Tonight (~1800hrs local) the AO-51 satellite was predicated to be overhead with a maximum elevation of a bit over 70deg; as a result I thought it's probably time to go one step further and try to actually make a contact. With my radio programmed to do an "Odd-split" transmit (because the downlink is on 70cm and the uplink on 2m) I was all set. The only limiting factor would be my antenna setup, which is currently just a small dual bander on a mag mount on my shed roof which is tucked in next to the house and the garage.
Anyway, as I started to pick up the bird's carrier I then started to hear VK3OX coming across nice and strong, and this time I even had the S meter up around S2 for some of the time. Then I also heard VK1AMG make a contact and so I thought I might as well give it a go – but not really expecting any success.
Well lo an' behold as soon as I'd transmitted my call sign several people were picking me up, but unfortunately I was struggling to hear them too well. But I tried a few more times and they tried as well, so at the very least I can consider that a level of success!!
With that taste of what is possible (and hearing that VK3OX was operating with a HT and handheld beam – and he was a _very_ strong signal) I'm now very keen to try even more satellite work with a more ideal antenna setup – maybe start with the X-50N on a mast deployed out on top of a hill. Exciting times and I can definitely recommend the activity to everyone. You really do just need minimal gear and most basic dual band radios (including HTs) seem to have everything you need – don't be misled as I was into thinking you need a dual _receive_ radio (although nice, definitely not required to get started). Actually, on that note here is what I used tonight:
* Yaesu FT-7800
* Diamond Dual Band mobile vertical – can't remember model number, but it's one of the smaller ones @ ~50cm in length.
Also, I see that my very first amateur transceiver (a Yaesu HT – FT-60) has everything you need too – and 5W is considered plenty of power.
So there you go, if you've got a handheld and a slightly better than basic antenna, get out there and give it a go! 😉