Amateur Radio Satellites

posted Jan 19, 2018, 11:19 PM by Glynn Davies

Can you hear the birds???  Have you been listening out for them??

 I’m not talking about the 28s or Corellas that infest our local parks, nor the kookaburras laughing at 10pm and 2am on my recent camping stay in Denmark.

 I'm talking about Amateur Radio Satellites.

 Again, one of those aspects of the hobby that anyone can get involved in, especially new hams, there are an increasing number of Amateur Radio satellites being launched as part of Amsat’s FOX Project, with the latest, FOX-1-D being launched on January 12th.

 In addition to the Fox-1 U/v FM transponder, Fox-1D carries several university experiments, including:

-      a MEMS gyro from Pennsylvania State University

-      Erie, a camera from Virginia Tech, and

-      the University of Iowa’s HERCI (High Energy Radiation CubeSat Instrument) radiation mapping experiment.


Fox-1D also carries the AMSAT L-Band Downshifter experiment which allows the utilization of a 1.2 GHz uplink for the FM transponder. Telemetry, experiment data, and pictures from the Virginia Tech camera can be decoded using the FoxTelem software – which can easily be downloaded off the net.


For the first few weeks AMSAT are interested in any telemetery you may receive why they test the new satellite and its onboard experiements.


The on-orbit checkout procedure for Fox-1D is similar to the procedure for AO-91. However, the various experiments on board Fox-1D will require more extensive testing than the experiments on board AO-91 and could take up to two weeks, but could be less if users cooperate.


It is very important, and good amateur operating practice, to refrain from using the transponder uplink so the on-orbit tests can be performed, including when the satellite is switched into Transponder Mode for testing.


AMSAT will make it broadly known when the tests are complete and the transponder is available for all to use.


If you hear someone on the transponder, please do not assume that it is open for general use – check AMSAT’s website, Facebook, and Twitter before transmitting to be sure you do not interfere with testing.


AMSAT asks all satellite operators to contribute just a little bit of your time by gathering telemetry, not using the transponder uplink, to help complete the progress of getting Fox-1D operating for the amateur radio community.


Lots of hams put thousands of volunteer hours of their time into making Fox-1D happen. Just like any ham radio project you might undertake, AMSAT builds satellites. AMSAT volunteers do it because they like to, and when they are done, AMSAT freely shares their project with hams everywhere as is the spirit of amateur radio.


I remember the first time I made a contact through FOX-1A, and then more recently AO-91 – it’s lots of fun, and although there’s some great cross-band yagis out there – many of us have been able to make contacts using 5W hand-held – sometime with just the OEM rubber ducky antenna, and other times using mobile radios and base verticals.


As eloquently put on social media this week:

“good grief some sods just yak on ,the pass almost gone there are others wishing to get a contact also.

If some hear a call why don’t they at least return the call”

What the post is saying is if you’d like to have a long chat – use the local repeater. Yep the QSOs fast and short through the satellites so that lots of operators can get a go during a pass.