K6LCS works a bird in front of an attentive audience.
A little disclaimer up front: There are many antennas, radios, satellite tracking programs, et al out there that are being used to successfully work the FM ham satellites. What I offer on my sites are items that I have purchased and/or use and have personal experience using, and know are currently supported by their distributors. For example, I have heard of a satellite tracking software program that is working great for some ... but it has no support from the author, and its site hasn’t been updated in more than eight   years. I see no need to frustrate my visitors with unsupported software or products. Also - remember where I am coming from: keeping it simple, using equipment many hams already own. “Simple” to me means being able to walk outside with an antenna in one hand and a HT in the other - and successfully work a FM satellite or two.

OK - with at out of the way, let’s talk about radios.


Although it is preferable to work the FM sats in full-duplex mode (where you can hear the downlink as you key your mic), only one currently-manufactured HT does that well in our VHF/UHF mode - the Kenwood TH-D72a. Neither the Alinco DJ-G7T nor any of the recent crop of “dual-receive” imported radios work well in both V/U and U/V modes for FM voice satellite work. The Powerwerx Wouxun UV-9D and (Plus) models work on AO-91/92 full-duplex ... but you will have to use dual rigs for SO-50. That Kenwood TH-D72a is unique!

If you desire to work true, full-duplex, you can also use a second radio in your setup. Or a scanner. Working in full-duplex mode can really make the difference between success and accidentally “stepping” on other operators.

You’ll sometimes see me using a Kenwood TH-F6a with its all-mode receiver to monitor SSB birds. Or my Yaesu FT-817ND.

But in hundreds of contacts and scores of demos and presentations in front of live audiences the past few years, I have been using the Yaesu FT-60R successfully. It is not a full-duplex HT. BUT you can program “split frequencies” in one memory: You can program 440 receive and 2M transmit in a single memory location. Programming charts for the FM sats are on my Home Page and Shack Aids pages.

I own too many HTs. (There ... I said it. First step in the “HT addiction” recovery process ... ) Most retail for more than the FT-60R. But the FT-60R is a GREAT value for anyone looking for a solid 2M/440 handheld. The FT-60R debuted at Dayton in 2004. It was a great bargain then - and remains so today. Among its features ...

  1. -1,000 memories

  2. -receives (essentially) 108mHz to a gig

  3. -large, legible display

  4. -easy to manually program (one-page cheat sheet here)

  5. -bulletproof case design*

  6. -strongest belt clip of any ham HT chassis on the market

  7. -great receive audio

... as well as a unique battery setup: You can use the optional FBA-25 AA case with either NiMH cells or alkalines, and have full TX power available!

At K6LCS' Yuri's Night party!

Pardon me, clint -

what is your presentation station?*

* - My apologies to the heirs of

      Glenn Miller.

** - Why just 2W? Why not?

arrow mods

Modified Arrow Antenna.
More Arrow Antenna mods.
Vilola! FT-60R secure in its modified Arrow Antenna.
Protect your delicate SMA connectors!

substitutions SEEN

  1. 1.Tape measure beam antenna

  2. 2.Heil Traveler w/HTA-VX adapter

  3. 3.Comet SM-05 SO-239-to-BNC


Keeping it simple

Product Links.

Side note on batteries: I have been using Maha’s 2700mAH NiMH AA cells in a pair of FBA-25 cases - with one of Maha’s intelligent AA cell chargers. A great combination. Properly maintained, I should achieve about 700 complete discharge-charge cycles from them. I am amused at the proclamation by Sanyo that their eneloop AA NiMH cells can be charged “1500” times - which is contrary to most scientific literature regarding the capabilities of consumer-grade NiMH cells. (A little discrepancy between the scientific community and marketing people, I guess ... )

There are some long-discontinued full-duplex HTs that many are using for the sats, like (not an all-inclusive list) the Icom IC-W2a and IC-W32a, Kenwood TH-D7 and TH-D79, and Yaesu’s FT-470/FT-51/FT-530 models. There may be others ... but I’d hate to see you spend a bunch of money on really old units with no warranties and fewer repair options and decreasing availability of battery packs!


Let’s start with the most popular “ultimate” in portable FM satellite antennas: the Elk Log Periodic Model 2M/440L5 and the Arrow Antenna Model 146/437-10WBP. Either cost approx. US$150.

There was plenty of “Elk vs. Arrow” debate on the ‘Net a while back. Most of it pure rubbish - and not written by people who have actually purchased and use both units as they make their uneducated allegations. A couple of the re-occurring “anti-Arrow” themes ...

“Arrow doesn’t publish gain numbers for their antennas.” This is true. Maybe because people mis-use such numbers. But reliable test data is out there - and thousands of owners will attest that their Arrow Antennas are performing magnificently for what they were designed to do.

“The Arrow is hard to transport.” Well, I devote my entire Ford Ranger’s covered pickup bed to my Arrow when I take it places. Rarely has it been disassembled. But to make it absolutely flat, all one needs to do is unscrew the three 2M element pairs, and you have a flat plane of an antenna.

“Arrows are all engineered wrong - they cannot possibly work.” A little story for you. While working for HRO-Anaheim a few years ago, I sold an Arrow to a client for working the satellites. I had first-hand experiences with the Arrow, and therefore could wholeheartedly recommend them to others. The gentleman was waiting for me to open up the shop the next morning, with his Arrow in hand.

“I know antenna theory, and this antenna cannot possibly work - it is engineered all wrong - I want a refund!” - he demanded.

Hmmm. Part of me wanted to discover if he assembled it correctly, and whether or not he actually tested it. But the other part of me was thinking, “Well, I can purchase it myself as an open-box item ... ”

Which I did. And it is the SAME antenna that I have used the past 8+ years for EVERY demo and presentation I have given.

Moral of the story: The Arrow Antenna may not please some engineers. But it sure pleases those who desire to work the FM satellites.

“The Arrow Antenna is much heavier ... “ I have brand-new, un-opened Elk and brand-new, un-opened Arrow in my hands. The Elk package weighs 35.6 ounces. The Arrow weight 33.6 ounces. Any “weight difference issue” is, well, NOT an issue.

And on and on ... EITHER antenna is a great investment. Most of the anti-Arrow nonsense on the ‘Net remind me of while my wife was proudly carrying her Nikon F in the 1970s (arguably the most significant SLR in 35mm history), others would comment, “Oh, my Pentax / Minolta / Canon is as good as that ... “ --- But you never heard any Nikon owner state any such comparison ... (grin)

How do the Elk and Arrow compare? Both work the FM birds very well. Either make working the FM sats feel like “cheating” - the gain is that dramatic over any HT whip improvements you might make.

But from someone who has purchased both and has used them both, the Arrow “senses” the initial capturing of a sat’s signal more definitively than the Elk does. (And that is mostly due to the Elk’s design and its wider frequency range.) I mean, in front of darned near every audience, I’ll declare, “There it is!” - when those close to me don’t hear anything of note. But that slight “dip” in the background noise ... you can just hear the beginning of capturing the signal slightly better with the Arrow than with the Elk. This is NOT a scientific conclusion - just my personal observation after working the sats for several years with both antennas, and, again, an inherent phenomenon of the wider-range receive capability of a log periodic. Recent subtle changes to the Elk 2M/440L5 have improved 440 receive performance.

But how about spending about $100 LESS than the cost of an Elk or Arrow to get into the world of high gain?

Build yourself a tape measure beam (plans on my ANTENNAS page). I built one following those plans to the letter - and have worked the FM sats with it - as well as the ISS! Do they really have any gain? Connected it to my FT-60R, and I heard the San Diego NOAA WX frequency for the first time ever with a handheld radio from my house in Jurupa Valley. These are fun to build ... fun to show to non-ham friends ... and always a conversation-starter!

And although it takes more patience and finesse to work with “lesser” antennas, remember this: One of the first 2M reception reports from the 250mW transmitter aboard the then-new ARISSat-1 satellite was from a gentleman using a STOCK DUCK on his Yaesu VX-8 HT! SO ... simple HT antenna improvements (Smiley 270A ... Diamond SHR-320A) are certainly viable options for receiving!


Protect your HT’s antenna receptacle - ESPECIALLY if it is an SMA connector. SMA connectors are rated at fewer connects/disconnects than BNC, and are generally more “delicate” than their BNC counterparts.

If you are planning to use your SMA-receptacle radio with differing antennas, please consider protecting it with one of Stephen Gulyas’ BNC-to-SMA custom adapters. Unlike manufacturers that offer only one “SMA-to-BNC” adapter, Gulyas knows that there are differences in the dimension of ham HT antenna receptacles and their relationships to their cases, and has made several adapters to fit different radios. Details also on my ANTENNAS page. Hey - it is up to you: Wear out or damage your HT’s SMA connector, and face a $70 repair job. OR wear out a $20 connector .. (grin)

There are also 18” jumpers available (Comet ... BNC-Female, PL, N) that take the stress off your HT’s antenna receptacle.


Some FT-60R owners have experienced - when using aftermarket audio accessories - the plug can be partially yanked out without realizing it ...

It seems that some aftermarket audio accessories’ 3.5mm 4-conductor plugs’ TIPS aren’t quite shaped the way Yaesu’s receptacle would like. (I know ... I was sales manager for Pryme/Premier for a couple years, and experienced this problem as we “corrected” it for Yaesu owners.)

I have yet to have this phenomenon occur with my Yaesu MH-34B4B speaker mic. Small in size ... nice texture to the plastic case ... and a 1/8” (3.5mm) jack in the bottom for an earpiece (or, in my case, I run an audio cord to that MFJ external audio amplifier). BUT - in any case, you can prevent this from happening by simply using one of those “charity bracelets” (see the photos near the top of the page).

I have also been known to use a Heil single-sided Traveller to work the sats. The Traveller is now known as the “Heil Pro Micro Single Side.” And the Pryme SPM-902 was a great, BIG, beefy speaker-mic - but is now discontinued.


For normal ops, the addition of received audio amplification really isn’t necessary. But Gordon West and I were demo’ing workin’ the birds recently at the Orange County Fairgrounds under really noisy conditions (right aside the Kid Zone’s ferris wheel and carousel). We NEEDED some audio amplification for the group to hear. And this little MFJ-382 does the trick. Runs off a 9V rectangular battery ... just remember to turn it OFF when done, as it’ll drain that battery if left ON.


Another little story. Before I purchased my own projector, I was invited to a club in mid-2007 to give my satellite presentation. “No problems here,” I was assured. “We’re using the media center - we can project ANYthing you have ... “ The kiss of death, of course. Got up there, and they could not get my MacBook Pro connected and running on their “media center” equipment. I did the show without the presentation file ...

SO - I immediately started researching projectors. Went to many sites and many reviews. For ME, I settled on the Hitachi CP-X2 due to its image quality, 802.11 connectivity, and Mac compatibility. (This particular model is now discontinued.) It is also constructed well, and came with a three-year warranty. And just a week shy of that three-year warranty, the top control panel died. Could not turn the projector ON (unless I used the wireless remote that came with it). I called my dealer - they gave me a loaner, and Hitachi replaced the entire top switch assembly and associated power supply parts. No charge, of course.

When researching a projector purchase, I was glad I ran into Ed Goldman of Global Presenter in Huntington Beach, CA. He’s no longer there, though. But it was important for me to get to know someone who knew their products well, listened to my requirements, and made appropriate suggestions. Ed was great. Pricing at Global was fair. I found out that there is a “grey market” in this field. I mean, I could have saved $300 on the projector by purchasing from a dealer not authorized by Hitachi to sell this unit in the U.S. - but it would have been a unit meant for out-of-U.S. sales with NO warranty valid in the U.S. Make your purchasing decision wisely.

When I told Ed I wanted a screen that would really make photographic images look great, he recommended the Da-Lite Versatol. And I carry mine in its protective soft nylon case in the covered bed of my Ford Ranger all the time.

Kensington has been my choice for several computer-related accessories, and I mainly used their model K72367US presentation pointer to control my presentations. I was on a beta test team for this model. Fits great in your hand. Buttons laid out well. GREEN laser pointer built in. And this particular model also has a built-in MicroSD reader and 2GB memory INSIDE the little USB dongle.

In a perfect world, you could save your presentation onto the USB dongle, and just carry that with you into a venue and hand the dongle to the a/v person: “My presentation is on this - and this is also the receiver for my remote ... “ - and you could run your show that effortlessly. BUT - I would rather be in more control, so I use my own computer and projector ... so the on-dongle memory is my Plan B in case of catastrophic failure of my stuff. The Kensington unit is both Mac- and Windows-compatible.

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  1. *- OK, the FT-60R isn’t truly “bulletproof.” But several of my audiences have seen me toss one across the stage - literally - during my presentations to show that they stand up to a little abuse ... Do not try that at home, though. Send email or call (909) 999-SATS with any questions!