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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Walmart & Satellite Communications: AO-91

On a recent Saturday afternoon, April 28th 2018 to be precise, the AO-91 satellite was as active as ever with stations looking to make contact with one another across the Eastern and Central United States.

Walmart #1540 in South Haven Michigan

The AO-91 satellite rapidly passed over the Hyde Park, NY area at over 480 miles an hour which allowed for satellite reception for roughly 11 minutes using a portable antenna called an "Arrow II" and a Kenwood TH-D74 hand held radio which also can record audio. The software used to predict when the AO-91 would pass over my location was the ISS Detector application available on the Android Google Play store.


ISS Tracker application showing altitude, location, distance and speed from
location of K2GOG at time of AO-91 pass on April 28th 2018

Where are satellite users located?

Stations using this and other amateur radio satellites often use a 4 digit grid square identifier to quickly let others know where they are located since it is quicker than saying latitude/longitude, ZIP codes or town names. A grid square that covers the Hyde Park, NY area is FN31 for example.

Grid square boundaries and names in the New York area. Google Earth
with a Grid Square overlay was used to generate this image

Another and slightly more easy way is to use the store number of a Walmart location. Walmart parking lots serve as great locations to operate a portable satellite station since there are few obstructions in the way in most directions horizon to horizon.

Not the strangest thing seen at Walmart

People waving around an antenna in a Walmart parking lots is likely not the strangest thing to see at a Walmart.  Its easy to confirm this by doing a search for "strange sightings at Walmart".  At least if you want to avoid "radio active amateur radio operators", you can predict when they may be at a Walmart by using ISS Detector. Other potentially "radioactive" people are harder to predict at the 24/7 hour Walmart Superstore locations at 1:45 AM!

Frequencies for AO-91

Here is a table of of frequencies to know what to program into your radio


What does satellite communication sound like on AO-91?

Here is a sample recording of contacts being made on AO-91.  How many grid squares, Walmart locations and station call signs did you hear?











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