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N5DUX's Satellite Guide

Equipment | Setup | Tracking Satellites | Gridsquares | FM Sats | Linear Sats | Awards | Links

N5DUX operating CAS-4B from grid EL28
at Surfside Beach, TX
On this page, I want to share my setup for making ham radio contacts via satellite. My setup is not elaborate and I've only been making QSOs since April 2022.
I recommend any ham just getting into satellites to start out on the FM satellites. They're much easier to work and has fewer hardware requirements making it cheaper to do. Start with FM satellites first before moving into linear satellites.

I started with FM satellites using just a handheld handi-talkie radio (HT), an Arrow antenna, and the website Heavens Above. There weren't any other good tracking websites that I knew of at the time and it was the pre-iPhone days so there were no great apps to help track multiple satellites. At the time, I lived across from a wide open field so I had few (no) obscructions from horizon to horizon.
With that modest setup, I was able to make satellite QSOs easily and have used that same exact HT and Arrow for almost 20 years now.
I've moved 3 times since then, taking my HT and Arrow with me. I've even used that simple HT and Arrow setup to operate as W1AW from the ARRL parking lot a number of times.

In July 2021 at the encouragement of Sean, KX9X, I began assembling the components listed below to get into linear transponder satellites. These are more involved than FM satellites, but the fundamentals are all the same.
A chance encounter with Tom, KB5FHK, and Patrick, WD9WEK, at Orlando Hamcation gave me the last push needed to finally get on the air.


A peek in the bag of my setup

Connecting it all together




There are many great resources from others that explain how to operate satellites. I'm going to break this into two sections FM and Linear. Once again, if you're just getting started start with FM satellites first. Not only will you likely have more success with FM, you'll also create less newbie-induced QRM for others on the linear. :)
As always, listen first. With that, I mean if you have a directional antenna try tuning and tracking a satellite before fussing with transmitting to it. Just hearing the satellite is half the challenge. And starting out, hearing the satellite is the challenge! So let's start there. Let's first look at how to find the satellite.


To locate the satellite you're wanting to work, you need to be able to locate it in the sky relative to your position. There's several ways to do this. It's quick and easy these days.
There's a fair amount of information to unpack on the topic, so I parked it on its own page here: Tracking


Great! So you've got the equipment and you've got a tracking app. The first area to explore is FM satellites. These are much easier to work and are known as "easy-sats" for this reason.
This section ran a bit long, so I parked it on its own page here: FM Satellites

Linear Birds

Alright, you've graduated from FM satellite operations and you can track and work FM satellites anytime you please - provided there's no major pileup on it (which, when is that?!)
You're ready to take the plunge and you've spent time (and money) assembling all the bits and pieces to get a functional full-duplex, portable VHF/UHF SSB station, time to get on the air. I've done a brain-dump of how I've managed to get on the air at this page: Linear Satellites


Once you've been on the air for a bit, you may be wondering "What now?".
Awards provide the "thrill of the hunt" when working satellites. There are several satellite awards you can earn such as Worked All States, VUCC, and even the grandaddy of them all: AMSAT Gridmaster. Are you up for it?


Here's a collection of all external links I've references in the text on this page and other pages here. I'm also including some links for more information that were not referenced in the text.

More pictures

Need to take some pics!