Category Archives: operating

2014 IARU HF World Championship

The results from the July, 2014 International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) High Frequency (HF) World Championship contest were published. WA4NZD placed first in Alabama, in the Single Operator, Mixed-mode (phone & CW), Low Power category. World-wide the club placed #2507 out of 5181 participants. The club earned a score of 32,480, with 152 QSOs and 80 multipliers. The operator was WA2JQZ.

KB5EZ also participated in the contest from his home. He placed third in Alabama, in the same category.

Detailed scores (see Page 14 for WA4NZD):
http://www.arrl.org/files/file/Contest%20Line%20Scores/2014/2014_IARU_Printable_Line_Scores-19_Jan_2015.pdf

ARRL Contest Database with contest article:
http://www.arrl.org/contest-results-articles

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North American QSO Party – Phone

Gary WA2JQZ and Patti Kurth joined Rob KB5EZ for operating portable on Monte Sano for the North American QSO Party - Phone. (January 17, 2015)

Gary WA2JQZ and Patti Kurth joined Rob KB5EZ for operating portable on Monte Sano for the North American QSO Party – Phone. (January 17, 2015) (Photo: KB5EZ)

Patti Kurth and I (Gary WA2JQZ) joined Rob KB5EZ last Saturday afternoon to operate portable on Monte Sano for the North American QSO Party – Phone.

We operated from a scenic overlook on the east side of the park.  The weather was sunny and mild, making a perfect winter afternoon.  We made 60 contacts in the US, Canada and the Caribbean in about 3 hours.  For antennas we strung an end fed wire in a tree for 20 meters, and for 15 meters we used Rob’s 17 meter hamstick on the car with an external tuner.  Our transceiver was a Yaesu FT-897 running 100 watts off a dedicated car battery.   Our contacts ranged from Washington State to Newfoundland, Canada to the Dominican Republic and US Virgin Islands.  We had a beautiful day with beautiful scenery, and we had lots of fun operating.

Rob continued operating later in the evening from his home QTH.   He finished with 75 QSOs with 44 multipliers and 3300 points.

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[Posted by Gary WA2JQZ with Rob KB5EZ. Photos by KB5EZ.]

Operating our Orion Special Event Station Saturday Morning

Orion EFT-1 Special Event Station snapshot (December 5th).

Rob KB5EZ and Dave KK4IKR operated for our Orion Special Event on Saturday morning on 20 meter SSB.

Rob KB5EZ and Dave KK4IKR operated for our Orion Special Event on Saturday morning on 20 meter SSB. John N4CNY and Gary WA2JQZ (not pictured) operated during the afternoon.

Thank you for contacting us for our Orion Test Flight Special Event

Thank you for contacting us for our Orion Special Event Station, yesterday, Saturday December 6, 2014.  We commemorated the successful EFT-1 test flight of the Orion spacecraft, flown the previous day. Thank you also for sharing your thoughts about the United States Space Program, and for expressing your support and pride.

We operated with our club call sign WA4NZD. We logged about 230 QSOs, most on 20 meters SSB. We tried 10 and 15 meters, but didn’t get much traffic.  We tried a few digital QSOs, most on 40 meters RTTY. Our operators were KB5EZ, KK4IKR, N4CNY, and WA2JQZ.

If you contacted us, QSL via Logbook of the World and eQSL. Paper QSL cards are available with a business sized SASE to WA4NZD MSFC Amateur Radio Club, c/o Donald Hediger, ES35, NASA MSFC, Huntsville, AL 35812, USA. Our email contact address is wa4nzd/at/gmail/dot/com..

Check our speical event page https://wa4nzd.wordpress.com/special-events/test-flight-of-the-orion-spacecraft-eft-1/ for additional information.

The Orion completed a successful test flight on Friday December 5, 2014, with a splashdown at 10:29 Central Time. The Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) was designed to test the Orion spacecraft and its systems, especially its heatshield for re-entry. The flight lasted four hours, and made two Earth orbits. The second orbit was highly eccentric, which enabled a high speed re-entry comparable to returning from deep space missions. EFT-1 is the opening test flight that will eventually lead to operational missions with the new Space Launch System (SLS) heavy lift launch vehicle.  The Space Launch System is now being developed and built at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.  Some components of the Orion test vehicle were designed and tested at NASA Marshall. The next flight of Orion will be aboard the Space Launch System, at this time scheduled for about 2018.  The Orion spacecraft is managed by the NASA Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas.

More information about the Orion spacecraft and program: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/orion/index.html

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QRP ops on Monte Sano – “Summits on the Air” JT65 Activation, April 2014

By Gary WA2JQZ, with Rob KB5EZ.

On a nice Saturday last April (2014), Rob KB5EZ, Kalen KK4KLT, and I WA2JQZ met at Monte Sano State Park to operate a portable, digital QRP ham radio station. We set up and operated a portable JT-65 station for the international “Summits on the Air (SOTA)” [http://www.sota.org.uk/]. This was the first time a JT-65 operation was tried on Monte Sano — such a first-time activity is called a summit “activation”.

For some this is serious physical sport. As for us, we parked near the ranger office, and hiked a few hundred yards to a clearing on the ridge, which fulfilled the SOTA rules. Monte Sano is on a relatively long and flat sandstone capped plateau ridge, about 2000 feet in elevation. We chose a location near the east edge of the plateau, that was clear and had once apparently been the site of a cabin.

Rob operated JT-65 with his TenTec Rebel and laptop, with some portable batteries. But first we had to erect his EndFedz end-fed 20 meter wire antenna. Using a homebrew slingshot, Rob shot a fishing line over tree branches to raise the antenna. After the end of the fishing line swung over a tree limb and returned to the ground, we attached the antenna’s support cable to the fishing line. Here Rob is reeling back the fishing line, to raise the antenna support cable.

Rob, reeling back the fishing line, to raise the antenna support cable.


Rob reeling back in the fishing line, to raise the support cable for his EndFedz 20 meter antenna.

Readying the antenna support cable.

Rob preparing the antenna support cable. Monte Sano.

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The 20 meter endfedz antenna with balun, deployed, supported by a tension line at this side with the coax feed. The antenna is strung over the tree branches and tied at the other end with another support cable. Monte Sano.

The multi-meter indicated the lowering voltage as the power was used.

Rob KB5EZ set up his laptop to run the digital mode JT-65. A small blue battery and his TenTec QRP Rebel transceiver are behind the monitor. The yellow volt meter was added to monitor the drain on the battery.

We needed shade in order to view the monitor screen.

We needed shade in order to view the monitor screen.

We needed shade in order to view the monitor screen. We therefore chose to set up at this old chimney. The chimney also served to support one end of the wire antenna.

Backup logging of QSOs.

Although Rob’s program logs the QSOs, Rob also used a notebook as a backup logbook. The TenTec Rebel QRP transceiver is visible behind the laptop.

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JT-65 in action…

The program window displays the information we need to have a QSO and monitor other QSOs happening at the same time. The dark colored portion at top left is a “waterfall” display that shows the signals we are receiving (frequency is the horizontal axis) within a 2 KHz-wide range, centered around our set frequency. For 20 meters JT-65, that set frequency is 14.076 MHz. Time is the vertical axis, and the display scrolls downward with time. Therefore each roughly vertical line is the display record of someone’s live JT-65 signal.

We can choose to respond to a signal calling CQ, or find a clear frequency and send out our own signal. Or sometimes, if the situation seems worth the attempt, we could try to call a station that is just finishing a QSO with someone else.

Transmissions are cycled exactly for one minute each, referenced to Greenwich Mean Time. For a QSO, one person sends while the other receives, then the roles switch. The data transmission lasts 47 seconds, and contains a maximum of only 13 characters. During those 47 seconds the message is sent twice, and error checked. The last remaining 13 seconds of the minute are just enough time to read the latest text messages and choose a reply. JT-65 was originally created for EME Moon bounce. Its ability to reliably send short messages as very weak signals makes it a popular amateur mode.

If you look closely, you can see that each JT-65 signal is composed of a base frequency with discreet jumps a few Hz higher, creating the characters.

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The lower left part of the window lists each message transmitted (with a time stamp). If the line is illuminated in green, that message is a CQ call. If the line is illuminated in red, your callsign is in that message!

How do you have a QSO? The lower-middle display lets us choose what message text to send. The standard message exchanges are preset and can be activated with mouse clicks. There is also a field for a 13 character free-text message, which must be typed in.

  • We could call CQ. We first much select a clear part of the spectrum by clicking in the waterfall at the base frequency we want to operate. The red bar at the top of the waterfall indicates the frequency range our transmission will use. In the lower-middle display we then select the “radio-button” to send a CQ message, we choose whether to send during the odd or even minute part of the cycle, and enable transmit. The CQ message will automatically include our callsign with our grid square, e.g.,: “CQ KB5EZ EM64”. We could alternatively call CQ with a text message of our own. Rob sometimes tried “CQ KB5EZ SOTA”.
  • Or we could try to respond to someone else’s CQ. That’s done by double-clicking the text line at left that we want to respond to. The program automatically selects the caller’s frequency, then sends a preset text with our callsign and our grid square, for example, “VE9OK KB5EZ EM64”.
  • The person sending the CQ can acknowledge the response by calling the station back with a signal report (by double-clicking the text line and selecting the “radio-button” for signal report). The message could look like “VE9OK KB5EZ -04”. Then the second person sends a signal report in response. The signal report value is the decibels below the noise floor, and is automatically determined by the program. Afterwards, “RRR” and “73”, or some closing message is sent. And that’s the QSO.
  • If several people respond to a CQ, the caller has the option of which one to respond to. If no one responds, one could continue to call CQ. The programs usually have a counter to call 5 CQs automatically, and then if there is no further action, to stop.

Our challenge is that we operate at very low power. Most other stations operate with more. A station that we hear very weakly will probably hear us even more weakly or might not hear us at all. If they do notice us, they might easily choose to respond to a stronger signal. We’re competing with stronger signals.

And so a rule of thumb, for better success operating at low power, is to call CQ to seek others to contact us, rather than compete with responding to other stations. In other words, if we call CQ, we have the chance to get several callers at once. If we respond to someone else’s CQ, the odds are strongly reversed against us.

However, if we still do respond to another CQ, then it is best to respond to the stronger signals. Chances are better those stations will hear us as a strong signal too, and therefore would more likely respond to us.

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Rob KB5EZ and Kalen KK4KLT.

During the afternoon we had 3 QSOs in reply to our CQs. We also succeeded in replying to 3 other stations that called CQ. We had a total of 6 QSOs.

JT-65 is a slow-paced mode in which to make contacts. With the challenges of operating QRP in the field, this is even more so. Nonetheless, as Rob pointed out at his presentation at the 2014 Huntsville Hamfest, you then have time for other things. You can really enjoy your outdoor environment. You can talk with your friends. And you can easily attract non-ham visitors who pass by. You have lots of time to show and tell with them, to have a relaxed chat and to share the enjoyment.

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Rob KB5EZ and Kalen KK4KLT

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Rob KB5EZ and Gary WA2JQZ

As you can see, we had an enjoyable outing!

6 meters opening to South America

5 element 6 meters yagi directional antenna at WA4NZD

5 element 6 meters yagi beam antenna at WA4NZD

At the end of the work day last Friday, I noticed DXmaps showed 6 meters QSOs from the southeast U.S. to Latin America.  And so as soon as I finished work, I went to the club station to see for myself.

I heard some 6 meters signals but they were weak.  I therefore decided to assess conditions.  My first check was to listen for beacons below 50.08 MHz, but I heard none.  I then tried scanning the beam 360 degrees while on the CW calling frequency and on a couple of CW frequencies higher, but heard nothing.  However I had heard some SSB phone higher up and went back there.  At first I just noticed relatively local phone stations, but I didn’t hear their contacts.  I then tuned to the phone calling frequency, and then a little lower.

And there was the first DX!  CE3SX in Santiago, Chile, at FF46, on phone SSB.  6 meters was indeed alive, at least to the south.

But the band conditions were tenuous.  The signal was ghost-like, as if not fully there, and difficult to copy.  Eventually I copied the call sign and QTH.  Then I called, and right away had a successful QSO.  I don’t know how easily he copied me, but he got my information right away.

I then went back to a stronger phone signal, and worked WA3VXJ, Karl. He was talking from near Pittsbugh, PA, but he was operating remotley through Skype from Englewood, FL, EL86.

Given that the signals were weak, but there, I then tried working CW and JT65.  I made two JT65 contacts without much trouble, with LU8EX in Argentina GF05, and with CX5BL in Uruguay GF15.  I saw on the display, more faintly, signals from two N3 stations in the FM grids, but they disappeared before I could get to them.  Meanwhile both of those South American stations stayed on JT65 for awhile, but I didn’t hear anyone they contacted.

I then moved down to the CW section, below 50.11 MHz.  I heard two strong stations in south Florida, and worked them: AE2DX in EL88 and  WC4H in EL95.  I heard them work other stations both south and north.  When I tried scanning the beam north though, I couldn’t find any signals.  I even tried calling CQ.  I therefore decided to keep pointing south, and work what I could in that direction, while there was an opening.

Again, all the South American stations I heard were weak and ghostlike, as if coming through shimmering waves that distorted them.  But they didn’t fade away.  I took the approach to listen carefully to the ongoing QSOs, to glean all their information first.  Determining the callsigns was difficult, as a “dit” or “dah” could fade out.  But they kept calling CQ, and often enough they kept working other stations.  I had to listen many times before I felt reasonably sure of the callsigns.   I then tried contacting.  I succeeded in contacting: PY2RN in Brazil GG66 Sao Paulo,  PY2XB also in Brazil GG66, ZP6CW in Paraguay GG14, ZP5SNA also in Paraguay GG14 and close in frequency too, and LU5FF in Argentina FF99.

By then I was getting tired.  But I got in one more phone QSO with a strong station in Florida, Rudy WD4AB in Miami EL95.

Later during the weekend I looked up the stations I contacted on QRZ.  Many of them had substantial antenna systems for VHF and above.  Perhaps that accounts for how the South American operators could copy me quickly.  It is as if I walked into another special part of the ham radio forest, with specialized foresters and hunters.

As one who had been away from ham radio for awhile and who is not familiar with VHF, I value having our club station available with its capabilities.  I have the chance to try more bands and modes than I’ve done before, in new situations, including ones like this, with a 6 meters opening. Our experienced members have been developing our station equipment.  That’s good for them.  And it is also good for our new and less experienced hams.  We have a good asset to help us develop our experiences.

Below are e-QSLs we received from the 6 meters opening. Most also confirmed on LoTW right away.

AE2DX EL88 FL, CW QSO

AE2DX EL88 FL, CW QSO

LU8EX GF05 Argentina, JT65 contact

LU8EX GF05 Argentina, JT65 contact

CX5BL GF15 Uruguay, JT65 contact

CX5BL GF15 Uruguay, JT65 contact

PY2RN GG66 Brazil, CW contact

PY2RN GG66 Brazil, CW contact

ZP6CW 20141004 WA4NZD 6m CW GG14 Paraguay

ZP6CW GG14 Paraguay, CW contact

LU5FF FF99 Argentina, CW contact

LU5FF FF99 Argentina, CW contact

73, Gary WA2JQZ

Hex Beam Antenna presentation at our next meeting Oct. 2, 2014

We are delighted to have Rob Conklin, N4WGY, come to talk with us at our next club meeting.  He will share a short slide presentation about his experience in home brewing, mounting and using a K4KIO designed 6 band Hexagonal beam type antenna. After the presentation we’ll have time for Q&A.

Also on our agenda will be the upcoming W1AW/4 week-long operation from Alabama, 15-22 Oct. 2014.

If you have access to the Arsenal, please come join us.

Thursday October 2, 2014, meeting start 4:30 pm
Bldg. 4622, MSFC, Redstone Arsenal, AL
[location on Google maps]

– Gary, WA2JQZ