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Receive and transmit through amateur satellites

At one time an amateur satellite station required expensive or specialised equipment such as VHF and UHF SSB equipment and elaborate steerable antennas. You also needed to manually calculate satellite pass times or use a computer program that required continual entry of data to remain accurate.

Now it's simpler. A new breed of satellites are effectively orbiting FM repeaters. A few watts from an FM handheld transceiver can be enough to work the easier satellites. Pass times are now available online so there is no need to calculate them. And suitable antennas are easy to build and cheap to buy. You may even be able to do it with just the antenna that comes with your handheld transceiver.

The simplest satellites to get on to are all low earth orbiters. Because they pass close to earth signals from them are strong and are audible with simple antennas. The low earth orbits mean that passes are short. This in conjunction with the satellite being a single channel repeater means that most satellite contacts are brief unless you operate at a time when most are asleep. A current list of satellites available for communications is on the AMSAT website.

Interested? Watch these videos, featuring the new AO91 and AO92 satellites, for more information and on-air demonstrations.

Foundation guide to amateur satellites - Part 1


Foundation guide to amateur satellites - Part 2


Working the AO91 satellite with cheap handheld transceivers


The benefits of a beam when working the AO91 satellite


A portable 144 MHz yagi suitable for closer satellites


Trying to work the AO91 satellite with a single handheld transceiver (not recommended)


Working the AO92 satellite


Satellites with linear translators

The above has been all about FM satellites. These have the disadvantage of permitting only one conversation at a time through them. Satellites with linear translators permit simultaneous contacts. These may employ SSB, CW or data modes. You do generally need better antennas with these than FM satellites for reliable communication. However you can still hear SSB with simple antennas. And you can even use a handheld to send a CW signal strong enough to be detected and retransmitted via the satellite. Some demonstrations here:



Further information

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