On Friday, January 4th, scheduled maintenance was performed on our satellite antennas. The last maintenance was performed around 10 years ago so there were several goals during this work: inspect the 2m and 70cm antennas, inspect and seal the crossboom, install a new 23cm antenna and run a new feed of heliax, replace jumpers with flex jumpers and secure to each antenna, and try to avoid Murphy.
The plan was to drop down the rotor, crossboom, and antennas to the ground and then perform all the work. The tower crew consisted of Ken (K5RG) and Dave (W5OC). The ground crew included John (AB5SS), Terry (KA5TBB), Fred (KG5WNN), and myself (W9TWJ).
The morning started off with a kick off meeting to discuss safety and our plan of attack. After the meeting, Ken and Dave went up on the tower to start to disconnect all the components so we could lift the rotor off and lower the entire assembly. Once everything was disconnected, the rotor was unsecured and with the help of a gin pole the entire assembly was lowered to the ground.
Once the assembly was on the ground, we immediately staged it to begin our inspection. Immediately we noticed the coax jumper to the 2m antenna had popped out of the connector. Although the antenna was likely bumped on the way town the tower a little, this confirmed John’s fear that we may of been barely hanging on by a thread since this jumper was not flex. We took off both antennas off the crossboom. With nothing on the crossboom, we sprayed it with some Flex Seal to help seal in the fiber glass from UV deterioration. With the crossboom needing time to dry, we inspected the 2m and 70cm antennas. No major issues found but we did find the polarity switch feeds to have taken a UV beating over the years; we decided to replace these runs. We also ran the new run of heliax from the tower into the shack – we still needed to measure to the top of the tower before cutting.
After the crossboom dried, we re-installed the 2m and 70cm antenna. We then installed the 23cm antenna which I provided on loan for use on the L band satellites (or the W5RRR 1.2GHz repeater). Turns out it’s a good thing we had the repeater as we didn’t have an antenna analyzer for that frequency range — but a quick key of the repeater showed everything to be at least working. Once all three antennas were secured on the crossboom, we started to install the coax jumpers and securing them with heavy duty tie wraps.
The completed assembly was moved over by the tower to prepare it to be lifted and remounted. After it was lifted and re-installed the sun was going down fast. The 2m and 70cm jumpers were reconnected to their heliax runs and the polarity switches were reconnected. We measured where we needed to cut the heliax for the 23cm antenna but still needed to put on the connector.
With the tower crew still on the tower asking when the connector installation was going to be done, the ground crew answered “5 minutes.” With the sun completely down and as 5 turned into 10 and then 15 minutes, the tower crew came down. We then discovered the connection for the solder gun wasn’t working and actually came off when we tried a different outlet. The entire crew decided it was time to call it a day and regroup in the morning to finish a very small punch list.
On Saturday morning, the crew showed up to finish the connector for the 23cm antenna and a few other odds and ends. With all that complete, we were finished. Although it took a little longer than planned, the final result was well worth it. The team produced a very professional installation that will allow satellite operations to continue well into the future.
Here are a couple action shots: