Field Day 2018 Satellite Passes

I’ve put together my list of candidate orbits that are happening during daylight hours for Field Day 2018.  Orbits in green are pretty optimal.  Orbits in yellow are lower (and hence further away, or in darkness).

Satellite Passes FD 2018

Posted in AMSAT, AO-7, AO-73, AO-85, AO-91, CAS-4B, FO-29, From the OM, Satellite, SO-50, XW-2A, XW-2B, XW-2C, XW-2D, XW-2F | Leave a comment

QSO #9,000 in LotW

Silly, I suppose, but I note almost every accomplishment.  I’m happy to say that today I worked Ron, K4AKK, from Savannah, TN on 15-Meter FT-8.  He found his way into my LotW database as Contact #9,000 (since I started back on the air in Feb of 2011).  So that’s a pretty good clip, about 1,250 Qs a year.

I’m also impressed with the participation rate in LotW as that is a 68% confirmation rate.  Many of those are DX stations too.  Thank you ARRL for LotW, and for those that keep it running!

Posted in ARRL, FT8, LotW, Operating | Leave a comment

Still duking it out for the International Grid Chase

After investing most of April and May’s on-air time to the class I was teaching and the coming of spring (and all the household things that entails), I sort of dropped off the grid chase.  I have been able to get on for the past week or so, and have managed to crawl my way back to 3rd place.  But I’m sure it will be short lived.  Lots of my buds are hard at work on this too.

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Solar Cycle 25 Beginning?

Current solar cycle 24 is declining more quickly than forecast.  Will the solar minimum last longer, or does this signal that Cycle 25 is about to begin?

Some helioscientists are saying that early signs of Solar Cycle 25 are already beginning to appear.  And they are hoping the cycle will be underway by 2020.

Time will tell!

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Six Meters is Rocking

Each day that I have some time to be on the air, I start by listening to 6-meters for a few minutes.  This month, almost every time I do that, I wind up making a few contacts during a short opening.  This morning was a bit different.  The opening has been going on for more than an hour, and is covering all the mid-states from TX to IA and East.

Posted in 6-Meters, FT8 | Leave a comment

Happy 6000+ LotW confirmations!

Back on Jan 19, I was sitting at 5,000 LotW confirmations.  Today, with the addition of a couple of confirmations from QSOs with Iceland back in 2014, I bumped up to 6,001 confirmed in LotW.

Thanks to Odinn Thor (I LOVE that name), TF2MSN, for the confirmations.  Here’s to 7,000!

Confirmations of older QSOs are always an unexpected bonus on the day.  These put my DXCC Challenge up to 1,314.  It’s going to be a long, slow crawl up to 1,500.

Posted in DX, From the OM, LotW | Leave a comment

Thanks to Tom, AB8RL, for 12-meter WAS

FT-8 has proven its worth over and over again during this bottom part of the solar cycle.  I’ve been having fun noticing the frequent short openings on 10-meters and 12-meters the past few months.  I’m convinced that we think the bands are closed, so we don’t even try.  FT-8 and spotting programs have shown me the light.  Never assume any band is dead.

Since I got back on the air in 2011, I’ve been working toward various awards.  I think I completed WAS via JT-65 back in August of 2011, and followed up a couple of years later with the Triple Play.  In February of 2014, I completed 5BWAS, having already completed 30-meter and 17-meter WAS along the way.  All I was missing was West Virginia on 12-meters.

As the bands have been declining, so was my optimism, and I was wondering if I would complete 12-meter WAS without a big uptick in solar activity.  But each day I would get on and always check 12 out for a few minutes.  Today that paid off when I saw Tom, AB8RL, calling CQ on the waterfall.  I wasn’t able to snag him on his first call, but I did get in the next slot.  Thanks, Tom, for getting me to 8BWAS (I am lacking Hawaii and Alaska on 160-meters).

QSO with AB8RL on 12-meters captured from WSJT-X window

And Tom’s LotW confirmation:

Posted in FT8, Operating, WAS, WSJT-X | Leave a comment

Final Class for New Tech’s

I recently completed another Technician Class up in Providence RI.  It produced 11 New Techs plus a General (I’m always amazed how common it is for one or two folks to take the next level exam and pass it).

As usual it took six weeks of 2.5 hour sessions, totaling 15 hours of class time.  After six classes, on May 1st, we had a VE session.  Tomorrow, May 21st, after allowing enough time for the FCC to do their job and issue the licenses, we are having a “Handheld Radio” class.  The students who passed the exam and joined my club (Newport County Radio Club) are given a BaoFeng UV5R dual band 5 watt HT that is pre-programmed with repeaters in RI and SE New England.

This is a win-win as the students have a chance to learn on-air procedures and don’t have to worry about the fear of purchasing the wrong radio.  The club benefits from a growing number of members.

Education has been the key to positive growth for my club and has produced many side benefits.  At this point, after doing it for six years, I’ve had about 250 successful outcomes, which is more than 10% of the entire ham population for Rhode Island.

Looking forward to my next set of classes this fall.

Posted in Education, From the OM | Leave a comment

“Green Band” April 2018 FMT!

I managed to fulfill one of my 2018 goals by getting into the “Green Band” of the ARRL FMT.  The standard is to be better than 1 Hz on all three bands.  My best result was within 0.010 Hz, and my worst was within 0.170 Hz.  The majority of that error is due to uncertainty as to the impact of Doppler.

So I was 10 mHz low on 80m (2.8 ppb), 170 mHz high on 40m (24 ppb), and 100 mHz high on 20m (7.1 ppb); a total error of 33.9 ppb, or an average of 11.3 ppb.  When ranked by average error in ppb, I came in 12th place.  My other RI friends were in 7th and 18th place.

Maybe I can break the top 10 next time!

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Warming Up for the FMT

2018’s first FMT is scheduled for 0100-0225 UTC on April 6 (9 PM-10:25PM EDT Thursday).  It’s been many months since I’ve fiddled with my measurement gear, so today it was hooked up and will be left powered on so that things are thermally stable for tomorrow’s measuring session 32 hours from now.

I’m using a Fluke PM6685R mostly as a Rubidium Frequency Standard, but I do use the counter as a second check of my HP 3335A Synthesizer output frequency.  The output of the generator is fed into the counter, and also feeds a JFW Industries 50BR-001 precision attenuator (0-110 dB in 1 dB steps).  The output of the variable attenuator is fed into a fixed 40 dB 100 watt attenuator.  That fixed attenuator is there just in case something bad/wrong (badong) happens and my transmitter is turned on accidentally (which reduces the 100 watts to a level low enough to avoid frying my measurement gear).  The output of the fixed 40 dB attenuator is fed into a one side of a “T” connected to my Elecraft K3s setup for AM mode.  The other side of the “T” is the receive antenna.

The process is to adjust the frequency synthesizer to come up on the low side of the unknown signal, producing a beat-tone of a few hundred hertz.  The output of the variable attenuator is adjusted to produce a carrier that is approximately the same level as the unknown (as viewed on the Elecraft P3 Panadapter, which visually confirms that the synthesizer carrier is below the unknown carrier).  That beat tone is measured with Spectrum Lab software.  The unknown frequency is then equal to the frequency measured using Spectrum Lab PLUS the frequency of the rubidium-slaved synthesizer.

Groundwaves follow the earth’s surface and aren’t impacted by the ionosphere.  I’ve been able to consistently measure a groundwave signal to within 5 mHz or better.  The Ionosphere, on the other hand, is constantly changing and impossible to predict.  Not only are the deep fades to deal with, or perhaps an ionosphere that isn’t refracting the desired signal at all.  But the real complication is a Doppler effect caused by the relative motion of the ionosphere.  For example, the sun’s solar wind has been pushing the ionosphere down toward the earth surface during the daytime.  After sunset the ionosphere expands outward, increasing the path length, which produces an apparent drop in frequency.

Prior tests with WWV and CHU signals indicate when the MUF is above the measured frequency and the ionosphere is stable, Doppler is inserting an uncertainty of about 10 mHz.  When things are unstable it is more like 250 mHz.  So Doppler effects can be from 2x to 50x more significant than my ability to read an unknown frequency

Even not being able to correct for Doppler, I should still be able to get well within the 1 Hz “Green Bar” requirement as that is a factor of 4 above the maximum Doppler uncertainty that I’ve seen (based on my limited observations).  That said, things move quickly and there are a lot of settings/opportunities for operator error.  My fingers will be flying during the FTM.  If I make a green bar reading then I can scratch one thing off my 2018 goals.

Fluke Counter & Rubidium Source, HP Synthesizer, and JFW Variable Attenuator

K3s Receiver in AM mode. P3 showing 10.0 MHz WWV signal and generator carrier 300 Hz below

Spectrum Labs showing ~ 300.1 Hz beat tone. Most of that shift is gear warming up, but some is positive Doppler Shift during daylight hours

Posted in FMT, Gear | Leave a comment