On April 15, 2013 I received some mail that I had been "waiting for" for about 25 years. When I say "waiting for" I mean waiting to qualify for the item in the mail. I had been an avid radio enthusiast for nearly 35 years, but I had never attempted to obtain a HAM radio license, until 2013, when I enrolled in an amateur radio course in Kingston. I wanted to tie up a loose end that was in the back of my mind for a quarter of a century.
The course ran from the beginning of February to mid-April. Just before then, I was introduced to the world of VHF/UHF communications via cubesats and the VE3RMC amateur station. However I could not transmit to any of them without an amateur radio license; I could only receive transmissions. This had to change if I was to experience the total cubesat adventure.
After the course, I took the amateur radio exam and got a mark over 80%, which qualified me for the "Basic Plus" certificate. This meant that I could transmit on the HF, VHF and UHF amateur frequency bands. After receiving my license from Industry Canada, I had a question to answer. What would I do with it? I had some initial ideas, including using some of the cubesats to contact fellow radio enthusiasts.
The only equipment that is currently available to me is the VE3RMC station at the Royal Military College (RMC). The station comprises of an iCom 910 VHF/UHF transceiver and a directional Yagi antenna controlled by a Yaesu computer-controlled antenna controller. I had familiarized myself with receiving cubesats with it for nearly a year before receiving my license, but I had no idea how difficult it would be to transmit with the same equipment.
My first transmission was made to the Saudisat 1C (SO-50) cubesat on April 26, 2013. The satellite was predicted to be nearly overhead so it was my best chance for first contact. I tried to transmit several times as the satellite passed overhead, but I received no confirmation of reception (QSL for short). I tried a second time 100 minutes later when the satellite passed over Kingston again, but I could not hear any confirmation that anyone had heard me. I could hear other amateurs talking to each other during both passes. I began to think that I was doing something wrong, especially during the first pass. I called it a day, but I would be back to try again.
Before my next attempt, I decided to read about the SO-50 satellite to see what I could have done wrong; something I should have done before my first attempt. It turned out that the satellite required a 67Hz tone to be sent along with the voice transmission in order for the satellite to accept transmissions. I figured that my receive and transit frequencies were right but the tone was not present in any of my transmissions of April 26. I learned from the iCom 910 manual how to set the P/L tone to 67Hz when transmitting. I would try again in a few days armed with this new knowledge.
On May 1, 2013, I was back at the VE3RMC station ready for my second attempt. I made sure to activate the 67Hz tone with transmission, tuned the receive (Rx) and transmit (Tx) frequencies and waited for the SO-50 satellite to appear over Kingston's horizon. After the satellite was about 30 degrees above Kingston's southern horizon, I began transmitting RMC's call sign using the phonetic alphabet. No response. I checked my settings and tried again. No response. When the satellite was nearly overhead I tried again, No response. I began to think that the satellite would pass by again without a contact.
Finally, when the satellite was approximately 70 degrees in the northern skies, I tried once more and got a response! My call sign was being sent back to me, along with the radio operator's call sign: AC0RA. I quickly acknowledged his call sign and repeated mine. We could not talk for long since the satellite would only be accessible for several more minutes. However, I received another call sign, this time N2PPL. I acknowledged her call sign and repeated mine. I received a third call sign soon after: K8II. I acknowledged it and repeated mine. Soon after the satellite was too low in elevation and too far away for reliable communications. However, I had finally done something that I wanted to do for 25 years. I transmitted with an amateur radio and got a response!
On that day, I felt an exhilaration knowing that I had used a satellite for the first time; not just observed or received one. I actually activated a satellite FM transponder such that someone else in North America could hear my transmissions. It is a once in a lifetime feeling that further enhanced my experiences in space science.
Since that memorable day, I have made two more contacts; one using the SO-50 satellite and another using the VE3KBR repeater in Kingston. As I continue to explore this exciting new world, I will keep a log on this website (link below).
SEE THE LOGBOOK OF VE3HEO
VE3HEO Was Last Modified On June 07, 2013