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At first, I struggled with setting up the FT-51R for working satellites.  Initially I was setting the uplink on the VHF side and storing the most used satellites in memory; naming them to keep things easy.  I was setting the frequency manually for the downlink and using the knob occasionally to adjust for doppler shift.  This worked, but it had some drawbacks.

Firstly, I had to switch bands to adjust for doppler.  If I forgot to switch back, I would key the transmitter on the UHF band and, well, no one would hear me.  🙂

Secondly, I had to keep a list of the downlink frequencies handy since I did not know how to tune a memory location.  If you switch to VFO mode when a memory is recalled, you end up on the last frequency that the VFO was manually set to.

The solution to both problems is actually quite simple.  The trick is to set up the satellite downlink like you normally would set up a repeater.  Set the frequency manually and store it in a memory location.  Then manually key in the uplink frequency and hold the FM key as if you were going to store a new memory location.  The memory location that you stored the downlink in should be displayed.  Simply press and hold down the PTT and hit FM to store the transmit frequency.  🙂  This is basically configuring the FT-51R for a manual repeater split, crossband in this case.  Simply name the memory location to match the satellite and don’t forget to put in any CTCSS tones if they are needed.  🙂   Hit REV to reverse the tx/rx and verify that the uplink frequency is correct.  If so, you are good to go.

The operation is simple.  Select the memory location and then tag the MR key.  MT will be displayed which allows you to manually tune the receive frequency to make up for doppler.  Adjustments will affect only the downlink and not the uplink, but most people leave the uplink alone and everything works fine.  If you accidentally go crazy on the dial and need to recall the default frequency, simply hit MR key once to recall the memory, and a second time to go back to tuning mode.

Hopefully this will help those who are struggling to use this radio for satellite operation.  There is likely a better way to do it and maybe someone will let me know about it.

Until then, 73s to all.

My name is Jason Westervelt and I have been an amateur radio operator since 12-March 2010.  I currently reside in Mesa, Arizona and my grid locator is DM43bj.

I have been interested in amateur radio for quite some time, but the code requirement always kept me at bay.  I practiced, but never got beyond 5WPM.  Now that the code requirement has been dropped, I have decided to take up the hobby.  Interestingly enough, I am once again working on my code skills and can finally copy at around 12WPM.  🙂

I like to do different and exciting things.  Most new hams go out and grab a dual-band handheld and hop on a local repeater, making their first QSO in that manner.  Not this guy… I decided to have a little more fun.

I picked up a used Yaesu FT-51R that was in near mint condition with a bunch of accessories for $100.  As this is a dual-band handheld, I could have just hopped on a repeater, but I went for a slightly loftier target.  I set my eyes on the AO-27 amateur satellite.

The first task was to build an antenna.  I put together a homebrew 70cm 6-element yagi and purchased the needed connectors to hook it up to my radio…

Amateur radio satellite downlink antenna

With the downlink portion completed, I hurried outside to catch AO-51 as it passed overhead.  Amazing, it actually worked, and quite well at that!

The next hurdle was the uplink portion.  This was going to be harder because the elements needed to be bigger for the 2M band.  In addition, I had to go out and purchase a duplexer so that both antennas could be attached to the radio at the same time.  I picked up an FMJ MX-72H.  I then built the 3 element uplink portion at a 90degree angle to the downlink antenna.  I decided to take a break while I looked up the next viable satellite passing.

Yaesu FT-51R and dual-band yagi for satellite operation

On 17-March-2010 at 13:50MST (20:50 UTC), a very high pass was scheduled to begin.  More importantly, the time co-incided with the very short transmitter operation window for AO-27.  I packed my antenna into my car and headed to work, planning to run out on my lunch break and make contact.

As the pass started, I quickly found the satellite and began listening.  Surprisingly traffic was not as hectic as AO-51 was the previous day… instead of a furious stream of calls and locators, I heard casual conversation.  I waited for a break and then at a couple of minutes before 21:00 UTC, I nervously keyed my transceiver attempting to make my very first QSO as an amateur radio operator…

Not sure that my homebrew antenna and 2Watt transmitter would be sufficient, I was elated to hear a voice come back in response.  It was K8YSE in EN91.  He missed the ‘I’ in my call, so I repeated it again, phonetically.  The second time was a charm.  🙂   My very first QSO, and on a satellite to boot.

But what is this?? Shortly afterwards, I hear KG6NUB in CM87 calling me!  Uh-oh… I left my trusty sharpie in the office and I had nothing to write with!  I tried my best to remember his call, remembering only 6NUB and responded with my QRZ attempting to get the first part of the call.  I was able to catch it and commit it to memory as he responded, but to my disappointment, he could not hear me respond back.  I later learned that I had accidentally bumped the transmit frequency.  😦

So that concludes my introduction.  I learned a bit from my mistakes and even found a few great hints that I will share in later posts.  🙂