Archive for Chasing

So you want to chase grids on Sats?

Posted in Radios with tags , on October 21, 2020 by KE0PBR

So you want to be a grid chaser?

Look, I’m not gonna tell you in this article how to get on sats, there are about 300 other resources for that. What I will tell you is how to find the grids you need. I will also break this article down to ranges of grids. No use going through everything you might need to do to get to 488, when you only want 10 so contacts you can get on a satellite for field day.

What makes me qualified to tell you how to do this? Nothing. I just chase grids. Also this isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing list of tips and tricks. Just what works for me. So here goes.

0-10 Grids or I just want to see if I like this.

  1. Join AMSAT and get a copy of the “Getting Started with Amateur Satellites” book, and read it. Lots of great information. With will help with just getting on the birds and many of the tips I list later on. Best $15.00 you can spend getting on the birds
  2. I know that some people won’t like this, but just get on the birds anyway you can. Got an HT and a homebrew yagi? Do it. People will tell you that you need full duplex, a home station, a tripod and some of that is true, but if you only want to test the waters, don’t spend the money on an Arrow and a 9700. Get on 4-5 passes, (anyway you can) and you will get some contacts. If you don’t like it, you can move back to your local nets and FT8. Facebook has lots of information on how to get on cheaply. But be aware, not everything there will work well for the long haul.

10-200 Grids. Or Hey I think I can get my Sat VUCC.

OK, you got on some birds, and love it. Now you want to be serious and get Satellite VUCC. Believe it or not this is actually pretty easy to do. I know an operator that did it in less than a month. OK, here we go here are the hints.Forget hint #2. Seriously, using that information on anymore passes and you will cause trouble on the sats. We all understand the new person that is just starting, but we need to be a little serious here. If you make  more than a couple contacts without full duplex, you will have trouble with other ops later on. Not getting into details, just get a full duplex radio and you will be good.

3. Get off Facebook and get on Twitter. Nothing against the guys on Facebook, but Twitter is where roves are announced, and you can get really good information from some of the most experienced ops out there. Oh, and while you are on Twitter, follow @The-Grid_life. All roves get announced on that account. The people on Twitter will also help you with the next few hints. Although not on Twitter, watch the AMSAT Satellite Ops web Page, this also lists roves.

4. Equipment: Get a full duplex radio. As far as radios: I prefer the Kenwood V71. Cheaper than the 710 and more portable. Click here for a cool article on this. (Unfortunately it is FM only. But To get your VUCC you can do it on FM alone) But here are many radios that are full duplex. (go check out the getting started book, you did buy that didn’t you?) It would also help if you get a radio that can do 10 watts, for FM you will need it on the ISS and PO-101. With AO-92 out, these are becoming more popular. Figure out the radio then…

5. If you’re portable, get an Arrow. I know the Elk will work and work well, but there is a reason 90% of the ops I know use arrow. I have 5 different Arrows, and yes, I have a favorite. Get the radio first to determine if you need the Arrow Duplexer or not. Icom 9700 and you don’t. Kenwood D72 and you do. If you’re not portable, go to the AMSAT store and get an M2 antennae setup, but seriously, go portable. Lot more fun being on the other side of a pileup.

6. Get on LOTW: Really, you will need it to track your progress, and all the other ops will use it. In my opinion, this isn’t optional. The guys on Twitter can help. Also, don’t be afraid to send QSL cards, but LOTW is the preferred method.

7. Get the Excel (or Google) sheet for tracking your progress. Click here for all the versions available. Trust me, it’s a whole lot easier to start with this.

8. Start Roving: Don’t worry about how rare the grid is. Just get out there. This does two things. 1. You learn how to work a pileup and get in when you need. 2. People will start recognizing your call. Trust me, that second one gets important. Just don’t go to far. Watch the rules so the grids you GET while roving count towards your grid count. For real fun find another op to rove with. It get to be a great time.

200+ Grids. Or this is fun and I want to get the Gridmaster Award.

So, you got your VUCC, made some Twitter friends and are having a blast… So next step is the big one: The Gridmaster award (getting all 488 grids in the continental US). How do we do this?

9.Go Linear: This makes getting the rare grids easier. I know the first 10 QSOs on Linear are hard, but after that it is much easier, and you don’t have to fight through the FM chaos. Read this to help: Three Steps to Chasing Rovers on Linears This is also pretty handy: Frequency Cheat Sheet

10. Go Low: If you set up your Sat tracking app to ignore anything below 5 degrees you are missing out. I can commonly work 0-2 degree passes on FM. And since most people won’t work less than 20, you are getting the rover while others are still setting up. Remeber #8 above. Use your roving to find great spots to operate from. Find that hill, lake or clear horizon to help go low.

11. Go to @GridmasterHeat and submit your data: This Twitter account will alert you when grids you don’t have are being activated. Seriously, it tells you when to go out for a pass, to get grids, you don’t have. Submitting your data also lets the rovers know where to go for the rare grids.

12. Go Ask @GridmasterHeat for the who activated what report: Since you have submitted data, you can get this report. It will show you all ops that have activated a grid. Then start the emails and talk that old op into dusting off his equipment and giving you the grid. 90% of the time they will.

Or 13B, ask for a Grid: Really if you need a grid from someone, just ask. You will be surprised at how quick some people will say yes. HOWEVER, if it is a major effort (read: 500+ miles each way with overnight, etc. that isn’t a family-style vacation operation) offer to help with logistics, if you can. Ops will understand.

So those are my 13.5 hints for chasing grids. I skipped so much other stuff on along the way. Notice not a lot of specific items that are revolutionary. These are just the main things that I have done to get to over 500 grids. Give it a shot and let me know if you have other hints.

Now get out there and get some grids!

OK, can one of you go out and activate some Maine grids for me? Thanks