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.


EA4GPZ Gets Forked

I enjoyed the service back when it was Outernet. EA4GPZ shares some news about Othernet. The service forked off Daniel’s free-outernet project as open-ondd, and now is maintaining and updating it.

Othernet’s open source open-ondd receiver

Back in 2016, I became interested in Othernet‘s satellite filecasting service, which back then was called Outernet. Outernet was a start up company that offered a free global satellite service with which some internet contents such as weather updates or Wikipedia pages were broadcast. The main goal of the company was making this content available in developing countries, remote locations, and in general, in places that couldn’t afford an internet connection. Outernet started being popular with Amateur radio operators, hobbyists and makers, who saw it as an interesting project to set up at home for fun.



2021 SP DX Contest

The SP DX Contest (since 1933) takes place this weekend (April 3, 2021 from 1500 UTC Saturday, ends April 4, 1459 UTC Sunday).

This is the biggest operating event of the year in Poland with typically over 1000 SP stations on the air on both CW and SSB. For some, it’s a competitive event, for others it is a chance to make a QSO with old friends. And for others yet, it is their only contest experience of the year and an opportunity to be seen and heard and to have fun.

The success of this contest depends on the participation of DX stations (like you!), whether you are a veteran contester or just enjoy making casual contacts and giving SP stations an opportunity to work DX.  It does not matter how much time you can spend and how many QSO’s you can make, they would like to see you in their logs!

Please visit https://spdxcontest.pzk.org.pl where you can see the current rules and upload your log after the contest. Please note that logs can no longer be submitted via email. SP requests that logs be uploaded by April 18, 2021, 2359 UTC. All entries will be immediately posted on that web page, followed by email confirmations. 

The final results will be processed and made available by June 30. They have adopted an open log policy, so all logs will be in public view.  Note the log analysis functionality that provides some useful information. Just click on your (or any other) call sign in the scores tab. You may test this in 2018, 2019 and 2020 contest archives.

Along with the results, certificates of participation and top scoring certificates by category, country and continent will be available for download. There’s also a long list of plaques which have been sponsored by individuals and groups which you can see on the Web page. Finally, you can qualify for various levels of the POLSKA Award for working the 16 provinces (województwa) of Poland.


Digging Holes

The cedar fencing finally arrived!

Replacing the privacy fence around the backyard was supposed to be a Fall 2020 project but the pandemic somehow created a shortage of the material I wanted to use and I was unable to get my hands on anything equally suitable all winter long. They sent the 4x4 fence posts and the 2x4 stringers, but without the pickets I was on hold.

With all the materials on hand now comes the layout and installation phase of the project that will keep me busy for a couple of weeks. I can’t just yank the old down and begin installing the new, I need to maintain a “fence” because of the dog, so the new will replace the old in sections.

But I can finally get moving and make use of that shiny new gas-powered post hole digger. That also figures in the antenna work as I intend to install two more posts that will support aluminum masts that will hold the ends of a new multi-band, center-fed zepp.

The new wire antenna should be an improvement on 80 meters and will also cover 40 and 30. It will cover the higher bands too with the auto-tuner, but I’d like something else for the higher bands that I can steer.

Given that I don’t know how much longer we will live here and not expecting better propagation on those higher bands anytime soon, I’ll forego a new beam for HF and install that unopened three-element beam for 6 meters where my DX count is sorely lacking.

One can never have too many antenna plans…


New QRP Transceiver

Here’s what Red-Eyed Louie, his cousin Sunspot Louie, and all the other good QRP folks have been buzzing about about this morning…

Penntek TR-45 Lite

It’s a a 4-band 5-watt CW transceiver covering the 80-75, 40, 30, and 20 meter bands. Full band coverage is provided, with the transmitter optimized for the CW band portions. The receiver is provided with both narrow and wide band IF filters, and CW and SSB detectors. An illuminated front panel meter shows “S” units on receive, and power output (forward or reverse) while transmitting. The meter also will display the battery state of charge.

No price listed and you can’t buy it. Yet. No mention of an internal auto-tuner but that’s not a deal-breaker for something pretty as that!


Cult of FT8

There’s an awful lot I don’t know, but I do know if you wade into a ham radio conversation and mention that you “don’t care much for FT8” the resultant fury is akin to having shaken a hornet’s nest. Apparently, those of us who believe the new digi-mode to be a less noble mode are anti-technology curmudgeons intent on keeping ham radio in the Dark Ages.

And whatever you do, never suggest Joe Taylor began destroying ham radio in 2017 (even if he did mortally wound it). The new digerati of amateur radio are thin-skinned and offend easily. Probably from spending the last four years in front of huge monitors clicking on call signs and dreaming of ways to further automate the QSO.

So here’s my advice. You can believe that FT8 is an evil plague intentionally created to infect amateur radio in order to speed its demise. A remnant of true radio believers already do. But for God’s sake, don’t SPEAK that out loud where someone might hear you!

The densely populated Cult of FT8 don’t like to hear that any more than the Stepford Wives enjoyed listening to Joanna…


No Satisfaction

I’ve tried multiple combinations of operating desk layout and monitor arrangements and can’t get happy with my newly reconfigured station.

I blame this on installing a desktop computer (Mac mini) with the requisite external monitor, keyboard, mouse, and new shelving to support it all. Life was easier when it was just a laptop perched precariously on the edge of the station desk on top of a hardback version of Robert’s Rules of Order the way God intended.

The solution, assuming there is one, is to have the monitor hover just above the equipment in the center of the desk. Mounting it off to one side or the other gave me neck pain as did mounting it too high. If I can’t sit at the desk and view the monitor straight ahead at eye-level then it just doesn’t work for me.

Placing all the ham radio gear in the dumpster and installing the monitor in the middle of the desk would be ideal, but at least to this point in the exercise that remains an unacceptable solution.

I purchased another monitor mount (the third). This one is a wall mount. Affixing it to the wall directly behind the radio gear will put it straight ahead and over the equipment line-of-view and that theoretically should be perfect. But I’m tired of spiking the football on the 10-yard line with this particular shack project and will reserve judgement until after its all said and done.


Scrambled Eggs

Another nice day in the Heartland. Cloudy with temperatures expected to reach the upper sixties. Trees are budding, green things are getting greener, and the lawn mower is certain to see action soon…

I’m working from home again today. It was just over one year ago that I was sent home to work due to the virus. This week begins my second year of exile. I’ve been sipping coffee for an hour and suspect this will be a two-pot day. It’s a breakfast blend from Mystic Monk Coffee, a small group of Carmelite Monks who roast coffee in Wyoming.

John, K9EL manager of the DX Marathon announced the availability of a new plaque for the top worldwide score on 60 meters. The first plaque will be awarded for the 2020 60m high score. By the way, the 2020 DX Marathon scoring has been completed and the results will be published in the June issue of CQ Magazine and on the DX Marathon website around June 1, 2021.

The Spring NCDXF Newsletter is available for download and as usual includes plenty of interesting content. I particularly enjoyed reading about improvements to the worldwide Beacon Network. NCDXF has funded a new Dual Band Discone (DBD) antenna program, designed to help DXers worldwide better understand what is actually happening on the bands in real time. Don’t miss the newsletter or the opportunity to shoot them a few bucks.

That Ramble On post continues to reverberate generating a lot of feedback. The notion of a radio amateur stepping away after years in the hobby is unsettling but it happens all the time. We just don’t usually know those who are quitting. But some we do know, like Bob Bruninga, WB4APR - the father of APRS who recently wrote, “My hobby has turned towards Electric cars and Solar now….”


W9DXCC

Planning is underway for the 68th W9DXCC Convention and Banquet on Sept. 10-11, 2021. Not another lame-ass virtual event, but the real thing. We’re going to gather in person to discuss DX and Contesting. In person. We will dine together, in the same room, around big tables. Together.

The work of controlling the virus hasn’t yet concluded of course, but the general mood seems to be quickly improving as millions of people are being vaccinated each week. The data on the efficacy of the vaccine is piling up and it all looks good. Come September the virus should be controlled enough in the United States for us to resume meeting in person again.

It’s too bad DXpeditions won’t snap back to normal this year as the complications of travel through multiple places to get where they’re going will undoubtedly require more time. Perhaps the following year. I don’t know when, but I like to imagine the level of pent up desire to travel will explode in a lollapalooza of DX as soon as that becomes possible!

See you in person, in Chicago, in September at W9DXCC.


SKCCLogger Hint

Spoiler Alert: Read the Fine Manual

SKCCLogger, the brilliant handiwork of Ron Bower, AC2C makes tracking radio accomplishments in the realm of mechanical keying a snap. Whenever I’m trolling the SKCC waters or operating in one of its many events I always make use of it. When I’m done, I export those results in ADIF and import them into my primary station log where I can upload to LoTW with a click.

That workflow might seem a little convoluted, but it’s simple enough even if it requires an extra step or two. The value in using SKCCLogger is that it tracks progress toward specific SKCC goals, and produces properly formatted output ready for email submission.

Maintaining and preserving separate log files is the only extra burden I notice and I’ve managed to keep that easy enough by automagically saving log files on a cloud account, which checks off the preservation bit, and I keep two files - one for SKCC work and one for everything.

But in a recent note to the SKCC mailing list, AC2C pointed to the SKCCLogger User Guide that includes his recommendation for managing multiple log files using the application. I hadn’t read it until then (mea culpa!) and found it illuminating.

Ron explains how he creates multiple files for his SKCC work. Monthly files and specific event files, like each WES, etc. When the event or specified time period has concluded, he merges those results into a main SKCC log.

I have adopted this practice and believe this added measure will keep the log work much better organized.


Future of the Hilltopper

The latest run of the Hilltopper has sold out and may be discontinued.

Designed by Dave Benson, K1SWL and kitted by the Four State QRP Group, these small, lightweight single-band CW transceiver kits have been popular with good reason. But it looks like sales of the kit may have slowed recently as the club is soliciting feedback on whether another production run is warranted or not:

The kit manager (AC0BQ) indicated that the Hilltopper will possibly be brought back in a few months for another short run like this current run.  For that reason I would like to ask that you contact Johnny (AC0BQ) and let him know if you would like the kit brought back in a few months or if you have no interest in that kit and think it should be retired.

The Hilltopper has been available in 40, 30, and 20 meter versions but apparently it can also be kitted for 80, 17, and 15 meters. If you provide feedback indicating interest in another production run be sure to include your preferred bands as this may influence any decision.

Proceeds from kit sales help fund the annual OzarkCon QRP Conference and the group can’t afford to offer kits that don’t sell so be sure to let them know if you have interest otherwise this kit may be retired.


Happy SPRAT Day!

The Spring 2021 edition of SPRAT the journal of the GQRP Club was hand delivered by the mailman today. Always an occasion of considerable joy, I’ve long been a member of GQRP and as a result have an impressive stack of the magazines in my shack.

It’s odd given I prefer electronic format to print for everything except this publication. That’s probably due to its diminutive size which makes slipping it in my pocket and transporting it to various and diverse places a special treat. Whether it’s the actual size or the tactile feel of printed material it’s always welcome company.

It offers a unique window into how low-power enthusiasts approach the hobby across the pond. Turns out it’s not a lot different than how we do it here but it’s different enough to bring a refreshing change of gears. I find it to be consistently chock full of content that’s spot-on for hams who enjoy rolling up the sleeves and firing up the soldering station.

All the usual columns plus awards and an interesting look at Valve QRP Reports from the winter activity sessions. Plus the following technical/construction articles:

  • Discrete Component 80m CW Transceiver
  • An LCR Bridge
  • An Active Loop with Rotator
  • A Simple Inductance Meter
  • The Quartzmite SMD QRPp CW TX/RX
  • Low Power TX/RX Diode Switch
  • Modification for a LiPo Dropper
  • A Simple VFO
  • Project Building Blocks
  • Simple Solar Panel Current Monitor System

See what I mean about it being “chock full”?

Find out how to join GQRP and get your hands on SPRAT.


Impact

Based on the churning seas surrounding the island nation of Hamlandia this morning it seems there were a few technical difficulties for some attendees of Ham Expo the big online event conducted over the weekend. Having skipped the show myself, I can only relay second hand reports of difficulties signing in and attending some of the many planned forums.

Nothing can be done about it now, but if the event is deemed a failure we can wonder how that might impact virtual ham radio conventions in the future and if major sponsors like ARRL and FlexRadio will now shy away from these kinds of opportunities?


No Complaints

It’s been an uneventful week here. The weather has been surprisingly nice for this time of the year. Lots of sunshine and blue skies with moderate temps has me downright suspicious, but I’ll take it. I guess the time changes tonight (daylight savings time), but it’s such a nice day I’m not going to complain about that either.

Brenda and I got our first dose of the vaccination without any adverse reactions a few days ago. There was no waiting and the site where we got the shot, a former elementary school, was setup perfectly for the procedure. We arrived a little early and they processed us immediately. The only waiting was the 15 minutes after the shot to watch for immediate (anaphylaxis) side effects. It was all too easy for complaint.

I am having some trouble wrapping my head around the fact that 1970 was more than fifty years ago. My wife says I keep saying things like, “it wasn’t ALL that long ago when such and such happened” when it really was fifty or more years ago. I guess it would be like me in 1975 talking about something that happened in 1927 as being “not that long ago” which seems nuts when I see it written just now.

This comes up because I’ve started work on a new writing project that covers certain ham radio events from 1968 until 1979. You know, not all that long ago. It’s an interesting slice of history and the result of this work will eventually appear here.

I might be the only radio enthusiast you know NOT attending the virtual Ham Expo this weekend. I can’t spend every weekend in apparently endless online conferences. It’s just too nice outside to stay inside watching pixels get shoved around on a screen.

But I’m not complaining…


New Mac APRS Client

W8WJB is looking for Mac users to help test his new APRS application:

I’ve been working on a macOS native APRS client (like YAAC, Xastir, etc), because I felt the options on the Mac have been lacking. I have finally gotten to the point where I just need to stop cramming in new features and get it in the hands of someone other than just myself and see how it goes.

I’m looking for a few people who would be willing to help me beta test the software. Preferably, these would be people who have a Mac (obviously), have a relatively decent knowledge of how APRS works, and, finally, are willing to report bugs when they encounter them.

If you’re interested in helping me out, please contact me. If you don’t own a Mac but are curious, I have an overview and the help files up on my website. I have also started a mailing list.