Sunday, 29 December 2013

Christmas Eve 2013 LF broadcast from SAQ, Grimeton, Sweden

The SAQ 17.2kHz transmitter at Grimeton, Sweden
I remembered to record the Christmas Eve Morse broadcast from the world heritage radio station SAQ at Grimeton, Sweden this year. It was broadcast on 17.2kHz using an Alexanderson alternator and about 100kW.

Last tranmission I forgot to turn my Wellbrook ALA1530S loop to point North East, so it was in the null and I received nothing - doh! I used a Perseus SDR and the loop, which worked well and all was copied.

The SDR broke the recording into two files and knocked off the "C" in "Merry Christmas", but I have put it back in using Audacity sound editing software.

If you don't read CW the message was:

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VVV DE SAQ SAQ SAQ.

100KW ALTERNATOR ON 17.2KHZ.

WE AGAIN WISH YOU ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR. SIGNED: THE WORLD HERITAGE AT GRIMETON AND THE ALEXANDER-GRIMETON VETERANRADIOS VAENNER ASSOCIATION.

FOR QSL INFO PLEASE READ OUR WEBSITE: WWW.ALEXANDER.N.SE.
DE SAQ SAQ SAQ SK.

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You can listen to the broadcast yourself using the controls below.

Friday, 22 November 2013

First FUNCube-1 telemetry successfully received

The telemetry frame showing the various parameters
Wa-hey! I have now managed to receive and decode my first telemetry frames from the FUNCube-1 satellite. This was on the pass starting at 09:10 on 22/11/13. There'll be another higher angle pass at 10:45 (22/11) over the UK.

I used a loft-mounted Slim Jim antenna for 2m and my Icom IC-7400 transceiver on 145.935MHz USB.

I fed the audio out of the back of the radio through my usual isolation interface, used for PSK and RTTY, into a Dell PC running the FUNCube-1 dashboard.  I only managed a few decent frames as the pass was low angle (about 9 degrees max) and my set up is not exactly optimal in terms of antenna and feeder (I don't do much VHF). But hey, it worked!

 The X- panel temperature rises during the orbit
You can quite clearly see the temperature of the spacecraft rise as it comes out of eclipse, plus the telemetry shows that all systems are working, the PA is putting out 287mW and the solar cells putting out about 4V.

The black panels are hotter than the silver, which makes sense.

If you are interested in collecting data form the satellite (which is then automatcailly uploaded to a data warehouse) all the details can be found at http://funcube.org.uk.

It isn't too difficult, but just follow the instructions carefully.

Steve G0KYA

Thursday, 21 November 2013

FUNCube-1 satellite launched successfully

The FUNcube-1 cubesat launched successfully this morning aboard a Dnepr rocket. It has already been heard in the UK and South Africa. Now the job of making sure everything checks out begins before it is fully ready for use by schools and amateurs.

In the meantime, see if you can hear it.

The frequencies are:

Radio Communications Payload
145.935 MHz BPSK Telemetry 30 or 300 mW

Inverting SSB/CW transponder 300 mW PEP
435.150 – 435.130 MHz Uplink
145.950 – 145.970 MHz Downlink

A program like Orbitron will tell you where the satellite is, although I imagine the Kepplerian elements to track it will be updated over the next few days. The raw ones I have are:

FUNCUBE-1
1 99991U 00000    13325.30956308  .00000106  00000-0  10000-3 0 00010
2 99991 097.7956 038.2570 0059925 198.5190 336.5388 14.77841394000015

Take a look at http://amsat-uk.org/ for up to date info.

Update: I just heard FUNcube-1 on the 21/11 19:52 pass, so the Keps look about right. I used USB on 145.935MHz +/- Doppler. It wasn't very strong, but I was only using a Slim Jim in the loft with some lossy RG58 coax. I think a beam is the way to go.

Here are some predicted passes for the next few days - no promises due to the raw element data that needs to be updated!
2013-11-21 19:52:44 FUNCUBE-1             80.4 10.0  ecl  2114 284.1 -35.7
2013-11-21 19:54:53 FUNCUBE-1             52.5 13.2  ecl  1896 284.6 -36.0
2013-11-21 19:57:01 FUNCUBE-1             24.7 10.0  ecl  2103 285.1 -36.3

2013-11-21 21:25:56 FUNCUBE-1            154.3 10.0  ecl  2118 308.3 -48.3
2013-11-21 21:30:33 FUNCUBE-1             71.7 68.9  ecl   722 309.8 -48.9
2013-11-21 21:35:07 FUNCUBE-1            349.9 10.0  ecl  2099 311.2 -49.4

2013-11-21 23:04:11 FUNCUBE-1            226.1 10.0  ecl  2119 344.2 -56.7
2013-11-21 23:07:27 FUNCUBE-1            271.0 18.6  ecl  1609 345.6 -56.8
2013-11-21 23:10:41 FUNCUBE-1            315.7 10.0  ecl  2107 346.9 -57.0

2013-11-22 10:46:06 FUNCUBE-1             19.3 10.0    ?  2036 166.6  16.2
2013-11-22 10:50:30 FUNCUBE-1            101.6 64.2    ?   691 167.7  16.4
2013-11-22 10:54:45 FUNCUBE-1            184.1 10.1    ?  1968 168.7  16.5

2013-11-22 12:23:19 FUNCUBE-1            348.5 10.0    ?  2037 190.4  16.6
2013-11-22 12:26:32 FUNCUBE-1            301.8 20.0    ?  1458 191.1  16.5
2013-11-22 12:29:41 FUNCUBE-1            254.9 10.0    ?  1991 191.9  16.4

2013-11-22 20:13:39 FUNCUBE-1            101.0 10.0  ecl  2112 288.7 -38.8
2013-11-22 20:16:50 FUNCUBE-1             57.3 18.8  ecl  1596 289.5 -39.3
2013-11-22 20:20:00 FUNCUBE-1             13.4 10.0  ecl  2096 290.2 -39.8

2013-11-22 21:48:09 FUNCUBE-1            169.4 10.1  ecl  2111 315.2 -51.0
2013-11-22 21:52:47 FUNCUBE-1            256.3 77.8  ecl   691 316.7 -51.5
2013-11-22 21:57:23 FUNCUBE-1            343.5 10.0  ecl  2095 318.3 -52.0

2013-11-22 23:28:12 FUNCUBE-1            252.5 10.0  ecl  2114 354.3 -57.6
2013-11-22 23:29:59 FUNCUBE-1            275.4 12.0  ecl  1976 355.1 -57.6
2013-11-22 23:31:46 FUNCUBE-1            298.3 10.0  ecl  2109 355.9 -57.6

Steve G0KYA

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Good autumnal HF conditions are back

Got a real shock this morning. Was playing with a little Realistic DX-394 receiver, which is more cute than a serious HF receiver. Anyway, I had it connected to a dipole in the loft and thought I heard someone sending "VK" on 20m CW.

Sure enough it was VK2PN Pat in New South Wales working a host of Europeans. Switching to my Icom 756 Pro 3 and the trusty 20m Off Centre Fed Dipole, which is hung from a tree, and at times he was peaking 599.

I diligently waited my turn to call him - and then he got spotted on the DX cluster. At this point all hell broke loose with OMs, YUs, ITs and everyone else piling in.



Anyway, the moral is that Autumn brings good HF conditions and the greyline long path to Australia suddenly becomes very attractive - see the image from VOAProp above. The K index had been up to 5 overnight, but this path doesn't really go though the poles so was relatively unscathed.

Ten metres was humming on Monday with low power beacons being heard in the UK from Florida and New England. On Tuesday I heard nothing. With the bad geomagnetic conditions on Wednesday night I'm not expected much today.

I expect 10m to the USA to pick up a little later in the month.

So the moral is keep looking on the bands - you never know what you might hear.



Friday, 30 August 2013

Are we past sunspot maximum?

Just two days ago I published a podcast that looked at current solar activity and suggested that we are heading for a double-peaked solar maximum.

Two days later Tad Cook K7RA posted this for the ARRL:

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Much talk lately has centered around a possible dual peak in the current solar cycle. This would follow a pattern established in recent solar cycles. If this is so, the first peak probably occurred in the Fall of 2011. Now it appears that perhaps the second peak was in Spring 2013.

We are just a day away from the end of the month, so we won't see the actual averages until next week, but we can get a pretty close reading knowing the actual numbers for 29 of the 31 days in August.

The average daily sunspot number for the first 29 days of August was 92.2. This is above the levels for June and July, 80.2 and 86.2, but lower than April and May. This also pegs the 3-month average of daily sunspot numbers (centered on July) around 86.1, based on data from 90 of the 92 days in that period. This is above all of the three-month moving averages centered on September 2012 through March 2013, but lower than the previous three periods centered on April and May (106.4) and 97.5 for June.

---------------------

While working out when solar maximum is has always been an historical activity - you don't know you are there until some months later - this may not bode well for this Autumn. So start praying to the Sun Gods for more sunspots as an SFI of 100 is nothing to get too excited about.

But as I said in the podcast, conditions will improve naturally as we head towards late September due to a change in the ionosphere's molecular/atomic ratio (and therefore recombination rate) due to seasonal changes anyway. If you are looking for decent trans-Atlantic HF propagation it will be coming along soon. But we may have already seen the best of the decent 10m worldwide propagation - at least for another 10 years or so. Ho hum!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Podcast: HF Propagation, Autumn 2013


In this month's podcast I look at the current solar conditions and how the peak of cycle 24 may have already passed. I then look at what we can expect on the HF bands this Autumn and why conditions are likely to be better than they have been this summer.

Click on the headline to listen to the programme online or if you prefer to listen to it on your iPod search for G0KYA on iTunes.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Eliminating EMC problems

I gave a talk to my local club on eliminating EMC or RFI problems in the shack. This looked at how you can stop causing interference to yourself and to others.

It also looked at how electrical items around the house can also interfere with you (although I haven't included the videos in the attached PDF document).

These included everything from the washing machine (wipes out 30m) to the shaver charger (puts a noise out across the whole of HF).

Nevertheless, you are welcome to download the presentation handouts.


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The “Kaz” directional MW antenna


The Kaz gives a deep null in one direction.
I have always had a soft spot for Medium Wave and a couple of years ago I decided to take MW DXing a little more seriously. The goal was to hear some North American stations – it couldn't be that hard could it? Well, yes it seems it could!

The first season saw me using my Icom 756 Pro 3 and my usual 80m dipole antenna, but nothing of any significance was heard.

It seems the 756 Pro 3 is deliberately deaf on MW and you can't use the pre-amp. I also listened on a portable MW receiver but that was no better, even with a small 12-inch Tecsun passive loop. The next season I used an RF Space SDR-IQ, but the pickings were thin.

So last year I upgraded to a Perseus SDR and a Wellbrook ALA1530S loop so that I could record the whole of Medium Wave two minutes before the hour to two minutes past to aid with stations IDs. Now we were getting somewhere, with WBBR 1130 kHz (New York) and NBC 1510 kHz (Boston) being heard regularly, although I wasn't hearing anything like the DX other MW enthusiasts in the UK were reporting.

 I actually monitored WBBR every hour, every night for two months to compare reception alongside the daily DsT index, but I can't say I saw a correlation. Anyway, this coming winter I'm determined to try harder and so I need an antenna that will null or attenuate signals from the continent. I ended up choosing a passive design called a “Kaz”, named after its designer Neil Kazaross.

Very simply, the antenna is part of the Flag/Pennant terminated loop family. It is an isosceles triangle with a base of 40ft and the apex at 10ft. One corner (FB) is fed with an impedance transformer and the other corner (TB) is terminated with a resistor between the two legs.

It actually turned out to be really good.

Read the full review of the Kaz antenna.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The secret of the Hately Cross Field Loop antenna revealed

Now it can be told – how were they built and what was Maurice working on before he died?

Maurice Hately G3HAT (SK)
It was with regret that I learned that Maurice Hately GM3HAT (and latterly G3HAT) had passed away. It appears that he actually died in the spring of 2012, but there was no mention of it in the radio press.

My interest in Maurice's work stems from my enthusiasm for small and stealthy HF antennas. As one of the pioneers of the very controversial crossed field antenna (CFA) theory, Maurice used to make and sell small loops for everything from Top Band to 6m.

His adverts regularly appeared in RadCom and I was lucky enough back in 2002 to review some of them for the RSGB.

BUT! This was on the strict understanding that I didn't reveal how he had configured the matching circuitry. I even had to promise not to break the seals on the boxes.

This I duly did and the review was written and published.

But now that Maurice has died I feel I should reveal how the antenna was constructed and also release details of what he had been working on before his death -  a new form of crossed field antenna that used two loops.

All this information may be too important to be lost and it is presented here so that amateurs can continue experimenting with his ideas. Was he on to something? Did his antennas work as as he said and can we continue developing them?

Steve G0KYA
June 2013

Download a PDF with the details of how the CFLs were built and also Maurice's last secret antenna design.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Practical Wireless 2m QRP contest

The 2m Moxon (arrowed as it is very small).
I don't have a permanent 2m horizontal antenna installed, but when I was first licenced back in the 80s I did spend hours using 2.5W from a Yaesu FT-290R into a 4-element quad in the loft.

I used to work around the UK, as far as Norway, the South of France. Germany and Switzerland. Ah - good old days!

So for the Practical Wireless 2m QRP contest in June I thought I would have a bit of fun. I put up my 2-element home-made Moxon beam at about 8m on a fishing pole and used a Yaesu FT-817 running 2.5W from my Norfolk QTH.

I took part for a couple of hours and managed to work as far as Holland, France, Sheffield and Ditchling Beacon near the south coast. Also worked a few locals and into Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. Heard another guy near Cheshire, but he went QRT before I could get him.

Considering the size of the antenna I was amazed to work anything. Conditions were reasonable at first - I could even hear the GB3VHF beacon on a vertical dipole, but the band seemed to get worse by lunchtime.

All good fun though and happy to give away a few points. Nice to hear 2m SSB being used.




Tuesday, 30 April 2013

NEW! The multiband trapped EFHW HF antenna

The 20-17-15m trapped EFHW

Ever since I first published the details of the original monoband EFHW people have been asking me can you design a multi-band version? My stock answer has always been "no" – I couldn't see how I could.

Anyway, this had been bugging me for some time. I tried modelling a version that could use parallel-fed half-wave radiators, but it didn't work.

I had always dismissed traps as these are used on quarter-wave radiators so they wouldn't work on a half-wave design – or would they? Turns out they do. I started modelling an antenna in MMANA-GAL and found that you could make a 20-15-10m EFHW using traps for 10m and 15m. But you would need a variable capacitor to bring the EFHW tuning unit to resonance.

This actually makes sense as the end of an EFHW is at the same impedance as the end of a quarter-wave vertical, so a trap does the same thing on a half-wave design. All you have to control is the feedpoint impedance.

Doh! – why didn't I think of that earlier?

The result is my first working prototype of a 20-17-15m multiband trapped EFHW, which seems to work well. I have updated the PDF to show how this was done. Development work has continued and one can now be built with a single matching box that doesn't need a variable capacitor at all, just the original coax capacitor.

Download the PDF with the complete EFHW story.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

International Marconi Day, April 20 2013

Saturday 20th April 2013 is International Marconi Day when stations around the world celebrate the birthday of Guglielmo Marconi.

It is also a good opportunity for you to gain a very nice certificate. All you have to do is work the requisite number of award stations and send in a log extract - you don't need QSL cards.

I am giving a talk to Kings Lynn Amateur Radio Club about the best way to win the award and you can download the presentation in PDF format (14Mb). It is aimed at UK operators.

I shall be helping to run GB0CMS again this year at Caister Lifeboat. There is short video that looks at the equipment the club used to make 165 contacts in 24 countries on Saturday 30 April 2011. And another for the 2012 event when we made more than 500 contacts.

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z41FLKaT7eY and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8ZRW0q6SyI

You can also view my propagation predictions online.

You can find out more at: http://www.gb4imd.org.uk/

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Origins of the term "CQ"

Have you ever wondered where some of our radio terms come from?

Some say that SOS stands for "Save our Souls" - which it doesn't. The Morse phrase ... --- ... was chosen as it was very distinctive and unlikely to be misread. It doesn't stand for anything.

So what about CQ? I've heard it described as "Come Quick" but that doesn't make sense.

But a chance conversation with someone while working in the US has cleared this up. He is multi-lingual (unlike me) and although he is not a radio ham, knew immediately what it could stand for.

CQ is Cherche Quelqu'un - literally the French for “looking for someone”

This makes sense as a lot of radio terms have French origins - the Coastguard still says "securite" for important information.

So there you have it - the origins of CQ. Or is it?

Pol G3HAL sent me an update. According to Wikipedia:
Land telegraphs had traditionally used "CQ" ("sécu," from the French word sécurité[1]) to identify alert or precautionary messages of interest to all stations along a telegraph line, and CQ had also been adopted as a "general call" for maritime radio use. However, in landline usage there was no general emergency signal, so the Marconi company added a "D" ("distress") to CQ in order to create its distress call. Thus, "CQD" is understood by wireless operators to mean, "All stations: distress." Contrary to popular belief, CQD does not stand for "Come Quick, Danger", "Come Quickly: Distress", or "Come Quick — Drowning!"; these are backronyms.

This sounds more likely.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Morse Crusade

I had an email today from Ian G4XFC, founder of the Morse Crusade. This concentrates on the Koch method of teaching Morse. The Crusade has been running since September 2011 and is starting a new campaign this year to promote the learning and use of good readable Morse.

Any site that promotes the use of Morse code is good in my eyes - I use Morse a heck of a lot and it is my favoured mode for working DX, although I struggle with my speed increasing and decreasing as I either use it more or let it drop for a month.

I've worked some choice DX that I would never have been able to work with SSB, using up to 100W CW and an assortment of compromise antennas at this surburban QTH. This is what prompted my "Stealth Antenna" book.

Anyway, you can find out more at www.themorsecrusade.g5fz.co.uk

Monday, 7 January 2013

Keep Calm And Work Some CW

I had a tremendous response to the "Keep Calm And Work Some DX" T-shirts I designed for Cafepress.

These joined the Marine Radio Room clock, which has sold well around the world. For a bit of fun I have now added a "Keep Calm And Work Some CW" shirts and mugs too.

You can find them at  "The Radio Room" on Cafepress