We have established launch windows and begun final launch preparations for our High-Altitude Balloon 4 (HAB-4) launch. We’ve made some modifications to our HAB platform to improve its cold temperature performance and we’ve determined the Balloon and flight path parameters for the upcoming flight. HAB-4 will carry an APRS transmitter and can be tracked using aprs.fi. You can read more about HAB-4 flight preparations via the link that follows.
We have begun looking ahead to Satellite Station 4.0 and where we want to go next after our ARISS crew contact is complete. Our goals for the Satellite Station 4.0 include:
- A permanently installed version of our 3.1 Station which can be operated remotely over the Internet
- Upgraded Transceivers which add Pan Adapter/Waterfall display capabilities
- Enhancements to our Transportable 2.1 Station for improved performance
- A more portable version of our 1.1 Station for Grid Square Activations
New 4.0 Station at our Home QTH
The performance of the 3.1 Station’s antennas is very good but the antenna system is a handful to transport. We are planning to install these antennas on a new tower at our QTH and use our Flex-6700 SDR-based Remote Operating Gateway with some upgrades to create a remotely controlled satellite station which can be operated via the Internet. The main components of the 4.0 Station will include:
- A new 36′ Rohn 45G House Bracketed Tower
- Reuse of the current 3.1 Station’s M2 Antennas 2MCP14 and 436CP30 yagis and the associated polarity switching relays
- Reuse of the current 3.1 Station’s Directive Systems DSE2424LYRM 23cm yagi
- Upgrades to the 3.1 cross-boom to provide better long-term support for the antennas
- Reuse of the ARR Preamps and AlfaSpid Az-El Rotator from the 3.1 Station
- Addition of Down East Microwave 2 m (2MLPDA), 70 cm (L432-28), and 23 cm (L23HP) power blocks/Transverters to upgrade our Flex-6700 SDR Remote Gateway for satellite operation
The new tower will also provide a new antenna system for the 6 m band.
The Flex-6700 SDR and the associated Maestro Remote Unit will enable the 4.0 Station to be remotely operated through the Internet via a Laptop running MacDoppler.
Upgraded Transportable 2.2 Station
Upgrade plans for our Transportable station include the addition of remote switchable polarity relays and a new Icom IC-9700 Transceiver when it becomes available.
The polarity switches have been installed on the M2 Antennas 436CP16 and 2MCP8A antennas in our M2 Antennas LEO Pack. We are using a DX Engineering EC-4 console to control LHCP or RHCP polarity selection on the antennas. We have been doing some testing with the upgraded LEO pack which includes the polarity switching capabilities and we are seeing a significant improvement in performance.
We are also planning to move the upgraded LEO pack antennas to the current 3.1 Tower to take advantage of the AlfaSpid Rotator which is installed there.
The other major upgrade planned for the 2.2 Station is the new Icom IC-9700 Transceiver when it becomes available. This radio will utilize Icom’s SDR platform and includes a Pan Adapter/Waterfall display which will be a very useful addition for operation with Linear Transponder Satellites.
Upgraded Portable 1.2 Station
We really enjoy mountain topping and activating grid squares so we are planning upgrades to our 1.2 Station for this purpose.
The 1.2 Station utilizes computer control to enable operation with linear transponder satellites and will use solar/battery power along with a 100w/70w Icom IC-910H Satellite Transceiver.
A pair of 90W foldable solar panels, an MPPT solar charger, and a pair of LiPo 4S4P A123 batteries provide plenty of power to run the IC-910H Transceiver and the associated computer. The portable station also includes a pair of ARR preamps.
The antenna system we’ll be using is an Elk Portable Log Periodic 2m/70cm yagi on a camera tripod. A combination of a compass and an angle finder gauge help us to correctly point the antenna.
As you can probably tell, all of these upgrades are in progress and are at various stages of completion. We will post updates here on our Blog as we continue to make progress.
It looks like the new IC-9700 is one step closer to being available. It’s now on the Icom website. You can see more along with the Icom pre-release brochure on the Icom website here.
The Nashua Area Radio Society will again be hosting an Amateur Radio Exposition for Young People as part of NEAR-Fest in Deerfield, NH on October 12th and 13th.
You can see more about what we are planning via the link above. Activities will include multiple GOTA Stations, a Kit Build, a Fox Hunt, Morse Code, and other hands-on activities. We will also be operating a Special Event Station as N1T.
NEAR-Fest along with several NARS members are also sponsoring a matching fundraising project as part of this event. Check it out!
It looks like the first Beta Release of WSJT-X 2.0 is available. WSJT-X Version 2.0 includes a number of features to support contesting and longer compound callsigns when FT8 and MSK144 (Meteor Scatter) modes are used. The new features include:
- Better support for North American VHF Contests with improved handling of grids and /R rover call sign designators
- Six-character locators and call sign suffix support for portable operators focused on EU VHF contesting
- Support for ARRL Field Day exchanges
- Support for ARRL RTTY Roundup exchanges
- Support for call signs up to 11 characters to support non-standard and compound call signs
The new version extends the length of the messages used for FT8 and MSK144 from 75/72 bits to 77 bits to enable the above features. As a result, there are compatibility issues between the v1.x releases of WSJT-X and v2.0 when FT8 and MSK144 modes are used. More detail about the new features and changes can be found here.
It is expected that the Meteor Scatter community (MSK144 mode users) will rapidly move to WSJT-X V2.0 so no backward compatibility features are provided for MSK144.
The transition for FT8 mode users is a much bigger problem. As a result, it is suggested that users test the new mode on alternative frequencies on the 20m band at 14.078 MHz and on the 40m band at 7.078 Mhz.
The Advanced Tab in the WSJT-X v2.0 settings provides some options to help with compatibility between v1.x and V2.0. One must choose whether to transmit using the shorter v1.x or the v2.0 messages. If you are operating in the above mention “2.0” frequency areas on 20m or 40m, it’s a good idea to transmit using the 2.0 message format (check always generate 77-bit messages).
The new version of WSJT-X can decode both the shorter v1.x and the longer v2.0 messages simultaneously. The decoding will be faster on slower computers if you check the Decode only 77-bit messages option when operating in the v2.0 frequency ranges.
If you want to try the new v2.0 FT8 mode in one of the supported contests, you’ll want to check the appropriate Special operating activity option. If you are not operating in one of these contests, you’ll want to select None.
All you need to do to try the new version is to download and install it and configure the FT8 options. I’ve been running WSJT-X v2.0 rc1 in the 20m band in the 14.078 MHz sub-band this morning and have made about 20 contacts using the new format. The v2.0 software is working well.
There are some additional enhancements which will be included in WSJT-X v2.0. Here’s some information on these features from the WSJT-X v2.0 Quick Start Guide –
WSJT-X 2.0 has several other new features and capabilities. The WSPR decoder has better sensitivity by about 1 dB. Color highlighting of decoded messages provides worked-before status for callsigns, grid locators, and DXCC entities on a “by band” basis. Color highlighting can also identify stations that have (or have not) uploaded their logs to Logbook of the World (LoTW) within the past year. The necessary information from LoTW can be easily downloaded from the ARRL website.
Currently, several additional release candidates are planned for WSJT-X v2.0 as follows:
- September 17, 2018: -rc1 Expires October 31, 2018
- October 15, 2018: -rc2 Expires November 30, 2018
- November 12, 2018: -rc3 Expires December 31, 2018
- December 10, 2018: GA Full release of WSJT-X 2.0
Note that the release candidates will expire about 2 weeks after each new version becomes available. Also, its required that anyone who runs the Beta (release candidate) software agrees to report any bugs that they find.
We are looking forward to trying the new FT8 in the next digital contest which allows it.
The Nashua Area Radio Society put together a successful Amateur Radio Youth Exposition at the New England Amateur Radio Convention at Boxboro this year. Our exposition features over ten displays with hands-on activities…
Anita AB1QB and I are continuing to work along with the Nashua Area Radio Society to encourage young people to become licensed and join the Amateur Radio Service.
The Nashua Area Radio Society recently hosted an Amateur Radio Exposition for Young People at the New England Amateur Radio Convention in Boxboro, MA. Our event featured Remote HF and Satellite GOTA stations, a kit build, and many other hands-on activities which were part of the over ten displays at the event.
You can read more and see photos from our Youth Expo via the link above. We will be holding another Amateur Radio Youth Expo as part of NETT at NEAR-Fest in Deerfield, NH in October. We hope to see some of our local friends there.
Icom displayed three working demonstration units of the forthcoming IC-9700 VHF/UHF/1.2GHz transceiver, Icom Inc. at the Tokyo Hamfair, which took place in Ariake, Tokyo on August 25th – 26th.
It looks like this is going to be an excellent radio for Satellite, EME, and other weak-signal work on the 2 m, 70 cm, and 23 cm bands. The IC-9700 features a pan adapter display which will be very useful for working contacts through linear satellites.
Based upon previous new Transceivers release by Icom, I would guess we are at least 8 months to a year away from the time when this radio will be offered for sale in the USA.
Here’s some video of the forthcoming IC-9700 as well as other gear from Icom. The video also features other new products and updated Firmware capabilities from Icom. Enjoy!
Anita and I have been working to grow the Amateur Radio Service through our work at the Nashua Area Radio Society. The Nashua Area Radio Society is a 501c(3) public charity whose mission is to:
- Encourage and help people to become licensed and active in the Amateur Radio Service
- Spark Interest among Young People in STEM Education and Careers through Ham Radio
- Provide training and mentoring to enable our members to improve their technical and operating skills and to be prepared to assist in times of emergency
- Sponsor on-air operating activities so that our members may practice and fully develop their operating skills and have fun with Ham Radio!
The Nashua Area Radio Society has created many programs designed to provide STEM learning experiences and training through Amateur Radio. Some of these include:
- High-Altitude Balloon Projects in Local Schools
- Electronics Kit Building Projects for Young People
- Amateur Radio License Training Class scholarships for young people
- Amateur Radio Expositions at Hamfests and in public places for Young People
- Emergency Communications Training through our Field Day and other activities
- Supporting Local Schools with ARISS Crew Contacts and other Amateur Radio activities
To carry out our mission, we have formed close relationships with several schools. This helps us develop and deliver effective, high-quality programs that bring learning through Amateur Radio to young people. You can read more about what we’re doing via the link at the top of the page.
We provide many of these services either free of charge or at a very modest cost. We count on the generosity of our members, friends, and the Amateur Radio community to raise funds to support our work.
We hope that our readers will consider supporting our work at the Nashua Area Radio Society by using Amazon Smile and designating us as your favorite charity and/or by making a donation to our current fundraising campaign (click on the badge below).
On behalf of the many young people and others that we help, thank you very much for your interest and support. We will continue to work hard to provide learning opportunities for young people through Amateur Radio and to continue to make the Amateur Radio Service the best it can be to benefit everyone.
Quite a few Nashua Area Radio Society members have been working on a display to get young people and potential new Hams interested in Amateur Radio. Our display will be part of the New England Amateur Radio Convention in Boxboro, MA on September 8th and 9th. We are also planning a similar display for NEAR-Fest at Deerfield Fairgrounds, NH later in the fall. You can see more about our planned display and the associated hands-on activities via the following link.
I want to share some information about an Amateur Radio event that we will be doing at the Boxboro, MA Ham Radio Convention in September. Our display and hands-on activities provide an introduction to Amateur Radio for young people and include information and a chance to try Amateur Radio activities such as:
- Satellite Communications including a Computer Controlled Satellite GOTA Station
- Remotely Operating an HF Station Over The Internet – another GOTA activity
- Fox Hunting
- High-Altitude Balloons which carry Amateur Radio
- Emergency Communications and Field Day including a GoKit GOTA
- Learning Morse Code
- Kits, Kit Building, and Computers
- How To Get Licensed
- And much more
You can read more about our plans for the event via the link above.
We’ve been working with Steve Elliot, K1EL to develop an inexpensive kit building project to include as part of our displays. We will be including a new kit building activity in as part of our display. Builders can purchase the Morse Trainer Kit shown above for $20 and build it at the show. We will provide soldering equipment and kit building mentors to help builders complete their kit. The package includes batteries and a printed manual. We will have these kits available for walk-up purchase at the show on both Saturday and Sunday.
I am also planning to provide forum presentation on the following topics on Saturday at Boxboro:
- Creating Successful Youth Outreach Projects
- Portable Satellite Station Design, Operation, and Planning for an upcoming ISS Crew Contact
- STEM Learning for Young People via High Altitude Balloons Carrying Amateur Radio
You can view the Boxboro Forum schedule here.
I hope to see folks who follow our Blog at the New England at the Boxboro Convention. If you can make it, stop by our display or visit us in the forums and say “hello”.
I have been operating using the FT8 digital mode on the 6m band using our remote operating gateway quite a bit this summer. The SDR-based remote operating gateway in our station allows us to operate our station from other rooms in our home as well as from outside our QTH via the Internet. When I’m at home, I have computers set up with outboard monitors to create an operating setup for FT8 digital contacts on the 6m and other bands. The photo above shows this setup. Having the extra screen space and multiple laptops enables control of our station, making and logging QSOs, and checking propagation via Reverse Beacon Networks as we operate.
This laptop runs the WSJT-X software (left windows above) which conducts QSOs in FT8 and other weak signal modes and the JTAlert Software (lower right windows above) which interfaces WSJT-X to the DXLab logging suite. JTAlert displays all callsigns decoded by WSJT-X and compares them to my log to determine which potential contacts are new DXCC’s, Grids, States, etc. JTAlert adds contacts to my logs in DXLab when a QSO is completed using WSJT-X.
The windows laptop also runs the DXLab logging suite. DXLab handles logging of QSOs, one-click pointing of our antennas based upon the callsign being worked, and uploading contacts to LoTW, eQSL, and ClubLog for confirming contacts.
I like to use the second computer to monitor propagation and strength of my FT8 signal while operating.
I use two tools to assess propagation conditions while I am operating. The first is PSKReporter which is a Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) tool that is enabled by WSJT-X and most other digital mode software programs. Each time WSJT-X decodes a stations transmission, it reports the decoded callsign along with location and signal strength information to the PSKReporter website. This website then uses this information to display all of the stations that hear my and other’s transmissions in real-time. The RBN information is used to determine where a given band is open and as a tool to determine how much transmit power is needed to provide acceptable signal strength at stations that I am trying to work.
The DXMaps website shows a real-time map view of contacts being made on the 10m and higher bands. This second tool provides a real-time view of band conditions and opening on bands like 6m which have somewhat unpredictable propagation characteristics.
Together, these tools help to determine where to point antennas and what stations we can work on the 6m band.
The second laptop also runs Teamviewer remote control software. This provides access to the antenna switching controls, SWR and power monitoring equipment, station electrical power, and amplifier controls in our shack. These tools are important elements in safely operating and controlling our station when we are not in the same room as the radios and other equipment we are using.
I’ve been using the remote operating setup described here on the 6m band quite a bit over the last few weeks. I hope this post provides some ideas that other can use.