Sunday 27 September 2015

Amateur radio from a submarine - W7SUB

USS Blueback, W7SUB, Portland, Oregon
I'm lucky enough to do some business travelling every autumn (fall) and am currently in Portland, Oregon, USA.

I was even more lucky to do some operating from the submarine USS Blueback at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) this morning, thanks to Joe KF7UOQ.

We operated SSB and CW on 17m, 20m and 40m and I managed to work a few stations, including as far afield as Wisconsin (17m CW) and a SOTA station Todd W7TAO using 5-10W CW on 40m - conditions were not brilliant.

We organised a sked with Dean KG7MZ in Washington State via 2m (after a fire alarm went off!) and worked him on 40m CW too. I thought the fire alarm was part of the sub's sound effects and stayed put - duh!

I used QRP to stop interference to Joe on 20m. Joe worked Texas and a host of others on 14MHz SSB.

My CW was a little jerky at first until I got used to the sub's straight key - W5NNS must have wondered what he was working!

Antennas are a vertical for 20m and a dipole for 6-50MHz (from memory). W7SUB is obviously at river level and surrounded by buildings so not the best location for HF.

USS Blueback (SS-581) is a Barbel-class submarine formerly in the United States Navy. I was amazed to see it actually has three decks and was nowhere near as claustrophobic as I thought it would be. Having said that, not sure I'd want to be underwater on active service on it!

USS Blueback appeared in the 1990 movie "The Hunt for Red October".

On previous trips to the "left coast" I've been lucky enough to operate on the Queen Mary, USS Midway and at K6KPH at Point Reyes/Bolinas north of California.

The USS Blueback Radio Room
Very nice to be able to include amateur radio on a business trip. Thanks again to the team at W7SUB (what a callsign!) including Joseph Noecker K7FGN who helped organise it.

You can click on the images to see a bigger version.


Friday 11 September 2015

SSTV images found from Space Shuttle Challenger, 1985

I had a really big surprise this week. My local club - Norfolk Amateur Radio Club - were having a retro technology evening. This involves people bringing in equipment like Sinclair Spectrums, BBC Bs, old calculators etc - even an Oric Atmos showed up this year.

The highlight for me was a 1982 Betamax video recoder and Sony UHF telly, complete with videos of the news and BBC's "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop" with Noel Edmonds, thanks to Robert G4TUK.

Anyway, I took my Sony Walkman Professional, a couple of old Macintosh computers and a 1978 Russian Vega Selena shortwave radio - still working. While I was looking for the Walkman I found an old box of cassettes with one marked "Space Shuttle August 1985".

This turned out to have 2m SSTV signals on it from Tony England W0ORE's STS-51-F mission.

The recording was a bit noisy as I think I used a Slim Jim, and in those days I used a Sinclair Spectrum to decode the images. But what could I do with it in 2015 - 30 years later.

I researched this and he used a Robot 1200C to encode the SSTV images. I was able to use RX-SSTV to decode some of the black and white 8-second images and the Robot 36 ones. They won't win any awards but you can definitely see what they are - one is Tony himself and the others are of the Shuttle's cargo bay, with the telescope it was carrying, and the earth.

The most chilling thing is the Morse ident in between the images which reads "W0ORE/CHALLENGER".

Less than a year later, in January 1986, Challenger was no more after exploding shortly after launch.