We have been working with Hudson Memorial School near Nashua, NH, to prepare for a possible ISS crew contact. The ARISS folks work with schools and their Ham Radio helpers to prepare for these contacts. ARISS provides recommendations for ground station equipment to help ensure a good experience for the students. The ground station recommendations provide solid specifications to support communications with the ISS on the 2m band. The recommendations include things such as:
- A requirement to build both a primary and a backup ground station
- Radio and power specifications (a 200W amp is recommended)
- Antenna specifications, including recommendations to provide for switchable LHCP and RHCP
- Computer-controlled azimuth/elevation positioning of antennas to track the ISS
- Use of a receive preamplifier at the antenna
We have recently completed the construction and testing of our Portable Satellite Station 3.0, built specifically to meet the primary station requirements for our ISS contact.
Our plan is to add some upgrades to our Portable Satellite Station 2.0 to create a Portable 2.1 Station that meets the backup station requirements. These upgrades will include:
- Use of an Icom IC-910H Transceiver
- The addition of a second Green Heron RT-21 Az/El Rotator Controller and Raspberry Pi Interface
- Upgrade of our M2 Antenna Systems LEO Pack Antennas to include switchable LHCP and RHCP polarity
- The addition of another second set of M2 Antenna Systems S3 Sequencers and PTT switching to control the receive preamplifiers at the 2.0 antennas
- An Elecraft W2 Wattmeter
- Power supplies and power distribution for the Transceiver, Amplifier, and Accessories
All equipment needed to upgrade our 2.0 Portable Station to 2.1 is here or will arrive shortly. Here’s some more information on the planned equipment.
The Icom IC-910H was Icom’s flagship Transceiver for Satellite work before the IC-9100 was released. It’s a very nice satellite radio! Dave, K1DLM, graciously lent us his IC-910H for use in our backup station.
We already have a Green Heron Az/El Rotator controller setup for the Yaesu Rotator system on the 2.0 Antenna Tower, and we will be reusing it for the 2.1 station.
We are also planning to build a second Raspberry Pi Rotator Interface for it.
M2 Antenna Systems recently added a new 2M polarity switch, the PS-2MCP8A, designed for use with the 2M antenna in their LEO Pack, which we use in our 2.0 Antenna System. We will install this relay and a PS-70CM polarity switch relay for the LEO pack’s 70cm antenna as part of the 2.1 Antena System upgrade.
We will add another DXEngineering EC-4 BCD Control Console to control the polarity switching relays on the upgraded antennas.
The final new component in our 2.0 to 2.1 upgrade is the addition of a 200W RM ITALY LA 250 power amplifier. We have opted for the version of this amplifier with the cooling fans. The unit is very well made, and we are anxious to see how it performs on the air.
Some of our readers might be wondering what we are planning to do with all of the Portable Satellite Ground Station equipment in the long run? We plan on keeping the 1.0 Portable Station for grid square activations and demonstrations. Its simple, battery-powered approach and small antenna make it ideal for this work.
The upgraded 2.0 Portable Station with enhanced polarity switching will become our transportable station for License Class and Field Day use. It will be converted at the end of 2018 to use our Icom IC-9100 Transceiver, which is currently part of the 3.0 station.
We plan to use the Portable 3.0 Station throughout the year (2018) to support the planned ARISS contact, Field Day, and some demonstrations at local Ham Fests and schools. Once these are complete, we plan to permanently install it here at our QTH, and it will become our main satellite ground station at our home QTH.
You can view all the articles about our Portable Satellite Stations via the links below.
- A Portable Satellite Station Part 1 – A Simple Station for AO-85
- A Portable Satellite Station Part 2 – 2.0 Station Goals and Antenna System
- A Portable Satellite Station Part 3 – Station Radio and Supporting Equipment
- A Portable Satellite Station Part 4 – 2.0 Station First Contacts!
- A Portable Satellite Station Part 5 – Plans for Our 3.0 Station
- A Portable Satellite Station Part 6 – 3.0 Station Initial Contacts
- Raspberry Pi Satellite Rotator Interface
- PTT Router for Satellite Station 3.0
We will begin construction of the 2.1 upgraded station once a few remaining components arrive here. We plan to share more about the construction and initial testing of our 2.1 Portable Station here.