Saturday, August 7, 2010

Little Arrows

Ham radio never gets boring for me. I don't know if there is any other hobby that has so many different avenues for enjoyment. I would encourage everyone to try something new at least once a year. Fox hunting, contesting, moon bounce, digital modes, award chasing, microwaves, antenna building, whatever you think might be a fun change of pace.

My latest diversion is portable QRP satellite operations. John, K8YSE, noticed that I spend a fair amount of time travelling to 'exotic' locations around the Arctic so he sent me up an Arrow II dual-band satellite antenna . This little antenna is an amazing piece of craftsmanship. It consists of a two-piece aluminum boom about three feet long with a 7-element UHF yagi on one plane and a 3-element VHF yagi on the other. All the antenna elements are made from aluminum arrow shafts and they thread together at the boom. The whole antenna weighs less than two pounds and fits into a two-foot long 3" mailing tube for travelling. I already had a VHF handheld (which I hadn't ever used in the three years since I got it!) for the uplink and I was able to scrounge up a UHF handheld to receive the downlink. A $20 camera tripod from a discount store completed the package and I was ready to get on the air. After a bit of practice, I found I could assemble the entire station in about 5 minutes if I was in a hurry.

Operating from Fort McPherson, Northwest Territories in grid CP27

From studying a grid square map I determined that there are about a dozen different grids that I could operate from during my travels. Many satellite operators collect grid squares to qualify for the ARRL VUCC Award. Unfortunately, my far northern location limits the time for a mutual satellite window between here and the more populated areas of the world but on the plus side I can also reach over the pole to Europe and across the North Pacific to Asia. My first 'grid expedition' was to Fort McPherson, NT which lies in the CP27 grid. Less than two hours away by road, it is the southernmost location that I visit on a regular basis. On the first pass of the HO-68 satellite that day I made a whopping 16 QSO's, including two from Europe. Unfortunately, the rest of the passes that afternoon did not favor any populated areas so I only made a handful of contacts on the other birds. I had one good AO-51 pass scheduled for the end of the day and I decided to try to operate from Tsiigehtchic, NT in grid CP37 on the way home. That too didn't work out very well. I just barely made it there with 5 minutes before the start of the pass but for some reason I wasn't hearing the bird very well and I had a bad connection on the VHF radio antenna jack. By the time I had it all sorted out the bird was already over the North Pole and no one else was heard. Not to worry though. I travel to all these places at least once or twice a year so I will be back on from there sooner or later.

Camping on the August long weekend. My little nephew thinks satellite DX is pretty cool after we worked RN0QA in Yakutsk, Russia on AO-51.

I have special VE8EV/P QSL cards on the way from the printer for all my portable operations and will be happy to QSL via all the usual methods.

73 and look for you on the birds!