News items for tag amateursatellites - Koos van den Hout

2020-08-03 Trying a number of amateur satellite passes with a new radio and finally success
Saudisat 1c / SO-50 cube satellite
Saudisat 1c / SO-50
A few weeks ago I tried the Baofeng UV-5R on a satellite pass again to at least receive signal. It did receive something but kept closing the squelch during reception even at squelch level 0. This seems to be a common problem with this model radio.

I decided to put some money into a handheld radio that can do full-duplex. My original Wouxun seems to have developed serious issues receiving on the 2 meter side, but it has served me very well as a handheld radio over the years. So based on reviews about the Wouxun KG-UVD8D/KG-UVD9D models and how their full-duplex capabilities worked in combination with satellites I decided to buy one of these. The current model is the KG-UV9K which adds airband receive capability. I ordered one from bamiporto which came after a few days.

Based on the settings in AO-85 & Wouxun KG-UV9D - more testing I set mine up and tried a number of passes. The passes on satellites AO-91 (Fox-1B) and AO-92 (Fox-1D) all failed. The passes weren't too high and during busy weekends so there was a lot of competition for the uplink. With only 4 watts I am a bit limited there.

The difference between the Baofeng UV-5R and the Wouxun KG-UV9K in handling audio from satellites with the squelch full open is clear: with the Wouxun I only get an interruption when I let go of the transmit button.

Yesterday evening I tried a high SO-50 pass. A southwest to northeast pass, which gave me the option to stand in the front yard with radio, antenna and a smartphone with the W1ANT satellite tracker. I had trouble understanding some stations but could hear others fine who seemed to understand most stations fine, given the contacts I heard. In a gap I called F5ERS/P which turned into a good first contact and after that G0ABI called me and that was a good second contact.

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2020-03-02 Trying amateur satellites between the mountains with snow falling
During our wintersport holiday in Austria I also brought my Arrow antenna and handheld radios along to try a satellite contact.

Before the holiday I read on twitter that Peter Goodhall 2M0SQL has unconfirmed gridsquares which included the place I was going on holiday. So I prepared for trying to make the contact during the holiday. In the preparation I got a theory why I had problems with the satellites with a 2 meter downlink frequency.

During the holiday I soon figured out there wasn't a lot of time for contacts, during the day we were on the pistes and we went to bed early because we had a lot of physical activity. And the place we stayed was between the mountains so for satellite passes I was limited to high passes.

In the end I did listen to one Fox-1D pass which was high and long enough. In a serious amount of falling snow so that was a new experience in amateur radio: trying to make contacts in the snow. Reception of Fox-1D was quite good on the Baofeng UV-5R radio, but transmitting back up didn't work out, I never made a contact.

I did not hear Peter on that pass, so that did not work out at all. But I learned several things, including the fact that the theory about the 2 meter downlink frequencies and the Wouxun KG-UVD1P was correct so the result is positive anyway.

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2020-02-20 I think I figured out why I didn't hear satellites with 2 meter downlink
I was preparing for trying some satellite contacts and noticed the Fox-1B and Fox-1D had nicer opportunities for a contact. But I always have problems receiving any signal from those satellites on the handheld radio that I use for satellite contacts, which is the Wouxun KG-UVD1P I got for Christmas in 2012. Not the ideal radio for amateur satellites, but easy to bring along and to program with split frequencies.

A while ago I noticed that radio was constantly receiving noise on the 2 meter band and I had to set the squelch level quite high to stop it. I thought it was some local overload or local noise in the 2 meter band. But today while working on the preparations for some satellite contact possibilities I figured the problem is with the radio and something is actually wrong on the 2 meter receive side.

I have two other handheld radios. One is a Kenwood TH-D7 where I can't change the squelch level so it's not really usable for satellite contacts and the other is a Baofeng UV-5R which can't be programmed via the computer.

So I spent a lot of time entering all the possible doppler-shifted frequencies of both satellites on the keypad of the Baofeng UV-5R. I hope that gives me a working radio for Fox-1B/Fox-1D and I can get a few new contacts in the log.

Update 2020-02-27: I was correct! I tried a Fox-1D pass with the Baofeng UV-5R radio and I had easy reception of the satellite. Trying to get my signal over the satellite didn't work, but at least I know what the reception problem was.

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2020-01-01 Closing 2019 in amateur radio, time to plot the number of contacts and look back
QSO count plot up to December 2019 Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts. Months with contests are quite visible. After the peak in number of contacts in July there was first a holday and after that no big peaks in number of contacts. December 2019 jumps out a bit again due to the FT8 roundup on 8/9 December in which I made 66 contacts and later in the month the troposperic ducting allowing contacts over interesting distances in the 70 centimeter and 2 meter band added to a sprint at the end. In 2019 I made a few more contacts than in the previous record year 2017.

Looking back at my amateur radio resolutions for 2019 I think most came true.

If I look at them one by one:
  • Keep learning morse! - I'm still working on my morse, but there is measurable improvement. I have learned the full set for the Belgian CW exam and I'm working on accuracy and speed.
  • Get more countries on more HF bands in the log - More countries and more slots on HF are in the log. I also use the club station to achieve that goal. The ARRL DXCC Award shows that I'm getting somewhere.
  • Moonbounce on 2 meter - I've listened on the right frequencies to the moon on 2 meter. Nothing heard.
  • Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests - I participated in two phone contests and a number of digimode contests. No serious improvement in scores.
  • Operate HF outside - I operated HF outside. Not as much as I would like.
  • At least one satellite contact - Multiple satellite contacts have been made!
Now I have to think about 2020, but the year is still young.

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2019-12-06 Received ISS SSTV again
This week had an opportunity to receive ISS SSTV pictures. The Russian on the ISS were transmitting SSTV images as part of the Inter-MAI-75 project. ISS SSTV image ISS SSTV image ISS SSTV image

The pass had a partial first image, a nice decode of one full image and the start of a third image. Even the good receives are a bit noisy/unsharp, I'm not sure whether that's an artifact of the PD120 mode or some local noise ending up in the image.

This is one of the rare occasions where living close to Russia is a good thing: the Russians time the passes to optimize reception in Russia.

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2019-11-17 Pointing the Arrow antenna at SO-50 again
HF propagation has been really bad the last weeks. At least on the moments I had time to look at the radio. The maximum usable frequency was dropping below 14 MHz as soon as it started getting dark. This means that I can only make contacts on the lowest band (40 meters) with the endfed antenna set up outside and the experience from earlier weekends was that it was still a lot of work to get contacts on FT8.

So this weekend I did some 2 meter FT8 and made contacts with some new call signs. I was lucky: the 2 meter interference stopped after dark. My computer decoded one Danish callsign but I wasn't near it at that moment.

And I tried a pass of the SO-50 satellite. A pure southwest-northeast pas was coming up at the start of the evening, so I planned to be outside in the cold with antenna and handheld radio. I was hoping to get some country to the south of me in the log, but I ended up with a southeasterly contact: Croatia. I heard 9A2EY in a contact so I called him and made the contact.

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2019-07-29 Tried receiving ISS SSTV with the FUNcube Dongle Pro+
This evening had scheduled Amateur Radio on the International Space Station slow-scan TV transmissions so I took Arrow antenna, the new FUNcube Dongle Pro+, cables and laptop outside.

I found out gqrx crashes when the dongle is on the righthandside USB port of the laptop, so that one is out. On the backside port everything was working, and audio routing worked routing the analog output audio (created by qgrx) to the recording by audacity and the image decoding with qsstv. Gpredict was set up to control the reception frequency in gqrx, and this whole setup was working ok.

But the signal from the ISS looked very very weak in gqrx, just a small rise in level above the noise when I pointed at the general direction of the ISS. No idea why. No images were decoded from it.

After the pass I tried receiving some other sources with this setup and receiving the PI2NOS repeater went fine. But that's on the 70 centimeters band. I saw no activity on PI3UTR which would have enabled a test on 2 meters.

This needs more testing. Maybe something to hold the antenna cables so they don't get pulled from the laptop/radio during a pass.

Update: Most likely culprit: interference in the 2 meter amateur band. With a handheld radio that has received ISS packet sounds before I could now only hear them very faint in the noise. The local 2 meter noise is killing weak signal reception.

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2019-07-20 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 14: Switch to FUNcube Dongle Pro+
FUNcube Dongle Pro+ I saw a radio amateur offering a secondhand FUNcube Dongle Pro+ for a very reasonable price and remembered my work to get into linear satellites and the problems with the input filtering on an rtl-sdr while transmitting. So I checked the specifications for that dongle and saw a lot better filtering.

I decided to go for it and a few mails later the dongle was on the way to my letterbox. Literally, as it fitted in a small package that could be delivered in the letterbox. With tracking, so I received a notification from the package tracker app after the mailman put it in the letterbox.

There is good support for the FUNcube dongle Pro+ in gqrx so I tried that first. It does give some USB errors:
[46918.612090] usb 2-1: new full-speed USB device number 10 using xhci_hcd
[46918.762268] usb 2-1: New USB device found, idVendor=04d8, idProduct=fb31
[46918.762273] usb 2-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
[46918.762276] usb 2-1: Product: FUNcube Dongle V2.0  
[46918.762278] usb 2-1: Manufacturer: Hanlincrest Ltd.         
[46918.797477] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81
[46918.803092] hid-generic 0003:04D8:FB31.0003: hiddev0,hidraw0: USB HID v1.11 Device [Hanlincrest Ltd.          FUNcube Dongle V2.0  ] on usb-0000:00:14.0-1/input2
[46918.917284] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81
[46918.955162] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81
It does show as a valid device in gqrx and I was soon decoding audio with it. The easiest decoding was in the VHF II FM broadcast band. After all the work with the 2 MHz wide spectrum from the rtl-sdr it takes a bit of adjusting to start working with 192 kHz spectrum from the FUNcube dongle but qgrx moves that bit nicely when needed.

To the computer, the dongle is an USB device with two subfunctions: an usbaudio device and a usbhid device. The audio device is used to deliver sampled radio spectrum and the hid device is used to control the dongle. This is why it's relatively easy to use softwarewise: modern operating systems have usbaudio support and usb hid control from a user application isn't too hard either.

One of the things I do want is a lot of interesting audio routing to be able to record both the downlink audio and my own audio. So I fired up pavucontrol and gqrx crashed. Restarting gqrx did not work until I closed pavucontrol. Some searching found gqrx crash with Funcube Pro+ which suggests to turn the device off for PulseAudio. Which may seem strange but PulseAudio is also using the alsa drivers which gqrx tries to use. I guess there is some conflict between gqrx and PulseAudio in dealing with the alsa drivers. After switching the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ in PulseAudio I could open the dongle in gqrx and play with audio settings for other channels in pavucontrol.

The setup with gpredict controlling the receive frequency of gqrx also worked fine, so this is looking good. Now to find out how things work on an FM or linear satellite.

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2019-05-19 Logging amateur satellite contacts (and another contact)
After getting a satellite contact via SO-50 the next thing was to get it in the log correctly. I followed the instructions from Logging Satellite QSOs with Logbook of the World - Amsat, logging the contact in the tqsl program, uploading that log to Logbook of the World and importing the logfile (ADIF) into CQRLOG later.

But later I found out that CQRLOG now supports satellite logging after enabling it in the preferences. Since version 2.3.0 satellite support is included.
Read the rest of Logging amateur satellite contacts (and another contact)

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2019-05-17 Back on amateur satellites: I made a contact via SO-50
This evening I checked 'Sky at a glance' in gpredict and saw a nice SO-50 pass come up. It was a southwest - northeast pass with a very high maximum elevation. So a good chance to listen to the satellite for a while. I took the Arrow antenna together with the Wouxun handheld radio outside, which I programmed for the SO50 frequencies when I started with amateur satellites years ago.

I started hearing the satellite right after it got above the houses. I heard one familiair callsign: Peter 2M0SQL. In a silent moment I answered his call, he heard me fine and we had a contact.

My first satellite contact since August 2014 and directly someone in the log who I really wanted to get in the log.

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