Thursday, December 31, 2020

JTDX Digital Mode Software now supports 8-metre operation

JTDX is modified WSJT-X software that many radio amateurs use for the JT9, JT65, FT4 and FT8 digital modes.

In a software update released on the 30th of December 2020, it was announced that the JTDX software suite will now support operation on the new 8-metre (40-MHz) band.

Although this is a small change, it is another welcome step in getting more activity on this new VHF band.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

5-Element Yagi for 40 MHz (8-metres) by YU7EF

YU7EF in Serbia is a well known designer of HF and VHF beams and many radio amateurs worldwide use his designs. In this post, we will look at two 5-element Yagi antenna designs for the new 40 MHz (8-metre) band.

(Updated 30th Dec 2020... Thanks to Pop, YU7EF for the additional information)

* * *

A) Design #1 : EF0805S - 5-element Yagi on a 4.5 metre boom

The design with dimensions is shown below.

The calculated gain in free space is about 7.5dBd and has a front to back ratio in the region of 25dB.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Sporadic-E opening on 28 MHz - 29th Dec 2020


There was a nice mid-Winter Sporadic-E opening on Tuesday the 29th of December of 2020 with plenty of signals on the 10-metre band.

As the map above shows, there were some F2 openings to South Africa and South America but the most interesting point was the sheer number of stations heard via Sporadic-E.

A total of 332 stations were heard which would be the same as a reasonable day during the Summer months. The Solar Flux on the day was 84 which was down slightly on the 88 of the last few days.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Switzerland to switch off its FM radio stations in 2022-2023

In December 2017, Norway became the first country to switch off its analogue FM radio stations on 88-108 MHz as they moved to a digital DAB+ system. Switzerland has now announced its intention to do likewise.

The Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) said that members of the radio associations and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR have agreed to migrate to digital broadcasting via DAB+ in 2022 and 2023. The SRG SSR will decommission its FM transmitters in August 2022 to make it easier for commercial operators to switch over. The private radio stations will deactivate their FM transmitters in January 2023.

A recent survey by GfK Switzerland showed that use of digital radio has risen by 22% since 2015 while at the same time, FM usage has dropped by 22% to 29 percent. By June 2020, only 13 percent of the Swiss population were using analogue FM radio only.

A survey also found that only 13 percent of the Swiss population listened exclusively to analogue VHF radio in June 2020.

In the car, DAB+ is now the most popular way of receiving radio programs. Radio usage via DAB+ and Internet radio together now make up 55 percent of total usage in the car.

All new cars are now sold with DAB+ fitted as standard.

Source: Swiss OFCOM office

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

New DMR repeater EI7FXD now operational in Cork - Dec 2020

The good news radio wise locally is that a new DMR repeater on 70 cms is now on air near Cork City in Ireland. It is co-sited with the existing EI7FXR analogue FM repeater at Farmers Cross near Cork Airport.

The callsign of the new digital repeater is EI7FXD and it has an output frequency on 430.250 MHz The input is 9 MHz higher on 439.250 MHz. This configuration is usually designated as DVU-R20.

The colour code is 1.

The Brandmeister ID of the repeater is 272015 should anyone wish to monitor the Brandmeister dashboard and hoseline.

Info from the Southern Ireland Repeater Group - DMR repeater for Cork City

A new 70cms DMR repeater was installed at Farmer's Cross near Cork city on Monday December 21st to provide DMR coverage to Cork City and surrounding areas. The set up consists of a Motorola DR-3000 repeater and the antenna is a CAT-C440 @ approx 50ft. It's the fourth digital repeater set up by the Southern Ireland Repeater Group and will complement our other three digital installations located at West Waterford, Waterford City and Mt. Leinster.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Nice opening to Australia on 28 MHz... 22nd Dec 2020


There was a nice opening to the Middle East and Australia on the 22nd of December 2020. The F2 opening coincided with some Sporadic-E to Europe so it was a pretty good day.

According to the PSK Reporter website, I heard 155 stations which is a reasonable number.

These are the stations I heard from Australia...

Txmtr Band Mode Distance Time (UTC)
VK3GYH 10m FT8 17467 km 09:27:59
VK3EW 10m FT8 17464 km 09:32:29
VK3PT 10m FT8 17461 km 09:21:29
VK3MH 10m FT8 17420 km 10:09:14
VK3BDX 10m FT8 17408 km 09:42:14
VK2QV 10m FT8 17406 km 10:10:14
VK3JA 10m FT8 17379 km 10:28:59
VK3FNJ 10m FT8 17274 km 09:14:00
VK5ST 10m FT8 16787 km 09:16:59
VK5IR 10m FT8 16784 km 09:16:59

The Solar Flux was at 80 which is pretty low.

Winter 2020 release of the QRSS Compendium 3rd Edition

Every year, the Knights QRSS Group release their annual compendium. You can view the Winter 2020 (3rd edition) HERE

The Knights QRSS Group promotes the use of very slow mode code beacons to carry out propagation experiments on the HF bands. Often signals that are 15 to 20 dB below the noise can be seen on a computer screen as opposed to being heard by ear.

While newer digital modes can now be used for detecting very weak signals, they don't really show propagation effects. Either the digital signal was decoded or it wasn't. QRSS signals like the one shown below shows propagation over a 15-minute period.

In that image, you can see how signals fade with the Sporadic-E footprint moving and the polarisation changing. It also shows up slight doppler effects.

You can find out more about QRSS signals by visiting the QRSS Knights page...

Monday, December 21, 2020

40 MHz signals from Slovenia heard in Croatia - 20th Dec 2020


Back the start of December 2020, I had a post up about how radio amateurs in Croatia were now able to get permission to use the new 40 MHz (8-metre) band....

Interest continues to grow and tests have been done with stations in neighbouring Slovenia.

On the 20th of December 2020, Toni 9A2WB successfully received FT8 signals from Ivo S59F on 40.680 MHz.

This frequency is in the centre of the 40 kHz wide Industrial, Scientific & Medical (ISM) band at 40 MHz.

The signal between the two stations was in the region of 243kms over a very obstructed path. While the signals were weak and buried in the noise, they did seem to be consistent at about -16 to -19dB.

While this was a one way reception report on this occasion, it does bode well for a successful two way contact between the two countries in the near future.

More information about the new 8-metre band can be seen on my 40 MHz page...

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Australia heard on 28 MHz - 20th Dec 2020

 After a quiet few days, there were some weak F2 signals on 28 MHz on Sunday 20th December 2020...

Besides the Sporadic-E signals from around Europe, there were F2 signals mainly from South Africa. The one that really stood out for me was VK2NSS in the south-east of Australia.

I found this one unusual. How can I hear someone from Australia and yet, I only heard one station from the south of Russia. Where are all the other Russian and Ukranian stations at the first F2 hop to the east of me? 

Look at how far north the VK signal traveled. Was that the real path or was it skewed and came through on a more southerly path?

I had a look to see how else heard VK2NSS on the 20th of December...

Only a few people around Europe heard his signal. You'll notice how there seems to be skip zones in Europe. He was heard in two areas of Ireland but completely missed England, Scotland and Wales. He was heard in the NW of France but yet completely skipped Germany. It just goes to show that sometimes, you just need to be in the right place for signals to get through.

The solar flux was down at 82 so the sun is still pretty quiet.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Sun goes back to sleep - 18th Dec 2020

Back in November and early December, it looked as if the sun had finally woken up from its long slumber of solar minimum as the solar flux climbed about 100. At the time, there were some nice openings on the higher HF bands including 10-metres.

It now looks as old Sol has turned over and gone back to sleep. The Solar Flux on the 18th of December 2020 was at 82 and the map above shows what I heard on FT8 today on 28 MHz. It's certainly no better than what it might have been 12-months ago when we were at the sunspot minimum.

It will probably wake up again in a few weeks but it's probably a timely reminder that it's a bumpy road out of solar minimum.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

3200km opening on 144 MHz in Australia - 15th Dec 2020


During an extensive Sporadic-E opening in Australia on the 15th of December 2020, WSPR signals from John VK2IJM and David VK2DVM in Sydney were heard by Peter VK6KXW near Perth in Western Australia.

Timestamp UTC   Call MHz SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km az Mode
2020-12-15 10:36 VK2DVM 144.490519 -25 0 QF56og 10 VK6KXW OF87jr 3199 263 2 
2020-12-15 10:16 VK2IJM 144.490507 -8 0 QF56ni 10 VK6KXW OF87jr 3192 263 2

The path was in the region of 3200 kms which is way beyond the usual 2300km or so one hop distance from Sporadic-E. It seems likely that on this occasion, the most likely propagation mode was double hop Sporadic-E which is very rare at 144 MHz.

It looks as if just one WSPR transmission from each of the VK2 stations was decoded at 10:16 and 10:36 UTC. This was about an hour after sunset in Sydney which is 11 hours ahead of UTC.

It's also worth pointing out that the reports from the WSPRnet website say that the VK2 stations were running just 10 watts.

Tropo?... As the path cross the Great Australian Bight, it's always worth checking to see if that was a factor.

The forecast was for some weak tropo across the Bight but nothing special and it doesn't seem to extend inland.

VK6CPU in Perth was also heard by VK5AYD in Adelaide at around the same time over a distance of 2149 kms which was likely to be via Sporadic-E.

Timestamp UTC Call MHz    SNR Drift Grid Pwr Reporter RGrid km  az Mode
2020-12-15 10:56 VK6CPU 144.490510 -24  3   OF78wb 5  VK5AYD  PF97ja 2149 99  2 

It would seem as if double hop Sporadic-E was the most likely mode of propagation.

Update: Just to clarify that when I say double hop Sporadic-E, I am referring to two areas of ionisation that are capable of supporting 144 MHz propagation. The signal may well be chordal i.e. Ground to cloud to cloud to ground ... as opposed to reflecting off the ground at some mid way point.

1) More info about long distance openings on 144 MHz can be seen on my 144 Page...

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

144 MHz signal from the Faroe Islands heard 3000kms away in Bulgaria during Geminid Meteor Shower - Dec 2020

Every year, the Geminid meteor shower peaks around the 14th of December and many VHF radio amateurs make contacts by bouncing signals off the meteor trails left behind. The maximum distance tends to be similar to Sporadic-E i.e. in the region of 2300 kms.

During this years Geminids, Stamen LZ1KU announced a suprise reception on 144 MHz of Jon OY9JD on the Faroe Islands, a distance of 3075 kms!

A composite of the screenshot from LZ1KU is shown below...

As can be seen, the mode used was MSK144 and there is one decode from OY9JD.

On an online forum later, OY9JD did confirm that he was on air at that time...

According to info provided by SO3Z, Jon OY9JD is using an ICOM IC970 with 500W into an 8 el Yagi 3m long. LZ1KU is using an array of 4 x 12 elements and 1.7kW.

Even though there was no two way contact on this occasion, it is still an impressive distance for 144 MHz. Remember that 3075 kms is roughly the distance across the North Atlantic between Ireland and Newfoundland.

In fact, 3075 kms to the west from OY9JD actually reaches the remote areas of Labrador in NE Canada.

Mode of Propagation??? (Updated)... 

(Theory 1) Double Hop Meteor Scatter... Most meteor trails capable of supporting propagation of 144 MHz signals last for a fraction of a second at best with the occasional one lasting several seconds.

Was it a case that that on this particular occasion, two meteor trails were in just the right spot happened at the same time?

In other words, the MSK144 signal from OY9JD was reflected off the ionised trail of one meteor, then hit off another trail several hundred kms later and then was picked up in Bulgaria.

As you might imagine, this isn't that common as it requires there to be two meteor trails to be just in the right place and at just the right time.

(Theory 2) Tropo Assist?... As for did tropo play a part in the path? The conditions looked pretty poor as can be seen from the image below.

It seems unlikely that any sort of tropo ducting played any part in this reception report.

Theory 3... Refection from the International Space Station??? It would seem as if the International Space Station (ISS) was above the horizon at the same time.

In response to my original theory that it was double hop meteor scatter, Alejandro LU8YD from Argentina writes... 

"My opinion is that the QSO analysis is not correct. You have to check the location of the ISS space station at the time of the QSO and you will see that it was crossing the path between stations LZ and OY. In my opinion it is a QSO by Spacecraft scatter and not by meteor scatter. Reflections of amateur radio signals by the ISS as a passive reflector has occurred before. Despite this, it must be considered an extraordinary QSO and achievement by LZ1KU and OY9JD for which I congratulate them.

Please send my regards and congratulations to Stamen and Jon

Kind regards Alejandro LU8YD"

After receiving Alejandro's message, I checked out the position of the ISS on the morning of the 14th of December.

The beam heading from the Faroe Islands to Bulgaria is 147 degrees. The time stamp on the MSK144 signal was 11:03 UTC.

It's not a perfect match but the ISS was certainly in the same general area of sky at the time. The ISS reached a maximum elevation of 10 degrees during that pass and it was probably around 4-5 degrees at 11:03 UTC.

This is the view of the pass from Bulgaria...

From the Bulgarian perspective with a higher pass, the time and beam heading seem closer aligned. The Faroe Islands are on a beam heading of 327 degrees from Bulgaria.

Considering the size of the ISS and the size of the reflective surface, it has to considered a strong contender for the reception report.

However, I still have some questions. What about doppler shift? Would the doppler shift have moved the signals outside the receive passband of the receiver? What impact does doppler have on a MSK144 signal and the ability to decode it?

Conclusion (Updated)... My original thinking was that it was probably double hop meteor scatter. After all, there must be occasions when two meteors trails just happen to line up in the correct position at the same time.

The fact that the International Space Station was in the same area of sky at the same time must make this the most likely reason although in retrospect, I don't think we can be absolutely certain but it does seem likely.

I'd be inclined to say 90:10 in favour of refection off the ISS as opposed to double hop MS but others may have different opinions.

North Atlantic on 144 MHz??? ... Here is an intriguing thought: If the signal at 144 MHz can get 3075 kms from the Faroe Islands to Bulgaria was via double hop meteor scatter then why not across the North Atlantic from Ireland/UK to Newfoundland?

Monday, December 14, 2020

Remarkable 13,000 km opening on 6-metres between Australia and South America - 12th Dec 2020

At the moment, our colleagues in the southern hemisphere are in the middle of their summer Sporadic-E season and there are of course plenty of openings on the VHF bands.

On the 12th of December 2020, there was a remarkable opening on 6-metres between Australia and South America. For example, the map below from the PSK Reporter website shows the sent/received reports for VK3BD in the SE of Australia.

What is truly remarkable about this is the sheer distance and the path of the signals.

For many, the distance between the stations in Australia and the stations in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay was in excess of 13,000 kms

To put that into perspective for European readers, the distance from say the UK to Japan is about 9500 kms. Every year, there seems to be multi-hop Sporadic-E openings from Europe to Japan on 50 MHz which cause a lot of excitement. This opening from Australia to South America was significantly further.

The second interesting point was the path. In some instances, the Great Circle path crossed part of Antarctica with the most southerly path going as far as 78 degrees south. Again to put that into perspective for European readers, 78 degrees is about as far north as say the island of Svalbard to the north of Norway.

Far northern or far southern latitudes are not areas normally associated with Sporadic-E.

To get a view from the South American side, I took a screenshot of the map for CP6UA in Bolivia.

As the map shows, the stations in New Zealand (ZL) were also getting in on the action and the distance to them was an impressive 11,000 kms or so.

Mode of propagation???... The million dollar question. I presume it was multi-hop Sporadic-E but it was a lot of hops! One of the longest paths that I saw was between VK5BC and PT9FD, a distance of 13,530 kms.

VK5BC PT9FD 6m JT65 13530 km 22:17:50

The maximum distance for one Sporadic-E hop is about 2300 kms. Was it six hops of 2255 kms? Seven hops of 1933 kms? If it was multi-hop Sporadic-E then a lot of patches of Sporadic-E had to line up in a row and at the correct distance for it to work.

Addendum... Someone suggested that Polar Mesospheric Summer Echos (PMSE) with electrons gathering around ice crystals may have been responsible for this opening. I include it here for reference reference.

Contacts... I'm sure many contacts were made but the purpose of this post is just to highlight the fact that the opening occurred.

Looking at the PSK Reporter website, these were the stations that I saw listed...


Brazil - PY5HOT, PT9FT, PY5KD, PY5EK
Paraguay - ZP5DPC, ZP4KFZ
Bolivia - CP6UA
Argentina - LW2DAF, LU3CQ, LU9DO
Uruguay - CX6DRA

DX-Cluster... Here are a selection of spots from the DX-Cluster...

PT9FD 50276.0 VK3OT 22:19 12 Dec JT65A GG27OR <> QF12ag TU 73 Australia
PT9FD 50276.0 VK5BC 22:00 12 Dec JT65A gg27or PF95jj tks 73 Australia
CE3SX 50276.0 VK5PJ 22:00 12 Dec FF46<>PF95MK TU Peter Australia
CP6UA 50276.0 VK3DUT 21:35 12 Dec Thanks New One Norm. 73 Australia
PY4AQA 50276.0 VK4QG 22:18 10 Dec JT65A -24 dB Australia

VK3OER 50276 PT9FD 23:24 12 Dec 20 JT65 -25 CQ Brazil
VK3OT-@ 50277.3 PT9FD 22:18 12 Dec 20 QF12ag GG27 jt65 qso 73 Brazil
VK3OT-@ 50277 PT9FD 22:14 12 Dec 20 cq pt9fd gg27 jt65a -19 Brazil
VK3OT-@ 50277 PY5HOT 21:42 12 Dec 20 cq gg46 jt65a Brazil
VK3OT-@ 50279 PT9FD 21:34 12 Dec 20 jt65 cq -23 Brazil
VK3OT-@ 50277 ZP4KFX 20:55 12 Dec 20 wow thanks JT65A Paraguay
VK3OT-@ 50277 ZP5DBC 20:50 12 Dec 20 JT65A thanks -19 Paraguay

I also kept a record for some of the Australian stations logs of the signals that they heard from South America for this opening. PSK Reporter normally wipes all records after 24 hours so it's nice to have some record of the opening. See below...

Mid-Winter Sporadic-E opening on 28 MHz - Sun 13th Dec 2020

The map below shows the FT8 signals that I heard on 10-metres on Sunday the 13th of December 2020.

With the Solar Flux at 82, there were some weak F2 openings to the USA, South Africa, Thailand and Australia. Interesting but much less than say the end of November when the flux was over 100.

What was interesting about the Sunday the 13th was the number of signals from Europe.

As the map shows, I was hearing a lot of stations from Germany and Poland, all in the region of 1000 to 1800 kms. These signals were via Sporadic-E.

While the main Summer Sporadic-E season in the northern hemisphere lasts from about May to July, there is a much smaller Sp-E season in the middle of the Winter in December and early January.

Geminid Meteor Shower... The Geminid Meteor shower peaks around the 12th to the 14th of December every year. The dust left by meteor showers acts like a fuel for the formation of Sporadic-E layers at about 105 kms above the Earth.

It might be just a coincidence but the Geminid meteor shower may well have been the reason for this Sporadic-E opening.

With a meteor shower in progress, there is always a possibility that all I was hearing were 15-second reflections coming off a succession of meteor trails. However, there seemed to be a complete lack of stations from Spain and Italy which kind of discounts that theory. I'd be pretty sure it was mid-Winter Sporadic-E.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Columbian radio station on 93.1 MHz heard 4580kms away in Chile by TEP - Nov 2020

Over the last month or so, I've had several posts up on the blog about recent Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP) openings on 144 MHz between Brazil / Argentina and the Caribbean. Most of these contacts have been in the range of 4500 to 6000kms. See my 144 MHz page.

Today, I came across a post on a forum about a commercial FM radio station on Band 2 (88-108 MHz) in Columbia being heard in Chile, a distance of some 4580 kms.

Radio Rumba is a radio station in the city of Caucasia in Columbia in South America. It's FM transmitter is on 93.1 MHz and it has as far as I can tell an output power of 5 kW.

On the evening of the 20th of November 2020, Mauricio Toro in the town of Villa Alemana near Santiago, Chile heard Radio Rumba on 93.1 MHz, a distance of some 4580 kms.

Considering that both the radio station and Mauricio were both equidistant from the Geomagnetic Equator, were at right angles to it and the local time was 21:30, the most likely mode of propagation was Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP).

Mauricio was using a SONY XDR-S10HDIP receiver with a 7-element horizontally polarised Log Yagi.

Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP)

With Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP), zones of high ionization occur either side of the geomagnetic equator in the F layer of the ionosphere. What makes the mode so interesting is that it can allow propagation on the VHF bands from 50 MHz to 144 MHz. As the zones of ionization is roughly 400kms above ground level, the propagation paths achieved are in the region of 4000 to 5000 kms, much greater than what might be usual with Sporadic-E.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

28 MHz gets quieter as the Solar Flux drops - 11th Dec 2020


In the last few days, I noticed a noticeable drop in the level of activity on 28 MHz as the Solar Flux drops. There is still evidence of F2 propagation as can be seen from the opening to the USA and Israel as shown in the map above but this is in marked contrast to say the 26th of November 2020 when I was hearing lots of stations from the United States.

Back in December 2019, the sunspot cycle was at its minimum when the solar flux was down around 70. In October of 2020, solar cycle 25 really woke up when the solar flux began to rise reaching a peak of 116 on the 29th of November 2020.

After that, there was a gradual decline and it was back down to 83 on the 11th of December 2020. Hence the drop in radio conditions on the HF bands including 28 MHz. 

The ARRL 10-metre contest is on this weekend and conditions for it are likely to be modest at best but not as good as it would have been two weeks earlier.

It'll be interesting to see what the flux is like around say the equinox in March 2021. We'll be a few more months into the new cycle and the sun might hopefully be a bit more active.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

4-Element Yagi for 40 MHz (8-metres) by YU7EF

Thanks to Dragan, 9A6W for sending on this YU7EF design for a 4-element Yagi antenna for the new 40 MHz (8-metre) band.

The design with dimensions is shown below.

The calculated gain in free space is about 6.2dBd and has a front to back ratio in excess of 20dB.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Recent 5000km+ TEP contacts made on 144 MHz by LU1DL in Buenos Aires

Recently on the blog, I had several posts about some remarkable Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP) contacts made on 144 MHz between stations in the Caribbean and South America. Most of these were in the region of 5000 to 6000 kms. See my 144 MHz page for a list of posts. 

Gabriel, LU1DL in Buenos Aires has kindly sent on some information about his 144 MHz TEP contacts during the months of November & December 2020 and it's interesting to see what can be worked from someone on the southern end of the TEP path.

You'll notice that all of the TEP contacts that LU1DL made were at right angles to the Geomagnetic Equator.

Here is the log from Gabriel...

What's interesting is that while stations in Argentina were able to work the Dominican Republic (HI8), Curacao (PJ2) and Aruba (P4) on 144 MHz, stations in the south of Brazil were working the likes of Martinique (FM) and Guadeloupe (FG) in the western Caribbean. The paths were parallel to the paths from Argentina as they were also perpendicular to the Geomagnetic Equator.

With Trans-Equatorial Propagation (TEP), zones of high ionization occur either side of the geomagnetic equator in the F layer of the ionosphere. What makes the mode so interesting is that it can allow propagation on the VHF bands from 50 MHz to 144 MHz. As the zones of ionization is roughly 400kms above ground level, the propagation paths achieved are in the region of 4000 to 5000 kms, much greater than what might be usual with Sporadic-E.

Equipment... For these 5000-6000km contacts on 144 MHz, LU1DL was running 180 watts into a single 10-element Yagi with a 5m boom.

This is the antenna system for P41E in Aruba...

HI8DL in the Dominican Republic...

Video... Have a listen to this TEP contact on 144 MHz and note the distortion on the audio...

1) A list of long distance contacts made on 2-metres can be seen on my 144 MHz page.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Athlone Community College to make contact with the International Space Station on Mon 7th Dec 2020

Press Release... Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) has received schedule confirmation for an ARISS radio contact with astronauts. ARISS is the group that puts together special amateur radio contacts between students around the globe and crew members with ham radio licenses on the International Space Station (ISS).

This will be a direct contact via amateur radio between students at the Athlone Community College, Athlone, Ireland and astronaut Shannon Walker, amateur radio call sign KD5DXB

Astronaut Shannon Walker

Amateur radio station EI1ISS will be the ground station for this contact. About 800 people will be onsite for the event. Students will take turns asking Walker questions and English is the language expected to be used during the contact. The downlink frequency for this contact is 145.800 MHz.  

The ARISS radio contact is scheduled for December 7, 2020 at 2:50 pm GMT (Athlone), (14:50 UTC, 9:50 am EST, 8:50 am CST, 7:50 am MST and 6:50 am PST).    

The public is invited to watch the livestream at:

Television report from Irish state broadcaster RTE...

Athlone Community College has 1,200 students, ages 12 to 18, from a diverse range of backgrounds, and from both rural and urban areas. Mathematics, science and engineering subjects occupy a special place in the school curriculum for both the junior and senior levels, and students have enjoyed studying the ISS and space. In preparation for the ARISS contact, teachers have conducted lessons that involve science and physics studies.

Video from Athlone Community College showing the preparations for the contact ...

As time allows, students will ask these questions:
1. Did you enjoy the launch into space?
2. Tell us something about current experiments on the ISS?
3. What is your favourite area in the ISS?
4. What activities do you do in your spare time?
5. What is the most interesting thing you have seen on Earth from the space station?
6. What evidence of climate change can you see from space?
7. How many years of training does it take to become an astronaut?
8. Where does the ISS get its energy from?
9. What happens if you are in a space suit and your nose becomes really itchy?
10. When you return home what will you miss most about the ISS?
11. What was the most difficult challenge you had to overcome during training?
12. When you first saw the earth from space what was your reaction?
13. Has something useful on earth come from space experiments?
14. Are your muscles weak when you return from micro gravity?
15. If there was a manned mission to Mars would you consider going?
16. Will it ever be feasible to travel to another solar system?
17. How do you keep fit with the low gravity in space?
18. Does your sense of taste and smell change in space?
19. While on the ISS are you able to communicate with family?
20. When did you decide you wanted to become an astronaut - from a young age or did your interest develop at a later age?

Profile of astronaut Shannon Walker...

ARISS – Celebrating 20 Years of Continuous Amateur Radio Operations on the ISS

About ARISS:
Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is a cooperative venture of international amateur radio societies and the space agencies that support the International Space Station (ISS).  In the United States, sponsors are the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the ISS National Lab-Space Station Explorers, and NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program. The primary goal of ARISS is to promote exploration of science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics topics by organizing scheduled contacts via amateur radio between crew members aboard the ISS and students. Before and during these radio contacts, students, educators, parents, and communities learn about space, space technologies, and amateur radio. For more information, see

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Croatia becomes the latest country to grant access to the new 40 MHz band - Dec 2020

We now have welcome news that Croatia has joined the small number of countries that has allowed operation on the new 40 MHz (8-metre) band.

In a message by email, Dragan, 9A6W writes...

In April I have applied for an experimental license to transmit on 40 MHz hoping to be QRV for the E-sporadic season. To make a long story short, national telecom authorities have just issued me an experimental license for 8 m band, 40,66-40,70 MHz. I am QRV with FT-897 (100 W) and a dipole antenna at the moment. 

The license is valid for a year and then it could be renewed. There are rumors that some other stations will follow my example.

I received EI1KNH and OZ7IGY beacons this summer (2020) on many occasions. I am monitoring 6m these days for any openings (TEP or Es) and would like to be in touch for a possible QSO. I will use 40,680 for FT8. 

* * *

Croatia is now the fifth country in which it is possible to operate legally on 40 MHz. Ireland, Slovenia & South Africa already have allocations on the band while Lithuania is willing to allocate spot frequencies for experimental purposes.

The frequency allocation that 9A6W has obtained is from 40.660 MHz to 40.700 MHz. This 40 kHz wide slice of spectrum is referred to the Industrial, Scientific & Medical (ISM) band.

There are a number of ISM bands but this is the one nearest to 40 MHz. In many countries, much of the low band VHF spectrum is allocated to military or other services. Licensing authorities may be unwilling to grant radio amateurs an allocation that hasn't been agreed internationally. 

The ISM band at 40 MHz is an exception and it might be a good way for other countries to proceed i.e. individual licenses in the ISM band.

Range... As the map shows above, 9A6W is at an ideal distance for Sporadic-E openings to Ireland and Lithuania. As the most southerly 8-metre station in Europe, there is a possibility of some TEP openings to South Africa or perhaps via F2 near the peak of sunspot cycle 25.

The distance to Slovenia is about 200 kms which might be spanned by tropo or even meteor scatter during the major showers.

1) For more information of 40 MHz, visit my 40 MHz page...

Update 3rd Dec 2020... 9A6W reports that 9A2WB heard his JT65 transmission over a distance of 114 kms.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Taiwan heard on 28 MHz as the good conditions continue - 1st Dec 2020


The map above shows the FT8 signals that I heard on 28 MHz on Tuesday the 1st of December 2020. As well as evidence of some Sporadic-E signals from around western Europe, there were plenty of F2 signals from southern Russia, SE Europe, South Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the USA.

The one unusual signal of note for me was BV6CC in Taiwan. I have heard Thailand, Indonesia and Australia on 28 MHz over the last few days but Taiwan is the most northerly of the 'eastern' F2 signals that I have heard for this new cycle.

We still have some way to go yet before we start hearing Japan and California on 28 MHz here in NW Europe.

The solar flux on the 1st of December 2020 was at 104, a big change from 12-months ago when it was down around the 70 mark at the bottom of the sunspot cycle.