Monday, 3 January 2022

SSTV from the International Space Station

Receiving SSTV is one of the easier things to do when it comes to space communications. Two or three times are year the ISS broadcasts SSTV images on the 2 metre band. The most recent one finished a few days ago and was themed on Lunar Exploration. The signals are strong, and cycle constantly (2 minutes on, 2 minutes off) so there's a good chance of copying lots of them.

Sending SSTV could be done with a old school tape player, as it is just audio. The images are likely not encoded into audio right there on the ISS, but only exist in audio form. Still, for many who never done it, it's quite fun. The majority of passes in my area were during the night, so I left the radio and computer running and just looked at what I'd received in the morning, as did other members of the club. John VE3IPS went minimalist and copied an image by holding a smartphone microphone up to the speaker of a handheld.

I used my home VHF station, MMSSTV software, with an ICOM-7100 (removed from the car shortly after the pandemic shutdowns) and a Diamond X300-NA antenna at 25'. Verticals aren't idea for satellite communications but they do work. I heard the first ham transmission from the space shuttle by Owen Garriott W5LFL (SK) in 1983 using my mobile radio and a mag-mount antenna on the roof of my Volvo.

I tracked the ISS using gpredict, a multi-platform free open source software package. Through the (also free open source) programs rigctld and rotorctl it can compensate for Doppler shift and point your antennas at the spacecraft. With less than 3kHz shift it is hardly necessary to do Doppler compensation but I did anyway because I could, and with a vertical I certainly didn't need the rotor control capability. 

One small complaint about the organization of the event was that the 12 images were almost perfectly timed with the orbital period, so I received many copies of some, few of others and none of #5. On each pass I'd received 2 to 3 images and while most of them time there was some noise, when I received 3 images one of them was usually only partially copied.

Here's the best of each. These are unedited files. If I combined several into a single image, it could be cleaned up considerably.

1/12

2/12

3/12

4/12

5/12 - I missed this one, but Mike VE3EYS copied it and sent it to me. 

I did not copy image #5

6/12

7/12

8/12

9/12

10/12

11/12

12/12


Sunday, 2 January 2022

Local Nets for YRARC Members

Here's a list of the nets that YRARC is running or in which YRARC members participate. Let me know if there are any others that should be added to list, with the criteria that at least two members should be regular check-ins.

YRARC-Sponsored Nets

  • YRARC Health & Welfare Net: On the VE3YRA/V (145.350-, 103.5 Hz CTCSS) and VE3YRC/U (444.225+, no CTCSS at present), every evening from 8:30 to approximately 9:15 except on club meeting nights (first Tuesday of month September to June). This net requests the status of the participants with respect to COVID-19 and the operational state of their radios, and asks a single "10 second question" on a variety of topics.
  •  YRARC 6m net: On 50.135 MHz upper sideband horizontally polarized from 8:00pm to 8:25pm Mondays and Wednesdays. Moderated discussion on recent activities by participants or anything else of interest.
  • Ragchew Ramble Net: On VE3YRA/V and VE3YRC/U from 4-5pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Moderated by Joseph, VE3FMQ, on topics of interest to the participant, which are usually related to amateur radio. 
  • New: YRARC "Fusion Friday", will run every Friday from 8:00 to 8:25 PM on the VE3YRC/V Fusion repeater on 147.225MHz. VE3YRC repeater is also connected to the VE3YRC-ROOM, so can be connected through WIRES-X or directly through the repeater. This will initially have no net control and will run as a round-robin net.
  • New: YRARC "Simplex Saturday", every Saturday from 10 to 11AM, on 146.550MHz (YRARC channel #24) and see who you can contact. This will initially have no net control and will run as a round-robin net. Please keep a record of who you can hear and or manage to connect to. Commences 2022-01-08.
  • New: YRARC Winlink Wednesday, every Wednesday at any time. Use the Check-In template form to report how you have connected, e.g. Telnet, Packet, VARA, HF, ARDOP, the equipment used, the radio, TNC, Soundcard, band, mode, operating system, software client, the RMS gateway if used, and the Winlink client program. Send the email to Mike Crabtree, VA3MCT, the York Region Emergency Coordinator, who will report the results the following day.

Other Nets

  • ONTARS: None of our members is currently a net controller, but several have been in the past and several current members participate in this net which runs on 3.755 MHz (80M) lower sideband every day from 7AM to 6PM. See their web site for more information

Monday, 15 November 2021

Edward Rogers Sr. 100th Anniversary

Somewhere around December 10th, or 9th, or maybe the 11th, depending on the account, Edward Rogers Senior made the first successful transatlantic radio transmission by a Canadian amateur operator. The event was more significant than it sounds. Commercial radio was at the time using long waves, at low (LF) or very low (VLF) frequencies. The thinking of the day was "the lower the better" and radio stations for transatlantic traffic were huge undertakings. Some of the big ones used generators to produce these low frequency waves. At least one, the Grimeton Radio Station in Sweden is still operating, although only once a year.

The 1921 Transatlantic tests, sponsored by the ARRL, used wavelengths around 200 metres. This is still quite low by amateur standards. It wasn't until several years ago that the lowest frequencies in use by amateurs were in the 160 metres band, although now we have small 630 and 2200 metre for experimentation at low power. The tests proved that long distance communication was possible with a tabletop station rather than a building full of equipment.

Edward made this historic transmission from his lodgings at Pickering College, on Main Street in Newmarket, Ontario, right in the centre of York Region using a 500W spark set and call sign 3BP. He was heard by Paul Godley, operating a receiving station in Ardrossan, Scotland, using a Beverage antenna. Rogers was the only Canadian station to be heard during that weekend of testing.

The York Region Amateur Radio Club is celebrating the 100th anniversary of this event by running station CF3BP. Club members will be operating on various bands and modes from November 13th to December 12th. Logs will be uploaded to LoTW, qrz.com, and others. We are also in the midst of designing a QSL card for anyone in our logs. Canadian amateurs can send us an SASE. Outside Canada, please send $3 or equivalent to cover postage.

Edward went on to found Rogers Majestic, a very successful radio manufacturing company, a vacuum tube company, and AM radio station CFRB, located in Aurora, Ontario (also in York Region and the city that I live in). CFRB was heard all over North America and exists to this day. Edward's son, Edward "Ted" Jr., founded Rogers Communications in 1960, which is a principal player in the Canadian telecommunications industry.

See you on the air!

73,
Chris VE3NRT
President, YRARC

Update - the first electronic QSL has been received. Thanks Marcel!

Saturday, 19 June 2021

N1MM Logger for ARRL Field Day

It seems that the two most popular logging software programs are N1MM Logger+ and N3FJP Logger. Both operate only on Microsoft Windows, so if you're using Linux you either need to use Wine or a different logging program.

I've used N1MM for contest logging for a long time, but I feel I've only scratched the surface of its capabilities. It has hundreds of features designed to shave fractions of a second from the contest exchange and logging process. Calling it a logger is an understatement, as it can also control and operate the radio by sending CW or recorded voice messages. It also knows how to interoperate with WSJT-X or JTDX for use with FT8/FT4 and other modes.

N3FJP is also very popular. It is simpler than N1MM+ and has fewer features, although its capabilities have been increasing steadily. Most of our operators on Field Day use it. It costs around $10-20 for a perpetual licence including updates.

Let me give an example of shaving fractions of seconds from the exchange. The CW in N1MM+ messaging facility will send CQ for you, as well as the contest exchange (e.g. "5A GTA" that the club station uses on field day) and the final thank you at the end of the exchange as well as messages like "AGN?" which can be useful from time to time. The CW can be tailored to speed up when there's something that is totally expected by the other station, like his own call sign, then slow down again when the exchange information is sent. Another example is that the spacing between CW characters can be changed from the standard 7 dits to 6 dits. That might reduce the message time by 50ms or so, which might add up to 5 or 10 more contacts over a 24 hour contest.

Learning N1MM+ can be daunting, but well worth the the time invested. The first time I used it I had it set up for RTTY in a hour or so. Support by N1MM himself and the team is excellent on the Google group and the program is free-of-charge (but not open source). I don't use N1MM+ for my general logging but after the contest I can produce an ADIF format file for upload to my regular logger which I then use to confirm the contacts in ARRL Logbook of the World.

It is truly an amazing and comprehensive tool to make your contest experience fun and productive. Here's a link to a video by the RATPAC team (who have lots of great videos) on using N1MM+ on ARRL Field Day.

Topic: N1MM Logger for Field Day

Speaker/Presenter: Anthony Luscre, K8ZT
View Video: https://vimeo.com/561658305
Download Video: https://vimeo.com/user107547861/download/561658305/d3de10fd9e
Documents: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1mvexqaudmkd4jc/AABgFaleuXUzwDVtiK8XZek0a?dl=0

Friday, 18 June 2021

Field Day is Coming

The York Region Amateur Radio Club board has decided to cancel our Field Day operations again this year out of caution with the pandemic and compliance with Ontario guidelines. We are optimistic that we will be able to hold the event in 2022. 

 Meanwhile, club members are encouraged to operate a Field Day station either from home or an outdoor location, either on AC power, battery or generator, on HF or VHF, on CW, Phone or Digital, and to submit their score to the ARRL, specifying "York Region Amateur Radio Club" as their home club. As well as recognizing the individual scores, the ARRL will also recognize the overall club score when they publish the results in QST magazine. RAC will also publish the results for the Canadian stations in TCA ("The Canadian Amateur") magazine. I'd love to see a good turnout of members. 

The ISS will be operating a repeater on Field Day which you can use to make 1 (and only 1) contact for credit for the event. The limit of 1 contact is because the ISS is overwhelmed by Field Day activity so the limit will give more stations a chance at making a successful contact. The repeater, part of the ARISS project, operates on FM and contact can be made with a dual-band mobile radio and vertical antenna. A fairly clear view of the horizon is advisable as a vertical antenna does not radiate much straight up so contact is most likely when the ISS is at lower elevation angles. 

Here's the announcement from the ARRL 

International Space Station to be in Cross-Band Repeater Mode for Field Day


The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) cross-band repeater will be available for ARRL Field Day, June 26 - 27. 

Contacts will count toward Field Day bonus points as satellite contacts and Field Day contacts. Field Day rules limit stations to one contact on any single-channel FM satellite. Note that contacts made during Field Day by ISS crew would only count for contact credit, but not for satellite bonus points. 

ISS cross-band repeater contacts are also valid AMSAT Field Day satellite contacts. The ARISS cross-band repeater uplink is 145.990 MHz (67 Hz tone), with a downlink of 437.800 MHz. ARISS suggests that those unfamiliar with the ISS repeater may want to practice with it prior to Field Day. 

ARISS had planned to switch modes to the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) during the second week of June, but this won't happen until after the first ARISS school contact following ARRL Field Day. The ARISS ham station will be off-air during spacewalks on June 16 and June 20.

Copyright © 2021 American Radio Relay League, Incorporated. Use and distribution of this publication, or any portion thereof, is permitted for non-commercial or educational purposes, with attribution. All other purposes require written permission.


Saturday, 10 October 2020

Pablo VA3HDL Tower Project

Pablo's presentation is now up on YouTube. In it you will learn how Pablo, with no previous experience with erecting an antenna support structure, completed the installation of a 48' used tower during the Summer of 2020. You can also refer to his web site for more information. The minutes of the general meeting will be published in the members'-only section of the club web site when available. The next club meeting will be on Tuesday, November 3rd. Notice will be give in the club Google group, the club web site (where you can also become a member), and by email to members. The link to the virtual meeting will be sent to members by email, and available to those who wish to attend as guests by emailing the club secretary.

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

YRARC General Meeting, 7:30pm EDT Tuesday October 6th, 2020

Until further notice we are meeting on-line to comply with COVID-19 regulations and recommendations.

The meeting link and other access information will be sent to the membership email list. If you do not receive the message by the morning of Monday, October 5th, please contact our club secretary (secretary@yrarc.org) to register. The meeting is open to club members and everyone with the genuine interest in ham radio (just like our in-person meetings).

The speaker this month will be Pablo, VA3HDL, with a presentation on the tower project he completed this summer.

Look forward to seeing you on-line!

73, Chris