Tuesday, June 15, 2021

First Satellite QSO

Wow! I did it. 

It was quite a journey filled with a pinch of frustration and a lack of understanding.

But I have made my first contact, with my mentor no less and I am well on my way.

Like most of what I do, I just charge forward on my own learning on the way. I studied for my license and got it with the intent of just talking to others on my radio. Problem for me was, I had to learn how to program my radio to be able to talk. I thought about it and decided not to purchase software to do that. I knew if I programmed manually, I would get to know all the menus and file architecture. I did that and I am glad I did but there are so many repeaters and settings. Once you understand how it works then you don't have enough time to manually enter all the settings, it's just much easier to use a computer wired into your radio and a program to import all the data into it.

I started out with a great little radio, the Yaesu FT3D and plugged in all the repeaters. I started watching videos on how radio networks and repeaters worked. I use social medial to good success for my interests and I have mentored many people myself in the things I do. I figured that social media would help and it did. I joined our local group and asked a few questions and got good responses.

Long story short, I programmed the radio and went outside and keyed it up calling for a response, no answer. 

"Did I get all the settings correctly?" I thought to myself.

I asked a question on a forum, "try this repeater now" it was on a hospital about 10 miles North and I was answered by K7TEJ, Rick and he welcomed me to Amateur Radio and my first QSO! Rick lives farther North of the hospital but our conversation was helpful to me. He suggested I join a club and continue to practice my communications.

It was a few weeks before I got back on my radio, I was busy reading and building my big antenna in the back yard. In the meantime, I joined the radio club and even spoke with K7TEJ again briefly. I continued to use social media (Facebook) groups to gather information on what to do with my new found pass time.

During this time, I began to use YouTube and the wonderful tutorial videos for my radios. I bought another radio that was the best example of a hand held that everyone who owned one said that it was the best, the Kenwood TH-D74. I watched videos of people using it for APRS through the International Space Station. I used my Yaesu to make my first contacts passing information through the ISS digipeater. I made many contacts and was having a blast tracking the ISS on visible passes setting up my iPhone on a tripod and getting time lapse photography as the ISS arced through the sky while I was passing messages through it.

This was not the reason why I got into it but it was becoming the driving force behind my interest.

Then the space station switched modes to crossband repeater mode and my fun ground to a halt.

Now, I had to configure my radio and speak through it instead of passing electronic messages. I had to use my voice and have command of what I was doing and be quick on my feet with this knowledge. Compared to studying, setting up the radio, waiting for the ISS to be above and then pushing a button, voice was going to be difficult and it was. There were so many people trying to get through the ISS and even though there were so many people talking, there was order in their communication. I tried many times to use the phonetic call signs, I just didn't know the order and it was hard to remember. A couple of times, I had my wife and son with me, helping me. Wife with a pen and paper, son holding the iPad tracking the ISS through the night sky.

I bought another radio that really seemed to be made for this type of communication, a Kenwood TH-D72. A full duplex radio, sort of like two radios in one, I could talk on one channel and actually hear my communication repeated by the satellite on the other channel in real time. I meet K7TEJ at a local library to get my first lesson in satellite communication. It was good to meet him. We are two very different people but he was so nice and helpful. I left with a full head of information and hope.

But again, I would try to call out, no answer, just a lot of hiss and super fast radio experts talking to each other in a crazy pile up of alpha beta charlie lingo...

No way was this going to beat me but it was beating me.

K7TEJ suggested I create a card that had the details of what I needed to do so that I didn't get frustrated by the speed and too busy with all the details of talking through a satellite.

I made the card and tried it again.

Nothing but hiss and ignorance.

I'm stubborn, no way was I going to let this beat me. I just had to practice.

I decided to take my radio and antenna with me on my vacation to Imperial Beach, California some 350 or so miles away to the West of Phoenix. At the beach house, all I do is lay around and surf the net, tye some flys, walk on the beach, drink and chill out. While surfing the net, I found a group, AMSAT which was a group dedicated to what I want to do. I applied and was accepted and I decided to ask my question again, "how do I do this?" K7TEJ was a member, imagine that, and he suggested that we try SO-50 to communicate.

"Ok, lets do it."

I gave myself a couple of hours to study up on the procedure (radio frequency programming and operation) and sent back the recipe through the question thread.

The time came, my son tracking the satellite and we made contact!

My first contact by voice through a satellite and again to K7TEJ some 350 miles away back home in Phoenix.

I can do this.

I'm on my way.

Thank you so much K7TEJ.