Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New High-Performance 10 watt 7 MHz SSB/CW kit from QRP-LABS?


Hans Summers G0UPL of QRP-LABS produces a range of really stunning high quality kits at very modest prices. His current QCX model which is a 5 watt mono-band CW transceiver is very popular and sells for just $49.

At the YOTA (Youngsters On The Air) construction day last weekend, the participants were building a new 7 MHz SSB and CW 10 watt transceiver from QRP-Labs...pictured above. It's very likely that this kit will be on sale in the near future.



Update...
1) The single band version has a guide price of $75.
2) The plan is to have a 10 band version (10m-160m) for a guide price of $150.
3) It is a SDR based transceiver! As it shows in the slide below, the plan is to have the performance of a high end commercial radio but at 10-20% of the cost.

With the current popularity of FT8, this rig on SSB  is likely to be a perfect match with its 10w and high stability.

Keep an eye on the QRP-Labs website... http://www.qrp-labs.com/





Monday, August 13, 2018

EI9E/P on 23cms - July 2018

A short video from Terry G0VRL showing a contact with EI9E/P during the VHF contest in July 2018. The distance was approx 257kms over mostly water.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

New World Meteor Scatter Record on 144 MHz... 7th Aug 2018

It seems to be a week of new records on 144 MHz. Following on from the new Region 1 tropo record on the 5th of August 2018, a new world record for meteor scatter on 144 MHz was set on the 7th of August.


In the early hours of the 7th of August, Dieter DJ6AG (JO51eq) in Germany worked Fernando EA8TX (IL18qi) in the Canary Islands to set a new world distance record of 3428 kms. The FSK contact took several hours to complete with the final decode being received in Germany at 00:14 UTC.

001430 16.0 220 1 26 9 R!RRRR EA TX RRRR RRRR EA8TX RRRR

The new record of 3428 kms breaks the old record between EA8TJ and S50C by 51 kms.

Previous best distances by meteor scatter on 144 MHz in Region 1...

Distance record on 144 MHz Propagation : MS
Band Propagation Call a Loc Call b Loc Mode Date Distance
144 MHz MS S50C JN76JG EA8TJ IL18RJ FSK441 2013-08-12 3377
144 MHz MS EA8TJ IL18RJ PA4EME JO20WX FSK441 2013-08-12 3132
144 MHz MS GW4CQT IO81LP UW6MA KN97VE CW 1977-08-12 3101
144 MHz MS HB9FAP JN47PH EA8TX IL18QI FSK441 2014-08-14 3077
144 MHz MS HB9FAP JN47PH EA8TJ IL18RJ FSK441 2013-08-13 3069

It's very probable that there was a combination of meteor scatter and tropo involved in this record. It was probably a long meteor scatter hop of about 2,200-2,300 kms from Germany to the south coast of Portugal and marine ducting tropo from there to the Canary Islands.

Is this the maximum?

Monday, August 6, 2018

EI3KD works Cape Verde on 144 MHz to set new Region 1 DX record


On Sunday the 5th of August 2018, Mark Turner EI3KD managed to work D4Z on the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of of Africa on 144 MHz, a distance of some 4163 kms. This remarkable contact made on CW was a new record for tropo in IARU Region 1. The previous record of 4130 kms was set back in July of 2015.

The contact was made on 144.300 MHz at about 18:26 UTC at a time when the band was also open to the Canary Islands from the south of Ireland and the UK.

EI3KD RIG: 11el F9FT, only at 7m agl or so, RX mast preamp, TX 400W.

Just to an idea of just how far the new record is, if the same distance of 4163 kms was measured west of EI3KD's location then it would reach as far as Nova Scotia in Canada!

Earlier in the day, the D4C beacon on 144.436 MHz had been spotted at 08:37 UTC by GI6ATZ locator IO74AJ distance 4476km and by GM4ZJI at 16:40 locator IO86KE distance 4739km. The beacon was running just 14W into a stacked dipole array.

D4Z also worked G7RAU and G4LOH in the South-West of England on 2m SSB.

Video of D4Z working EI3KD on 144 MHz...


The mode of propagation was probably marine ducting which is a process whereby VHF and UHF signals can get trapped between the water surface and a layer in the lower atmosphere. The result is that signals can travel over quite far distances and the path from the UK and Ireland down to the Canary Islands can produce some of the longest distances in Europe. On rare occasions, the path can extend as far as the Cape Verde Islands.

Spot on the DX Summit cluster...
EI3KD 144300.0 D4Z 18:26 05 Aug IO51VW HK76MU tnx!!! 4163km Cape Verde

Previous best distances for tropo on 144 MHz for Region 1...
Band Propagation Call a Loc Call b Loc Mode Date Distance
144 MHz TR D44TS HK77KE M0VRL IO70PO SSB 2015-07-09 4130
144 MHz TR M0VRL IO70PO D44TD HK86NO SSB 2011-08-10 4106
144 MHz TR G4LOH IO70JC D44TD HK86NO CW 2007-08-04 4041
144 MHz TR EB8BRZ IL27HK YT3I KN05HP SSB 2009-06-08 3757
144 MHz TR EI5FK IO51RT RW1ZC/MM IK18PQ SSB 2005-08-15 3745

The tropo forecast below from F5LEN shows the path conditions around the time of the contact.



Links...
1) DX spots for D4Z on 144 MHZ
2) F5LEN Tropo Forecast for EI to D4
3) IARU Region 1 VHF DX records
4) EI3KD's website
5) D4C / D4Z website

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Japan heard on 28 MHz... Sun 5th Aug 2018


For the first time this summer, I have heard a Japanese station on FT8 on 28 MHz. As the map above shows, I heard JA4FKX at 08:39 UTC or 9:39am local time.

I have been monitoring the FT8 frequency on 10 metres more or less full time since early May 2018 and this is the most easterly station I have heard to date. Over the last few weeks, I have heard Thailand and Indonesia but they are more southerly paths.

The European stations that heard JA4FKX on 28 MHz today are shown below. These include MI0JST in the north of Ireland and GM4WJA in Scotland.


Other stations in Japan were also spotting JA4FKX so I presume it was genuine? I was just using the usual vertical half-wave about 5m above the ground.

I also checked the FT8 reception reports for other EI stations on 50 MHz and there doesn't seem to have been any similar opening on 6 metres.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Breakdown of amateur radio calls in the UK - July 2018

Southgate Amateur Radio News had an item today about the number of licences in the UK and how they are broken down. I had a look at the raw numbers for the nearly 88,000 licences and plotted it out as a chart.


Raw data is all very well but sometimes you need a chart to make things clearer. As can be seen, the Foundation licence accounts for the two most popular class of licence.

Foundation and Intermediate licences now account for 38.6% of all amateur radio licences in the UK.


From the Southgate ARC website...

Monday, July 30, 2018

SSTV signals received from the International Space Station... 30th July 2018

After seeing a news item on the Southgate Amateur Radio website last week, I had a try this evening at decoding signals on 145.800 MHz from the International Space Station as it passed over Europe.

This was my first time using the MMSSTV software and trying to decode Slow Scan TV signals so the images could probably be better.



Better image on the second pass...

The signals were heard with an indoor Slim Jim half-wave in the attic of the house.

The next scheduled passes that are within range of Ireland (& NW Europe) are on Tuesday 31st July... 16:59 to 17:08 UTC and 18:36 to 18:45 UTC. (Note times are UTC... Irish / British Summer time minus one hour).

For anyone on the South coast of Ireland or the UK, there is a very high pass at about 21:17 local time. Although the SSTV signals are supposed to be off at that stage, it should be a very good visual pass if the skies are clear.

Frequency : 145.800 MHz wide FM.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Presentation : "Modern QRP Rigs and the Development of the QCX CW Transceiver kit" by Hans Summers


Every year, the QRP Amateur Radio Club International hosts a QRP conference called Four Days in May (FDIM) in the United States. This year (2018), Hans Summers G0UPL of QRP-LABS made a presentation titled "Modern QRP Rigs and the Development of the QCX CW Transceiver kit".

He introduced three main themes, all based around use of the QCX CW transceiver as an example of a practical implementation and which he describes as follows :

Better architectures than the SA602 -> crystal filter -> SA602 superhet which I am calling the "cold war sandwich", since it has been around since the 1980's and heavily copied by amateurs ever since
Modern oscillators, in particular the Si5351A, which make it easy and cheap to make a crystal-locked flexible and precise oscillator
Use of microcontrollers in your projects.

The slides for the presentation are here... http://qrp-labs.com/images/news/dayton2018/seminar.pdf

The audio of the presentation can be found on the Ham Radio Workbench website.... https://www.hamradioworkbench.com/podcast/2018-qrp-arci-fdim-hans-summers-g0upl-and-dr-jack-purdum-w8tee

Listen to the podcast from 1h 20m to 2h 02m and refer to the slides during the talk.

The full 41 pages of the FDIM conference proceedings booklet from Hans Summers can be viewed here... http://qrp-labs.com/images/news/dayton2018/fdim2018.pdf

Links...
1) http://www.qrp-labs.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

70 MHz beacon from the USA heard in Portugal... 23rd July 2018


There was an interesting spot on the DX-Cluster on the 23rd of July 2018 stating that the US beacon WG2XPN/B had been heard in Portugal.

CT1HZE 70005.0 WG2XPN/B 20:16 23 Jul 519 3xEs! United States

The US beacon on 70.005 MHz is located in Virginia which is quite some distance to the south.

Freq.  Call QTH Locator Contact Antenna Watt mASL Notes
70.005 WG2XPN  Bedford, VA FM07FM WA1ZMS 3 el. 60° CW, 3 kW ERP, 15 m AGL 

At a distance of some 6088 kms, the propagation mode was probably triple hop Sporadic-E as CT1HZE suggested... i.e. 3 x 2030 kms.

This isn't the first time that the WG2XPN/2 has been heard in Europe but it's pretty remarkable all the same. Since this American 70 MHz beacon started in 2013, it has been spotted roughly 130 times on the DX Summit cluster. These are the Trans-Atlantic spots...

CT1HZE WG2XPN/B 519 3xEs!  70005 2018-07-23T20:16:18
CT1HZE WG2XPN/B 559 3x Es  70005 2015-06-27T23:25:55
CT1HZE WG2XPN/B 539 3xEs FB  70005 2014-07-05T21:34:08
CT1HZE WG2XPN/B 419 3xEs 6081km  70005 2013-07-03T20:26:02

DI2MN WG2XPN/B JN58WHFM07FM 559 QSB!!  70005 2013-07-07T17:19:56
DI2MN WG2XPN/B JN58WHFM07FM 3x / 4x Es ??  70005 2013-07-07T16:49:43

EA8/DL3GCS WG2XPN/B IL17FM07  70005 2013-07-04T12:47:33
EA8/DL3GCS WG2XPN/B IL17ATFM07FM max 529 70005 2013-07-03T19:47:42
EA8/DL3GCS WG2XPN/B IL17AT<>FM07FM max 419 70005 2013-06-30T16:24:32

IS0AWZ WG2XPN/B 419-429 in JM49NG  70005 2013-07-07T17:10:58

Only five North American stations have bothered to spot it even though it could have been heard widely across the continent over the last few years... K1SIX, N2OTO, VE1PZ, VE9AA, W5LUA, WA1ZMS

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Book : Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur available for download


While listening to old previous episodes of the Soldersmoke podcast, I heard many references to the book Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur from the ARRL. Even though the book is now a little dated, most of the theory and advice is as valid now as when it was written back in the late 1970's.

Out of curiosity I did a search on Google and found that it was available for free as a download!

Go to https://archive.org/stream/SolidStateDesignForTheRadioAmateur#page/n0

It's about 79MB in size.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

PSK Reporter passes 4 Billion reception reports


The PSK Reporter website has just passed 4 billion reception reports! Currently, the vast majority of the reports are of course due to the FT8 digital mode.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

No uploads to the PSK reporter website



I noticed yesterday that none of my FT8 reception reports on 28 MHz were appearing on the PSK Reporter website. I checked all the usual things like rebooting the PC, restarting the WSJT-X programme and checking my internet access. Despite the fact that I had plenty of signals that were being decoded by the programme, they weren't appearing on the PSK Reporter site even after waiting for some time for them to appear after restarting everything.

I checked the site and I could see that the reports from other stations were appearing fine. As far as I could tell, it just seemed to be my spots weren't appearing.

In the end, I tried un-clicking and re-clicking the 'Enable PSK Reporter Spotting' in the Settings tab and it seemed to work after that. I can't see how that would make a difference as it was ticked initially but it's working now again with all the spots being uploaded to the site. Coincidence or a fix? Not sure.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

1978 Television coverage of an Irish amateur radio special event station



In 1978, Irish radio amateurs set up a special event station using the callsign EI0MFT in Clifden, Co.Galway to commemorate the first two way radio message across the Atlantic back in 1903.

"To mark this historic event, members of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society are operating a special amateur radio station from Clifden in County Galway over a two day period.

Clifden was considered an appropriate place to hold the celebration as it was the site for an early Marconi station, operational from 1907 to 1922. Marconi himself chose Clifden as the site for a radio station because, among other things, it gave the shortest wireless link with the Marconi station at Glace Bay on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada."

The Irish National Broadcaster RTE now have a short video from their archives up on their website.

It can be seen at this link... https://www.rte.ie/archives/2018/0108/931738-celebrating-marconi-achievement/

Friday, July 13, 2018

IRTS release updated band plans for 40 MHz and 60 MHz...



Back in April of 2018, the Irish Radio Transmiters Society (IRTS) announced that Irish radio amateurs had gain access to a huge swathe of the VHF spectrum from 30 to 70 MHz.

In May, they released a proposed band plan with an invitation for comments.

Based on the feedback received, the IRTS have further refined the band plan and it can be seen HERE

While the band plan covers quiet a lot of spectrum, the IRTS considers the key areas to be 40-42 MHz for the 8-metre band and 58-60 MHz for the 5-metre band.

From the document....."IRTS considers that the band most likely to be transverted to an IF of 28 – 30 MHz might be 40 – 42 MHz." ... "Similarly to 40 MHz the band most likely to be transverted to an IF of 28 – 30 MHz is considered to be 58 – 60 MHz."

They are inviting comments before the end of July 2018.

Links...
1) New proposed band plan (v6) ...link may break in time
2) Copy of new proposed band plan (V6)
3) My 40 MHz page where I keep some information

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

High altitude balloon over Cornwall heard on 434 MHz


There was a news item on Southgate Amateur Radio News recently about a balloon launch from the south of Cornwall. As it's about 200kms away from my location on the south coast of Ireland, it seemed as if it might be possible to hear the signals at 434 MHz.

I listened on 434.100 MHZ USB with my home made co-linear in the attic and sure enough, I could hear a very weak RTTY signal!

It took a while to get the FLDIGI software up and running properly as I haven't used it in many years and I was unfamiliar with the various settings. After much messing around, I got a decode like this...

*U$$1901,578,09:42:03,50.1436319,-5.4608369,29651,15,1.468*0A55

It looks like gibberish but there is data in there.

*U$$1901 seems to be the ID
578 seems to be the message number
09:42:03 is the time in UTC
50.1436319 is the latitude
-5.4608369 is the longitude
29651 is the altitude in metres
15 is the number of GPS satellites it is hearing
1.468 is the battery voltage
*0A55..?? Not sure what this is.Maybe a checksum?

As the balloon was gaining altitude, the frequency of the signal was getting lower gradually. I presume this was due to the colder temperatures? As soon as the balloon burst, the frequency went higher a lot quicker than it had gone lower on the way up. I presume this was due to the payload falling rapidly into lower warmer air before the parachute slowed it down.


As the map above shows, it was launched from Goonhilly, reached an altitude of about 37723 metres and eventually fell into the sea off the coast of Cornwall. Once the balloon was above roughly 10,000 metres, the 70cms RTTY was strong enough for me to get good decodes.

All the RTTY decodes are shown below.....

Monday, July 9, 2018

88 MHz Trans-Atlantic signals heard in Ireland - Sun 8th July 2018


This really is a remarkable catch. Paul Logan in Lisnaskea, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland managed to hear a Canadian radio station across the Atlantic at 88 MHz! While 28 MHz and 50 MHz signals are pretty common across the pond, it is extremely rare that signals of such a high frequency get across.

Using a 5 element beam and a SDR receiver, Paul managed to catch CBC radio 1 on 88.5 MHz from Newfoundland, Canada at 22:35 local time (21:35 UTC) on Sunday the 8th of July 2018.

With a distance of some 3200 kms, it is very likely that it was double hop Sporadic-E which is remarkable. It's not that common for the propagation to reach 88 MHz for one hop but to have it at 88 MHz at two spots at the right distance apart is really rare.

The video of the reception is shown below...



Paul has heard trans-Atlantic Band 2 signals in the past but it really is a rare phenomenon. This is only the fourth time Paul has heard a Canadian radio station on Band 2 (88-108 MHz) since 2003. He is the only person to have heard Band 2 signals from the USA.

The only other person to have heard a Band 2 trans-atlantic signal from North America was David Hamilton in Scotland who heard Newfoundland in 2003. Incredibly, a small number have managed to hear Band 2 stations from the Caribbean which is a more southerly path albeit further away.

Paul's website is http://band2dx.webs.com/

Big opening across the Atlantic on 28 MHz & 50 MHz...Sun 8th July 2018

There was another big opening across the Atlantic on Sunday the 8th of July with signals on 28 MHz and 50 MHz.

This is what I heard on FT8 on 28 MHz with some signals being heard into the early hours of the 9th.


The most north-westerly signal was from a station in Colorado and according to the PSK reporter website, I was the only person in Europe to hear him.

Looking at the FT8 reception reports for Tom EI4DQ, I could see 50 MHz was also open. As Tom is only a few kms east of me, it's interesting to see what he is hearing on 50 MHz compared to what I am hearing on 28 MHz.

I noticed one strange difference though.

In the afternoon, I was hardly hearing anything on 28 MHz while Tom was hearing North America on 50 MHz. This is a 15 minute snapshot of what we were both hearing at a point in the afternoon.


The difference was so great that it prompted me to check the VSWR on my 10 metre antenna to make sure everything was ok... which it was. It seems that the 28 MHz band was open from the Netherlands to USA at the time and I was in the skip zone. The conditions were fine, it was just that I was in the wrong location for the North American signals to be heard on 28 MHz.

Later in the evening, we were both hearing much the same on each respective band. A 15 minute snapshot is shown below...


It's just another reminder that you need to be careful making assumptions about propagation. Just because you don't hear something on 28 MHz, it doesn't mean the band isn't open. It could well be that you are in the skip zone for a while.

This day was also remarkable for another reason. Someone in the north of Ireland managed to pick up a Canadian radio station on 88 MHz! That was without doubt the best DX of the day.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Noctilucent clouds visible from Cork... Sat 7th July 2018


I took this photo of noctilucent clouds from my house in Cork on the south coast of Ireland at about 23:08 UTC on Sat 7th July 2018. This was just after midnight local summer time and about 130 minutes after sunset.

To the naked eye, they looked a bit like a bright cloud on the horizon and a 5 second exposure on the camera was needed to bring out the detail shown above.

My location is just below 52 degrees north so they would certainly have been visible by anyone further north. I could still see them faintly at about 00:00 UTC which was 1am local time, roughly 3 hours after sunset.

Noctilucent clouds exist at a height of about 80 kms above the earths surface, way above where normal clouds exist. Some propose that they may have a bearing on VHF propagation on paths near the poles... example... Europe to Japan on 50 MHz.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Reception of the OZ7IGY beacon on 40 MHz - Fri 6th July 2018



Both 28 MHz and 50 MHz were wide open on Friday the 6th of July 2018 with plenty of strong Sporadic-E signals on the bands. One of the best things about monitoring FT8 signals on 28 MHz is that I can get a very good idea of where the band is open to.

Since I started listening in mid-May, the 28 MHz band has been open every day but openings from Ireland to Denmark are the exception rather than the norm. Openings from Ireland to the South to Spain / Portugal or the South-East to Italy/Germany seem a lot more common.

Today was an exception and as soon as I saw FT8 spots from near Copenhagen on 28 MHz, I listened on 40.071 MHz for the OZ7IGY beacon.  As can be see from the decoded PI4 spots below, I was hearing the 40 MHz beacon from about 13:20 UTC till 21:00 UTC with some gaps.

The 40 MHz signal was never that strong although my use of an indoor 50 MHz antenna probably has a lot to do with that.

This is currently the only signal in Europe on the 40 MHz band.

OZ7IGY beacon decodes below... (Signals stronger than -10dB sigal to noise ratio in bold)

Sunday, July 1, 2018

EI DMR registrations at the end of June 2018


As of the end of June 2018, there were 126 DMR registrations allocated to EI callsigns. It had looked as if the growth in digital registrations had begun to taper off at the end of 2017 but it continued to grow in 2018.