A local ham recently asked me the best way to talk on ham radio satellites using what he already has on hand. It doesn't take much, although some more specialized equipment does make it much easier, but the point is - you don't need much beyond what you may already own if you have a basic VHF/UHF station. The following is my email to him:
Which birds to target and how to track them
"The best satellites to start with are AO-27, AO-Echo and SaudiSat-1C. (Satellites go by different names depending on where you're getting your info.)
I usually direct people to Heavens-Above to get the latest pass information. The exact time and angle of each pass varies from day to day, so you either need tracking software or a website to tell you when the next pass is over your location.
With Heavens Above, you need to enter your longitude and latitude, so it can figure out the information for you.
I've put in the longitude and latitude in for my QTH here in Longview on this link:
(change the location by editing the link or click on the link under Configuration at the top of the page)
When you go to the website, you'll be shown a lot of different links. For our purposes, we're interested in "Radio Amateur Satellites". Click on that link.
Now you'll be presented a table of all the various satellites that Heavens Above is tracking. I usually find the satellites I'm interested in working, then look over at the "maximum elevation" - this is how high in the sky the "bird" will get. Generally the higher the pass, the better chance of hitting the satellite you'll have. If all you're using is a vertical, 45-degree passes will give you a good shot. But anything greater than 30-degrees should be doable.