Amateur radio satellites

Updated 2021-04-06

Lars Thunberg – SM0TGU

I have been a radio amateur since 1989, first callsign SM5TGU and current call is SM0TGU. VHF-communication and satellites has been my first choice and I have been active on the RS-sats, AO-10, AO-13, FO-sats etc. I have been active in AMSAT-SM for many years.

After 15 year of radio silence I started a new setup in 2013 at my new QTH in Sollentuna (north of Stockholm). Now my focus is receiving telemetry from VHF and UHF amateur satellites and cubesats. From the summer 2018 I am also QRV on HF – digital modes. You can follow me as AMSAT-SM from our Twitter profile.

Jag har varit licensierad radioamatör sedan 1989-talet, först med signalen SM5TGU och efter flytt till Stockholm med nuvarande signal SM0TGU. 1993 gjorde jag lumpen på S1 Enköping som en av de sista telegrafisterna inom armén och fick därmed även licens för kortvågsbanden. Jag körde i början av 1990 mycket satellit bla. från de ryska RS-satelliterna, AO-10 och AO-13. De roligaste stunderna hade jag via DX-satelliten AO-13 där jag med enkel utrustning körde stora delar av världen. Jag har även byggt egna digitala modem (tex. packet och RTTY) och antenner av olika slag.

Sedan min flytt till Stockholm i slutet av 90-talet hade jag en längre period där jag var QRT men under 2013 har jag åter igen börjat lyssna på satelliter och mitt främsta intresse är nu telemetrimottagning. Jag har alltid varit med runt styrelsen i AMSAT-SM och följer kontinuerligt utvecklingen inom vår hobby. Jag kan med nuvarande utrustning lyssna på samtliga forsknings- och amatörradiosatelliter som sänder på radioamatörbanden på VHF och UHF.

Från sommaren 2018 är jag även QRV på HF och då främst digitala mode FT8.

Jag är aktiv inom föreningen AMSAT-SM som är en intresseförening inom amatörradiosatelliter. Alla mina blogginlägg skriver jag på föreningens hemsida och Twitter.


Current radio setup

VHF/UHF yagi setup
This is my primary setup for receiving and transmitting via satellites:

  • 4 meter 50mm steel pole/mast.
  • Rotor RAS from SPID Elektronik – computer controlled via USB.
  • Vårgårda satellite kit 2 * 6 el on VHF mounted in 45 degrees angle with circular polarization according to the WRAPS construction.
  • Special made 26 el UHF LFA X-Yagi (2* 13 el) from InnovAntennas.
  • 2x16m RFC 400 low loss coax with N connectors (one for VHF, one for UHF). I have measured the loss after the LNA at the antenna to the SDR unit in office and it is very small, approx 1 dB.
  • Inside at my office I use a MFJ-916BN diplexer in front of the Airspy/RSP1A to be able to use VHF and UHF yagi systems without any need for coax relay. If needed it is possible to disconnect one of the yagis from the diplexer and connect it to a transmitter.
  • LNA from SHF-Elektronik: Mini-2 and Mini-70.
  • SMA relay EME144 from Minikits for VHF placed before the VHF LNA.
    See this post – measurement of the relay.
  • CX-600N coax relay placed before the UHF LNA.
AlfaSpid RAS Az/El rotor
AlfaSpid RAS Az/El rotor during inhouse testing

SatNOGS station
Start of SatNOGS station was in july 2019 and is base on Rasberry PI3 and an Airspy Mini. My station ID is: 858 – SM0TGU – VHF
More information about SatNOGS can be found here.

For VHF 145 MHz I’m using a Vinnant Turnstile Antenna (Crossed Dipole) from Vinnant Antennas. It is a very good omni antenna for satellite RX and is Right Hand Circular Polarized (RHCP) and gives a much less fading of the signal. It is also OK for various scanning in a wider freq spectrum.

For UHF 436 MHz I have tried several antennas (V-dipole, Eggbeater, Turnstile Crossed Dipole. 

The current setup for SatNOGS station is:

  • Vinnant Turnstile Antenna (Crossed Dipole) RCHP 145MHz antenna
  • Two stacked 8 el UHF Yagis (Vinnant Antennas) fixed mount at aprox AZ/EL 120/30 and 240/30 degrees.
  • MFJ-916BN VHF/UHF diplexer connecting the two antennas to the feedline coax
  • Aprox 19 m RFC 400 low loss coax with N connectors


Installation of RPI and RTL-SDR v3 at radio chack (old image)


NOAA 137 MHz weather images

For receiving NOAA weather images I am using software WXtoImg and my 145 MHz VHF antennas.


HF antenna and other

With the antenna below I can receive signal from all continents with FT8 and my signal has been heard on all continents with 2,5 watts.

  • LDG RT-100 remote tuner
  • MFJ-813 QRP SWR meter
  • Antenna homemade EFHW 4010, tunable from 40m to 10m. It is resonant on 40m.
    See this post about the antenna and trafo.
  • Approx 20 m Hyperflex 5 coax cable
  • Digital modes with WSJT-X software, FL-Digi, JT8CALL etc.
RT-100 tuner and EFHW trafo
RT-100 tuner and EFHW trafo

SDR-radio and decoding software


HF/VHF/UHF Transceivers

  • All bands: Icom IC-705 SDR Transceiver
  • VHF/UHF: Baofeng UV-5R handheld

Portable equipment
This is my portable setup for different configurations. Please feel free to comment – anything that should be changed or added? One very good link/article about a portable setup is this one from Ivo Klinkert, PA1IVO.

Transceiver
ICOM IC-705
Same useful add-ons for the IC-705 that I would like to have:
– A headset (see this post)
– Or maybe a Bluetooth headset for the IC-705

For full duplex – Airspy Mini as receiver.

Batteries

  • Turnigy LiPo 5000 mAh. Please see this post about my batteries.

Antenna VHF/UHF

Antenna HF, cables and connectors

  • DIY 1:64 Trafo, tuned EFHW with pico-traps from SOTABeams.
    See this post about this antenna.
  • ZM-2 Z-match QRP tuner
  • Fixed 15m (21 MHz) dipole
  • Fixed 20m (14 MHz) dipole
  • BNC connectors as standard
  • HyperFlex 5 coax cable (short, aprox 7 meter)

And a simple FM sat setup

  • My current Baofeng UV-5R or IC-705
  • DIY Moxon-style hand-held yagi or Arrow with diplexer

Portable Windows Computer

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