RaDAR – Fishing for satellites

Sunday morning and the sun has just risen, I’m awake and in time. The family still sleeping and I silently get dressed without disturbing them. I have an apointment and minutes count. I’d done my planning the evening before – the mission was clear.

I needed to be down by the river and ready by 07:25 CAT for SO-50, an awesome FM satellite. I’d made my intentions known through the local WhatsApp groups the night before. I needed to carry my Arrow yagi with strapped on battery seeing my TH-D7’s nicad battery has been removed – now useless being many years old. There is a penlight battary pack attached but essentially only there for reception and off the air setup.

It was a cool morning, the middle of winter in South Africa but not really that cold. Lots of dew on the ground but it wasn’t frozen. I had no gloves on and a light top just to keep the wind at bay.

The TH-D7A, my MP3 recorder,  mic, earphone and compass were all packed into my lightweight backpack. When I got to the deployment point I hooked everything up …. except the battery. The internal penight cells gave me a false sense of security but they failed on transmit …. then I remembered the DC cable for the Rossi battery. I hooked that up too, set the required frequencies and waited for the satellite to come over the horizon.


It wasn’t necessary to determine direction using my magnetic compass as I already knew where true north was, nevertheless I imagined the path the satellite would take through the sky. My smartphone was lying on the ground aligned to true north and I watched as the ISS Detector app notified me of the satellite’s position.

At a relatively low elevation I heard Tom, ZS1TA calling. It was an easy QSO and we exchanged grids. Christi ZS4CGR was portable nearby, both of us in KG34, Christi in Zeerust and I alongside the Molopo river a 100 km away. That was an easy QSO too. Only the three of us up this early Sunday morning.

It was awesome to work a satellite this way proving it’s effectiveness operating from the field in true RaDAR style.

I went back home for coffee. A celebration of another successful RaDAR excursion.

Next weekend will see many radio hams throughout the world practicing RaDAR during the RaDAR Challenge. Each gets to plan his / her own four hour session within a twenty four hour period. I will be mostly HF QRP using SSB or CW and moving a kilometer on foot after every five QSO’s. Fortunately the QRP contest takes place in the afternoon and I have chosen my RaDAR Challenge times to coincide with it hoping to find sufficient HF activity.

Good luck to all for next weekend!!!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE


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