Field Day as a Mentoring Opportunity

ARRL Field Day is upon us and I wanted to share some thoughts about the mentoring and learning opportunities that Field Day can provide. Many Clubs and other groups here in New England are planning…

Source: Field Day as a Mentoring Opportunity

Field Day provides clubs and groups with a great opportunity to engage and mentor new and less experienced hams. I wanted to share some thoughts and ideas on how we can make mentoring a part of our Field Day activities. You can read more about some successful mentoring activities that have worked well as part of Field Day operations that we’ve been involved in via the link above.

I hope to Work many of our readers during Field Day 2021!

Fred, AB1OC

Plans for Field Day 2021 – Nashua Area Radio Society

We are holding an in-person Field Day operation at Keyes Memorial Park in Milford, NH. Here’s some more on our plans for Field Day 2021. We’d like to invite you to join us…

Source: Plans for Field Day 2021 – Nashua Area Radio Society

I’d like to invite our friends here on our Blog to visit us during Field Day on Saturday, June 26th, and Sunday, June 27th. We will be at Keyes Memorial Park in Milford, NH.

Testing Our Field Day Satellite Station

Testing Our Field Day Satellite Station

We will have a Tower up with a Triband Yagi and we’ll have our computer-controlled portable satellite station at Field Day.

6m LFA Antenna for Field Day

6m LFA Antenna for Field Day

We’ll also have a new LFA Yagi for the 6m Band. We will be a 4A station with a total of 5 Transmitters on the air. Our stations will be equipped for SSB Phone, CW, and FT8/FT4 Digital modes.

We’ll also be doing training sessions on Satellite Operations, FT8 Digital on 6m, and Fox Hunting at 12:30 pm on Saturday, June 26th. If you have an HT, bring it and you can use it to hunt our foxes. We’ll also have HTs available for folks to use for Fox Hunting.

You can read more about what we are planning and find directions to get to our Field Day site here. I hope that we’ll see some of our followers at Field Day!

Fred, AB1OC

Helping Amateur Radio Grow

Fred, AB1OC Helping a School Make Contact with an Astronaut on the ISS

Helping a School Make Contact with an Astronaut on the ISS

As many of you know, I have been dedicating much of my time over the last 6 years to helping folks to get into Amateur Radio, to learn new skills through our hobby, and to experience the joy and sense of accomplishment that Amateur Radio brings. I hope to further this effort in the position of New England Director in the ARRL…

Source: Helping Amateur Radio Grow – Nashua Area Radio Society

Several friends and supporters have approached me about running for the position of New England Division Director in the ARRL. Directors serve on the Board of Directors of the ARRL for a Term of 3 years and are elected by the members of the ARRL in the Director’s Division. In our case, this encompasses ARRL members in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

After much consultation with friends, the NARS Executive Committee, my wife Anita, and others who have played major roles in the ARRL, I have decided to take on this challenge by running this fall. I am doing this, in part, to try to help Clubs and Hams here in New England and across the ARRL to grow participation in the Amateur Radio Service and to benefit from the many learning opportunities that it provides.

You can read more about what I am hoping to accomplish as New England Division Director of the ARRL via the link above.

Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC

A 6m DX Opening to Remember

6m EU Opening - PSKReporter

6m Opening to Europe – PSKReporter Snapshot

Every now and then we get a really good opening to Europe on the 6m Band from here in New England, USA. This past Friday, June 4 2021 presented us with just such an opening. This particular one may well be the best one that I have ever seen. The opening began early in the day on Friday and was still going strong late into the afternoon. As you can see from the PSKReporter snapshot above, the band was solidly open to most of Western Europe and evening into the Middle East.

6m EU Opening - WSJT-X Snapshot

WSJT-X Snapshot During 6m Opening

There were so many strong signals from DX stations in Europe, it was difficult to decide which station to call next! I was able to work the opening for most of the day on Friday and was rewarded with over 130 DX contacts into Europe. In addition, I was able to Work 3 new DXCCs and over 40 new Grids (over 30 of these Grids have confirmed on LoTW already)!

6m EU Opening - JTAlert Snapshot

JTAlert Snapshot Helps To Work New Grids

We use the JTAlert application along with WSJT-X and DXLab Suite. JTAlert helped to identify stations in new Grids that we had not Worked before in the flood of activity on the 6m Band during this opening. At times, there were 4 or 5 different stations in new Grids being decode at once!

AB1OC 6m Grids as of June 2021

AB1OC 6m Grids as of June 2021

The 6m Es season has been very good so far this year with great propagation and lots of activity. Let hope that this continues well into the end of the summer here in New England. We are especially hoping for good 6m openings during Field Day later this month.

Fred, AB1OC

Satellite Passes During Field Day 2021

Field Day 2021 Satellite Passes in FN42

Field Day 2021 Satellite Passes in FN42

We had some time over the weekend so we ran some Satellite Pass Predictions for Field Day 2021 for our Grid Square which is FN42. As you can see, we are going to have a lot of fun working satellite during Field Day! Field Day rules limit us to a single FM EasySat contact using but we can work as many contacts via Linear Transponder Satellites as we wish

Field Day Satellite Station

Field Day Satellite Station

We recently set up and tested our Portable Satellite Ground station here at our QTH and it’s working great! It has produced some good DX contacts into Europe from New Hampshire, USA during the past week.

You can read more about our Portable Satellite Station test here.

Fred, AB1OC

Field Day Satellite Station for 2021 – Setup and Test in Hollis

The Nashua Area Radio Society will be using our portable Satellite Station this year at Summer Field Day. A number of members got together recently to assemble and test our Computer-Controlled Portable Satellite Station for Field Day. Here are some pictures of our Field Day Satellite Station Test…

Source: Field Day Satellite Station for 2021 – Setup and Test in Hollis

Several members of the Nashua Area Radio Society got together to set up and test our Portable Satellite Station for Field Day 2021. Our station is a computer-controlled one and enables us to work FM and Linear Satellites using phone mode and CW.

The setup uses an M2 Antenna Systems LEO Pack Antenna System on a Glen Martin Aluminum Tower that is set up to be portable. Feedlines use 100 ft lengths for LMR-400uF and LMR-600uF coax cable for the 2m and 70cm bands. The rotator is an Alfa-SPID Az/El unit. The antenna system also uses coax-powered preamplifiers from Advanced Receiver Research. The station uses an IC-9700 Transceiver, a Green Heron RT-21 Az/El Rotator Controller, and a MacBook Air Laptop running MacDoppler and MacLogger DX.

This setup is an updated version of the portable satellite station that we built for an ISS Crew Contact that a local school did with us some time ago.

You can see how the portable station goes together in the article above. You can learn more about the design and construction of our Portable Sation from the series of articles that begins here. We hope to work some of our readers on the birds during Field Day this year!

Fred, AB1OC

Reducing RFI From Our QTH

Fiber Wall Outlet

Fiber Wall Outlet

Many Hams (including this one) have problems with RF Interference (RFI) at their stations. Many RFI sources typically come from inside our own homes. Symptoms include birdies at single frequencies, interference that moves around across the Amateur Radio Bands, and high noise floors. We have had all of these problems here.

We recently built an improved EME station for the 2m Band. We noticed a higher than ideal noise floor when operating 2m EME during initial testing of the new station. We decided to do some additional testing to see if we could isolate the source of the noise levels. One test we did was to shut down much of the ethernet network and associated devices here at our QTH. To our surprise, this lowered our noise floor on 2m some 6 dB, and eliminated many birdies in the EME section of the 2m Band!

Our network mostly uses wired Ethernet running throughout our home on Cat 5e and Cat 6 unshielded ethernet cable. Many of the devices in our home use Power Over Ethernet (PoE) connections to power them through the ethernet cables.

NAS Drives with 10 GbE Optical Interfaces

NAS Drives for Video Storage and Backups

We also do quite a bit of video editing work and often transfer large files from our computers to several large Network Attached Storage (NAS) drives for file storage and backup. We also use an extensive IP Camera System to monitor our towers and for general security purposes.

Core Network Rack Enclosure

Core Network Rack Enclosure

We decided to solve our noise problems via a pretty major upgrade to our home network. The upgrade included:

  • Installing OM4 multimode fiber optic cables to replace all of the non-PoE wired Ethernet connections to the rooms in our home. The fiber cables were chosen to support 1 GbE and 10 GbE connections now and to be upgradable to 100 GbE connections in the future.
  • Installing a shielded rack enclosure to house the switches and management devices for our upgraded Network
  • Installing new Cat 6A Shielded Ethernet cables to PoE devices that we wanted to remotely shut down when we are operating using weak-signal modes on 6m and above
  • Upgrading portions of our network to 10 Gbs Ethernet speeds to improve the efficiency of Video Editing and Backups

The project began with the installation of a Shielded Rack Enclosure in our basement. The Rack is wall-mounted and is fully shielded and grounded. It also includes cooling fans that move air vertically through the Rack to keep the gear inside cool.

Core Network in Rack

Core Network in Rack

Next, we mounted all of the gear for our upgraded core network in the Rack. The main components include (from bottom to top):

PDU Web Interface for Network Control and Management

PDU Web Interface for Network Control and Management

We are going to power down most of our IP Cameras and the WiFi AP devices around our home when we are operating on 6m and above. We implemented this capability using an IP-Controlled Power Distribution Unit (PDU) that allows us to remotely turn network devices in our network on and off via a web browser from anywhere in our home.

IP Camera PoE Switches

IP Camera PoE Switches

The PDU controls a pair of Netgear PoE Edge Switches that power most of the IP Cameras in our home via PoE connections. Shutting down these switches via the PDU removes power from the associated IP Cameras which eliminates a great deal of noise and other RFI.

WiFi AP Control via PoE Edge Switch

WiFi Acess Point Control via PoE Edge Switch

We also installed a VLAN-capable Netgear PoE Edge Switch and connected it to the PDU. This switch enables us to shut down other devices on our network such as WiFi Access Points which are also significant sources of RFI. This switch uses a pair of optical interfaces that connect it to our core network

OM4 Fiber Cable with LC Connectors Installed

OM4 Fiber Cable with LC Connectors Installed

A large part of the work associated with our network upgrade project involved running OM4 Multi-mode Fiber Optic cables to all of the rooms in our home. We ran 12-fiber cables to locations that would likely benefit from upgrades to 100 GbE in the future (ex. our shack, home offices, media equipped rooms, and servers/NAS devices) and 6-fiber cables were used elsewhere. All of our fiber cables use LC connectors with two fibers for each Ethernet connection (one for Tx and one for Rx). We used a mix of pre-terminated cable assemblies and unterminated cables to complete the room installations.

Fiber Prep using Fiber Cleaver

Fiber Prep using a Fiber Cleaver

Field terminating fiber optic cables is not difficult but it does require some special tools and careful attention to detail. The ends of each fiber must be prepared to precise specifications and be very clean before the LC connectors can be installed. The image above shows a Fiber Cleaver which is used to “cleave” the end of each fiber to form a square, low-reflection/low-loss connection to a field-installable LC connector. Proper use of a high-quality Fiber Cleaver is important if you are to achieve low-loss, low-dispersion field terminations.

Verifying an LC Connector Installation using Visual Fault Locator

Verifying an LC Connector Installation using a Visual Fault Locator

A Visual Fault Locator (VFL) with an LC Connector Adapter is used to confirm the proper installation of each LC connector. The tool shines a bright red laser light through the LC connector and fiber cable. The field installable LC connectors include a window that indicates laser dispersion at the fiber/connector junction. Too much light in the window due to dispersion indicates a poor connection. The VFL tool is also very useful for checking end-to-end optical transmission and continuity of the completed fiber cable installations.

Fiber Wall Outlet

Fiber Wall Outlet and Patch Cables

The fibers were terminated in wall outlets in the rooms of our home. The outlet plates accept standard keystone jacks. We used LC Keystone Couplers with our wall jack plates. This approach ensures that the ends of fragile fiber optic cables running to the rooms will not be damaged or broken when connecting the fibers to ethernet switches and other devices.

Fiber Interconnect Tray

Fiber LC Interconnect Enclosure

The other end of each fiber cable is terminated in a Fiber LC Patch Enclosure Trays in our Rack. The enclosures provide a test point and LC patch cable interconnect point for the fiber cables. The advantage of using enclosures such as these is that they protect the ends of the fiber cables running to the rooms from damage. A total of three trays terminate a total of 72 OM4 fiber pairs that we installed in our home.

Optical Fiber Connector Cleaner

Optical Fiber Connector Cleaner

It is very important to keep all of the fiber connections clean. Standard practice should be to ALWAYS clean the ends of each LC connector with an Optical Fiber Connector Cleaner each time before an LC connector is installed in a jack. It is also important to keep the supplied caps that come with LC connectors installed when they are not connected to a jack or optical SFP.

10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver

10GBase-SR SFP+ Transceiver

The fibers in the core rack and in the rooms are connected to switches, computers, and NAS devices via SFP or SFP+ Transceivers. An example of an SFP+ Transceiver is shown above. These devices convert the laser signals carried on the multimode OM4 fibers to a standard electrical format that can be handled by the core and edge switches in our network.

Core Network Components

Core Network Components

The connections between the Fiber Termination and Patch Enclosures and the SFPs and SFP+s in the Core Switches in our rack are made using OM4 LC Patch Cables (the aqua cables shown in the image above).

Fiber Wall Outlet

Fiber Wall Outlet and Patch Cables

Similar patch cables are run from the Wall Jacks to the Ethernet Edge switches in each room to complete the connections to the core network. Most of our Edge Switches in the rooms in our home use two pairs of fibers in a LAG configuration. This increases the bandwidth capacity of the connections and also increases reliability. Should one of the fiber pairs experience a failure, the other pair continues to carry the traffic until the problem can be repaired.

Reducting RFI - Shielded CAT6A Ethernet Terminations

Shielded CAT6A Ethernet Terminations

Some devices in our network such as the PoE IP Cameras on our Towers and a portion of our WiFi Access Points cannot be shut down without significantly compromising the operation and functionality of our Network. We controlled the noise and RFI contribution from these devices by installing new, Cat 6A Shield Ethernet cabling to connect them. The Cat 6A cables must be terminated using a grounded, fully shielded ethernet panel. This device is 10 Gbps Ethernet capable and properly terminates that the shielded Cat 6A cables in our Rack.

Cat 6A Shielded Keystone Jack

Cat 6A Shielded Keystone Jack

Shielded Cat 6A Keystone Jacks and Shielded Ethernet Patch Cables are used in the rooms to connect to the edge devices.

10 GbE Connected Computer

10 Gbps Ethernet Connected Computer

So how did all of this work out? We are seeing 6 – 7 dB improvement in the noise floor on 2m. This is a huge improvement for our EME station! We are also seeing about 1 dB in noise floor improvement on 6m. We are also seeing a significant reduction in birdies on all the bands. Finally, many of our computers and most of our NAS drives have been upgraded to 10 Gbps Ethernet which enables us to move large files around our network much more quickly. We are also seeing some improvement in the actual measured throughput of our 1 Gbs/400 Mbps Fiber Internet connection.

I hope that our readers find our Fiber Optic and 10 Gbps Networking project interesting.

Fred, AB1OC

 

6m LFA Yagi for Field Day and Mountain Topping

6m LFA Yagi for Field Day and Mountain Topping

6m LFA Yagi for Field Day and Mountain Topping

Our 6m Field Day station will be a portable setup and features a new antenna – a 3-Element Loop Fed Array (LFA) Yagi from InnoVAntennas…

Source: 6m Field Day Station – Nashua Area Radio Society

We’ve been wanting to try a Loop Fed Array (LFA) Yagi on the 6m Band. The Nashua Area Radio Society’s 2021 Field Day operation presented us with a good opportunity to do this. We choose a lightweight 3-Element LFA Yagi from InnoVAntennas and used a fiberglass mast to get it up 25 ft (about 8 meters).

The LFA Yagi performed very well! You can read more about this antenna’s performance and our upgraded portable station via the link above.

Fred, AB1OC

Learn About Radio Propagation

February 2021 Tech Night – Understanding and Using Propagation to Work The World

Anita, AB1QB, recently did a Tech Night Program on Radio Propagation as part of the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program. I wanted to share the presentation and video from this Tech Night so that our readers might learn a little more about propagation and how to use it to facilitate contacts.

Anita, AB1QB provides a comprehensive overview of HF and VHF/UHF propagation and how to use it to Work the World. Topics include the many online tools to help one determine and measure propagation conditions. VHF+ modes such as Meteor Scatter, Tropo, EME, and Satellite paths are also covered.

You can view the Tech Night presentation by clicking on the video above. Here’s a link to the presentation that goes with the video. You can learn more about the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program here.

Fred, AB1OC

Tech Night – EME II: Station Construction and Operation

EME II - Station Construction and Operation

EME II Tech Night – Station Construction and Operation

We recently did a second Tech Night Program on EME as part of the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program. I wanted to share the presentation and video from this Tech Night so that our readers might learn a little more about how to build and operate an EME station for the 2m band.

January 2021 Tech Night – EME II: Station Construction and Operation

You can view the Tech Night presentation by clicking on the video above. Here’s a link to the presentation that goes with the video. You can learn more about the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program here. There is a demonstration of an actual live EME contact on the 2m band at 57:57 in the video.

The first Tech Night in the EME Series was about Getting Started in EME Communications. You can view that Tech Night here.

We are in the process of upgrading our EME station to include adaptive polarity. you can read more about that project here.

Fred, AB1OC