Satellite tracking & Ham Radio

One of the things I have recently had an interest in is Ham Radio Satellites, or AMSAT. There are a bunch of small satelllites in orbit (including the International Space Station) that can be used as repeaters for ham radio.  One of the most well known and easy to use satellites is SO-50.  I’ve heard people on SO-50 that were over 1,000 miles away from me.

If you are looking at getting into satellite tracking or using them for Ham Radio, there are a few things you need to know.

  1. How to track/predict satellite passes
  2. Equipment to communicate from the ground to the satellites
  3. Frequencies of the satellites


There are several programs available to predict satellite passes. I purchased one for my iPhone, GoSatWatch. GoSatWatch was $10 and well worth the money. It can track everything from Ham Satellites, the Internation Space Station, visible satellites, commercial and GPS satellites, and Iridium flares (looks like shooting stars). It has the option to show a world map, a sky map, and predict passes for whatever you want to track.

If you want a decent program for the computer, I recommend Gpredict. Gpredict is free and has many of the same features, but requires a computer.


baofenguv-5rFor my setup, I run a baofeng uv5r handheld. This handheld cost around $25-30 on amazon. I use Chirp to program it (I will be doing a write up on how to use Chrip).




arrow_antennaSome satellites are strong enough to pick up with an extended whip style antenna. For better reception I purchased an Arrow Antenna. This antenna is great and I have been able to speak and hear with no issues. Just point the antenna towards the satellite as it passes and you will start hearing transmissions. If you are looking to do telemetry or packet radio, you’ll need equipment for this as well. I haven’t ventured into that yet, but I will be exploring that in the future.



The last thing you’ll need it a list of the frequencies for which the satellites use. I had generated a list from different locations, but I’m unable to locate the list. Some suggested sites are:


When I started this, I had no one to show me how to do anything, so I learned it all on my own the hard way. Some tips from me would be to:

  1. Make sure your squelch is wide open when talking
  2. There are many people attempting contacts, so don’t get discouraged if you can’t break in, just keep trying
  3.  Be patient and try to predict out the passes
  4. Focus on trying to pick up satellites before transmitting
  5. Listen to how people talk before trying transmitting
  6. Write down call signs you here and look them up for distance information
  7. Have fun

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$40 AMSAT setup

In the past I’ve used my arrow antenna to do most of my AMSAT communications. This afternoon I had a free moment and decided to see what was flying over. SO-50, one of the satellites I track, was actually passing directly over my location. I decided to try out my baofeng uv5r and Nagoya antenna. The radio is about $25 and the antenna runs around $15. I’ve seen videos of people getting this to work, but have never gotten it to before. To my surprise I was able to pick up transmissions. I attempted contact, but the satellite was almost over the horizon at that point. Below is the video.

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Ham Radio Attic Antenna

About a year ago I obtained my Ham Radio Technician License.  The very first radio I purchased was a Baofeng UV-5R Handheld. This radio was good for listening while driving around, but I needed a good setup in the Cole Command Center. I ended up getting a Kenwood TM-V71a radio with the Kenwood KPS-15 Power supply, that I setup as a base station.


The setup was fantastic minus one thing, the antenna. Due to my HOA regulations I am not allowed to place a visible antenna on the outside of my house. I debated stringing one in a tree behind my house, but decided against it. After some research I decided the best thing to do would be to install an attic antenna.

The antenna I purchased was a Comet GP-1 from the antenna farm, Link.


The second problem I ran into was the fact that there were no wall plates designed for the connections for this antenna and radio.  I searched all over looking for something that mirrored a tv coax wall plate, but for the PL259 connector, but came up with nothing. I ended up purchasing a female2female PL259 connector and a blank wall plate. After some measuring I drilled out the blank wall plate and placed the connector through it.



The next step in the process was to cut the wall plate hole and drop the coax cable from the attic to the wall plate. I had an old phone drop that I removed off the stud and replaced it with a hollow wall drop and the new custom plate.




Once the cable was connected to the back of my radio everything worked like a champ. I can hit the local repeaters with no problems and have even made a direct contacts about 45 miles away.

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