Sunday, October 25, 2009

Contact (2009)

"Hello Radio, This is VE6AB mobile located in grid-square DO31, working through satellite AO51." The downlink signal that I was receiving was loud and clear in my headphones, as I made another call through the satellite that was visible on my tracking program with a indicated elevation of 4 degrees and located 2500 kilometers to the northeast, from my location. Actually, I was located southeast of Rosebud, Alberta, just off of secondary highway 564. I had pulled in-to a farmers field to work this easterly pass of AO51, a satellite that was due over the horizon at 7:22 am local time, although most Hams would be using zulu time, and that meant that AO51 would be on the horizon at 13:22 zulu. I had left home a hour earlier with a quick stop made for a coffee to go. I had not been in any real hurry, being that sunrise was not until 8:15 am. One of the reasons that I had driven out this way is besides the fact that I wanted to see the sun rise over the grass-lands, I also had been waiting for clear skies in the early morning light for a shoot that I had in the works for some time. As much as I enjoy the Rockies of Southern Alberta, nothing beats a sunrise in the open country of Southern Alberta. Before leaving home, I had made sure that the Keps for my satellite tracking program were up to date. Keps,is short for Keplerian elements, a set of numerical data that describes a satellite’s orbital characteristics. The use of this information allows tracking programs to determine where that satellite is at any one time, and to predict passes and plot ground tracks. Keplerian elements should be updated every few weeks for stable orbits and more frequently if the object’s orbit is accidentally or purposely altered like in the case of the space shuttle. The software I use is "Pocketsat +" that is installed on my "Palm Tungsten E2" a PDA that I use for this purpose. A laptop computer running a satellite tracking program is much nicer, however, its a pain to deal with in the confines of my truck, along with my camera gear and what not that clutters my mobile when I am out and about. My first contact of the day on this Amsat satellite, was with Nick-KB1RVT who was linking in to AO51 from Vermont. Next, I hooked up with my friend John-K8YSE who lives in Ohio and is very active on the various satellites orbiting the earth. We had time for a short conversation before AO51, speeding along at 28,000 kph began to pick up other Hams who were spread out across the US and coming in-to the footprint. Activity on the bird was getting quite busy, as I next worked my friend Kerry-WC7V who was working AO51 from his home in Montana. I was able to make several other contacts before activity on the satellite, and the fact that I was close to LOS (loss of signal) had me hanging up my mic until the next pass of AO51 which would be out over the pacific and a 30 degree pass for me, was due at 15:02 zulu. I had no sooner got back on the road that I heard my friend Eagon-VE6EGN who lives near Drayton Valley west of Edmonton check in on 3700mhz. I reached for the mic to my HF radio and gave him a call. Eagon is familiar with my wanderings on the week-ends and inquired as to my whereabouts. We were joined by George-VE6TU who lives in Carvel, located northwest of Edmonton. I enjoyed the round-robin conversation while I drove eastward, all the while keeping a eye out for photo-ops. I couldn't help but be reminded as to the season, as several marshs that I came upon had flocks of Tundra Swans on them, where the swans were catching some rest before they continued on their long flight south to their wintering grounds in the southern US. At one point, a backroad that I was on, brought me out to highway 817. While sitting at the junction of the 817 and this backroad, I realized that I was very near Rosebud and decided to stop and see if I could find a coffee to go. Of course, I did not think that I should get my hopes up being it was a Sunday morning. I was pleased to find a small cafe open and before long I was once more underway with a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a homemade butter-tart. I followed the road west out of town that parallels the Rosebud River that meanders through this very picturesque valley. While working my way over to Rockyford, I made a stop to photograph several coyotes who were working on aquiring Sunday brunch. Once through Rockyford, I continued west towards highway 21, where I turned south and from there over to the junction with highway 1. Before long, I was coming in-to Strathmore where I picked up another coffee at Tim's for the drive back to Calgary. It goes without saying that I worked more Hams along the way, including the westerly pass of AO51 where I hooked up with my friend Steve-AI7W who was working the bird from his home in Oregon. I also tried to link in-to Oscar 67 a new South African satellite that has just been launched and should prove to be a another good satellite to communicate on. Although the pass was a good one, I did not hear Oscar 67 and judging by what I have been reading on the Amsat bulletin boards, it could possibly be some time yet before we get to work this new satellite. Till then, I hope to talk to you on the birds.

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