The PersonalTelco group has acquired a used satellite truck from KOIN (Channel 6). This page will serve as the coordination point for all issues pertaining to the vehicle. --ErikWalthinsen

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Known Stats

KOIN is selling this van for $500. It'll be bought by my KOIN contact, photographer Dean Barron, and sold to the PTP group. NigelBallard has agreed to buy the van itself, and quite a few others have pledged $50 which will be used for all the refit work. (original plan was to get 10 people with $50 each, then Nigel offered to buy it outright).

See VanPictures for well, pictures of the van! --ForrestEnglish

Pictures from the various work days are posted at Anyone else with pictures should contact me for a login so they can add their pics.

Suggested Uses

There are any number of bizarre things we as a group can think of using such a van for:

Refit Requirements

In order to make the van usable for our needs, a fair about of refitting must be done. Some stuff is required, some stuff is necessary for it to be of any use, and some is just plain blue-sky.

Refit Volunteers

ErikWalthinsen is spearheading the project, which is ironic since he doesn't drive...

NigelBallard has offered to buy the van in its entirety.

JeffZurcher can help out on the mechanical end (I am a qualified truck/heavy equipment mechanic), I have the tools and I should be able to come up with a battery if needed. I also have access to a machine shop should the need arise!

DonPark I have some knowledge of engines from working on my VWAP. Id like to help evaluate the status of the engine. I can also help document and test the on-board AC electrical systems. Getting in there with pine-sol and a vacuum cleaner I can help with, too.

AaronJohnson I like to have used car purchases checked out by a mechanic. I think it might cost $100. Does anyone else think its worth it to have a baseline on what repairs may be required and condition the truck is in? Also, can we get all service/repair records for the vehicle from the seller. I'd like to help but need to know when and where.

SamChurchill I'll do whatever you want and contribute at least 50 bucks. Here are some satellite and mobile links as well as some construction projects. This is SO cool I can't believe it!

Guy Hammer - I was a mechanic for eight years before I got into computers and networking. I'd be happy to check the truck out for you guys, help with any needed repairs and work on the refit.

LonnieWormley - I have the tools to paint the van. I'll supply the paint for the job also. Shane Y. Gibson has a space where the work can be done.

Vehicle History

The van was originally conceived as a replacement for KOIN's Unit 20, which in 1984 was an aging vehicle, KOIN's first to have a mast on it. They had to decide between buying a pre-made van from a company in California, based on the GMC Suburban, or building their own. Due to cost and the fact that both KATU and KGW crews had numerous complaints about the Suburban-based vehicle, KOIN decided to build their own to vehicle, to their own specifications. Their previous experience in building their own Unit 10 told them they could do it, and end up with another vehicle that stood out at the top end of their fleet. Unit 10 was called the "Supervan".

The van was purchased bare from Landmark Ford, and all work was done by local shops or by KOIN's engineers. Total initial cost, not including KOIN labor, was about $31,000 (not including most A/V gear), or about $5,000 less than the pre-built Suburban conversion. The result was a vehicle that much more closely matched KOIN crew's requirements.

(More data will be pasted here as soon as I have time write it up from the documents I have)

The replacement vehicle for the van we've purchased, the 3rd Unit 20, cost KOIN over $125,000. I'm not sure whether that includes the A/V gear or not.

-- ErikWalthinsen

Project Details

There are a large number of sub-projects involved in getting this van into a usable state. We have to decide what we want to do and what the best ways are to do them.

See SatelliteTruckToDo

Antenna Aimer

The antenna aimer is one of the things stripped off by KOIN, because it's still worth something. This means that we need to buy or build our own in order to have the ability to actually get link to a node without manually aiming the antenna before putting the tower up.

The top of the tower appears to be about a 6-inch diameter pipe. I'm not sure whether the pipe is hollow or capped, so we should assume for now that it's capped (which would make sense since it's a pneumatic tower). We have roughly the following requirements:

I haven't been able to find any satellite-dish aimers that appear to be what we need for the job, which I believe is mostly because satellite dishes only need to be aimed on one axis along the horizon, typically. If anyone can find an appropriate device, please add it here.

The two-way Motosat dish (below) automatically finds the DirectWay consumer satellite service ($70-$90/mo) on the road. The Swe-dish dish (below, right) can be transported anywhere and provides up to 2Mbps ($5,000) using commercial satellites like G-Star. lists satellite transponders.

Homebuilt Design 1

(design by ErikWalthinsen)

The base of the aimer has to be a flat plate that sits on top of the tower and has tabs down the side that screw into the tower. It must be removable because we have to put screws in from the bottom of the plate. A raised circular section in the middle has the four screw holes for the motorized turntable. The main aimer assembly plate has a matching hole and fits over the fixed plate leaving a flat surface. A motorized turntable ($32) from All Electronics sits on top, the center rotating plate screwed to the top of the tower, the outer stationary ring screwed to the aimer base plate.

The main body of the rotating assembly has to take into account the motor sticking up from the middle, the box necessary to house the electronics (access point, amplifiers, aimer control), and the tilt mechanism. This is where the most creativity will be necessary.

The tilt assembly would consist of a pivoted mount attached at the far edge of the platform, capable of tilting 10-20 degrees back, and 90 degrees down. The directional antennae would be mounted to to this, probably two antennae side-by-side (2.4GHz and 5.8GHz). The actual tilting is done by a linear actuator (12" for 99DM, about $50) designed for the purpose. The actuator is connected with pivot mounts to both the main platform and the antenna mount (via an offset bracket). You can see a variant on the design in this picture, the actuator is the brownish device with the blob on the back (the motor).

I'll put more up on SatelliteTruckAimerOne.

Electrical Subsystems

The van currently is set up almost exclusively to operate 110v gear, either on shore power or on a generator, while shooting stories. Almost none of the gear is designed to run long durations, or on battery. No provisions are made at all for running anything but the generator starter on batteries alone.


(This section fuzzy pending real schematics)

110v power from the generator and shore power are each fed into a breaker panel on the far left. The generator gets a 40 amp break

March 2008 Update


SatelliteTruck (last edited 2016-01-08 13:59:22 by JasonMcArthur)