EME Station 2.0 Part 10 – Antennas On The Tower

Completed 2m EME Antenna System

After a year’s worth of planning and 10 months of construction, we have our new 2m EME Antenna System installed on our EME Tower and working! This stage of our project took about a week and included a lot of help from Matt and Andrew at XX Towers.

Final Preparations

Antenna Ground Test

The first step was to arrange the four 2MXP28 Yagis that we built on saw horses near our EME Tower and check each antenna’s vertical and horizontal SWR. Performing SWR measurements with the antennas close to the ground like this does not produce very accurate measurements. Doing this does allow one to spot potential problems if some of the measured SWR fail to show a resonance or are wildly different than the other antennas in the group. All of our antennas checked out as expected.

50 Ft Boom Lift, H-Frame Cross Boom Assembly On The Ground

We also rented a 50-ft Boom Lift and set it up near our EME Tower. A tool like this is almost essential to safely assemble and adjust a large, complex antenna system involving an H-Frame. It also speeds up the assembly and adjustment process considerably.

Elevation Rotator and H-Frame

Elevation Rotator Installation on Mast

Elevation Rotator Installation on Mast

The first step was to install the MT-3000A Elevation Rotator on the mast. We pre-installed the control cable for the elevation rotator before installing it on the tower. This enabled us to get it temporarily hooked up to the Rotator Controller in our shack so that we could adjust the elevation of the H-Frame and Antennas as we installed them.

H-Frame Assembly on Tower

H-Frame Assembly on Tower

Next, Matt and Andrew installed the H-Frame Crossboom and Truss assembly on the Elevation Rotator. The assembled Vertical Risers went on next to complete the H-frame. The time spent pre-assembling these components and marking centers to enable accurate final assembly saved a great deal of time.

Antenna Installation

Upper Antenna Installation

Upper Antenna Installation

With the H-Frame in place, we installed the upper 2MXP28 Yagi Antennas next. The image above shows the rigging of the boom trusses which was done on the Tower.

Lower Antenna Installation and Adjustments

Lower Antenna Installation and Adjustments

Next came the lower 2MXP28 Yagis. We spent considerable time leveling and aligning all of the Antennas and H-Frame components at this stage.

Feedlines, Electronics, and Balancing

T-Braces and Feedlines

T-Braces and Feedlines

The T-Brace assemblies and Antenna Phasing Lines were installed next. Each Antenna requires two LMR-400 Phasing Lines and these coax cables add considerable weight to the backs of the Antennas. The T-Braces support these cables and help to align the Antennas on the H-Frame.

We replaced the Vertical H-Frame Boom Truss Pipe with a heavy section of Mast Pipe to act as a counter-weight and balance the final H-Frame and Antenna assembly. This step is critical to ensuring a long life for the Elevation Rotator’s drive system and chain.

Phasing Lines, Power Dividers, and Feedline Connections on Crossboom

Phasing Lines, Power Dividers, and Feedline Connections on Crossboom

The photo above shows the final installation of the Power Dividers, Antenna Phasing Lines (there are 8 in total), the MAP65 Preamp Housing, and the Feed and Control Cables that run down the Tower. We took the time to carefully make SWR measurements on each Antenna and check all of the connections to the MAP65 Housing at this stage.

Antenna Integration Details

Rotator Loop

Rotator Loop

The Rotator Loop contains the following cables and Coax Feedline connections from the H-Frame/Antenna assembly:

  • Vertical and Horizontal Rx Feedlines
  • Tx Feedline
  • Elevation Rotator Control Cable
  • MAP65 Housing Control Cable

All of these cables are bundled and securely fastened to the H-Frame Cross Boom and to the Tower. Andrew is a master at this sort of rigging!

Control Cable Connections at Tower Base

Control Cable Connections at Tower Base

I took some time to finalize the Control Cable connections at the base of our tower. Time was spent with a voltmeter doing checks to ensure that everything was connected correctly and working. This effort resulted in the discovery and correction of some wiring errors and a faulty relay in the MAP65 housing. Had I not done these steps, we would have surely destroyed the Preamps in the MAP65 Housing when we transmitted for the first time.

Testing Our New Antenna System

Vertical Polarity Tx SWR at Shack

Vertical Polarity Tx SWR at Shack

A series of SWR measurements were taken before sealing the coax cable connections on the tower. SWR measurements were checked and recorded for future reference at the following points in the feedline system:

  • At the ends of the phasing lines associated with each antenna
  • At the output of the two Power Dividers on the tower
  • At the shack entry ground block

Measurements were taken separately for both the Vertical and Horizontal elements of the final Antenna System. The image above shows a typical SWR measurement for our final Antenna System.

I did many final checks and adjustments while the Boom Lift was still here. These steps included:

  • Checking the oil level in the elevation rotator
  • Re-lubing the elevation rotator chain
  • Adjusting the limit switch stops on the Elevation Rotator to allow enough over-travel for future adjustments and maintenance
  • Checking all hardware for tightness
  • Sealing all coax cable connectors with Coax Wrap and Electrical Tape
  • Making some final adjustments to align the four 2MXP28 Antennas with each other and the H-Frame

Next Steps

The next step in our project will be the integration of our new 2m EME Antenna System into our shack. This step will include the final setup, configuration, and testing of the Rotator Controller, Interim SDR Receiver, Transmitter, Amplifier, and the MAP65 and Moon Tracking Software.

You can read more about our EME station project via the links that follow:

If you’d like to learn more about How To Get Started in EME, check out the Nashua Area Radio Society Tech Night on this topic. You can find the EME Tech Night here.

Fred, AB1OC

ISS Voice Repeater is QRV!

International Space Station (ISS)

International Space Station (ISS)

Thanks to some great work by the ARISS Team, a new Voice Repeater system is operating on the International Space Station! Here is the access information:

  • Mode: FM Voice
  • Uplink Frequency: 145.990 MHz, PL 67.0 Hz
  • Downlink Frequency: 437.800 MHz
IORS Hardware

IORS Hardware and Kenwood Radio

The repeater uses the new InterOperable Radio System (IORS), a space-modified JVC Kenwood D710GA transceiver, and an ARISS developed power supply system.

Kenwood D710GA

Kenwood D710GA

Here’s some more information from the ARISS Press Release:

The ARISS team is pleased to announce that the setup and installation of the first element of our next-generation radio system was completed and amateur radio operations with it are now underway. This first element, dubbed the InterOperable Radio System (IORS), was installed in the International Space Station Columbus module. The IORS replaces the Ericsson radio system and packet module that were originally certified for spaceflight on July 26, 2000.

The initial operation of the new radio system is in FM cross-band repeater mode using an uplink frequency of 145.99 MHz with an access tone of 67 Hz and a downlink frequency of 437.800 MHz. System activation was first observed at 01:02 UTC on September 2. Special operations will continue to be announced.

The IORS was launched from Kennedy Space Center on March 6, 2020, on board the SpaceX CRS-20 resupply mission. It consists of a special, space-modified JVC Kenwood D710GA transceiver, an ARISS developed multi-voltage power supply, and interconnecting cables. The design, development, fabrication, testing, and launch of the first IORS was an incredible five-year engineering achievement accomplished by the ARISS hardware volunteer team. It will enable new, exciting capabilities for ham radio operators, students, and the general public. Capabilities include a higher power radio, voice repeater, digital packet radio (APRS) capabilities, and a Kenwood VC-H1 slow-scan television (SSTV) system…

You can view the full ARISS Press Release here.

I was able to work several stations using the new ISS Voice Repeater this morning. It is very sensitive and uses 5 watts of downlink power with a good antenna on the ISS. I was able to make solid contacts using the Ground Station here using only 1.5 watts uplink power when the ISS was at 10 degrees above the horizon. At least one of my contacts was with a station using an HT with a whip antenna!

The voice repeater is sensitive enough and uses a power level that will enable folks with an HT and a whip antenna to make contacts using the ISS when it is close to the horizon. It should also be easy to make contacts using mobile rigs that can support cross-band operation as well. Program your radios!

I’m looking forward to working you through the ISS!

Fred, AB1OC

 

EME Station 2.0 Part 9 – H-Frame Assembly

M2 Antennas 2X2 2MXP28-32 H-Frame

M2 Antennas 2X2 2MXP28-32 H-Frame

The final major component to be assembled is the 2MXP28-32-2X2-3K H-Frame which will support our four 2MXP28 Antennas. The H-Frame is one of the most mechanically complex components in our EME antenna system so we began by carefully studying M2’s manual for this component.

Parts Identification, Inventory, and Preparation

H-Frame Parts Inventory

H-Frame Parts Inventory

We also spent some time identifying and inventorying all of the parts. M2 supplied upgraded aluminum saddle clamps for our H-Frame. These parts improve the clamping action between the components and also reduce stresses on the fiberglass and other tube parts.

Truss Cable Parts Prep

Truss Cable Parts Prep

We spent some time preparing the parts for the Phillystran Truss cables for the Main Cross Boom and Vertical Risers. Prep included a drop of oil on each of the clamp threads and some NOALOX Antioxidant Compound on the turnbuckle threads. We also added stainless steel jam nuts to the turnbuckles to lock them in place after installation.

Initial Assembly of H-Frame Sections

Assembled H-Frame Sections

Assembled H-Frame Sections

We next mock-ed up the center section of the 3″ Main Cross Boom in the Elevation Rotator assembly to ensure proper fit and operation of the Elevation Rotator.

With this done, we assembled the Main Cross Boom, Vertical Risers, and T-Brace sections. This helped us to get all of the parts and hardware in the correct locations and to become familiar with how all of the parts fit together. We used a generous coat of NOALOX on all of the metal to metal tubing joints to facilitate the assembly and to prevent corrosion from forming at the joints of the metal tube sections. This sort of corrosion can cause increased noise levels after the array is installed outdoors for some time.

Main Crossboom Assembly

Cross Boom Truss Assembly

Cross Boom Truss Assembly

Next, the 3″ Main Cross Boom and its support Trusses were assembled. We carefully measured the assembly and marked the center as well as the locations of the Vertical Risers on the Main Cross Boom using a sharpie pen. these measurements will make the final assembly of the H-Frame on our Tower much easier.

Cross Boom Truss Details

Cross Boom Truss Details

The Phillystran Truss Cables and associated hardware were assembled and adjusted next.

Vertical Riser Assembly

Vertical Riser Mock-up

Vertical Riser Mock-up

We decided to Mock-up a section of the Vertical Riser center tubes and the associated Vertical Riser Truss supports on the Main Cross Boom. This allowed us to confirm that the final horizontal spacing of the Risers was correct and to get the clamps associated with this part of the H-Frame assembly properly oriented and squared.

Fiberglass Tubing Reinforcements

Reinforcement Bushing Design

Reinforcement Bushing Design

The Vertical Risers use fiberglass tubes at each end to provide a non-conductive mast for mounting the Antennas and their Truss Supports. The Antennas we are using are large and will need to be tightly clamped to ensure that they stay aligned and in place. The Antenna and associated Truss U-clamps put a great deal of stress on the fiberglass tubes and they can become distorted or damaged over time.

To prevent this, we decided to make a custom set of reinforcement bushings from polycarbonate plastic. Bushings were designed to reinforce all of the points on the fiberglass tubes of both Vertical Risers where U-Clamps will be used. You can see the full set of specifications for the bushings here.

W2SW Custom Reinforcement Bushings

W2SW Custom Reinforcement Bushings

Spencer, W2SW, owner, and founder of AntennaSys, Inc. made a beautiful set of custom bushings for us. Spencer has an amazing machine shop at his home and the parts turned out great and fitted precisely.

Reinforcement Bushing Installation

Reinforcement Bushing Installation

The reinforcement bushings were installed at the correct depth in each of the Fiberglass Tubes and are pinned in place using small stainless steel machine screws.

One consequence of installing the reinforcement bushings is that water can accumulate in the fiberglass tubes if they are in a horizontal position for a period of time. If such accumulated water freezes, it could cause damage to the tubes. This problem is easily solved by drilling a series of small 1/8-inch drain holes in the tubes on the bottom side when they are horizontal.

Assembled Vertical Riser

Assembled Vertical Riser

The final step was to assemble all of the parts associated with both Vertical Risers. The risers were marked to indicate the location of each Antenna Boom and Truss Clamp and the clamps were installed. The Phillystran Truss Cables were installed in the Eye Bolts on the Vertical Risers.

As we did with the Antenna Truss Cables, we will wait to install the turnbuckles until the Vertical Risers are installed on the tower and balanced. This will likely change the length of the Phillystran Truss cables.

Next Steps

The next step in our project will be the installation of our Elevation Rotator, H-Frame, Antennas, Power Dividers, MAP65 Housing, and Phasing Lines on our EME Tower. You can read more about our EME station project via the links that follow:

If you’d like to learn more about How To Get Started in EME, check out the Nashua Area Radio Society Teach Night on this topic. You can find the EME Tech Night here.

Fred, AB1OC

EME Station 2.0 Part 8 – Elevation Rotator Assembly and Sub-System Test

Elevation Rotator and MAP65 EME Preamp System Test

The next major component in our new EME station is the assembly of the Elevation Rotator. This step also involves pre-assembly and testing of the MAP65 Pre-amp Housing, Antenna Power Dividers, Transmit/Receive Sequencer, and the Rotator Controller. Here are the components involved in this part of our project:

We choose the MT-3000A Elevation Rotator for its heavy-duty construction. This will be important to handle the weight of our EME antenna array as well as the winter conditions that we encounter here in New England.

Elevation Rotator Assembly

MT-3000A Elevation Rotator Parts

MT-3000A Elevation Rotator Parts

The first step was to inventory all of the parts for the MT-3000A Elevation Rotator and carefully read the MT-3000A manual from M2 Antennas.

Assembled MT-3000A Elevation Rotator

Assembled MT-3000A Elevation Rotator

Assembly of the MT-3000A is pretty straight forward. It uses a chain-drive system to produce a very strong, high-torque elevation rotator system. It’s important to fill the gear-box with the supplied gear oil and to lube the chain with the proper lubricant prior to testing and installing the rotator. Spray style chain lubricants for motorcycle chains work well in this application.

Rotator Controller Integration and Testing

Green Heron RT-21 Az-El Rotator Controller

Green Heron RT-21 Az-El Rotator Controller

The next step was to make up a rotator and connect the MT-3000A to our Green Heron RT-21 Az/El Rotator Controller for a test. The RT-21 Az/El is a very flexible controller that is capable of controlling almost any popular antenna rotator. We’ve already tested this unit with the M2 Antennas OR2800G2 Azimuth Rotator that is installed on our EME tower.

RT-21 Configuration of the MT-3000A Elevation Rotator

RT-21 Configuration of the MT-3000A Elevation Rotator

The MT-3000A is a pulse-counter style rotator with 0.1-degree positioning resolution. It required a custom setup in the Green Heron RT-21 Az/El which was easily accomplished with Green Heron Engineering’s setup utility. One must determine the correct Divide Ratio setting by experimentation. When the correct value is found, a rotation of 90 degrees on the controller will result in exactly 90 degrees of actual movement by the MT-3000A. This calibration was much easier to do with the MT-3000A in our shop than it would have been once the unit was installed on our tower. We also set up the RT-21 Az/El Controller to allow for 5 degrees of rotation beyond the 0 and 90-degree points.

After some testing, I decided to use the 42Vdc tap setting in the RT-21 Elevation Controller with our MT-3000A. The specifications for the MT-3000A allow for up to 42 Vdc to be used to run its motor. To be safe, we set the Max Speed setting in the RT-21 Az/El to “8” which resulted in a maximum of 40 Vdc measured with a voltmeter at the output of the controller.

Assembly and Integration of MAP65 Housing and Cross Boom

Elevation Rotator and MAP65 Preamp Housing Assembly

Elevation Rotator and MAP65 Preamp Housing Assembly

The next step was to install the H-frame Main Boom center section and Truss Support Tubes in the MT-3000A. The MAP65 EME Preamp Housing is mounted on the horizontal Truss Support Tube as shown above.

MAP65 EME Preamp System Housing

MAP65 EME Preamp System Housing

A control cable for the MAP65 EME Preamp Housing was made up and connected to the terminal strip on the housing.

EME Sequencer Testing

S2 Sequencer

S2 Sequencer

The S2 EME Sequencer from M2 Antennas is designed to control the MAP65 Housing but its internal jumpers must be properly set to do this. We spent some time with the manual for the S2 Sequencer and for the MAP65 Housing carefully setting the S2 Sequencer’s jumpers and verifying proper voltages at both the output of the S2 Sequencer and the terminal strip in the MAP65 housing with a voltmeter. The manuals for the S2 EME Sequencer and the MAP65 EME Preamp Housing were clear on these steps.

Mounting Power Dividers

Power Divider Mounting Bracket

Power Divider Mounting Bracket

The next step in this part of our project was to mount the M2 Antennas 4-Port Power Dividers that are used to connect the MAP65 Pre-Amp housing to the four 2MXP28 Antennas. Two power dividers are required as each antenna has a separate feed point connection for their horizontal and vertical polarities. We made up some custom mounting brackets for the power dividers from 1-1/4″ aluminum angle material.

MAP65 EME Preamp Housing Connections

MAP65 EME Preamp Housing Connections

The MAP65 Preamp Housing connects to the outputs of the two Power Dividers that feed the H-polarity and V-polarity of the antenna array. The outputs from the MAP65 EME Housing connect to the H-polarity and V-polarity receive coax cables and the Transmit Hardline Coax Cable that runs from the tower to our shack.

Coax Interconnect Cables

Power Divider and Feedline Jumper Coax Cables

Power Divider and Feedline Jumper Coax Cables

The final step was to make up LMR-400 coax cables to connect the MAP65 Preamp Housing to the Power Dividers. We used right-angle male N connectors to make the connections to the 4-Port power drivers to avoid sharp bends in the cables.

We also made up three additional LMR-400uF coax cables to connect the MAP65 Preamp Housing to the coax Tx and Rx feedlines that are installed on our tower. It’s important to keep the H-Pol and V-Pol cables as close to identical in length as possible to minimize and phase differences between the associated receive feedline systems.

Next Steps

The next step in our project will be the final assembly and preparation of the H-frame which will be used to mount our four 2MXP28 Antennas. You can read more about our EME station project via the links that follow:

If you’d like to learn more about How To Get Started in EME, check out the Nashua Area Radio Society Teach Night on this topic. You can find the EME Tech Night here.

Fred – AB1OC

EME Station 2.0 Part 7 – Building Antennas

M2 Antennas 2MXP28 X-Pol Yagi

M2 Antennas 2MXP28 X-Pol Yagi

The next step in our EME project is to assemble the four M2 Antenna Systems 2MXP28 Yagis. These antennas are large, cross-polarized yagis. They feature 28 elements each on 34 1/2 foot booms. The design operates as an independent horizontal and vertical Yagi on a shared boom and each plane has an independent feed point.

EME Antenna Array Assembly

EME Antenna Array Assembly on H-Frame

We are building four of these antennas to be mounted on an M2 Antennas 2X2 H-Frame. It is important that the four antennas be identical so they operate properly as an array. This includes things like symmetrical mounting and alignment of each antenna’s vertical and horizontal elements and the associated feed points. We will cover the assembly of the H-frame and Elevation Rotator systems in the next article.

Preparation

NOALOX Assembly Compound and Sharpie Pen

NOALOX Assembly Compound and Sharpie Pen

M2 Antenna Systems instruction manuals are very good and they specify the tools and procedures to properly assemble the associated antennas. A few additional items were helpful in our project. These included:

The assembly steps and procedures are similar for most M2 Antennas 2m and UHF Yagi antennas so I’m going to share some details and a few tricks that we’ve used successfully to build a number of their Yagis. You can see some of these other projects via the following links:

We successfully built all of these antennas using similar components and techniques.

M2XP28 Sorted Parts

M2XP28 Yagi Sorted Parts

The first step in assembling each antenna was to inventory and arrange all of the parts. I also took the time to wipe the boom elements with a solvent soaked cloth to remove dirt and aluminum dust that results from the manufacturing process. This makes assembling the antenna a much cleaner process.

2MXP28 Yagi Dimension Sheet

2MXP28 Yagi Dimension Sheet

M2 supplies detailed dimension sheets and boom layout diagrams with their antennas and we took the time to carefully identify each element and boom component according to the diagrams.

Element Measurement and Marking

Element Measurement and Marking

This step included careful measuring, sorting, and marking each element with its location and polarity (horizontal or vertical). This step makes the somewhat difficult step of getting all of the elements in the correct polarity and orders much easier. The marks allowed me to check and confirm the correct installation of all of the elements on the antenna boom before locking them in place.

Mast Clamp and Boom Truss Attachment Pre-assembly

Mast Clamp and Boom Truss Attachment Pre-assembly

We also pre-assembled things like the Mast Clamp and the Boom Truss Clamp during the parts inventory process.

Boom Assembly

Boom Assembly Details

Boom Assembly Details

The first step in assembling the antenna boom was to arrange all of the boom segments in the correct order and confirm their front/back orientation. This took some time to get right on the first of the four antennas. Each Boom segment was marked with the Sharpie to indicate its location and orientation in the final assembly.

We also installed the T-Brace Clamp to attach the rear of the antenna to the H-Frame’s T-Brace. It’s essential to do this step before assembling the Boom as the clamp cannot be attached once the antenna’s elements are in place. The correct location for the clamp was established via a careful measurement and the location was marked on the boom using the Sharpie.

Assembled Boom

Assembled Boom

The next step was to assemble the boom sections paying careful attention to the markings made earlier. We did not tighten any of the bolts that hold the boom sections together at this stage to allow us to re-clock each boom section for the best alignment of the elements later. A generous coat of NOALOX was used at the joint of the two largest diameter Boom sections to facilitate easier assembly and potential re-clocking later. NOALOX was also used on all bolts to provide anti-seize lubrication.

Once the boom is assembled, a 40-foot tape measure is used to carefully confirm that all of the holes for the elements are in the correct location. The Dimension Sheet is used as a reference to check and confirm that all measurements are correct before installing the Elements. This is also a good time to measure and carefully mark the location of the center of the Mast Clamp on the Boom.

The eye bolts that attach the Boom truss cable are also installed at this time.

Element Installation

Element Installation Details

Element Installation Details

Next came the installation of the elements. We began with the Horizontal reflector and worked towards the front of the antenna. The elements are held in place with insulated buttons and stainless locks. The elements are first installed in the correct location and carefully centered using a steel ruler. Vise-grip pliers are then used to hold the element in its centered position while the M2 supplied tool is used to push the lock on the opposite side of the element. The center is next checked again and if all looks good, the second lock is installed. This process is continued until all of the elements are in place. We pay careful attention to the markings on each element as part of the installation procedure to ensure that all of the elements are in the correct location on the boom.

H-Element Installation Complete - Ready for V-Element Installation

H-Element Installation Complete – Ready for V-Element Installation

Once all of the elements are in place, the antenna is rotated 90 degrees to enable boom adjustments to align the elements. It is common for the boom sections to be misaligned a bit after the initial assembly. A combination of clocking each boom section either a bit one way or the other or sometimes removing the bolts holding two sections together and turning them 180 degrees relative to each other will create a perfect alignment of the elements. Once this is done, all of the bolts that hold the Boom sections together are fully tightened taking care not to distort or crush the Boom tubes.

The same installation process is repeated for all of the vertical elements.

Driven Element Assembly

Feedpoint Assemby

Feedpoint Assembly

The Driven Element feed point blocks are installed next. The mounting screw and the Allen screws in the Shorting Bars all receive a light coat of Blue Locktite thread locker prior to installation.

Next, we loosely install the blocks in their correct location on the Boom and then install the Shorting Bars loosely on the Feed Point Block and Driven Element. Once these parts are in place, the screen that holds the Block to the Boom can be tightened fully, guaranteeing a perfect alignment of all of the parts.

The next step was to accurately set the spacing between the Feed Point Block and each shorting bar. I used a dial caliper to do this accurately but it can also be done with the careful use of a metal machinist’s or similar ruler.

The final step for each feed point was to install the 1/2 wave Coax Balun to the Feed Point Block. Be careful not to overtighten the coax connectors. Just make them snug and you are set. The supplied cable ties are used to secure the Balun to the boom.

The same steps are repeated for the Vertical feed point. It’s a good idea to install connector dust caps on the feed point Block connectors to keep them clean and dry prior to installation.

H and V Feedpoint Orientation

Vertical and Horizontal Feedpoint Orientation

It is critical that the relative orientation between the Horizontal and Vertical Feedpoint Blocks be the same on all four of the antennas in the array. If this is not the case, the pattern of the array will be upset which will have a major negative effect on the array’s performance.

Mast Clamp and Boom Truss

Mast Clamp Installation

Mast Clamp Installation

The Mast Clamp assembly is installed next using the center mark placed on the Boom earlier. I also marked the backside of the Mast Clamp plate to show its center to make lining things up easy. The clamps should be oriented according to the H-frame mounting diagram (show at the front of this article).

Boom Truss Assembly

Boom Truss Assembly

The final step in the assembly process is the assembly of the Boom Truss. The 2MXP28 Yagi is supplied with a Phillystran cable. The height of the Boom Truss will be set later when the antennas are attached to the H-frame so we just installed both ends of the Phillystran cable to the Eye Hooks installed in the Boom. The connections are made using the supplied Strain Relief Loops and small cable clamps. A drop of oil on each nut helps things go together smoothly.  We had some Phillstran cable end caps so I installed them on the Phillystran cable ends to protect against water ingress. The turnbuckles, remaining clamps/strain reliefs, end caps, and truss clamp assembly were stored in a plastic Ziploc bag and cable-tied to the Boom to be installed later when the antennas are attached to the H-frame.

Final Details…

Completed 2MXP28 Antenna Ready for Installation

Completed 2MXP28 Antenna

It’s a good idea to give everything one last go-over now that the antenna is complete. All bolts and screws are checked for tightness, the Elements are all confirmed to be in the right locations, and the feed point assemblies are given a final check.

Four 2MXP28 Antennas Ready for Installation

Four 2MXP28 Antennas Ready for Installation

Our EME project involves the assembly of four of these antennas with a total of 112 elements! It took me about 3 days to assemble each antenna (working about 3-4 hours each day). We stored the antennas on our deck to make space in our shop as we went. The antennas are well supported using low saw horses and woodblocks so as not the bend the Booms or the Elements.

The next step in our project will be to assemble and test the Elevation Rotator system. You can read more about our EME station project via the links that follow:

If you’d like to learn more about How To Get Started in EME, check out the Nashua Area Radio Society Teach Night on this topic. You can find the EME Tech Night here.

Fred, AB1OC

Tech Night – VHF+ Weak Signal Stations Part 1 (Intro and 6 Meters)

Tech Night - VHF+ Weak Signal Stations Part 1 - Overview and 6 Meters

Tech Night – VHF+ Weak Signal Stations Part 1 – Overview and 6 Meters

We recently did a Tech Night on building and operating VHF+ stations as part of the Nashua Area Radio Society’s educational 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 get started and build their own VHF+ Weak Signal Station.

There is a lot to this topic so we’re going to cover it with two Tech Night presentations. The first one in the series is included here and it provides an Introduction to the VHF+ topic along with details on building and operating a station for the 6 Meter Band.

July 2020 Tech Night Video – VHF+ Weak Signal Stations Part 1 – Introduction and 6 Meters

You can view this Tech Night session via 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.

We have built a number of stations and antennas for the VHF+ Bands (6 Meters and above). Here are some links to articles about those projects and our operations on the VHF+ Bands here on our Blog:

Fred, AB1OC

Tech Night July 14 – Building and Operating a VHF+ Station

Completed Antenna Stack On New Tower

6m Yagi and 2m/70cm/23cm Satellite Antennas On A Tower

We will be hosting a Tech Night about Building and Operating a VHF+ Weak-Signal Station tonight, July 14th at 7 pm Eastern Time. The live, interactive video of our tech Night will be shared via a Zoom conference and all of our readers are welcome to join. I plan to cover the following topics during our session this evening:

  • Why do weak-signal work on 6 meters and above?
  • What can you work and what modes are used on these bands
  • How does propagation work at 50 Mhz and above and how can you measure it?
  • How does one operate using SSB, CW, and digital modes on these bands?
  • What equipment is needed and what are some possible ways that you can put together a VHF+ station?
  • Some demonstration of actual contacts

In addition to an overview of how to get on all of the bands above 50 MHz, we will focus on the 6 Meter (Magic) band. The session will include demonstrations of FT8 and Meteor Scatter contacts on 6 m. I will also briefly describe the 6 m station here at AB1OC-AB1QB and show how we use it to make contacts. A second Tech Night will cover stations and weak-signal operating on 2 m and above.

The Zoom information for our Tech Night Session follows. We suggest that you join early so that you have a chance to make sure that your computer, speakers, microphone, and camera are working.

July 14th, 7 pm Eastern – Nashua Area Radio Society Tech Night. Fred, AB1OC Setting up a VHF+ Station. Here’s an opportunity to learn how to add 6 m and above weak-signal modes to your station. Join Our Zoom Meeting

We hope to see many of our readers this evening!

Fred, AB1OC

2020 Thirteen Colonies Operations Report – A Record Year for K2K

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card for K2K, New Hampshire

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card for K2K, New Hampshire

The 2020 Thirteen Colonies Special Event is in the books as I write this. The K2K New Hampshire Colony had a record year in 2020 for our state.

World Class Stations and Operators

Matt Strelow, KC1XX joined the K2K team this year. Matt’s superstation and he and his team of world-class operators enabled us to break some records in 2020. Our 2020 operator team included:

  • AB1BY – Abby, Operating from AB1OC, Hollis, NH
  • AB1OC – Fred, Hollis, NH (State & QSL Manager)
  • AB1QB – Anita, Hollis, NH
  • AC1DC – Jamey, Nashua, NH
  • K1DLM – Dave, Operating from AB1OC, Hollis, NH
  • K1GQ – Bill, Wolfeboro, NH
  • K1QX – Craig, Operating from KC1XX, Mason, NH
  • KC1IMK – Keith, Candia, NH
  • KC1IML – Mark, Candia, NH
  • KC1XX – Matt, Mason, NH
  • KM3T – Dave, Operating from KC1XX, Mason, NH
  • NE1B – Bill, Operating from Hudson, NH
  • NN1C – Marty, Operating from KC1XX, Mason, NH
  • W1FV – John, Operating from KC1XX, Mason, NH
  • W3UA – Gene, Bedford, NH
  • WA1Z – Bob, Operating from KC1XX, Mason, NH

All of the members of the 2020 K2K operating team are also members of the Nashua Area Radio Society.

A Record Year for K2K

Final Contact Breakdown for K2K 2020

Final Contact Breakdown for K2K 2020

The K2K Team made an amazing 22,696 contacts during the July 1 – July 7, 2020, Thirteen Colonies period! This shattered the previous event record for a single state of 16,092 contacts. We are hoping that this will be an event record when the final 2020 results are in. Equally amazing was the fact that over half of the K2K operators made over 1,000 contacts including some ops with relatively modest home stations.

Operations Breakdown – Bands, Modes, and DX

Contact Breakdown by Day and Mode

Contact Breakdown by Day and Mode (click to enlarge)

The team managed a fairly even split between voice (SSB) and CW contacts thanks, in large part, to the operators at KC1XX. A good portion of the 2020 K2K contacts also came from digital operations (4,528 QSOs via FT8/FT4) which made up 20% of the Contact total.

Contact Breakdown by Day and Band

Contact Breakdown by Day of the Event and Band (click to enlarge)

The 20m band was the most productive this year but we made contacts on all of the available bands from 160m up through 70cm. The 40m band was also a strong contributor. We had some amazing performance on the higher bands with:

  • 60 contacts on 12m
  • 410+ contacts on 10m
  • 125+ contacts on 6m

This was the result of some solid Es openings during the event.

K2K QSOs Around The World

K2K QSOs Around The World (click to enlarge)

We set out to increase our focus on DX contacts this year and our approach resulted in some good results. We achieved great contact coverage in Europe and Japan as well as many contacts all over the world.

The 2020 K2K Team achieved a Triple-Play of Working All States in SSB, CW, and Digital modes and our team worked a DXCC with a total of 119 DXCC entities in our logs. Several operators on the K2K team focused on Japan and we worked a total of 168 JA contacts!

Some of our longest and most interesting contacts include:

  • BA5AD in China
  • E20WXA in Thailand
  • EX8TR in Kyrgystan
  • HL3GOG and others in South Korea
  • VU2USA and others in India (5 contacts total)
  • YC7YGR and YB2TS in Indonesia
  • Many ZS’s in South Africa
  • Many UA0’s in Asiatic Russia

The Station Highlights

Team at KC1XX - Matt, KC1XX and Dave, KM3T

Matt, KC1XX and Dave, KM3T at KC1XX

K2K was fortunate to have Matt and his team operating from KC1XX this year. Matt’s station is among the largest and best equipped in the world!

KC1XX Superstation

KC1XX Superstation

Matt’s station is located in Mason, NH on top of a hill and his station sports 13+ towers with antennas and transmitters on all major bands. Matt added additional antennas for 30m and 17m to his station just for participation in the 2020 Thirteen Colonies Special Event!

AB1QB In 2013 ARRL Rookie Roundup SSB

AB1QB operating SSB from AB1OC-AB1QB

Anita, AB1QB, and I operated our station here in Hollis, NH during the entire 2020 Thirteen Colonies period. The highlight of Anita’s operation was a tremendous pileup and run of DX in Europe on Tuesday evening. Anita also ran our digital station during the event.

AB1OC Operating as K2K

AB1OC Operating as K2K

I spent most of my time during 2020 Thirteen Colonies doing a mix of SSB and Digital. We had two transmitters on the air at our station and I was able to operate both simultaneously (one SSB and one Digital) when the pileups were not too big.

Digital Station Dashboard

K2K Digital Station Dashboard (click to enlarge)

We used the N1MM+ Logger and other software during our 2020 operation here at AB1OC-AB1QB. An example of the digital station operating dashboard is shown above. We made extensive use of our Flex SDR platform and network computing environment here at our station as part of our K2K operations. You can learn more about the station here on our blog.

AB1BY Operating as K2K

AB1BY Operating as K2K (click to play video of AB1BY operating)

Several younger members of our Club operated our station remotely during the 2020 Thirteen Colonies period. Abby, AB1BY did some live streaming to during her operating times and we captured the image above during one of her live streams. Keith, KC1IMK also operated our station. We have been encouraging our younger members to operate in Thirteen Colonies to develop their skills as operators.

Jamey, AC1DC's Station

Jamey, AC1DC’s Station

The story behind K2K’s success this year is all about our operators who used their home stations to contribute a good portion of our final contacts. It’s much more difficult to manage pileups and make many contacts from a smaller station with wire antennas and limited power. I want to especially thank our operators who put in the hard work from their home stations to help us make contacts – thank you!

QSL!

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card for K2K, New Hampshire

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card for K2K, New Hampshire

We have uploaded our logs to LoTW, ClubLog (OQRS), eQSL, and QRZ.com. We’ve already confirmed hundreds of our contacts online via these services. The paper QSL card requests are rolling in here as well. If you’d like to have a paper QSL card, you can find the needed QSL information on QRZ.com here. the simplest and quickest way to get a card for you K2K contacts is to use ClubLog OQRS. You can search our log on ClubLog below:

If you have an account on ClubLog, you can use ClubLog OQRS to order a K2K Card as well.

2020 13 Colonies Special Event Certificate

2020 Thirteen Colonies Special Event Certificate

There is also a very nice certificate that is available for working one or more of the 2020 Thirteen Colonies. You can order your certificate here.

A Portion of the 2020 K2K QSL Requests Received

A Portion of the 2020 K2K QSL Requests Received

We have received about 1,000 QSL requests and we are responding to about 100-200 of these each week. If you sent a QSL request, please be patient. You’ll be receiving your K2K card in the next few weeks.

Operating Awards

Nashua Area Radio Members

All of our 2020 K2K Operators are members of the Nashua Area Radio Society. Our Team did very well and we are proud to be recognized as:

    • The 2020 Thirteen Colonies Top State with a record 22,696 Contacts
    • The 2020 Thirteen Colonies Top Club with 22,696 Contacts
    • K2K had the 2020 Thirteen Colonies Top SSB High-Power Operator, AB1OC with 5,171 Contacts
2020 Thirteen Colonies - K2K Top State Plaque

2020 Thirteen Colonies – K2K Top State Plaque

And In Conclusion…

Team at KC1XX - Bob, WA1Z and Dave, KM3T

The Team at KC1XX – Bob, WA1Z and Dave, KM3T Operating

K2K’s 2020 Thirteen Colonies operation included some great stations for sure but the real story around our success was our operator team. Everyone worked very, very hard to make contacts and our results demonstrate this. There was great teamwork with lots of collaboration to ensure that we did a good job of covering all of the bands, modes, and DX around the world. I am proud to have been part of the 2020 K2K Team!!

Fred, K2K/AB1OC

13 Colonies Special Event Begins on July 1st

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card for K2K, New Hampshire

13 Colonies Special Event QSL Card for K2K, New Hampshire

The 2020 Thirteen Colonies Special Event begins on Wednesday, July 1st at 9 am Eastern Time! There will be stations in each of the states that grew from the original Thirteen Colonies plus two bonus stations – WM3PEN in Philadelphia, PA and GB13COL in the United Kingdom. We have a great team of operators for the New Hampshire Colony this year. You can check them out here. You can find where the event stations are operating by using the available spotting clusters such as DXSummit.

2020 13 Colonies Special Event Certificate

2020 13 Colonies Special Event Certificate

QSL cards will be available from each of the state and bonus special event stations and there is a very nice certificate available for working one or more of the 13 Colonies stations. See the event website for details.

K2K New Hampshire will be operating from a number of locations in the great state of New Hampshire including from AB1OC/AB1QB and KC1XX. We will be operating SSB, CW, Digital (FT8/FT4), and via Satellites! We are going to spend some time on 6m and perhaps 2m and 70cm if we have some Tropo openings.

The 2020 13 colonies Special event will run through midnight eastern time on July 7th. I hope that our readers will take some time and participate in the 13 Colonies Special Event this year. Its great fun for all involved. Happy July 4th the United States of America!

Fred, AB1OC

So Close – A 6m Opening to Japan from New England

A Recent 6m Band Opening Between Japan and the United States (PSK Reporter)

We’ve been having a good 6m Es Season in the Eastern United States this year. One thing that all of us here in New England look for is a chance to work DX contacts on the 6m Band. We’ve been fortunate to have almost daily openings from our region to Europe, Central, and South America. One 6m DX activity that is very rare is the ability to work stations in Japan via the 6m band from stations here in New England.

Recently, we saw one of the best openings between the United States and Japan that we have encountered here in New England. The image above shows contacts being made on the 6m Band via the FT8 Digital Mode between Japan and the United States on June 18th, 2020 in the evening eastern time.

So Close – Japan Opening to New England on 6m (PSK Reporter)

The pattern of 6m Es openings between Japan and the United States, not surprisingly, typically begins with West Coast and Midwest Stations and works eastward. We’ve been seeing these openings progress to include stations in the Southeastern United States recently on a regular basis. We monitor PSK Reporter and we use our station in receive-only mode to monitor the progress of 6m openings to Japan when they occur.

As you can see from the image above, the 6m Japan opening on June 18th progressed tantalizingly close to our QTH here in New Hampshire. This is one of the best openings to Japan into the Northeast region that we have seen to date.

Unfortunately, this particular 6m opening did not quite make it to our location here in New Hampshire. Perhaps we will see another, better opening before the end of this Es Season.

Fred, AB1OC