Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The loss of VO-52 leaves quite a gap. What I enjoyed about it particularly, was that it was the one of the linear transponders that could be used with very simple antennas. My V2000 vertical worked very well for a variety of contacts. I just wish I had started using it earlier.
VO-52 had a great downlink signal and was always in transponder mode (AO-73 is great, but I rarely hear it in transponder mode, or if I do, it's usually brief, as it switches over to telemetry). So, hopefully the new generation of satellites which will be coming on stream soon - some already in orbit doing other things, waiting to be activated into their amateur radio roles - others waiting to be launched.
A good time to remember to support AMSAT (a VO-52 lookalike would work very well, thank you...)
Sunday, July 20, 2014
I didn't have a chance to think about it again until yesterday afternoon when I was in the shack working on a review of the Wouxun UV-8D for Practical Wireless and I noticed that VO-52 was due again. Once again, I heard nothing. Again I checked my receiver and the TLEs. I was now starting to think that perhaps it wasn't me.
On Twitter, I asked my satellite friends if there was any news about VO-52 that I had missed. Ricardo EA4GMZ kindly replied saying that it had been out of order for some days and included two useful links, one satellite status page and secondly to the threads on the AMSAT message board, where if you page down, you will find some messages relating to VO-52.
VO-52 had very quickly become one of my favourite satellites once I got going with it earlier in the year. I hope we shall hear from it again.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
See the news from the ARRL site
See a screenshot from G4SWX at G4CQM's site
Coincidentally, supper had finished around 2013 local time, so I sped upstairs and switched on the FT-847 with the V2000 vertical connected. The UKube-1 CW beacon on 145.840 plus minus doppler was the first target. It doesn't transmit continuously, but I was pleased to hear it around 2018 local up on 846. Shortly after that, I heard the telemetry on 145.915 coming through at very good strength.
Congrats to the UK team responsible for the satellite!
Friday, June 27, 2014
Some would say it was 30 years too late, but here in the UK, today was the day that AM and SSB CB was made legal on the CEPT 'mid' band, with an output power of 4W AM and 12W SSB. Good news as far as I am concerned and it will give me the opportunity to make contact with various friends who are active on CB and not amateur radio.
Not much about in the way of Es today, although I did manage a late afternoon QSO with HA8IB on 50MHz. Pretty quiet apart from that.
Late in the afternoon, I caught a couple of VO-52 satellite passes. The first was a very low angle one, around 2 degrees over Russia. I had a nice snappy CW QSO with Imre HA1SE. I was pleased to find I could work a pass at that distance and elevation, as I'd love to try working UA9CS and potentially even UA0SUN.
The second pass was a bit higher and I had a sketchy exchange - I'm not going to call it a QSO with 4X1AJ, but we heard each other before some noise kicked in here and that was that. As we're both reasonably regularly active, I'm hopeful of making a QSO before long.
Monday, June 23, 2014
A North America group, operating as VC1T plan to try from July 5th to 12th this year. They plan to use good power to a 43 element yagi (yes, 43 elements) and concentrate on FSK441 and JT65b modes.
You can read more about their plans here
Will this be the year it's done? Wouldn't it be great if the answer was yes!
Friday, June 20, 2014
QB50P1 was heard sending CW, QB50P2 was sending QPSK. Down on the 145.865 there was some CW (a sample was B1UARJZB4K - hopefully not too many errors there!) which I think may have been Nanosat-BR
Thursday, June 19, 2014
You can read more about the satellites here
Latest TLEs for tracking here
On Twitter, Dave G4DPZ reported he'd heard P1, so they are both alive and well!
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Clearly, I can't give too much away here - the review will be in the next issue of PW - but it's fair to say that the rig worked out well. As regular readers will know, I've had a Yaesu FT-8900 for a few years now. The TH-9800 follows that pattern very closely and works well (though is not identical). Well worth a look if you're in the market for an FM quadbander. I'll be sorry to send it back!
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Although I don't use clusters much these days - especially on HF, this Es season I have been looking at dxheat.com which is a very nice web based cluster and allows me to filter everything except 50 and 70MHz spots. I noticed a 70MHz spot fly by of Martin GM6VXB on 70MHz meteor scatter. I tuned to the frequency in question and did get a short burst from him, but not enough for a QSO. Hardly surprising, given my vertical antenna.
Returning to 50MHz just before getting some chores done, I tuned around the CW end and SV5DKL (KM46) was coming through. With the small antenna, I don't work SV, SV5 or SV9 very often from here, so dropped in a few calls. Signals were quite weak and then, in typical Es fashion peaked up to S7 or so and I was able to sneak a QSO in, which was very nice. The distance is just under 2900km, which I think is ok for the setup here (SV5DKL was doing all the work, of course)
As I frequently do, when I work someone, I tapped his callsign into Google and found that Efstathios has a very nice blog, with information about his operating and QSOs, particularly on 50MHz.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Over the last few days, when there's been not much happening on the band, I have been leaving the receiver running on 50.276 with WSJT-X running JT65A. I don't think there is a huge amount of activity, but there have been some interesting loggings; Iceland, Greece amongst others. Typically the most interesting ones have been when I've been elsewhere, but I have called CQ a couple of times and was delighted to be called by 3 or 4 stations in succession. Signals were pretty small and there was no sign of any CW lower down the band.
For me, that's magic - working stations that you can barely hear! Of course, when the band is well open, JT65A, taking at least 5 minutes to make a QSO, is not the way to go - but when you fancy a bit of magic, it can be fun!
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Despite it not being the most active of 50MHz days, it actually proved to be very interesting. Later on in the afternoon there was some Es around and I was pleased to spot and be spotted by CN8LI at a distance of just over 2000km. Not bad for 5W or so.
But actually, the most interesting signals were from Roger, G3XBM over in Cambridgeshire at a distance of around 140km. Roger runs 1W to a vertical, like mine. Pretty much every transmit period he made, I could see his signals, although often insufficient strength to decode. Another challenge was that owing to the amount of aircraft in the skies between us, the signals were often heavily doppler shifted, which is a problem for WSPR.
To our delight, Roger was able to decode my 5W signals several times and I was able to decode his 1W signals on several occasions. Our suspicion was that tropo came up a little and that there might have been some assistance from aircraft, perhaps flying on such a path that there was limited doppler shift.
I did also note that on the couple of times that we exchanged signals, Es had bubbled up a little. Clearly there is no suggestion that the propagation was via Es. However, I did wonder whether there was some benefit from some sort of scatter associated with the Es. At such low powers, I'm doubtful, but will look to see if it happens again.
Monday, May 26, 2014
A few days ago, I noticed a post mentioning a new version of WSPR, WSPR-X which can be downloaded at K1JT's site Realistically, as the main improvement seems to be the addition of WSPR-15, mainly for VLF, I wasn't sure whether there would be any major changes.
As it turns out, the user interface is a bit more modern, folllowing the WSJT-X design.
I downloaded it and installed it and could see noise being received. I set it up to transmit and was surprised when G8JNJ and G8JNJ/A, 80km away or so did not copy my transmission. I tried again, still no. Then I remembered that when I first played with WSJT-X, I couldn't get anyone to copy me, until I switched the output audio device driver to Direct X. I did that and immediately, I was spotted! Not really sure why - but pleased that it works ok.
So far, nothing decoded - although actually, I am seeing G3XBM and G0LRD's transmissions. The screenshot shows one of Roger's transmissions, with a huge amount of Doppler from a passing aircraft.
Friday, May 09, 2014
Nodir Tursoon-Zadeh EY8MM has produced several eBooks based on his photographs from various high profile Dxpeditions which are available for free.
If you are an iPad/iPhone user, simply go to the iBooks store and search for VP8ORK 2011 and you should be able to download and view the book, which makes excellent reading. Nodir has taken some wonderful photographs which really capture what it is like.
It looks like Nodir has published an eBook on the FT5ZM trip to Amsterdam Island, which is available in the Blurb store but I can't see it in the iBooks store just yet. I suspect you can get it onto your iDevice from Blurb, but I haven't tried that yet!
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
I caught a nice little Es opening on 50MHz this evening. Nothing huge, but some HAs coming in on CW with a few other countries audible from time to time.
I realised I had been working a lot of satellite QSOs recently, when I was reaching for the VFO during the QSOs, expecting to have to tweak it for doppler!
Talking of satellite QSOs today, I was pleased to work RA3MAU over in `KO97 on VO-52 this afternoon. A gotaway on FO-29 was UN7CY. Great to hear him on CW - easy copy on the vertical, but I couldn't find myself to call him! Other nice QSOs today with PA3ARK and EI9EW on VO-52.
Thursday, May 01, 2014
Although I've been aware of some Es happening on 50MHz for the last few days, inevitably, the openings have been when I have been busy or engaging in good works (cleaning the village church, springs to mind!).
This evening after supper, I popped up to the shack to see what satellite passes might be of interest and I decided to check 50MHz. To my delight there was an S9 CW signal around 50.097. A quick listen and a call and IS0GQX was in the log for the first Es QSO of the season.
I heard him work a few others around this area, but no other stations from the Med were heard, and within 5 minutes, the band was quiet again. Love those early season Es openings!
Sunday, April 27, 2014
It seems to be a while since I stopped and wrote something here.
The simple satellite operation on VO-52 and FO-29, using the FT847, diplexer and the V2000 vertical continues. On VO-52 in particular, I have been surprised how well it works and have made a fair few QSOs, mostly on CW. Some passes are better than others, depending on the direction of the satellite and the vertical nulls of the antenna. I was interested to get decent signals through VO-52 the other day as it was over Greenland and the footprint of the satellite covered VE1 and W1 - so perhaps I may manage a QSO into North America when the time is right.
FO-29 tends to be a bit harder - just in terms of finding my downlink signal - again it depends where the satellite is, but I've managed a few contacts now, which is very pleasing indeed.
Nice to work GS3PYE/P - the Camb-Hams expedition to Lewis (IO68) on SO-50 this evening. I ventured out into the garden with the UV-5R and the Elk.
I've missed them both, but there have been at least a couple of Es openings on 50MHz. Earlier in the week, Ron ZB2B emailled to say that he had worked some stations in G, GW and EI in an Es opening and it looks like the band was nicely open yesterday morning (we were out, cleaning the local village church!).
Finally, apparently, this is my 1000th post to this blog. I enjoy writing it - and sometimes, enjoy looking back a few years to see what I was playing with then. It's interesting to see how things change. Thank you to YOU, though, for reading it!
Sunday, April 20, 2014
And so it was, I felt, the other day when I worked Berend, PA3ARK on FO-29. Berend often inspires me to try something new and so I thought it might be nice to try and create a QSL to commemorate the QSO.
I looked around and found the HAMQSLer program from VA3HJ. I managed to get past the 'the final courtesy of a QSO is a QSL'statement at the top of the website! In my opinion, the final courtesy of a QSO is to say 73, but therein lies why I find myself at odds with the 'every contact must be QSLed' brigade!
The program is free to download and I found it well-designed and easy to use. I did have to install the Microsoft .Net framework 4.5.1 and install it on my PC before I could install the software.
I was able to import a background image of a photo of our village church to use. I really had wanted to try and use one of the aerial photographs I took of the village when I flew over in G3WGV's aircraft a couple of years back. However, I found the colours didn't really lend themselves to overlaying text on top of the photo. Actually, I'm sure a more artistically gifted person would have managed, but I opted for the easy approach - one where I had a nice blue sky, where I could place most of the text.
I found that I was able to setup various static text fields and create a QSOs box, which could be populated from an ADIF file from my logger.
After a bit of resizing and trying various options, I was ready to import my ADIF records. I did tweak the Mode field in the ADIF record, so that I could show that the QSO took place on a satellite. The logger, of course, records that I was (in this case) transmitting on 144MHz, but not that it was a satellite QSO. I wanted this to be clear, so I amended the Mode field in the ADIF field to say CW Via FO-29, which I thought was clearer.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
A little later FO-29 was due over and I wondered if I might be able to hear anything. The pass was quite quiet, but I did hear my Twitter friend, Berend, PA3ARK on CW. I was able to find my signal and place it reasonably close to Berend's and we had a bit of a sketchy, but valid QSO.
Really pleasing to find that some simple CW satellite operation is viable with just a vertical antenna.
Berend sent a nice photo of the entry of the QSO in his logbook!
Evening update: I caught a late afternoon pass of VO-52 and was hearing myself well enough to have a tune around and was able to answer UT3UX who was calling CQ on CW and work him. I've not found too much CW activity so far. I'm sure I can work some SSB, but with the slightly lower signal levels, CW gives a bit more latitude!
Saturday, April 05, 2014
After I mentioned running a PSK program on my iPhone the other day, my friend Simon asked which one it was and whether it was PSKer. That was a program that I hadn't heard of, so when I had a moment yesterday, I decided to investigate.
PSKer looks a very nice program and I decided to give it a go. When I got back to the car yesterday evening, I ran it up and set the receiver running on 28.120. There was plenty happening.
PSKer seems to decode a little easier than the Multimode program I was using the other day. I haven't yet tried it on transmit. However, I did discover that it can be set to send tones through the speaker, rather than the earphone socket, which is what you want when you are too lazy to make up a lead!
Friday, April 04, 2014
Noticing Roger, G3XBM blogging that 472khz WSPR was quiet, last night, I decided to run the FT847/HF6V on 472khz WSPR receive overnight. Sure enough it was quiet, but it was good to hear PA3ABK/2 and DF2JP, who I think is a new station to me.
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
This morning, 28MHz seemed pretty quiet as I drove to the station this morning - very little on SSB. When I got to the station, I tried CW which was just as quiet. As I spun up the band to the beacon area, I noticed some PSK on 28.120.
Some months ago, I downloaded the Multimode application for my iPhone which decodes PSK and RTTY. I just fired up the app, held the phone reasonably close to the rig and saw PSK signals appear on the display. To tune the signal in, you just drag the centre of the bar to the centre of the required signal and with any luck it displays.
This morning, it was fun to see 5B4/SQ2MQM working a JA station. And this evening when I got back to the car, LW5ER was coming through nicely.
Obviously you can't have all this going whilst you're actually driving. That would be dangerous! So, I tuned up the band to the SSB segment and the very first signal I heard was TX6G coming through - really great signals. In a perfect world, the next sentence would be that I cracked the enormous pileup running 10W to the whip.
Sadly no! The Anytone can't deal with split frequency operation, so it was just a case of enjoying listening to the signals coming through from the other side of the world. I did stop in a lay-by and text Justin, G4TSH, who's there, that they had a great signal to the mobile.
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Imagine that! DMR and DSTAR on the same radio.
Take a look at this post which I found on the VE3XPR site - which is an interview with Jerry Wagner of Connect Systems.
It will be really good to see if this comes to pass.
Good luck Jerry, good luck Connect Systems!
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Browsing around the AMSAT-UK site yesterday, I came across this article by the ever inspirational Ray, W2RS about how he had made QSOs on the SSB satellites using nothing more than a dual band mobile whip, a diplexer and SSB transceivers for 144 and 432MHz.
Well! I wondered if I could do something similar, given that I had the V2000 vertical up on the mast. In some respects, it is a 'long whip' as Ray discusses, putting quite a lot of radiation towards the horizon, which is what's normally wanted for tropo, but not for satellites, but there are certainly some vertical lobes.
So, I fed the V2000 into the Diamond diplexer and then connected the appropriate coax from the diplexer to the FT847's 144MHz port and (separate) 432MHz port.
An initial test to see if there was much desense or crackle was positive.
The first satellite around was AO-73, which was testing its' transponder in daylight. After a bit of fiddling around, I was able to hear my CW, just as the satellite flew over the horizon! Then VO-52 came over and I was receiving good signals on 145MHz and again was able to hear my CW, sufficiently to call CQ. No-one came back, but it's a start! I also managed to hear myself on a pass of FO-29 with reasonable elevation.
This is all quite promising and I'm pretty sure that I will be able to make some QSOs in due course, most likely on CW.
However, all of this enthused me sufficiently that I'm aiming to be able to take the FT847 out into the garden (or out portable) with the diplexer and the Elk to try and make some contacts with the yagi.
Good fun - thank you for the inspiration, Ray!
Saturday, March 15, 2014
I hadn't put the receiver on 145.825 and monitored the packet transmissions from the ISS digipeater for a while. Nice to do so over the last couple of days and see plenty of stations plotted on the map.
I haven't been in shack at the right time to press the transmit button - but it's just interesting to see what's been heard
Gear is the FT8900 / V2000 vertical - UZ7HO soundcard modem software/UISS software
Sunday, March 09, 2014
A more challenging path was the 432MHz one from here to PI7CIS in JO22. At the moment, with the 10el yagi, I am not hearing the beacon all the time, so I left the FT847 running with the beam pointing towards Holland and after a few minutes, I heard a weak signal from the beacon. Sure enough, referring back to the AirScout software, there was an aircraft along the path.
Very interesting! I must look at this software a little more and see if I can learn a little more about how I might use it to make some aircraft scatter contacts.
You can download a copy of AirScout here
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
On the train last night I was chatting on Twitter to Jon, G0IUE. Jon is located in Corsham, some 35 miles or so to the west of me. Jon had been working some nice DX in the late afternoon on 29MHz AM and I suggested that as I would soon be back at the car, we have a go and see if we could make a QSO.
As I was getting of the train, I had a tweet from Jon to say that he was working OX1B on 29.050 AM. I hurried along the platform as quickly as I could and got back to the car, but the frequency was quiet. However, I left the rig on the frequency and started my journey.
As I got out of the built up area, I could start to hear some weak signals and realised it was Jon calling CQ. Although I couldn't copy him fully at that stage, I could tell he was there. Larry K1IED replied to Jon's CQ and started a QSO. During one of the breaks in transmission, I dropped my call in and was delighted when Larry heard me.
Heading west all the time, near Abingdon, I was able to hear Jon quite well on ground wave. We were able to have a three way QSO for several minutes. Larry signed with us and Jon and I QSYed to GB3WH on 2m FM.
My destination, the Gym at Carswell, has quite a good take off in Jon's direction, so on my arrival, I suggested to Jon we try on 29MHz AM. We did and we just able to exchange signals. Jon was easy copy for me, but my slightly lower power from the Anytone was only just making it. We moved onto SSB and it was a very easy QSO. Larry K1IED had been listening and joined in on SSB which was great fun.
A really nice, fun QSO - the stuff that memories of solar cycles are made of!
Jon shot a bit of video of the QSO (on AM) with Larry coming in really well.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
I was thinking about the 'Handy from Tandy' conversion from 49MHz and it occurred to me that the first set that I ever transmitted on was a 49MHz handheld.
It must have been around 1980 when I was a keen shortwave listener and starting to get interested in getting an amateur licence. My parents had taken us on holiday to Fishguard in Pembrokeshire. Just along the A487 from Fishguard towards Cardigan is the village of Dinas. This particular year, a new shop had appeared in Dinas, a CB shop. I was very keen on looking in the shop window!
Of course, at this stage, CB was illegal in the UK and as I was living at home - there was no possibility of illegal operation - not that I would have done anyway :-)
I can remember a number of 49MHz handhelds for sale in the shop as well as the 27MHz AM sets.
When I returned home to Cheltenham, I researched the 49MHz handhelds. They were very low power and they appeared to be legal to use. I bought a set of two. The range was probably 100-200 yards in a built up area. A couple of doors from me lived Jon, G6BHS, so it made perfect sense for Jon to have the other handheld and for us to use them to chat. Good fun!
27MHz CB was legalised in 1981, on FM, and I very quickly purchased a CB licence and a Cybernet Beta 1000 set (great receiver!) and had some fun and learned some basics about aerials and propagation.
Of course, it was just the push I needed to get my first amateur licence, G6TTU early in 1983.
Friday, February 28, 2014
Earlier in the week, I noticed a handheld 50MHz FM transceiver on eBay for £6.99. I read a little and it turned out to be a converted Tandy/Realistic 49MHz handheld. Back in the late 1980s (I think), Practical Wireless ran an article by Peter Julian, G7PRO on how to convert one of these on to 50MHz FM.
There had been a follow up article by Mike Hadley G4JXX and by coincidence, the transceiver on eBay was Mike's! Unfortunately, Mike didn't have a copy of his article, although he did kindly send me a scan of the original G7PRO one. I'm sure I can locate a copy of Mike's article.
The little transceiver arrived today and I wasted no time in putting a 9v battery in it! It works fine and transmits and receives quite happily on 51.510MHz FM. The original article suggests the power output is in the region of 50mW, but I think Mike's modification is for a little more output.
Actually, my thought was not particularly to use this as a transceiver, although it will be fun to play with the low power and see how far it will go, but in the Es season, to use it as a monitor receiver in the greenhouse/garden and see if I can hear any Es on it.
As for the price, I think it's provided £6.99 worth of enjoyment already!