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.  🙂