CY9C – St. Paul Island DXpedition – via Satellite

I was fortunate enough to work CY9C today at 21:08:39 during a pass of AO-7.  Great operator on the other end and great signals too.  Heard him work quite a few prior to me as well.

CY9C

SatPC32 Screen Photo taken shortly after working CY9C on AO-7 (about 21:10 UTC)

Did the same thing when they weren’t busy on a XW-2C pass at 22:07:25.  Even stronger signals.

image (11)

Clayton, W5PFG, published the following table on the AMSAT-BB (He reported hearing my call to CY9C down in Texas):

CY9C satellite passes for next 24 hours.  They make work others as available. Asterisks * indicates a prioritized pass for best geographical coverage. All dates/times are UTC

25.08.2016  AO-85   16:51-17:02
25.08.2016  AO-07   17:15-17:34
25.08.2016  AO-85   18:32-18:42
25.08.2016  AO-07   19:06-19:27
25.08.2016  XW-2C   20:28-20:37    *
25.08.2016  AO-07   21:04-21:19    *
25.08.2016  XW-2C   22:02-22:11
25.08.2016  XW-2F   22:16-22:25
25.08.2016  XW-2A   23:38-23:44    *
26.08.2016  FO-29   01:46-01:52    *
26.08.2016  SO-50   03:10-03:21
26.08.2016  FO-29   03:28-03:45    *
26.08.2016  SO-50   04:50-05:02    *
26.08.2016  FO-29   05:13-05:30
26.08.2016  SO-50   06:33-06:42    *
26.08.2016  FO-29   06:59-07:11    *

Posted in AO-7, DX, Satellite, XW-2C | Leave a comment

Gotta Love Portable Operation

My family and I went to Lake George in early August for a week of fun — I’m not as bendy as they are, so while they were parasailing and kayaking, I hung back at our hotel to make a few QRP contacts while portable.

We had a nice room with a second story balcony that overlooked the lake.  I was able to hang my dipole from the two far ends of the balcony, about 24 feet across (short for 20-meters).  Using that sub-optimal antenna I did work a pair of CW QRP contacts with WW4LL, Fred in GA, and K1DW, Dallas in LA.

Dipole fed with RG174 strung from the columns about 24 feet apart on our deck.

Dipole fed with RG174 strung from the columns about 24 feet apart on our deck.

KX3 operating portable CW

KX3 operating portable CW

One funny thing — on my second day using the KX3, the internal battery was running low, so I replaced it with a spare, and when I picked the rig back up, the main tuning knob fell off.  I watched it roll across the bottom of the deck railing, noticing that the knob was taller than the gap.  Whew!  Unfortunately it rolled to the very end of the deck, where the gap was much larger.  I then watched the knob roll off the end of the deck, and heard it bounce off of several other decks then into the grass below.  Fortunately my son found the knob in some flowers, and I actually found the felt washer that provides a bit of back drag under our deck rail.  Now that was very lucky!

Posted in From the OM, Gear, Operating, QRP | Leave a comment

OSCAR Satellite Communications Achievement Award

Bruce, KK5DO, processed my application within minutes of it being emailed to him, and I received the award #569 a couple of days later.  This particular award requires twenty 2x satellite QSOs in different states, provinces, or countries.  It doesn’t seem hard on the face of it, and it really isn’t, but the confirmation requirement is the sticky point; either in QSL form or via LotW.  I’ve mentioned before that for some odd reason, comparatively few of the satellite operators use LotW, surprising because they all use computers to predict orbits or control Doppler and antenna pointing.

OSCAR Sat Achievement WB4SON

The next award in the queue is the OSCAR Satellite Communication Sexagesimal Award — I’m almost there, just need a few more contacts and a bunch more confirmations.  This is a pretty rare award, only 172 issued to date.

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Amazing How Many Satellites Are Active Now

I can remember back to the days of AO-6 and AO-7.  One satellite in the sky, 4-6 passes in a day, calculations done graphically using the Oscar Locator and weekly elements sent via W1AW bulletin (no PCs or public internet back then).

Today the sky is jammed full of satellites, with a new one (EO-79) being turned over to amateur use as I write this.

SkyAtAGlance

The above is “The sky at a glance” output from the GPredict.exe program; showing satellites visible in my area between about 1 PM and 9 PM today.  That’s 23 opportunities for me to work a satellite in an 8 hour window.  I have worked all of those with simple equipment (egg-beater antennas with mast mounted preamps) — some, like FO-29, are much easier than others (like AO-85 which doesn’t hear me well, or AO-73, which can be difficult to locate one’s downlink on).

Being a satellite guy no longer means waiting half the day to make a contact or two.  You can pretty much be sure there will be a satellite in view no more than every other hour, and often several in an hour.

 

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Add the QRZ.com US Counties Award

Must be a newish award as I don’t know why I received an email today saying I had qualified for a new award, but when I checked, it turned out to be for working 500 US Counties.

QRZ US Counties Award 500+

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Just Completed Oscar Satellite Communications Achievement Award

The QSL rate for satellite operators is disappointingly low, even for those using LotW.  This means it takes more time to obtain various operating awards.

Today, I finally qualified for the AMSAT Oscar Satellite Communications Achievement Award, which is 20 different states and countries confirmed.  George, WA5KBH in Louisiana happened to be the 20th different confirmation on FO-29 SSB today.  Thanks for uploading your satellite activity so quickly to LotW!

Stations in the US that had a part in this award are:Sat20 States

DX stations that had a part in the award are:Sat20 Countries

Thanks everybody!

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“Best” UKUBE-1 Telemetry Frequency

I have also been monitoring the telemetry from UKUBE-2 (Funcube-2).

With a satellite frequency of 145.915.7, I received packets with a frequency of 1627 Hz to 1288 Hz.  This is a shift of 339 Hz (very close to the shift seen for AO-73).  That puts the center frequency at 1457 Hz.  This is pretty darn close to the sweet spot for 1500 decoding — an adjusted Doppler.sqf frequency would be 145.915.65.

With the packets captured today, I just broke into the top 200 in terms of data providers (clearly not many folks are providing data to the warehouse for UKUBE-1 if 338 packets uploaded is ranked at 193).

FKUB Ranking

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“Best” AO-73 Telemetry Freq?

I’ve been watching AO-73 telemetry frequencies for the past few weeks.  Today I noted that a satellite frequency of 145.934.8 produced packets captured between 1538 and 1168 Hz, or a drift over that period of 370 Hz.  From this it appears a slightly more optimal frequency for my Doppler.sqf file would be 145.934.65, which would have produced packets captured between 1688 and 1418 Hz — pretty much centered around 1500 Hz.

AO73 Cap 145934r8

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Don’t know that I’ve ever seen this before…

Bad Solar Conditions

Day and night, all HF bands are “Poor”

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Correct Setup to Use a IC-9100 with WSJT-X

While I don’t generally use my IC-9100 on HF anymore (keeping it mostly for satellite work on VHF/UHF), I do follow the Yahoo IC-9100 Discussion Group, and a great number of people post seeking help using the IC-9100 with digital modes.

The most common misconception is “How do I hook my IC-9100 and SignalLink USB up?”  Well, the answer is you don’t.  The IC-9100 has everything it needs to run digital modes built into the radio (basically the equivalent of a SignaLink USB is built into the radio).  You use a single USB cable (less than 1 meter in length) to gain access to rig control, and soundcard radio audio in/out.

The second most common misconception is somehow becoming convinced that you need to use “USB” (as in Upper Side Band) as the RX/TX mode. That’s correct for a microphone, but very bad practice for digital modes.  You want to use “D-USB” (as in Digital Upper Side Band).  This will ensure that the compressor is turned off, along with the RX and TX tone adjustments that would wreck havoc with your signal quality.

And the most common issue is “I can decode signals fine, but nothing comes out on transmit” or “My rig doesn’t enter transmit”.  In the latter you need software that will send a CAT command to the radio that will enable/disable transmit, or you must use VOX (which can be difficult to get setup due to the restrictions on audio input level to avoid distortion).  In the former typically the modulation source has not been setup correctly.

The key to success is getting a bunch of settings inside the radio to match a bunch of settings in your digital mode software.  In this case, I’m describing WSJT-X (Version 1.6.0), the latest software from K1JT that supports JT65, JT9, and WSPR.

Begin by getting your IC-9100 Menu Settings set properly:

  • Menu 56 USB MOD Level “25%”
  • Menu 58 DATA OFF MOD “MIC”
  • Menu 59 DATA MOD “USB”
  • Menu 60 CI-V Baud Rate “19200”
  • Menu 61 CI-V Address “7Ch”

Often, older software doesn’t allow the correct default value of the CI-V Address (7Ch) to be used, but WSJT-X is expecting that address to be used when using the IC-9100.

Note that the USB MOD Level of 25% is going to be close, but your particular radio might need some adjusting.  The way you figure that out is to get the radio into transmit mode (perhaps using the “TUNE” button in WSJT-X) and adjusting the USB MOD Level until there is ZERO ALC on your meter.  If you are showing ALC action, then your transmit audio is going to be distorted.  It is a VERY sensitive adjustment.  27% causes mid-scale ALC in my case.

Likewise you are going to have to adjust the incoming level as well.  Usually I run with AGC turned off (this prevents stronger signals from blanking out the display).  If you are a “all knobs fully CW” sort of operator that will either blow out your speaker, or damage your hearing if you keep the RF gain at maximum.  Turn the RF gain all the way down, then turn off the AGC.  Slowly ramp the RF gain up until the WSJT-X incoming level meter is right around mid-scale when no signals are being received. (Note the blue slider control to the right of the meter should be at mid-scale.)  In my case, with the AGC turned OFF, a setting just beyond 9 O’clock will cause a mid-scale audio input level (I will see +40 to +50 during the active part of the JT65 minute).

The WSJT-X Radio Settings look like this for the IC-9100 (my lower COM port is COM5):

WSJTX Radio Settings

The WSJT-X Audio Settings look like this for the IC-9100

WSJTX Audio Settings

Posted in IC-9100, Operating, WSJT-X | Leave a comment