Having been busy this fall with work, family, and riding motorcycles, I got caught up on AMSAT launches and saw that FOX-1A, or AO-85 is up and running. I grabbed the trusty tape measure antenna last night and went outside for a pass that went nearly directly overhead. The Android app ISS Detector makes it easy.
I was not geared up to make contact, but really just wanted to see how well I could receive the bird and who was talking. With the correct antenna polarity, the carrier was super strong with clear audio. Here are some of the call signs heard…
KC5QFL – EL09
K4FEG – EM55
WO3T – FN00
W4DGA – FM18
KA4H – FM17
WB3CSY – FN10
AD2KA – FN12
NM3B – FN01
Here’s a condensed recording of the pass. I’ve removed the long portions of dead air and open squelch.
I’ve been using the ISS Detector app for a while now. I started out using it on my Samsung Galaxy S5 and my Galaxy Tab S. I recently dumped the S5 phone for the new LG V10. (Great phone, the V10…) The app runs flawlessly on all of those devices. It just works and it has not, yet, let me down.
You will be able to track the ISS, amateur radio satellites, planets and comets, and “famous objects.” What’s really nice here is that I only wanted to track the ISS, which the app does for everyone, and AMSATs. You can pay for just AMSATs, just comets and planets, or you can pay one price for everything. I opted to just pay for AMSATs and that cost me a whopping $1.40 – a one time price… not a monthly subscription or anything sketchy.
The upcoming passes layout is simple and effective. You get sunrise and sunset times, a simple button for turning notifications on and off, and your current grid location.
When you click on an upcoming pass, you are taken to the radar screen… a screen which will depict the object’s rise, path, and descent, along with a lot of information about the object and that particular pass.
The app will notify you of passes based on your current location, or you can manually set the location. I have it set to notify me of passes that are 10° or higher in elevation. If you only want to track the ISS for viewing purposes, you can set it to notify you of only those passes that are of high viewing quality. The app is very configurable and well designed. You will be able to choose a notification tone, vibrate, and time before pass, among many other options in the settings.
I don’t see how it can be much simpler or better than that. I use this app a lot, even on the road when working. You never know when you’ll be treated to a nice ISS pass or catch an Iridium flare!
*This is not a sponsored or paid-for review. I am posting this review on my own because I simply love the app and hope more folks will discover it.
I’ve been gearing up to work SO-50 lately. Mostly just listening in, perfecting my setup, and perhaps overthinking things.
I use ISS Detector for Android on my Galaxy S5 to alert me to ISS and AMSAT flyovers. I was busy when my phone alerted me to a nice 71° pass at just before 7pm local time. Well, by the time I had a chance to grab my gear, I had only 2 minutes to spare. Today, less was more, and with less… I made my first satellite contact.
I grabbed my tape measure antenna and only one radio, and connected it to the 2m side so I could transmit, and hopefully receive well enough. Once the bird broke through 25° it came in nice and clear (there are mountains to the north where it began it’s pass). I recorded the audio with my phone. I have been working to use my TASCAM audio recorder, but didn’t have time to get it all together… plus, I’ve yet to come up with a way for the TASCAM to record my transmissions. More tinkering to do there.
I waited for a break to get my call-sign in the mix, and ended up making contact with KM4LMF, who appears to be an even newer ham than I… As in a day or two ago?! Nice job!
Here it is:
I attempted a couple more contacts, and WB3CSY ended up calling, I threw out my call-sign, but at the time I didn’t catch his call-sign and I kinda just had a brain fart, after having made my first contact. Oh well… I was excited.
I’m sorry, WB3CSY… I’ll do better next time:
The tape measure antenna came through in a pinch! Now I need to work on getting an HT that does SSB for the other AMSATs up there.
This morning, the ISS flew nearly directly overhead and I set up to listen in. As I was doing my best to get the antenna pointed correctly, a perfectly empty carrier broke the static for about 2 seconds. Then a few seconds later, RS0ISS came through saying hello. A few seconds more and a clean SSTV signal came through. I even remembered to record the audio this time! I decoded the audio with my phone, and besides receiving two phone notifications during the recording (note to self: silence all alerts when using my phone to record audio!), the image came out OK for my first try.
While I wait for my Arrow antenna to arrive, I thought I would experiment and build a dual band tape measure yagi since I already had most of the parts on hand. The Arrow antenna can be broken down and carried in a bag, and it will be my primary antenna to work satellites, but the 70cm part of this antenna came out perfectly resonant at 436.6 MHz. I had to really go outside the box on the 70cm director lengths, but I finished with a combination that tests well.
The 2m portion did not turn out so well, but at 146.600 I ended up with a 1.5 SWR at best. It receives well enough. I’ll tinker with it again and see what I can come up with.
Yesterday, I was able to receive SO-50 (Saudisat 1C) just fine and in my excitement I forgot to start recording on my phone. I didn’t try to make contact, but a lot of what I heard was very clear, and the operators that were hitting the bird with full quieting came back to me the same. Pretty neat stuff!
Today, SO-50 flew overhead and I was better prepared to record the audio and even make contact. What I discovered, however, is that something nearby was transmitting a nice clean carrier on 436.785 thru 486.795 while I was attempting to receive the bird. Well, given that I was out in the driveway using a highly directional antenna, I found that it was coming from my house! I was able to hear a couple transmissions from SO-50, but the rogue carrier pretty much ruined the session. I had not experienced this yesterday…
I set out on a little fox hunt in the house to hunt down the source and found that the downstairs desktop PC was the culprit. Note to self: put that damn thing to sleep next time!