Tuesday, September 22, 2020

QO-100 Analogue Ground Station

Yes, it can be done. One can use a fully analogue ground station for QO-100 operations.

My first attempt included a Yaesu FT-290R2 for reception, along a Yeasu FT-817 for transmission on 70cm. Once a TX frequency has been established, following the drift of the LNB was an OK-ish task during QSOs. Changing frequencies was an unpleasant juggle of setting the receive frequency and trying to find the transmit frequency without annoying everybody else of the transponder. This ballet is performed with VFO controls of two different radios.

Second attempt: Yaesu FT-736R, the satellite machine from the past. It was doing great, in particular when changing frequencies, using the satellite mode. However, my cheap LNB kept drifting in sunlight, while the up-link converter stayed rock-solid. Hence, using the FT-736R was a constant switching between SAT-mode and RX-QRG. Once a frequency was established, TX-QRG needed to be adjusted. I am not sure how many actuations the little SAT-switch can take. What I am concerned, it took a lot of focusing in order to not adjust the VFO in the wrong setting, thereby messing up the RX/TX-offset.
With a stabilized LNB, this might be a different story.
I liked the possibility to use the VFO-knob to scan up and down over the band, knowing that, whenever I pushed the PTT, the frequency would be at least close.

The FT-736R is back in its box for now. In terms of having contacts, the SDR-option seems a lot more convenient, in particular when locking the reception to the satellite's beacon. Transmission is stable enough, in my experience, so nothing to be bothered about.
As an added bonus of the SDR solution of the analogue way, there is signal processing available when using a computer for reception. 

Further, I tried to use a Yaesu FT-790R2 as baseband up-link transmitter. It did work. However, there are two observations to share: 1) some weird spurious transmission were visible in A1A, 2) the audio in J3E was OK but not punchy at all.

Consequently, I will be using the Yaesu FT-817 as a baseband TX and the SDR receive setup, for the time being.