All posts by Tom

Operating on QO-100

Heard of QO-100? Also known as Es’hail 2, the first geostationary satellite carrying amateur radio transponders launched from Kennedy Space Center at 20:46 GMT on Thursday, November 15, 2018 and is now in a geostationary orbit at 25.9° East. These are the first amateur radio transponders to be put into geostationary orbit and the satellite footprint covers an area from Brazil to Thailand. The transponders are very wideband indeed, and have been designed to be relatively straightforward to access. Being a wide linear transponder, there’s plenty of room, but also plenty of activity, and the activity is in all sorts of modes, including digital ATV, digital voice, CW and SSB. The downlink is 10GHz and the uplink is 2.4GHz. These frequencies are no coincidence…

Receiving QO-100 is a matter of connecting an inexpensive commercial LNB, like you’d find on the arm of any Sky dish, to a suitable power supply via a bias-T, to an inexpensive SDR connected to your PC, including the RTL USB dongles, or indeed to any wideband multi-mode receiver that covers 7-800MHz. An unused Sky installation could be used pretty much as-is, by simply tweaking the dish to point to a very slightly different point in the sky – 25.9°. Indeed there are reports of QO-100 being heard via Sky dishes while the dish is still aligned on the Sky constellation at 28.2°E. PLL-equipped LNBs are better, but not essential.

Once you have a receiving setup sorted, it’s time to turn your attention to the transmitting side. The uplink is in the 13cm amateur allocation, adjacent to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. There is a lot of room for creativity here, and lots of options. OE5HSR has pulled together an excellent PDF, which is pretty much a must-read for this topic. You can find this here.

I’m sure that some of our members will be having a go at working this unique satellite, and if you’re one of them, we’d absolutely love to hear from you at one of our show-and-tell evenings, or even better a live demo!

72000km+ SSB QSOs using a couple of watts and some recycled gear? Yes please!

Credit: AMSAT-UK for orbital and footprint information

Mentoring meeting update

From member Min G0JMS:

Following the large number of helpers and stations on last Thursday’s Mentoring Meeting evening and the club net, which was very popular, we are planning to run this evening event again in a simpler format with very local stations or anybody with a mobile HF rig. Reduce the QRM by using different rooms.

It’s reported the local RD repeater was very busy with some newly licensed operators joining in.

Members at the RRFC answered many questions from new operators and the evening was a success with club members helping to put up and strip down the stations. We operated on HF and VHF.

Offers of help would they please contact Min G0JMS

Apollo Experience Report – Lunar Module Communications System

A fascinating document from the Apollo programme was recently unearthed on the NASA website by a local amateur, Jim M0YOJ. It goes into loads of detail about the development and use of RF systems on board the various vehicles involved the lunar programme. For some light bedtime reading, the full document is here. Thanks Jim (and John!) for highlighting this.

The development of the lunar module communications system is traced from ‘the initial concept to the operational system used on manned lunar missions. Included are the problems encountered during the development, the corrective actions taken, and recommendations for similar equipment in future programs. The system was designed to provide communications between the lunar module and the Manned Space Flight Network, between the lunar module and the command and service module, and between the lunar module and the extravehicular crewmen. The system provided the equipment necessary for voice, telemetry, and television communications; ranging information; and various communications links.

Exercise Blue Ham – this weekend

As happens every so often, this weekend the Royal Air Force Air Cadets will be organising and running a military style national radio exercise named ‘Exercise Blue Ham’. The Cadets invite all amateur radio operators to take part, making this the biggest radio exercise that the Cadets are involved in.

The exercise will take place on the MOD 5MHz (60 Metre) band and a significant part of the exercise will be on the section of the band that amateurs are authorised to use.

Locally, at least Woodley Air Cadets are taking part and will be active 9.30am to 2pm Sunday- I know they would appreciate good strong local signals since they live under a blanket of S9 noise.

Some important notes if you’re interested:

This exercise does not give amateur stations permission to operate outside of their normal licensing conditions.

– the allocation is not continuous- refer to http://rsgb.org/main/operating/band-plans/hf/5mhz/ for full details if necessary

– the allocation is for full licencees only

– maximum PEP 100W and 200W EIRP

– max antenna height 20m AGL

– secondary allocation, no interference to MoD stations

A summary of suggested spot frequencies in the 60m amateur allocation follows:

5278.5kHz USB

5298.5kHz USB

5301kHz USB

5304kHz USB

5317kHz AM

5320kHz USB

5335kHz USB

5354kHz USB

5363kHz USB

5379kHz USB

5395kHz USB

5398.5kHz USB

5403.5kHz USB

Note upper side band, against convention.

Selecting a USB frequency from the list above will ensure compliance and is largely compatible with allocations in other countries. Please do not transmit USB on 5330.5kHz, 5357kHz, or 5360kHz.

Various Cadet stations will be operating on each of the days, mainly from 08:00 to 20:00, but could also be outside these times, and will be on various frequencies within the band. Where possible stations will advertise which frequency they are listening on live on this website as the exercise is in progress and amateurs are welcome to check this page and call in on the advertised frequencies.

Cadet stations will call ‘Alpha Charlie’ which is the equivalent of CQ, and amateur stations are welcome to reply. Exercise Callsigns will all be in the range MRE01 up to MRE98 although other MR, MF and MA prefixed callsigns may be taking part.

The information exchange to score the contact will be

Your Callsign,

Signal Report,

Antenna Type,

Transmitter Power

Your Location. 6 Digit Maidenhead. Need not be precise.

As Cadet stations change frequency contacting them again on a different frequency will score as an additional contact, as these frequency changes they will be reported on the exercise website where possible.

The contacts will be plotted almost live on the exercise web server.

The ACO will issue certificates for amateur stations that contact 10 or more Cadet stations during the period of operation using your callsign contact details on QRZ.com. Contact with the same station on different days count as separate contacts. Email your callsign and contact details to claim a PDF Certificate to: [email protected]

The ACO looks forward to operating as many amateurs as they can during the period of the exercise and it will give their young operators an ideal opportunity to utilise their radio operating training on HF equipment to a different audience.

Once a contact is logged into the system it shows up onto a map which can be accessed at http://alphacharlie.org.uk/blueham/showmap.php

Thank you in advance from the Cadets for taking part and giving the operators plenty of ‘Air time’ which cements their radio training that they have received.

New FM satellite AO-91 now live

A new FM repeater AMSAT satellite AO-91 has just been opened up for general use. Other than it being very popular and thus very busy in the early days, it sounds like it will be particularly easy to work, including from a handheld with a whip.

Downlink: 145.960

Uplink: 435.250 +/- Doppler

Tone: 67.0 Hz

John KG4AKV has put a great post up here with all the info.

Programming chart courtesy AMSAT UK:

Memory 1 (AOS) – Transmit 435.240 MHz (67.0 Hz Tone), Receive 145.960 MHz

Memory 2 (Approaching) – Transmit 435.245 MHz (67.0 Hz Tone), Receive 145.960 MHz

Memory 3 (TCA) – Transmit 435.250 MHz (67.0 Hz Tone), Receive 145.960 MHz

Memory 4 (Departing) – Transmit 435.255 MHz (67.0 Hz Tone), Receive 145.960 MHz

Memory 5 (LOS) – Transmit 435.260 MHz (67.0 Hz Tone), Receive 145.960 MHz

Another ISS SSTV event this weekend

Another series of SSTV transmissions from the International Space Station is under way, running throughout this weekend.

Listen out on 145.800 FM. A handheld up to a smartphone’s mic will yield fairly good results.

Passes below – though it’s not expected to be on for every orbit, just select orbits that favour Moscow.

Amateur Radio ISS contact next week at Gilwell Park

A contact between the International Space Station and youngsters at Gilwell Park, north London, is scheduled for Tuesday 8 August (next week), as part of Youngsters on the Air 2017.

The youngsters will take part in a Q&A session with astronaut Paolo Nespoli, IZØJPA, Flight Engineer of Expedition 52/53, lasting around 10 minutes.

The contact will be at 1838 UTC (that’s 1938 local time) on 2m FM, likely on the standard ARISS frequency of 145.800 MHz, and should be readily receivable using handheld Yagis, turnstiles, or even rubber duck antennas over the UK and northern Europe.

A simultaneous HamTV transmission is also planned, with live pictures from ISS coming down via DVB-S, streamed live via the BATC website.

Some more information provided by Southgate ARC here.

Many thanks to the ARISS team for once again coming together to make this event happen – we look forward to seeing the results.

ISS SSTV 2m FM transmissions this weekend

This weekend, ARISS is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a series of SSTV transmissions from the ISS – International Space Station.

Transmissions will be on 145.800 FM in PD 120 or PD180.

These should be easily receivable on a handheld tuned to 145.800 with anything better than the stock whip. Last time around they were loud! A 3 element tape measure yagi will work very well for this, and it’s not much effort to knock one together. Full quieting signal should be achievable.
Images can be decoded live during the passes on a smartphone using, for example, “SSTV Slow Scan TV” by Black Cat Systems for iPhone, or “Robot36 – SSTV Image Decoder” on Google Play for Android. A cable will help, but holding the mic up to the HT speaker should work okay. Alternatively recording the audio through whatever means will allow you to play around decoding later.
Passes for the weekend can be found on http://www.heavens-above.com as well as other sources. Be sure to set your location. Some key passes:

Thu 23:23:21
Fri 00:58:35
Fri 22:32:15
Sat 00:06:25
Sat 23:14:23
Sun 00:50:21
Sun 22:22:34
Sun 23:58:03
Mon 01:34:30

Event is scheduled to end at 18:00 UTC on Monday 24 July.

Most of the passes this weekend are visible, so assuming no cloud, antenna pointing shouldn’t be a problem 🙂
 
Most favourable pass taking into account the time looks like Sat 23:14:23 BST.
 
For those of you who have not spotted ISS in the night sky as yet, at its peak it is second only in brightness to the moon in the night sky, appearing as a solid bright white point typically low in the south-western sky from the UK, appearing to move across the sky about the same speed as an airplane at altitude. At its highest point, on a high pass, it really is hard to miss – easily brighter than Venus or Jupiter. Some passes it will fade into shadow, some it will pass across the whole sky brightly reflecting full sunlight, well into the late night down here.
 
If the same format is followed this time around as last, there will be 2.5 ish images per pass with a few tens of seconds gap in between, with no carrier.
 
Happy sat spotting…
Update
In the end I slept through most of the passes! However here’s the one image I did capture:
I put together a simple cable to connect my Wouxun handy to my iPhone based on this circuit,  used an inexpensive Nagoya NA-771 whip, and for aiming, I listened for ISS on a second handy on its stock antenna, held closely and parallel to the Wouxun, broadside to ISS. Almost perfect copy, up to at least S6 or so. Great fun!
Did you capture anything? Tell us @MX0AAA!