Saturday 9 January 2016

HF Propagation charts for the UK updated

I've now updated my propagation prediction charts for the UK through to April 2016.


I've used the latest smoothed sunspot numbers from NOAA in the US. There is little point in updating them much further than four months as the SSNs change, and it takes me about three hours to do four month's worth of charts and upload them - that's a chart for every hour and for every band or 24 x 8=192 charts per month.

It is interesting to see how the solar cycle is falling away. In January 2015 the SSN was 62, now it is just 45. The coming months will see further falls.

This means that we will see fewer openings on 12m and 10m, but 15m should still open up at times. I worked the US Virgin islands on 15m CW this morning and it was open to the eastern seaboard of the US this afternoon so don't write it off.

The new
web based version of ITURHFPROP
The RSGB Propagation Studies Committee, of which I am the chair, is also working on a new online HF prediction system based on the ITU program ITURHFPROP.

This uses a different, but newer, ionospheric model to the VOACAP engine normally used, but the original ITURHFPROP software is not very easy to use.

But thanks to the work of Gwyn Williams (G4FKH), James Watson (HZ1JW) and Chris Behm we are getting closer to a web-based version. You can try the test model at

Ultimately, it will have the ability to produce point to point predictions as well, just like VOACAP Online. But lets learn to walk before we run.

It will be interesting to compare the two models and Gwyn would welcome any feedback. His email details are on the web page for the new model

Friday 8 January 2016

Tim Peake - first UK schools contact on 2m from ISS

ESA astronaut Tim Peake. Image: Steve Nichols
Tim Peake, the UK ESA astronaut, made his first schools contact this morning, 8th January 2016.

The ISS appeared over the horizon here in eastern UK at 08:49hrs and vanished at 08:55hrs. I monitored the downlink signal on 145.800MHz and it appeared at about 08:52hrs. Tim appeared to be having problems with the original uplink frequency and so they switched to another.

It was a short pass, but the school - Sandringham School in Hertfordshire - still managed to ask some questions. Unfortunately, they lost the ISS signal before they finished and were able to say goodbye.

I've attached an audio recording of the pass as captured via a 2m Slim Jim in the loft and an Icom IC-7400. The recording was made with RecAll and processed with Audacity.

I also heard him at times on a 2m handheld, but I wouldn't recommend it as it was not as strong.

I'm very proud to be be part of the team that will enable the next schools contact in late February 2016 when Tim will talk to the CNS School in Norwich. The exact date and time has yet to be decided.

I was lucky enough to interview and photograph Tim professionally for "ADS Advance" magazine last year.

Download the MP3 audio file of Tim Peake