I’d only ever heard it was possible to work amateur satellites with hand held radios, and all the accompanying photos usually involved waving around a modest sized handheld Yagi. All that changed when I saw a posted a video posted on the Central Coast Amateur Radio Club Facebook page showing AO-92 being worked with Yaesu VX8 handheld with an after-market whip antenna.

A quick check of the passes saw really favourable conditions to work AO-92 as it passed overhead on Friday 14th December 2018 from around 11.22pm local time.

I quickly set up the frequencies in my IC-T90A, gave a couple of friends a heads up to listen for me and waited.

Satellite AOS LOS Duration Peak AZ Peak EL
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AO-92 14/12/2018 11:22:54 PM 11:35:02 PM 00:12:08 78.2° 82.7°

Standing outside in the middle of the night with the squelch open on an FM radio is not my idea of a fun time, but amazingly a couple of minutes into the pass the sound of the open squelch started to change – as if there was something there with am FM Signal. I put out a call.

CQ AO-92 VK7BEN  

The band got quieter and then all of a sudden I am hearing a voice coming back to me that is definitely not someone local – VK5DG!

So there it was, my first contact via a satellite. After a quick exchange of names, locations and signal reports (and a congratulations), I tried again, and another call came back! VK2NRC.

What I was rapidly discovering though that the lack of a directional antenna was making it extraordinarily hard to receive the moment the satellite was no longer overhead. with a good horizon to the south, but mediocre one to the North, I was only just able to make an exchange before the signal faded away.

 Wishing that I was able to record the contact, I went back inside, but little did I know that VK2NRC had in fact managed to record the entire exchange and then reached out to me with a copy – and here it is!

 

Working the T90A in split mode afforded me the ability to adjust for doppler shift by setting my tuning step to 5Khz on the transmit VFO and then starting 10KHz below the transmit frequency, I stepped up 5Khz every 2-3 minutes until I was 10KHz above the transmit frequency.

One of the things that is really frustrating me right now though is that it does not seem possible to store a memory channel with split more VFO on the T90A from the handheld itself – it looks like a programming cable and software may be required – please feel free to tell me if I am wrong in the comments!

I attempted to make further contacts again on Saturday morning and while I briefly heard voices I was unable to make a contact – a peak elevation of just 20 degrees to the west was too low for me.

Right now I am keen to build or buy a yagi antenna to augment by satellite contact experience – and there will probably be a blog post about that when it happens.

A big thanks to VK5DG and VK2NRC for answering the call and being patient with me!