. The film was pretty cool. We use a film editor to figure out things like acceleration and altitude. I actually bought a rocket a few years ago with a digital video camera in it but have yet to fly it. Maybe we can take it out one day.
Adam Trahan: I will probably pick out a couple of rockets in the future to build and launch. I was limited as a child and the size of our small field. As an adult? I will probably go bit with a simple set up...
I had a simple telescope as a young adult, it looked like a pirate sort of thing, straight tube, I really didn't like it because it didn't show much more than the things I could see with a binocular. I gave it up pretty quickly because of that. I gave my son a telescope that was quite a bit more. You lined it up with three known stars or planets, then the computer would take over and take you to what ever it was that you dialed in. Super cool and not very expensive.
I have a friend that is a physician and takes Astronomy photographs. I've talked with him a little bit about getting into astronomy with a telescope.
"Rick, can you tell us about the telescopes you use? And what do you do with them?"
Rick Tejera: Well, the first telescope that my wife gave me was a 60mm refractor. What we refer to today as a dime-store refractor. It wasn’t the best, but it did light the fire. After moving to Arizona, I bought an 8” Newtonian reflector on a Dobsonian mount. I still have it, though I need to replace the secondary which came off the stalk and broke, fortunately it didn’t take the primary with it. I also have a Meade ETX60, a 600 Rich field refractor. It wasn’t a big commercia success, Meade dumped them on Costco (which is where I got mine), My good friend Tom Polakis says it is the most use ETX 60 in existence. I have successfully completed a Messier Marathon with it. I also have a small 4” Newtonian that was made by noted Arizona telescope maker Pierre Schwaar. I hardly use it, but it is more of a sentimental thing as Pierre passed away on 2000, with it I can say I own a Schwaar built scope
I’m going to go off on a tangent here, but I think you’ll appreciate this. You mentioned the telescope where you align by finding several stars and then the telescope can go to objects directly. That alignment process has direct roots in how Apollo navigated to the moon.
Before any maneuver, the crew had to make sure the guidance platform which defined up/down/left/right, fore/aft, was properly aligned. To do this the Command Module Pilot would pull up a computer program called P51. It would tell him to select a navigation star and turn the spacecraft to a certain attitude. And set the sextant to a certain angle. He then would then look through the sextant and the star, in theory should be centered. If not he would adjust the sextant to center the star and press enter. This was repeated with a second star, and the computer the calculated based on where it thought the stars actually were to where they actually where to realign the platform. This is the exact same process modern telescopes with Go To use to align them. When I align my telescopes, I channel my inner astronaut and do a P51.
Adam Trahan: I really enjoy the Amateur Radio club that you suggested that I joined.
"Can you tell us about the Astronomy Club you belong to? What kind of things do you do in the club?"
Rick Tejera: Again as I mentioned Earlier, I am a proud member of the saguaro Astronomy Club. I found them not long after I bought my 8” scope. They do a public star party at Thunderbird Park twice a year. I live a mile from there, so when I saw it advertised, I went. That nigh just happened to have a total lunar eclipse and Comet Hale-Bopp was near it’s closest approach. We had almost 2000 people show up. Not unlike hams Astronomers love to share their joy of astronomy and I spoke with several member, was welcomed and joined the next month. Over the years I had several Astro-Elmer’s who helped me become a better observer. I served as newsletter editor for ten years and president for two.
The club is mainly observing centric, member like to get out and actually observe (another local club I looked at was more about talking about astronomy rather than doing astronomy). We offer several observing programs for all skill levels. We are most known for our deep sky database, which has been use as the basis for several commercial planetarium programs and The All Arizona Messier Marathon (Which I am coordinator). The Messier Marathon is an observing event where participants try to see all 110 objects in the Messier catalogue in one evening. This is only possible around the vernal equinox, so it occurs around the end of March. Most clubs hold one, it is a popular event. Ours is the most successful. Over the years we have had more folks complete the marathon than any other club. I’ve done it twice, myself.
Adam Trahan: Astronomy and Amateur Radio really seem to go together. For me, it's a interest of vision and thought provoking activities. I know I'm not so odd in this, they made a movie about it, "Contact" which is one of my all time favorites. Personally, I think there is way more to that movie than it is given credit for. As we move forward into the future, I really think that we might just be repeating what is in that movie. Theoretical Physics is science based. The notion of little green men is way off base. If anything, humans may be the little green men in the future...
"What do you think? Is Astronomy and Amateur Radio pretty common for people to be interested in both?"
Rick Tejera: Definitely, quite a few of my astronomy friends are hams, as I mentioned, it was two of my Astro buddies who got me into ham radio. I refer to folks who participate in both as astrohams.
I agree about Contact, it was a good film. Going back to the scale of the universe, I find it shortsighted to proclaim we are alone, let alone the most advanced. I discount the “Roswell” type Alien and stories of abduction. It always seems to me that these reports all seem to follow a pattern: Well, Bubba and was comin’ home from the Honky Tonk when we saw this here light”. … I just can’t take that seriously, but if it keeps Betty-Lou from braining you with a skillet, good for you. That said I have seen some things I can’t explain and I keep an open mind on the subject.
Adam Trahan: I like the way you think. Rick, you spoke briefly about SOTA, summits on the air.
"Can you tell us about your experiences with SOTA? Why is it so interesting and what equipment did you use?"
Rick Tejera: Well as it’s name implies, SOTA is operating from the summit of a mountain. Qualifying summits are given point values and you earn points for either activating a summit or chasing (Or both). It is an awards program, so earn points get wallpaper. .My interest stemmed from a desire to get some exercise. While there are summits that you can drive to, most require some hiking. My participation as an activator has been limited to drive ups since I had suffered a mile stoke two years ago, but I still participate as a chaser, with the occasional drive-up activation.
The challenge is figuring out how much station you need to do what you want to do. The main point is “How much are you willing to lug up to the summit? (and back down again). Most SOTA operators operate minimal stations. For me, I use an I-com IC-7000 all band all mode radio. It’s a little on the heavy side, but it is what I have, I also have a LiFefPo 10ah battery which is 3lbs, less than half the half of the AGM battery I used to use. I have an End fed hav wave antenna, which is really not much more that a 66 foot wire and matching network, and I support it with a portable 22 ft collapsible mast. My pack has a 3 liter hydration bladder, which I don’t need to tell you, is a must in Arizona. All told, my pack is about 20 lbs. When it starts to feel heavy, I remind myself of my friend’s son who was a Marine and routinely carried 100 Lbs., uphill, Under fire. That make it seem lighter.
Adam Trahan: I'm aspiring to put together a kit that is a little bit more than a HT with a hand held antenna for Satellite work. I'm hoping I can make it work for SOTA however, I know that a HT and a hand held antenna can really reach out too.
I would like to discuss a little bit about the system you use for satellite communications. I really like what you do. I am moving towards using a tripod for my antenna, a small table and a mobile radio. It seems that all the hams that are successful at it have some sort of system they develop to their likening.
"What do you like to use?"
Rick Tejera: You’ve seen my main satellite station, a Yeasu FT8900R with an ELK LP antenna on a modified telescope equatorial mount. I also use my Kenwood D72A, mainly for working the ISS and other digipeaters, including the 9.6K digi on FalconSat3. I’ve also used the D72A as an uplink radio and my SDRPlay SDR receiver as the downlink for the digipeaters. My next goal is to figure out how to work the linear satellites. I have a Kenwood TS2000 for that, but have yet to find my downlink. One of these days, I’ll corral Patrick for some one on one elmering.
My main station is undergoing renovations as I had to share the shack with work when we went to a work from home model. When it’s said and done it is an I-Com IC7000 (the same one I use for SOTA) and the TS2000, both are set up to work the digital modes. I have a bit of antenna farm in my HOA lot, but they are well cammoed. Took them 1- years to find one and only because I had to change the COAX and didn’t paint it quick enough. I‘ve got an 18’ vertical for 10-80M. a G5RV under the eaves that I mainly use for the WARC Bands, a V2000 vertical for VHF, and a Home brew 6m Moxon. Since the shack has been closed, I’ve set thing up temporarily in the living room and us my SOTA antenna.
Adam Trahan: I was able to purchase and begin to work the kinks out of my own system based on a few observations and a lot of reading. I really like books. Although they are no longer necessary if you have access to the Internet, I still enjoy books to review. I have purchased a few books on Satellite Communications, and they are all excellent. As I get deeper into it, I see the people that are successful in this corner of Amateur Radio suggest the same books as I have collected. There aren't many books from what I can see on this subject, maybe only a dozen or two? I don't know.
"What do you think of books when it comes to an interest in Amateur Radio?"
Rick Tejera: There are plenty of books on most ham topics. Probably the best for satellites is “Getting Started in Amateur Satellites, By Gould Smith WA4SXM." It gets regular updates, so it stays relevant. The Amateur Radio handbook and antenna handbooks from ARRL are valuable references for any ham and should be a part of your library. Probably the most popular topic I see in Ham radio books are on antennas, which should be no real surprise, given the antenna is probably the most important part of a station, yet one of the easiest to experiment with.
Adam Trahan: I really enjoyed the presentation on Tangerine last week at the TBARC meeting. It was really a good overview of a really new type of weather information gathering technology. I see a lot of new directions coming out of inventor/hams. They are really so smart and they just geek out focusing on a new aspect or direction of what they can imagine then build with electronic devices. The presentation really got into the meat and potatoes of building a new electronic device. Where the components are sourced, how much, how small, how they are connected and packaged, super cool for me to understand this.
"Where do you think we are going next in Amateur Radio?"
Rick Tejera: The state of the art is (and has been) moving towards digital and computers, as you saw at the meeting. There will always be a place for old school radio, like CW and good old phone. In fact when they removed the requirement to pass a code test to get a license, a lot of folks though it would be the death knell for CW. In fact, learning CW has become a badge of honor.
In the 12 years I’ve been a ham the biggest development of technology has been the move to SDR (Software Defined Radio), By taking the signal processing out of the hardware and putting it software has enable a lot more flexibility in what radios can do. I don’t see going back.
Adam Trahan: I'm really pretty happy to just focus on communicating through satellites and surface communications. It's a lot of fun. I'm just not ready to go any farther away from that right now. I do enjoy the Internet but I'm really not ready to go there, I don't know if I ever will be. Perhaps on a prepackaged scale, don't know.
But that is just me. I like it that others are going in that direction.
For me, I want to learn on a radio that is or can be powered by a battery. It can be used "off grid" so to speak. I'm not a prepper or anything like that. I just like the idea of being able to communicate without having a infrastructure that requires so much like the internet does...
Maybe in the future, my interests will take me there.
Rick, I really appreciate you. I'm getting to know other enthusiasts by communicating with them on regular nets. But you are the first "ham" that I am able to have regular conversations with. I appreciate who you are. I have so many interests but Amateur Radio has really got me hooked.
"How many people have you helped get into radio?"
Rick Tejera: Hard to say, I’ve always encouraged people with an interest to get involved and always offered my knowledge (such as it is) to help them get on their way. I’ve been fortunate to know hams who’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know.
Adam Trahan: I aspire to get others into it. I hope I am able to help even just a little bit if people read my web site, what I write. I hope people enjoy these interviews and I hope that they get something out of them. I know I really enjoy it.
"Please use this time to say anything you want, ask a question, close the interview. Thank you Rick."
Rick Tejera: I’m glad you’re enjoying the hobby so far and glad that I was able to help and encourage you along. Thanks for your time.
Saturday, July 17, 2021
- Types of Portable Operating
- Organizing and Carrying Your Equipment
- Radios for Portable Operating
- Power Sources
- Portable Antennas
- Propagation and Spotting
- On the Air Activities
- Accessories and Tools
- Logging Contacts
Thursday, July 15, 2021
by G. Gould Smith, WA4SXM and Friends
Getting Started with Amateur Satellites 2020
Table of Contents
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
The first time I found out about Patrick was after an APRS session through the International Space Station. I was brand new to my Yaesu FT-3. I had just finished the programming of the radio and it was one of my first passes if not the first, I received a transmission from WD9EWK and I saw that it was from someone in Scottsdale! Only 4 miles away. I ran it through QRZ.com and found that it was Patrick and he was really into Satellite Amateur Radio.
"I want to meet this guy one day" I thought to myself.
I think the second time I read about Patrick was in an AMSAT article that I was researching. I saw another article from Patrick when I was investigating "full duplex HT radios."
As my interest grew in Amateur Radio, I thought to myself that perhaps I should build a web site. I already had a template that I used for another community that I was involved in, tenkara-fisher.com and I knew that Patrick would probably be a very interesting first interview.
A few months passed and my radio skills grew. I made my first QSO on a LEO satellite, sstv from the ISS and I found myself at the ARRL Field Day in Flagstaff with my mentor, K7TEJ. As I sat there watching him work a satellite, I heard the QSO, WD9EWK, "thanks for the QSO Patrick" and I knew, this guy should be the person I interview first.
I found his web site and crafted a brief e-mail, much of what you see here and I received a response a few days later, "Sure Adam, I remember you, yeah, I'll answer a few questions."
And so we are up to date and I'll begin my interview with Patrick Stoddard.
"I'll start the interview with you, go ahead Patrick, you can introduce yourself, ask me a question or anything you want."
Patrick Stoddard: Thanks! I have been a ham for a long time, getting my first amateur radio license in 1977. I also have a Canadian amateur license (VA7EWK), which I have had for almost 20 years. I have operated in Mexico, Argentina, and Australia over the years, as well as from many locations across the continental USA and Canada.
Adam Trahan: Our audience may not know but the type of interview that I conduct is done in one whack. I write the interview in whole and send it off for the person to answer. I try to make the questions interesting and flow like a regular in person interview.
In a way, they are like voice on a radio frequency. There is no interruption.
I've meet some really cool people from my transmission on radio frequencies.
"Who is the coolest person you have meet from your radio contact? Someone you meet purely on the radio that you really enjoyed meeting in person."
Patrick Stoddard: Two people would take the title of "coolest people", and both are NASA astronauts. I made contacts with Bill McArthur when he was on the International Space Station operating as NA1SS in late 2005 and early 2006. Later in 2006, I met him at an AMSAT Symposium in San Francisco. Bill chatted for a few minutes, stood for a picture with me, and autographed the NA1SS QSL cards I received for my contacts with him. This was repeated a few years later, when I worked Doug Wheelock when he was on the ISS in 2010. I met Doug at the Dayton Hamvention in 2012, and he also autographed the NA1SS QSL cards I received for my contacts with him.
Adam Trahan: I've meet some very cool people, my mentor, K7TEJ, Rick Tejera for one. After decades of using radios for communication with a driver chasing me cross country as I flew my hang glider, I finally got my Amateur Radio license and now I could use the full capacity of my radio. As I struggled with knowing I was doing it right, calling CQ, Rick was my first ham radio contact. He answered me through the repeater on John C. Lincoln hospital, "Adam, you are going to enjoy this hobby, why don't you join a club" which I did, his club and subsequently the ARRL Field Day that the club sponsored. There are more but this isn't about me, its about you.
"Where has Amateur Radio taken you? Have you travelled because of it?"
Patrick Stoddard: I have travelled to amateur radio events over the years. Since I started working the satellites, I usually try to add onto any trip I take, so I can operate from different places. This has led me to operating from locations in 26 US states and Washington DC in the USA. I have operated from many different locations in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, and I have even worked satellites from Mexico in 2009 and 2010 when it was possible to get a temporary permit to operate down there.
Adam Trahan: Perhaps I am doing it backward, I don't know. I've learned that every hobby I get into, travelling to do it is my favorite. I got into it because of cross country travel and now that I am on my way, I configure my kits to be compact and able to bring with me where ever I go. My very first radio was a Kenwood TH-25AT. I really liked it because the display was on top and I could look down to my chest and see the radio display without having to let go of the control bar of my glider. Decades later when I got into Amateur Radio, I bought a Kenwood TH-D74 and a D72, radios that I could explore the capabilities of. Nice sound and an easy to use menu. Recently I purchased a TM-D710GA and I am putting together a nice mobile kit to use for satellite and light base station use.
"Patrick, can you tell us a little bit about your current equipment?"
Patrick Stoddard: I have lots of different radios. For HF, I have an Elecraft K3S HF/6m transceiver I won at the Yuma Hamfest a few years ago. Great HF radio! When it comes to working satellites, I like to experiment with different radios or combinations of radios...
For the FM satellites, I use handheld radios like the Kenwood TH-D72 and Wouxun KG-UV9D Plus. For packet via satellite, the TH-D72 and Kenwood's TH-D74 are the radios I normally use. Mobile radios... the Icom ID-5100 is my go-to radio for FM satellites now, but I also have a Kenwood TM-D710G if I want to work packet via satellite.
When I work the linear transponders (SSB satellites), two Yaesu FT-817s are ready to go. Sometimes, I will use other radios in place of one FT-817 for the downlink receiver - an Icom IC-R30, the TH-D74 (it has an all-mode receiver that works well with SSB downlinks), and sometimes even SDR receivers like a FUNcube Dongle Pro+ or an SDRplay receiver with a laptop or tablet.
Adam Trahan: Although I have been using radios for decades, I've only begun to explore the capabilities of Amateur Radio for the last six months. YouTube and all the great teachers there have been amazing. Virtual teaching is great but there is nothing like a real person to watch and ask questions and then return demonstration.
"How did you learn? Who are your mentors?"
Patrick Stoddard: I attended a licensing class in the 1970s before I got my original amateur license. For the satellites, most of my learning has been done by reading books and online materials, then listening to satellite downlinks for months before I transmitted to them. Over the years, I have written articles detailing some of my satellite operating - trying different modes of operation, and operating from different places around the world. I may not have had a mentor when I started with satellites, but I have been trying to help anyone who comes to me with questions about this corner of the hobby.
Adam Trahan: I enjoy studying my interests. I really like APRS and the capabilities of it. Bob Bruninga and Don Arnold are two radio guys that are so interesting. One day I would like to interview them as well but until then, I will learn from their interests and teaching. My mentor really guides me through the aspects of my interest because he has those same interests as well and has been doing it for so long.
Locally, I recently meet Jack Lunsford. Jack has been at this for quite some time and it is my mission to show just how much he has taught so many people in the community. He opened his self designed and built home to the field day. We talked in the quiet of the forest about Amateur Radio and where it has come from and I must say, Jack is a legend.
Amateur Radio is well established and here to stay.
"Patrick, where do you think it's going?"
Patrick Stoddard: Amateur radio will have to continue adapting to a changing world. In the past, almost all hams worked to get on the HF bands. Now, there are hams who have no interest in working HF, and enjoy experimenting on the VHF and UHF bands. The hobby needs to embrace this. I enjoy HF, but I have had a lot of fun on the VHF/UHF bands since I started working satellites in 2005.
Adam Trahan: As I grow older (I am sixty as of this writing) I am learning NOT to dislike something or someone. For me, the more I know, the more I know that I don't know. Amateur Radio through the internet?
I haven't explored it and I don't know much about it.
My non-ham friends tease me, "why don't you just use a phone?"
They do not understand and that's ok. I also use a phone and a radio because I want to know more how it works. I sort of feel like a sailor using the wind (of fun) to explore my interests. Where ever the fun is, that's where I want to go but there is a lot of math involved. This is the first time in my life where I have really been interested in learning that math on my own instead of having to learn it to pass classes, or certifications.
Back in the old days, morse code was a requirement in being tested. Ultimately, that is what prevented me from getting my license in the 80's. I was taking classes and learning it but, I was using my radios already on licensed business bands.
In the 80's, I had a Motorola "brick" phone. I was on an open heart team and it was necessary for communications with my team. I remember camping on Mingus Mountain back then, my ham pilot friends hitting the Shaw Butte repeater and making a telephone call with their radios. I was paying a dollar a minute and that brick phone only worked in the city let alone on a mountain top so many miles from Phoenix. That was the first time I learned about DTMF and just how cool Amateur Radio was...
I'm understanding that there is this whole aspect of radio through the Internet! At this time, I have no interest in that but it does not mean that I won't like it. I just don't have the self interest in learning it.
"Is there anything that you really don't know much about but want to learn about?"
Patrick Stoddard: There's a lot I could learn in amateur radio. I have dabbled with many different aspects of this hobby. At this point, I'm focusing on aspects I enjoy - satellite operating, along with the occasional venture on the HF bands.
Adam Trahan: I am still very new to this. I am a rank amateur at best. I have the greatest respect for my peers that are knowledgeable and excelling in their interests. My favorite hams are teachers of sorts but I do know there are those that don't teach but are really good at what they do.
I can't remember where I heard or read it but I recollect something to the effect of, "If you need help, look for the person with the biggest antenna..." and I am seeing that in our community.
I do feel like the whole of Amateur Radio is a greater community with sub communities within.
My studies in satellite always involve AMSAT. As I explore and educate myself, I am seeing your name in AMSAT materials.
"Please tell us your involvement in AMSAT and how you got into it."
Patrick Stoddard: I joined AMSAT in 2001, years before I started working satellites. I had read about satellites in publications like QST and CQ over the years, but never had the motivation to try working them until FM satellites came on the scene. Once I started working the FM satellites, I wanted to do more, and also try more than just the 2m and 70cm bands. I also saw that I could operate away from home, and be as successful as I had been when operating from home. Along with articles I have written over the years, I post on mailing lists and online forums related to amateur satellites about my exploits, and post videos on YouTube.
Adam Trahan: I will join AMSAT soon. My interests have been local at this time but I am realizing that there is a greater community besides the city and state that I live in.
"For those of us getting into Amateur Satellite Communications, what organizations and what materials do you suggest for us to support and study?"
Patrick Stoddard: The best thing to do is start listening to satellite passes. Do not worry about transmitting. The satellites can hear us, but we have to do some work to hear the satellite downlinks well. AMSAT's Getting Started with Amateur Satellites book, which is regularly updated, is a great resource. Lots of information about the different satellites, stations used to work the satellites, and operating techniques. Organizations... AMSAT and AMSAT-UK have been building and launching satellites we can use.
Adam Trahan: Patrick, I'm a book person. I know, books get outdated very quickly but I really enjoy collecting and reading books. I guess it is my age, but I like good books on my interests.
"Can you suggest some good books for Satellite Communications?"
Patrick Stoddard: The best book is the Getting Started with Amateur Satellites book I previously mentioned. That's really the only introductory book that does a good job for someone starting out in this corner of amateur radio. The AMSAT and AMSAT-UK web sites also have good introductory or "how-to" articles.
Adam Trahan: I've had the wonderful opportunity to be around enough hams to know that there are some great stories to be told. When I first got started earlier this year, I thought my interest was going to be just getting on a repeater and talking with others at random times.
That practically never happens.
...and instead of having conversations, my interest has taken me to a place that involves much more than just the radio. Satellite communications are very brief. A lot of it is programming the radio to include brief "text" type messages to send, a sort of canned response.
I use social media to answer some of the questions that I have about my interests. There are a lot of really nice radio people online in those forums willing to help. I recently asked for help in increasing my chances in using my radio to listen and talk to others. I was informed of a "net calendar" which was exactly what I was looking for. On any day, I can look at this calendar and tap into a net and listen and voice my opinion on a guided net question or a open forum.
Yes, ham radio operators often have great stories.
"Patrick, do you have any sort of story you would like to tell us?"
Patrick Stoddard: I started out working HF, and came to trying satellites in the mid-2000s after making a contact with an astronaut on the International Space Station. I had been listening to satellite passes and ISS passes during 2005, and late that year there was an astronaut regularly using the ham station (Bill McArthur KC5ACR, operating as NA1SS during ISS Expedition 12 in late 2005 and early 2006). After reading about Bill's activity from NA1SS for a few weeks, I decided to try this for myself. I used an Icom IC-T7H dual-band handheld radio with a telescoping whip antenna while standing outside my office in central Phoenix, and was able to make a contact late in an ISS pass. It was this contact that finally pushed me to trying other satellites, and I had the pleasure of meeting Bill in late 2006.
Adam Trahan: I want to thank you for participating in this. I really appreciate it.
"Please take this opportunity to tell us anything you would like. I personally would like to know more about satellite communications, but that's just me! Thank you so much Patrick, I really appreciate you."
Patrick Stoddard: Thanks for the interview. 73!