Saving the Radome

Saving the Radome

To secure the large dish’s future and replace the deteriorating radome, the MIT Radio Society spearheaded a fundraising effort and immediately got to work. Building on the momentum of a previous successful fundraising campaign among Radio Society alumni that helped refurbish their equipment on the roof, they further mobilized the MIT community of alumni and friends by organizing a second campaign.

The students also pulled together a successful grant application in record time to Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC), a non-profit private foundation supporting amateur radio and digital communications science, resulting in ARDC’s largest-ever philanthropic contribution, made in memory of the organization’s founder Brian Kantor. This lead gift brought the MIT Radio Society across the finish line to successfully meet their fundraising goal.

Great story with a happy ending thanks to the folks at ARDC.


PSAT2 Comes Alive

In a message to the AMSAT-BB mailing list, Bob Bruninga, WB4APR reported on the current status of PSAT2:

PSAT2-1 DTMF users

PSAT2 appears to be operating normally after awakening on 26 April from a 9 month sleep. All VHF and UHF functions are intact. The APRS digi is off to encourage experimentation with other modes. Such as DTMF Grids, PSK31, SSTV relay, HF voice SSB uplink, UHF FM down.

The goal of this mode is to allow anyone with ANY radio to do a digital communication without having to have a specialized APRS data mode. All you need is a DTMF memory to store your callsign digits.

Additional information on the satellite is available here.


Backyard to the Rescue

I had hoped to slip into the backyard this evening to participate in the monthly Spartan Sprint. That might still happen though the forecast says to expect thunderstorms this evening. No complaints though, we need the rain and I did just lay down the first application of weed and feed on the lawn over the weekend.

The Adventure Radio Society runs the popular Spartan Sprint and recently announced resumption of the annual Flight of the Bumble Bees outdoor operating event:

“In concert with today’s National Arbor Day, The Adventure Radio Society is announcing the return of the Flight of the Bumble Bees on the last Sunday of July. This year it is July 25. Applications for field stations. Bumble Bee number requests will be opened on Friday, June 25 - one month before this year’s BB event.

After being cooped up inside for much of the winter and with so many virus-related shut-downs, we’re all probably a little stir-crazy at this point. I just read a report about vacation rentals being tough to find for the summer and apparently many of the State and National Park camping areas will be in short-supply too.

Good thing my backyard continues to be wide open for low-powered radio adventure and I hope to enjoy the summer out there in my own little wilderness - with the kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom just 20 yards from the main radio action!


A Third Gone

Hard to believe that a third of this year has expired so quickly. While most ham radio events remain virtual it feels like we may be turning a corner on this virus thing. Between the vaccinations and warmer weather we can move around outdoors with less concern for health and safety and that’s a welcome change. I even met a fellow ham last weekend (both of us fully-vaccinated) in an actual coffee shop!

The last month has been a blur. Busy with a number of projects at home, some pressing AMSAT duties (bylaws amendment) and an out of town project for work chewed up all of April. I’d like to take another week of vacation despite having enjoyed a week off at the end of March, but that doesn’t seem likely. Apparently, it’s going to remain busy right up to the day I retire - and I’m told it gets even busier after that.

a few other things…

Apollo Astronaut Mike Collins died this week at the age of 90. Collins is the guy who remained in the command module orbiting the Moon while Armstrong and Aldrin went for a stroll on its surface. In the news of his passage was mention of an auto-biography aptly titled, Carrying the Fire first published in 1974. I downloaded the Audible version and began listening on my drive home yesterday. That trip was only 4.5 hours so I haven’t finished it, but I’ll finish it over the next few days. Great story, more about it when I get done.

The demolition of Hara Arena is nearly complete. Check this video.

MacDoppler version 2.38 was released as was MacLoggerDX version 6.33.

An updated TQSL configuration file for LoTW was released (config.xml v11.14) on April 22nd that adds the Q65 mode.

Have you taken advantage of the free PDF book download, YASME, The Danny Weil and Colvin Radio Expedition by James D. Cain, K1TN yet? It might not always be available…

Dave Sumner, K1ZZ to Step Down from IARU

At its April 5 meeting via Zoom, the ARRL Executive Committee (EC) nominated past ARRL President Joel Harrison, W5ZN, to become the next Secretary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). The incumbent Secretary, David Sumner, K1ZZ, has announced his intention to step down on July 1. ARRL International Affairs Vice President Rod Stafford, W6ROD, explained that ARRL, as IARU Secretariat, has the right and obligation to appoint a successor. Harrison currently serves as IARU Assistant Secretary. The ARRL Board of Directors ratified his nomination on April 16.


ARISS-USA Volunteer Search

Having established the independent ARISS-USA non-profit organization recently, the group now seeks volunteers to fill many of its operational goals.

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, Inc. (ARISS-USA) is seeking volunteers to support our mission:  

To provide and operate Amateur Radio systems on International Space Station (ISS) and elsewhere to inspire, educate, and engage youth and communities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) and to support ISS backup communications.  ARISS-USA, is a 501 (c) (3) charitable, educational and scientific non-profit that was recently incorporated in the state of Maryland in the USA.   

Descriptions of each of these roles are given in Article 8.6 of the ARISS-USA bylaws.

Interested? Take a look at the press release and list of positions and required qualifications at the ARISS-USA site.


2021 Contest University

CONTEST UNIVERSITY Live via Zoom Webinar (free) – Thursday, May 20th

Click above to register for the day-long 2021 Contest University that would have taken place during Hamvention weekend. Take a look at the course outline. Slide presentations will be available for download on the day of the event. Four ICOM Radios will be given away during CTU at random times. You must be registered in Zoom and present during the random time drawing.


Visalia Registration Open

72nd International DX Convention

Pre-registration for the 72nd International DX Convention is now open. Due to the virus, the event will be conducted online via Zoom. It’s a two-day event, May 15-16. Pre-registration is required but the event is free.

Check out the program schedule and the list of door prizes.

See you there!


By Any Other Name

At the risk of dragging this out any further, the story about the FCC warnings to hams deserves a proper ending. Though the story is far from over, and I wouldn’t call this a “happy ending”, I’ve dug around enough to have arrived at a conclusion that satifies me.

I believe ham radio is (so far) an un-indicted coconspirator in the January 2021 Capitol riot and that’s why the FCC has warned us multiple times to not use radios to facilitate criminal activity.

Why do I Believe That?

In the criminal indictment of the self-proclaimed “Chairman” of the “Proud Boys” the use of transceivers capable of operating on amateur radio frequencies is specifically detailed:

“Arrangements were made to program and distribute multiple Baofeng radios for use by Proud Boys members to communicate during the event”.

The manufacturer is unimportant especially given that these can be purchased by anyone (with or without a license) on Amazon. Alone this isn’t sufficient evidence that amateur radio was involved in the event. But the radios were programmed to make use of local area FM repeaters during the operation. Someone would require knowledge of those frequencies, offsets, and required tones.

And while that information isn’t particularly difficult to obtain, it’s significant when you also consider that just ten days earlier this same indicted person had posted this on Parler:

“Anyone looking to help us with safety/protective gear, or communications equipment it would be much appreciated, things have gotten more dangerous for us this past year, anything helps.”

Asking for help with communications equipment on December 27th and then arriving a few days later in Washington DC with handheld transceivers, programmed for use with local repeaters, is all I need to conclude that some or multiple hams were “in on it”.

Who Answered That Call?

When asked for communications equipment “help” via social media I’d really like to know who answered that call because I’m certain one or more of “us” did.

And another thing…

Looking into all this has convinced me of something else; in the the context of amateur radio, “Prepper” is synonymous with “right-wing extremist”.

About a decade ago preppers became interested in ham radio in sizable numbers and the unchecked zeal of amateur radio recruiters set about getting them all licensed, you know, to boost our numbers and show the amateur service to be growing.

Now I can’t look at any hobby-related advertisement for equipment without seeing military-styled transceivers, kits built-in ammo boxes, camo painted hardware, and a deep reservoir of YouTube videos produced by licensed hams specifically crafted to assist the prepper community about how to use their radios.

Have we gone from just playing army to becoming one without even realizing it? The foxes may already be in the hen-house. At what point do we stop calling it “Ham Radio” and begin calling it “Militia Radio”?

Yeah, I know, that’s probably an over-reaction. That’s my problem, not yours. At least not yet.


WRTC Postponed

WRTC 2022 postponed to 2023

At the WRTC 2022 Association Assembly on 23 April 2021, having previously consulted the WRTC Sanctioning Committee, the assembly and Organizing Committee decided to postpone WRTC 2022 one year to 2023. There have been no changes in the qualification process or to the overall structure of the event and its sponsoring committee. A detailed report on the qualification standings will be prepared and released at a later date.

In consideration of the worldwide public health challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic, we believe our decision is reasonable. We have received many communications from competitors and friends of WRTC and have taken them very seriously.

The pandemic related cancellations continue to pile-up…


More Speculation

I still have no idea what that second FCC warning was all about.

Given the first was issued in the immediate aftermath of the January Capitol riots it’s probably safe to assume that personal radio equipment was used in the commission of that activity or else it was an incredible coincidence.

A second warning in the span of a few months definitely means something. Perhaps some of the rioters who have since been arrested are spilling their guts to Federal prosecutors about how the seizing of the Capitol was planned and organized with help from ham radio equipment?

Using a radio during a crime is a Federal offense that can add penalties and a means for restitution (longer sentences, fines, seizing radio equipment, license revocation, etc.) to an already serious crime.

I don’t know, but I’m reasonably confident the FCC doesn’t do “random”.

When you see them warn hams about operating too close to the band edge it’s because someone operated illegally out of band. A second warning about using radio equipment during the commission of crime almost certainly means someone has been using ham radio to assist their criminal activity.

It’s not the kind of publicity we desire for our favorite hobby and we should all be at least a little uncomfortable that the FCC seems to have a need to continue warning us about it.


Another FCC Warning

Amateur & Personal Radio Users Reminded Not to Use Radios in Crimes

It’s difficult to imagine the FCC issuing an advisory to amateur and personal radio users a 2nd time without some reason. The last time they made the warning was in the aftermath of the storming of the United States Capitol in January.

Then there were rumors that amateur radio equipment may have been used to organize and coordinate communication among the rioters.

What may have triggered this second warning just this week is unknown but a vivid imagination could conjure almost anything.


AMSAT News Service

Sometime over the weekend AMSAT News Service bulletin ANS-108 arrived in the inbox as it has done, each week without fail, for I don’t know, decades? It’s the prime news source for all things AMSAT and most everything related to ham radio in space.

ANS-108 AMSAT News Service Weekly Bulletins for April 18, 2021

While this can seem like a simple thing, it’s worth noting that the endeavor requires boundless action on the part of several individuals to bring it all together and make it happen. This is unpaid, volunteer work - it’s someone’s “job” but there’s no pay-day reward for these or any other AMSAT volunteers.

These bulletins bind the community through the dissemination of timely information that’s relevant to anyone with any interest in amateur radio in space. It’s a FREE service provided by AMSAT.

Sign-up to receive these bulletins via email. You’re also invited to send any amateur satellite news or reports to:

ans-editor@amsat.org

You don’t have to be a member to receive this weekly mailing, but we would love for you to join us. The future of ham radio is in space and, trust me, you won’t want to miss it!


OzarkCon 2021

OzarkCon, the popular QRP Convention normally conducted in Branson, Missouri took place last weekend - virtually of course. It was another fine effort by the 4SQRP Group despite being an online event instead of an in-person celebration.

I even won a prize and it’s already on my desk!

NS-40+ 5W 40M QRP CW Transmitter

It is a truly unique QRP transmitter design. ‘NS’ stands for None Simpler, and there is No Simpler 40 Meter Transmitter. Why is it called the None Simpler? Because there are only 14 electronic components, and NO TOROIDS or COILS of any kind to wind - NONE! All inductors are incorporated directly on the PC board as etched spirals.

I’m a long-time member (#127) of the Four State QRP Group and really enjoy hanging out with this gang. Brenda and I attended our first OzarkCon a couple years ago and planned to return last year but then came the pandemic. We hope to return in 2022 as it’s a great area of the country to visit and a wonderful group of hams to hangout with.

And THANK YOU to David Cripe, NM0S for your generosity in donating this classic kit!


Eclectic Tech - AM

I’ve been trying to catch-up on some podcasts where I have fallen hopelessly behind. Working from home has eliminated my commute which was prime podcast and audio book listening time. Some travel this week permitted me an opportunity to get up to date with the ARRL’s Eclectic Tech podcast hosted by Steve Ford, WB8IMY.

In one particular episode Steve interviewed N1BCG about the recent resurgence of AM in amateur radio. I find it interesting that what used to be a primary mode of communication in our hobby is now considered an eclectic mode. Though given the total domination of FT8 I suppose any other mode used by radio amateurs could be considered rare.

In any event I’m pleased to hear that AM is enjoying something of a comeback and I plan to spend more time seeking out those pockets of AM users where they congregate on the bands and join them every chance I get. I’m less interested in collecting boat anchors at this point in life, but all the transceivers in my shack are capable of generating AM, why not?

A few other resources mentioned in that program:


CAMSAT CAS-9

IARU Amateur Satellite Frequency Coordination

A 6U CubeSat. CAS-9 also named Hope-3 (XW-3) carries a VHF uplink and UHF downlink linear transponder with a bandwidth of 30kHz. This transponder will work all day during the lifecycle of the satellite, and amateur radio enthusiasts around the world can use it for two-way radio relay communications. Proposing the following links:

  • VHF/UHF - V/U Mode Linear Transponder
  • UHF - CW Telemetry Beacon
  • UHF - AX.25 4.8k/9.6kbps GMSK Telemetry

Planning a launch from Jiuquan on December 15th 2021 into a 770km circular orbit with a 98.58 degree inclination. On the other hand, CW beacon use Morse code to send satellite telemetry data, which is also a feature that is widely welcomed by amateur radio enthusiasts.

The hits just keep coming. This one will be highly anticipated and a special Christmas present for all amateur satellite enthusiasts!


ARISS Moves On

ARISS USA Gets IRS 501(c)(3) Recognition

ARISS-USA, a Maryland nonprofit corporation, has earned recognition from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a Section 501(c)(3) charitable, scientific, and educational organization. ARISS-USA is the US segment of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) international working group. With this IRS determination, donations to ARISS-USA become tax-deductible in the US, retroactive to May 21, 2020. This status allows the organization to solicit donations and grants. (via ARRL News)

Nice to hear that ARISS has finally taken flight and has become its own non-profit organization. This will help with funding and provide strategic direction for its role in keeping ham radio in space. My only question is why they didn’t take the opportunity to change the name of the organization? With the ISS now at 200% of its planned life and with ARISS planning future lunar projects, a name change in the not too distant future seems inevitable.

In any event, congratulations to ARISS on this bold move!


Fully Vaccinated

I received the 2nd (Moderna) VAX jab this morning and am now considered fully vaccinated. Good for me, but it comes at a time when the virus is beginning to surge again. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising to discover this newest surge is related to the too-soon removal of the safety protocols mostly in the red states.

Spiking the football on the ten-yard line as it were.

Here in deep-red Indiana our governor (who has done an admirable job with the pandemic until now) canceled the mask mandate a few days ago. Even though businesses can continue to require it and masks still must be worn in all government buildings.

When asked, our governor said he would continue wearing a mask whenever he is in public and recommended that everyone else do the same. He further said he only lifted the mask mandate because it “made his Republican colleagues feel better” which is about as lame-ass an excuse as I’ve ever heard for anything.

Who are these right wing snowflakes with such tender feelings being assaulted by a mask mandate that it would make them feel better if lifted, even if they still intend to wear them?

I don’t get it, but since 2016 the GOP is only the shadow of a clown of its former self and it’s difficult to imagine anyone taking them seriously as a governing party again. Which is a problem given the alternative is only slightly less odious.

America is hosed and COVID is surging into yet another wave. Meanwhile, I’m fully vaccinated and waiting to see if there will be any overnight side-effects from taking the juice.

So far, no problem.


NCDXF Grant for 3Y0J

NCDXF Announces Major Grant Award To 3YØJ Bouvet Island DXpedition

The Northern California DX Foundation is pleased to announce it will be the Lead Sponsor ($100,000) to the Intrepid DX Group’s 3YØJ Bouvet Island DXpedition planned for January/February 2023. Bouvet Island is currently ranked #2 globally on the Club Log Most Wanted List.

As a long-time supporter of NCDXF, I’m pleased to see this grant for a sorely needed new DXpedition. It’s going to be an expensive operation but the payoff is the hope this provides that things are getting back to normal. We will be further along in Cycle 25 by 2023 and having a chance to work the #2 Most Wanted entity isn’t chopped liver either.

Donate early, donate often.


3Y0J Bouvet Island

3Y0J Dxpedition to Bouvet Island

As we completed our successful VP8STI-South Sandwich and VP8SGI-South Georgia DXpeditions in 2016, we began to plan for our next Dxpedition. Our target is the Norwegian Island Bouvet. This is the #2 most wanted DXCC entity.

At this time, it gives us great pleasure to announce that we have joined forces with Intrepid Norwegian DXpeditioner Ken Opskar-LA7GIA in our quest to activate Bouvet.

Together, in January 2023, 14 men will board the Braveheart in Capetown and make the treacherous voyage to Bouvet. We will plan to spend twenty days at Bouvet and weather permitting, we plan to have 14 to 16 good days of radio activity.

This announcement is certainly a BIG one and perhaps will kickstart an avalanche of DXpeditions that have virtually disappeared since the pandemic. Lots of time to prepare, and that’s a good thing because it will provide plenty of time for some sorely needed DX hope to really sink-in.

Donate early, donate often. Stay tuned.


Maybe I'm Amazed Too

Matt Blaze on the Ettus Research USRP B205mini-i

I’m still amazed that this thing can capture 56 MHz of RF spectrum up to 6GHz (at 12ish bits of dynamic range) and is smaller and lighter than its power supply.

And this is a thing you can just buy. It’s not some secret NSA gadget.

Yeah. What he said.