S92RS –Satellite Activity on OSCAR 10 from Sao Tome Island

In the beginning of 1999 I was thinking about another [1] vacation activity on Oscar 10. Unfortunately it is a bit difficult nowerdays to predict whether the satellite will be available at a certain time or not. So I had to take the risk eventually not beeing able to do it during the planned vacation.

I worked straight forward on that project .I checked out the the possibility to get accomodation and allowance for radio operation from the hotel for which I found an email address on INTERNET. Then I made my flight reservations and checked out the behaviour of OSCAR 10.When the satellite started to wake up from its sleeping period around March 25 I felt that it could be done in the beginning of June where I had placed my reservations. I also checked W4SM´s „Inofficial AO-10 page“ and found that Stacey  made a similiar statement on the further upgrading of AO-10´s signal.
In the beginning of April I sent a licence request to the SAO TOME TELECOM for a temperary amateur radio licence asking for the callsign S92RS.
Despite having supplied several IRCs for an answer I heard nothing. I tried to make a phone call 2 weeks before I had to go, but this was also very unsuccessful because the person at the other side was only speaking Portu-guese which I did not understand while I was talking English what he did not understand. A third attempt trying to get a fax from them remained also unanswered. This did not really bother me, because when I applied for a licence on the COMOROS I also did not get an answer as well . I was only a bit worrying about my planned radio operation using 435 and 145 MHz what probably nobody has been using  before in Sao Tome for ham radio.
We left Germany as announced on Wednesday May 26 towards Lisbon. Because there is a stopover required in Lisbon anyway before you can take the airplane to Sao Tome on Sunday we took the chance to stay a bit longer in Lisbon visiting the city, several museums and made a trip to the most western point of continental Europe.
The satellite equipment - 25 kg for antenna and radios - could be left at the airport where we picked it up on Sunday before checking in for Sao Tome. 4 hours after we left Lisbon we had a one hour stop in Abidjan/Ivory Coast before the last part of our flight brought us in 1 hour 50 minutes to Sao Tome where we arrived around 2100Z instead of 1900Z as scheduled.
The next morning I called in the hotel for somebody speaking English and Portuguese to help me at the TELECOM to get the licence. I was lucky because there was someone who knows the boss of the TELECOM and arranged a date for me to pick up my licence. He spoke English so that it was no big deal to get the licence after I had found the building where he was waiting for me. The licence was ready with the callsign I had asked for dated April 13 ( about 1 week after I had sent my request ) and valid until July 7, 1999. The IRCs were attached to it. The usual fee seems to be about 20 $US even for a one-year-licence, but they have no fixed prices - so they are looking on you and ask 100 $US. If you refuse to pay so much you will be lucky after some time of discussion to pay less - maybe 20 $ US. ( „It is negotiable“ as Francisco CT1EAT told me ). After 10 or 15 minutes I had my licence in hands and could start to put the antenna and station up. There was enough time because according to my calculations I could not do anything before wednesday June 2. And even that proved to be impossible. The room which I got in the hotel had a terrace towards east leaving a bit of sky visible between AZM 310 and 360 degrrees and a minimum elevation of about 20 to 25 degrees. Towards east palm trees spend a lot of nice shadow thus leaving only a few spots where the sky could be seen and I  therefore had access to the satellite. So conditions were not too good for working South East Asia, Japan and Australia and there was absolutely no chance left to work stations from the west coast of North America or from Hawaii. I was thinking about trying to get an other room, but then I would have had only access to North and South America without any chance for Asia and Australia and only a little chance for Europe. So I decided to stay where I was and trying to make the best out of it.
From Wednesday to Friday of the first week the access of the satellite was blocked by the house which is build approxemately from south to north. Until Friday I was unable to find the beacon or any other signal in the satellite´s downlink frequency range. So I was a bit alarmed about a possible damage of my receiver. I made any test to find out was the situation was and came to the conclusion that the receiver was ok and that my terribly bad radio horizon was responsible for hearing nothing. The same week on Saturday when the satellite came around the building by about 5 degrees for 30 minutes I heard the beacon as well as 3 or 4 of the stronger stations which I managed to work with 41 to 51 reports whereas I got up to 59 reports from them. This day I got 4 stations into my log and could explain my situation to Bernhard DJ5MN. He announced that on 145.890 MHz. Bernhard also sent an email telling me who else had been calling on the frequency – from which I have not heard anything. You can imagine that I was smiling when I read comments in the DX-Cluster later when I was back home that I better should have worked split. There was no reason for me to work split because I did not hear all the guys calling. I have used the same equipment during all of the mentioned activities but never suffered from downlink problems in a way like this time. My explanation is : The deep fading of OSCAR 10 is the reason for what we all experienced – my bad downlink when the satellite was less than optimal. This became better during the next week when the satellite moved into that hole where I could see the sky thus not beeing blocked by trees or the house. The number of stations worked grew continuously during the second week and I was lucky to get 277 QSOs in my log with 212 different stations from 31 DXCC countries.
Here comes a breakdown of my satellite activity

Prefix Stations worked Prefix Stations worked
DL 63 G 14
I 20 EI 1
F 11 ZS 1
W 18 CT 2
OZ 7 UAas 1
SM 2 VU 2
LA 2 OK 1
OE 6 EA8 1
HA 1 OM 1
PA 6 EA 2
VE 2 VR2 2
LY 1 SV 11
HB9 4 JA 33
UAeu 3 GI 1
ON 2 UT 1
OH 2    

I  had a total of 277 QSOs with 212 different CALLS and 31 DXCC entities.

That is not too bad for a „new one“ on satellite and if you keep the deep fading and the bad radio horizon in mind it is a good result as far as I am concerned. After the experience of the first week I never would have expected such number of calls worked.

My portable mode B satellite equipment which I have used on all of the mentioned occasions consists of :

RX : FT-290R ( YAESU )
TX : TR-851E ( KENWOOD )
PA : 4M-70G ( TONO )
ANTENNA : X6/2m-X12/70cm ( JBEAM ), mod. by DC8TS
CABLE : 2 * 10 m AIRCELL 7
POWER SUPPLY : VICOR switching PSU 13.8V / 400 W / 1.2 kg
ANTENNA MOUNT : Aluminum Tripod
Antenna positioning was made by hand using a compass for azimuth and an angle ruler for elevation. The satellite positions were available as printout.

[1] 1990 : SV9/DC8TS/p, 1991 : SV5/DC8TS/p, 1994 : D68RS, 1996 : 5R8EO

Satellite Activity from
QTH              :  Hotel MIRAMAR, Sao Tome City
IOTA             :  AF-023
WAZ              :  36
ITU                :  47

RESULTS : AO-10  213 Calls - 31 DXCC entities  worked