Ham Radio Satellite Antenna Dilemma – In Search Of A Solution

Ham Radio Satellite Antenna Dilemma
In Search Of A Solution

Current Status

I continue to make progress on my ham radio satellite station. I’ve added a Yaesu G-5500 AZ/EL computer controlled rotator and streamlined my PVC art work including painting the remainder black.

I am able to hear most of the birds most of the time – but I am still currently constrained to half duplex as Codrut works on a major update to his marvelous PstRotator and Satellite Tracking software package to make it work with two radios. 

I am in the process of buying a second Yaesu FT-991 to combine with my current one so that I have two great rigs for full dux.Satellite Antenna Position Issues-1

The Situation

However, my primary dilemma right now is that my antennas are tripod mounted right behind the house.

The first problem is that my two-story house is essentially blocking over a third of the compass when I’m aiming at the satellites. This means that the house is attenuating a significant part of the signal – on both receive and transmit.

Additionally, when beaming through the house, I pick up approximately an S-5 noise level. Since the satellite signals, without a preamp, are more often than not so low that  they do not even register an S-1 signal. They are usually loud and clear and even totally legible with no noise, an S-5 noise level obviously overwhelms most reception when pointing at the house.

Added to this problem is the issue that I back up to a beautiful park with 65 foot trees.

These trees are marvelous for my two stealth longwire antennas – but they are attenuating the hell out of my UHF signal!

The Solutions?

Photos are below of my roof and two chimneys.

The obvious solution to both the house and the trees is to elevate my satellite antennas enough to at least clear the house. The problem is that I am not allowed to put holes in the house – and my wife absolutely forbids me, justifiably, to get on the roof because of both age and medical issues.

In my younger days and at other homes, I would’ve simply strapped a short mast to the chimney where the current long unused Dish antenna is located. Cheap. Fast. Done deal.

Another primary consideration is feedline losses at UHF frequencies. The current feedlines are 50 feet long. Adding an additional 40 to 50 feet of feedlines of LMR 400 is going to cause more loss but it may be unavoidable.

I have two chimneys – one is about 30 feet from my shack’s window pass through and the other one is about 40 feet from my window pass through.

  1. The question arises: is one chimney better than the other?
  2. Both chimneys are flared at the top so it is not clear how you strap nondestructive mounting hardware to the chimney and still account for this?
  3. The other question is: do we go with a short mast resting on the roof for one of the chimneys or go with a longer mast resting on the roof with the other chimney – or do we go with a 30 foot telescoping mast that rests on the ground?
  4. Would the better approach be a freestanding telescoping mast with guy wires? (With a five-year-old and two twin babies in the house, visions of them constantly tripping over the guy wires is going to be a major objection from the family.) 
  5. Is there a way to guy high to the trees, etc. to still go with the freestanding telescoping mast? My intuition is that this is still going to be the best way with all things considered.
  6. Is there a better approach that I haven’t thought of?

Other ideas anyone?

Maintenance – The Other Consideration

Satellite antennas are notorious about needing maintenance. If it’s on the roof, how do I get it fixed without bugging my club members who have graciously offered to help put this system up?

As of now, I am not using preamps. As I can afford one for each band, I intend to add them – and they are best utilized if there mounted next to the antennas. 

So, there are more needs to get to the antennas. On the roof. Where this man has never gone before.

Is there a non-roof, inexpensive approach I haven’t thought of – one where I can safely lower the antennas to ground level for repairs all by myself?

73 de Robert K3RRR – Kilo 3 Romeo, Romeo, Romeo – Wherefore Art Thou QTH Romeo