A Satellite Upconverter Need Not Be Impossible To Make

Those readers whose interests don’t lie in the world of amateur radio might have missed one of its firsts, for the last year or two amateurs have had their own geostationary satellite transponder. Called Es’hail-2 / AMSAT Phase 4-A / Qatar-OSCAR 100, it lies in the geostationary orbit at 25.9° East and has a transponder with a 2.4 GHz uplink and a 10.489 GHz downlink. Receiving the downlink is possible with an LNB designed for satellite TV, but for many hams the uplink presents a problem. Along comes [PY1SAN] from Brazil with a practical and surprisingly simple solution using a mixture of odd the shelf modules and a few hand-soldered parts.

An upconverter follows a simple enough principle, the radio signal is created at a lower frequency (in this case by a 435 MHz transmitter) and mixed with a signal from a local oscillator. A filter then picks out the mixer product — the sum of the two — and amplifies it for transmission. [PY1SAN]’s upconverter takes the output from the transmitter and feeds it through an attenuator to a MiniCircuits mixer module which takes its local oscillator via an amplifier from a signal generator module. The mixer output goes through a PCB stripline filter through another amplifier module to a power amplifier brick, and thence via a co-ax feeder to a dish-mounted helical antenna.

The whole thing is a series of modules joined by short SMA cables, and could probably be largely sourced from a single AliExpress order without too much in the way of expenditure. It’s by no means easy to get on air via Es’hail-2, but at least now it need not be impossibly expensive. Even the antenna can be made without breaking the bank.

We covered Es’hail-2 when it first appeared. May it long provide radio amateurs with the chance to operate worldwide with homebrew microwave equipment!

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A Hybrid Helical Antenna For The Es’hail-2 Geosynchronous Repeater

Amateur radio operators like to say that working a contact in space can be done with a simple handheld transceiver and a homemade antenna. And while that’s true, it’s true only for low Earth orbit satellites such as the ISS. If you want to reach a satellite in geosynchronous orbit it’ll take a little more effort, and this dual-feed helical “ice cream cone” antenna could really help.

Until recently, the dream of an amateur radio repeater in geosynchronous orbit remained out of reach, but that changed with the launch of the Qatari satellite Es’hail-2 last year. Since then, hams from Brazil to Thailand have been using the repeater, and UK-based [Tech Minds] has been in the thick of the action. The antenna he presents is a hybrid design, needed because of the 2.4-GHz band uplink and 10-GHz downlink on the satellite, also known as QO-100. Both require a largish dish antenna, with the downlink requiring a low-noise block downconverter (LNB) and feed horn. The uplink side of [Tech Minds]’ antenna is a helical design, with three-and-a-half turns of heavy copper wire and a tuning section of copper strapping that attaches directly to an N-type connector. The helix is just the right size for the feed horn of an LNB for the downlink side, nestled in a hole in the helical antenna’s aluminum reflector disc. There are 3D-printed parts to support everything, plus a cone-shaped radome to keep it all safe from the elements.

It looks like a great design, but sadly, North American and East Asian hams can only dream about building one, since QO-100 is below the horizon for us. We’re jealous, but we’re still glad the repeater is up there. Check out this article for more on how Es’hail-2 got the first geosynchronous ham repeater.

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