Archive for April, 2009

This Spewed Out of the Internet #3

0511-0701-3118-0930Here’s some things I found spewing forth from the Internet:

When Charles Simonyi was operating amateur radio station NA1SS from the International Space Station (ISS), I was looking around for the right frequencies to use, including doppler shift. I came across a really good web site on contacting the ISS. Check it out if you are interested in the topic.

According to Amateur Radio Newsline, the Indy cops that got in trouble for using ham radio gear for tactical communication were using modified Yaesu FT-2800 2-Meter Transceivers. With these radios opened up, they can operate outside the ham band on adjacent VHF frequencies. According to ARNewsline:

Some conversations were heard in the VHF police bands, at the bottom of the 2-meter band and on frequencies assigned to the MURS radio service.

MURS stands for Mult-Use Radio Service, an unlicensed radio service defined by the FCC. There are 5 MURS channels available: 151.820, 151.880, 151.940, 154.570 and 154.600 MHz.  These unlicensed channels would be a convenient location to hang out without the potential of interfering with anything important. However, a modifed amateur radio transceiver is not certified for use per Part 95 of the FCC rules.

I have not found any other information on the VHF police frequencies being used. Some departments maintain their licensing for VHF channels after adopting the newer 800 MHz radios. Modified amateur radio equipment is not certified for use on police channels. It sounds like these police officers were also using the low end of the 2-meter ham band. Even if they are licensed, it would be an inappropriate use of the frequencies. And a dumb one….of course someone is going to hear them and figure out what is going on.

You may have heard about Stephen Colbert from the Colbert Report getting his viewers to vote for his name on the new ISS module. It seems that he got the most votes but NASA declined to name the module after him (like that was going to happen). They came up with the alternative of naming a treadmill after him….all in good fun. The video is available on the Comedy Central web site.

On the K3NG Report, there was a funny post about the demise of phone operation on the ham bands, which is caused by the lack of testing for phone operating skill during the licensing process.

On the KB6BU Ham Radio Blog, there is an interesting post about the HP-35 calculator…a classic electronic product and an elegant design. The IEEE named the HP-35 and Hewlett-Packard Company as the recipient of the Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing award.

73, Bob K0NR

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Getting Ready for Summer!

hamAs I sit here looking out the window, I see snow piling up on the back deck. Yep, spring time in the Rockies with a winter snow warning on Easter. It seems like a good time to take a look at upcoming amateur radio events this summer.

Here’s my starter list, with a definite bias towards Colorado, VHF, mountaintopping and radio contests:

Hamcon Colorado ( AKA the ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Convention) in Estes Park – May 29-31.  This is a wonderful event that comes to Colorado once every three years. As the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is a great vacation spot, so don’t miss it!

ARRL June VHF QSO Party This is The Big One for VHF activity – June 13-15. June usually has very good propagation on 50 MHz, so we’ll usually have a band opening or two on 6 Meters during the contest. If you are new to VHF contesting, see the article How to Work a VHF Contest.

ARRL Field Day- June 27-28. We are still not sure if this is a contest or not but the truth is you can make it whatever you want it to be! Arguably the most well-known and publicized amateur radio event. See my previous post.

CQ Worldwide VHF Contest – July 18-19. This is The Other VHF Contest during the summer, sponsored by CQ Magazine. This contest is gaining in popularity and is focused on the two most popular VHF bands: 6 Meters and 2 Meters.  Hey, CQ, if you want people to take this contest seriously update the web site with the 2009 rules!

The Colorado 14er Event – August 9.  Focused on operating from the summits of Colorado’s 14,000+ foot mountains, this is The Premier Mountaintop Radio Event.   Check out the web site for full details….if you aren’t up to the mountaintop operating, then set your goal on working as many summits as you can from a more convenient location. Join the ham14er yahoo group to discuss and learn about the event.

The Colorado QSO Party – Sept 5-6. This contest is a fun event that focuses on activating the various counties in Colorado. Consider setting up mobile or portable to activate a rare one or two!

73, Bob K0NR

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2009 ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Convention

This item was in the ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Update (email newsletter):

===== 2009 Rocky Mountain Division Convention =====

About ONE month remains til the 2009 Rocky Mountain Division Convention
(May 29-31). Have you made plans to join close to 250 hams (and
growing) in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado...gateway to Rocky Mountain
National Park? Registration online and by mail is happening right now,
and special hotel rates have been negotiated for convention attendees.

Among the guest speakers: Harold Kraemer WJ1B (ARRL Chief Operating
Officer), Gordon Hardman W0RUN (2009 Desecheo Island DXpedition
participant and chief engineer of Alpha Radio Products), Mike Gruber
W1MG (ARRL EMC Engineer and contributor to "The Doctor Is IN" QST
column), Cheryl Muhr, N0WBV, YL columnist for WorldRadio Online
(formerly WorldRadio Magazine), Editor for YL-Harmonics the Young
Ladies' Radio League's (YLRL) Bi-monthly magazine, and Brian Mileshosky
N5ZGT (Director, ARRL Rocky Mountain Division).

Nearly 30 technical and non-technical forums, great meals, transmitter
hunts, special event station W1AW/0, and much more await you.  Not to
mention one heck of a time meeting and greeting hams from all over the
Division and country.  It'll be a great event with a very fitting
theme: "Amateur Radio: Resilient, Relevant, Ready"

The hotel, where the Convention is being held, is almost at
full-capacity, so reserve your room soon!

Please mark your calendars and visit the Division convention's website
at http://www.hamconcolorado.org for more details, including
registration information.  Join us for a great time at an awesome
venue!

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AMSAT DL Bounces Signal Off Venus

amsat-logo-semi-officialEvery once in a while, I stumble onto something that just makes me think “holy cow, how did they do THAT?”

The most recent is the German AMSAT group ( AMSAT DL) transmitted a signal to Venus and received the reflected signal as it came back to earth.

From the AMSAT (US) web site:

AMSAT-DL Achieves Outstanding Technical First:
Earth-Venus-Earth Path

Marburg, 27 March 2009 – On March 25, 2009 the AMSAT-DL team in Germany attained a major milestone in their mission to send a spacecraft to Mars. The team used their mission control station at the IUZ Sternwarte Observatory in Bochum to transmit a radio signal to Venus. After approximately 5 minutes delay and after traveling nearly 100 million kilometers the reflected signal from the surface of Venus was received. This was the first time a German station has received echoes of signals from other planets.

You may be aware that it is a common feat for radio amateurs to bounce signals off the moon and hear the return signal. Hardcore VHF enthusiasts contact each other on the VHF and higher bands by using the moon as a reflector. (Sometimes I kid them that using the moon as a “repeater” is cheating. Of course, it is nothing like that.) This mode is called Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) or simply Moonbounce. The path loss is high, around 250 to 310 dB, so high gain antennas and power amplifiers are required. EME is still on My List of Things to Do and I hope to get around to it someday.

If EME is an accomplishment, then consider the challenge of Earth-Venus-Earth (EVE).  The original press release is in German but the information is available in English on the Southgate Amateur Radio Club web page.  The signal traveled almost 100 million kilometers which results in a round trip delay of about 5 minutes. This is over 100 times the distance for EME.  The frequency used was 2.4 GHz, with an FFT analysis used to pull the signal out of the noise (with an integration time of 5 minutes). I have not seen an analysis of the path loss, so we’ll just use call it ginormous.

Why did AMSAT-DL decide to do this? Well, they want to prove out the feasibility of communications before they launch their spacecraft towards Mars!

73, Bob K0NR

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