Thursday, June 22, 2017

Go Low During Field Day

CQ MF/LF Operating Editor John Langridge, KB5NJD, reports that he and several other FCC Part 5 experimental stations will be operating demonstration stations on 630 and 2200 meters during Field Day weekend. Hams are encouraged to tune their receivers down below the AM broadcast band to listen for these stations.

Updated June 22, 2017 @ 1212z


Additional information on monitoring these stations and turning your reception into Field Day bonus points may be found on John's website at http://njdtechnologies.net/field-day-2017-details/.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Will "FirstNet" Make Ham Radio EmComm Obsolete?


The federal government is in the early stages of building a nationwide, hardened, wireless network expressly for use of first responders in emergencies and disasters. According to the ARRL Letter, the First Responder Network (FirstNet) is being developed by an independent authority within the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which parallels the FCC for federal government spectrum users. The network will initially focus on providing data and video, with "mission-critical voice communications" at least a decade away.

According to Ralph Haller, N4RH, chairman of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC) and former amateur radio chief at the FCC, the full implementation of FirstNet "will likely be as significant as when public safety first began using radio." He also predicted that it will diminish ham radio's role as a backup for public safety systems because fewer of them will fail in emergencies and disasters. However, Haller said there should be an ongoing role for amateurs as "eyes and ears on the ground" during emergencies and particularly during the recover phase of disasters. He advised amateur radio emergency groups to speed up their adoption of digital modes and DATV (digital amateur television) and to continue working closely with public safety organizations. "Be sure," he said, that these organizations "never forget how valuable the amateurs are!"

Fake News? ARRL's Misleading Headline on Future of Sunspot Cycles


"Our Sun's 11-Year Magnetic Cycle Destined to Disappear," read the headline on an item in the June 1 edition of the ARRL Letter, leading to an initial response of alarm amid a weak Cycle 24 and talk of a possible "Maunder minimum" with virtually no sunspots in the near future. But rather than a new prediction of doom and gloom for sunspot-hungry hams, the article actually held out new hope for future solar cycles. 
 
In a new paper in the journal Solar Physics, titled "Magnetic Evolution and the Disappearance of Sun-like Activity Cycles," solar scientists Travis Metcalfe and Jennifer van Saders reinterpret earlier data to conclude that while we are in the beginning of a "transitional phase" that may lead to longer cycles, they will not disappear altogether for at least 800 million years! Hardly a cause for concern for anyone reading this in 2017…

Midway, Kure, Restored to DXCC List


We reported last month that the ARRL had decided to delete Midway and Kure Islands in the Pacific
from the DXCC list due to administrative changes in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument that technically made both islands part of Hawaii. The deletion was retroactive to August 2016, when those changes took place. Now, without mentioning the resulting uproar in the DXing community, the ARRL has reversed course and reinstated both islands as separate DX entities. "After further review," the ARRL Letter sort of explained, "it has been found that the deletion of these two entities is not supported by the changes that were made to the relevant administrations."

Ham Aviator Retracing Amelia Earhart's Round-the-World Route


Eighty years ago, pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific while attempting a round-the-world flight. To commemorate the anniversary, pilot and radio amateur Brian Lloyd, WB6RQN, is making his own circumnavigation attempt following Earhart's original flight plan. He took off from Miami on June 1 and expected his solo trip to take about two months, according to the ARRL Letter. 

Planned round-the-world flight route of Brian Lloyd, WB6RQN,
tracking Amelia Earhart's circumnavigation attempt
of 1937. (Map from projectamealiaearhart.org website)
 Lloyd will be active on the ham bands as his schedule permits. Listen for him operating SSB on 14.210, 14.346, 18.117.5 or 7.130 MHz, as well as digital ALE (automatic link establishment) on HFLink frequencies. You can also follow his progress at <http://projectameliaearhart.org/>.

Ham Radio on Northwest Passage Journey


A 150-day voyage from Toronto to Victoria, British Columbia, via the Northwest Passage may be tracked via ham radio WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) signals. The trip, named Canada C3, is part of that nation's celebration this year of its 150th anniversary. 

According to Southgate Amateur Radio News, the organizers allowed a team of hams led by Barrie Crampton, VE3BSB, to install a WSPR beacon on board the vessel, as part of a package of science experiments and research projects being carried out as the ship makes its way through the Arctic along the world's longest coastline. A live tracking link, provided by QRP-labs, may be found online at <http://www.qrp-labs.com/c3.html>.

Two Ham-Related TV Shows Cancelled



Tim Allen's character  in "Last Man
Standing" was a ham as well as an
outdoors store manager.
(Courtesy Last Man Standing)
The ABC comedy, "Last Man Standing," starring Tim Allen as an outdoor store manager with a ham station in his office and his basement, was cancelled by the network at the end of its sixth season. According to "TV By the Numbers," the program maintained consistently good ratings and no explanation was offered by ABC for its decision. Executive Producer John Amodeo, NN6JA, says the program will continue to air in syndication, but it is unlikely that there will be any new episodes shot.

In addition, the ARRL Letter reports that "Frequency," the TV spinoff of the 2000 movie of the same name, was cancelled by the CW Network after its first season.

Milestones: N5FG, N3NL, ex-K1MAN Silent Keys



Former CQ Worked All Zones Award Manager Floyd Gerald, N5FG, became a Silent Key in May. He had been in poor health after suffering a heart attack last year. Floyd was also co-founder of the Magnolia DX Association, the largest DX club in his native Mississippi. 

Low-power FM broadcast advocate Nickolaus "Nick" Leggett, N3NL, passed away in late April. An inventor with multiple patents to his credit, Leggett was best-known as on3e of the leading proponents of establishing the Low Power FM broadcast service for local microstation broadcasting, according to RadioWorld. He also teamed up with Don Schellhardt, KI4PMG, to battle for reform of amateur radio antenna rules; and was a frequent commenter on a wide variety of amateur radio-related petitions considered by the FCC. 

Glenn Baxter, ex-K1MAN, a perennial thorn in the FCC's side, passed away in early May. Baxter fought with the FCC for years over complaints of malicious interference, broadcasting on the amateur bands and using amateur radio for business purposes, frequently taking his arguments into federal court in his home state of Maine. According to the ARRL Letter, the FCC in 2014 dismissed Baxter's long-standing license renewal application on the grounds of his failure to pay a $10,000 fine which was affirmed by the U.S. District Court.

Milestones: Hams Honored for Various Activities


Case Western Reserve University has honored Professor David Kazdan, AD8Y, with the Wittke Teaching award for excellence in undergraduate teaching for his Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship (SAGES) course, Shrinking the World.
David Kazdan, AD8Y
(Case Western Reserve University news release)

According to the ARRL Letter, the goal of the wide-ranging course is to build students' "understanding (of) human culture and behavior, scientific knowledge, and methods of research." All students in the course must also earn an amateur radio license and operate the school's club station, W8EDU.

Mark Abramowicz, NT3V, a correspondent for "Amateur Radio Newsline" and a professional broadcast journalist in Philadelphia, has received National Eagle Scout Association's "Outstanding Eagle Scout Award." According to Newsline, Abramowicz earned his Eagle rank in Boy Scouts in 1973, and has remained active in scouting throughout his adult life. Mark is also chairman of the selection committee for the Bill Pasternak Memorial Young Ham of the Year Award, of which CQ is a co-sponsor.

Michael Foale, KB5UAC, and Ellen Ochoa, ex-KB5TZZ,
at their induction into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
(NASA photo)
Johnson Space Center Director Ellen Ochoa, formerly KB5TZZ, and former astronaut Mike Foale, KB5UAC, were both inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in May. Ochoa was the first Hispanic woman to fly in space, and Foale is the only American astronaut to have flown on both the Russian Mir space station and the International Space Station. While on the ISS, according to the ARRL Letter, Foale set up the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station Phase 2 station in the Russian service module.

Young Hams From Europe, Africa and Asia to Gather in England


Eighty young amateurs from 30 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia will spend a week together in suburban London next month at the annual IARU Region 1 Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) event. According to the Radio Society of Great Britain, which is sponsoring this year's gathering, activities will include a special event station, a contact with the International Space Station, kit-building, antenna building, a hidden transmitter hunt and a Summits on the Air activation. 

This is the seventh annual YOTA summer gathering, which takes place in a different country each year. Participants are all age 25 or younger. This year's event will be held at Gilwell Park outside London, the headquarters of UK scouting. The group will include two amateurs from Japan. In addition, the ARRL Letter reports that the YASME Foundation has provided grants to cover the expenses of two young amateurs each from Ethiopia, Tunisia and Kosovo. YOTA UK 2017 is scheduled for August 5-12.

India Bans Online Transceiver Sales


The government of India has shut down online sales of wireless transmitting equipment in response to security concerns, according to the ARRL Letter. This is the latest development in a story that first surfaced last fall, when amateurs in West Bengal began monitoring "highly suspicious" coded transmissions on 2 meters from a region along the border with Bangladesh. India's Intelligence Bureau took an immediate interest in the matter and asked hams to continue monitoring. Now, the Mumbai Mirror newspaper reports that the country's telecommunications ministry has ordered e-commerce websites, including Amazon and eBay, to immediately stop selling transmitting gear online to customers in India.

Maritime Mobile Service Net Helps Coordinate Rescue


A series of radio relays helped bring aid to a sport fishing vessel that was taking on water in Mexico's Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). 

The ARRL Letter reports that the captain of the sailing ship Ubiquity - Brian Stipak, KF7QCX - monitored a VHF marine distress call from the fishing vessel Free Spirit, saying the boat was taking on water, that its source could not be located and that the four people on board were abandoning ship. When Stipak couldn't raise authorities on the VHF marine channels, he tuned to the Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14.300 MHz. He was able to relay the ship's information and last known position to the net control station, who in turn notified the U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego, which notified the Mexican Navy. 

Ultimately, Stipak learned that the Free Sprit's crew had found and stopped the leak but still needed assistance. The boat was towed to shore and all aboard were safe.

Arrghh! Irish Broadcast Museum Looking for Radio Pirates



Officials at the Irish Broadcasting Hall of Fame are looking for information and materials for either a gallery or entire museum devoted to pirate broadcasting. Newsline reports that a then-unlicensed radio station broadcasting from Dublin in 1916 played a key role in the "Easter Rising," in which Ireland broke away from Great Britain. A meeting was scheduled in early June among museum officials, broadcasters, former pirate radio employees and radio enthusiasts to discuss what the proposed museum should collect and display. If you have information or artifacts that might be of interest, e-mail <irishbroadcastinghalloffame@gmail.com>.

California Ham Cited by FCC for Pirate Broadcasting


Speaking of radio pirates … the FCC has cited Lyle Hilden, KD6LUL, of Vista, California, for allegedly
operating an unlicensed FM broadcast station. According to the ARRL Letter, the FCC's Notice of Violation said agents had traced signals to Hilden's residence whose field strength "greatly exceeded … the maximum permitted" on an FM broadcast frequency without a broadcast license. Hilden was given 20 days to present his side of the story to the FCC along with providing "all relevant surrounding facts and circumstances."
 
In a separate matter, the FCC has gone to federal court to try to collect a fine imposed two years ago on a ham in western Pennsylvania. According to court documents, the FCC in 2015 fined Brian Crow, K3VR, of North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania $11,500 for allegedly causing deliberate interference on 14.313 MHz. Apparently, the fine remains unpaid and the Commission decided to take the matter to federal court to force payment.

German Hams Get 4 Meters … But Only for the Summer


Germany's telecommunications regulator has opened the 4-meter band to amateur use, but only on a test basis. According to Newsline, the frequencies between 70.150 and 70.180 MHz are available to hams through August 31, 2017, with significant restrictions on power, bandwidth and antenna polarization. The 4-meter band has long been available to amateurs in some European countries, but in Germany has been used primarily by the military and the national railway. Hams must operate on a non-interference basis. A similar test period occurred in 2015.
 
The band has never been available in the United States because of conflicts with analog television broadcast frequencies. Even thought TV broadcasting has now gone digital and moved to higher frequencies, the FCC has so far refused to consider petitions for a U.S. amateur allocation on 70 MHz.

3 Ham Satellites Among 28 Cubesats Launched from ISS in May



Twenty-eight QB50 cubesats were deployed in May
from the International Space Station. Another group
is awaiting lauch on an Indian rocket. (qb50.eu website)
A "constellation" of student-built satellites designed to study the lower thermosphere 125 to 236 miles above the Earth has been released into orbit from the International Space Station. The ARRL Letter reports that 28 cubesats - part of the QB50 program - were released from the ISS between May 16 and 25. Eight more are scheduled for future launch aboard an Indian rocket.

All of the cubesats lanuched so far  have downlinks in the 70-centimeter amateur band and three include additional ham radio features as well. LilacSat-1 includes a VHF/UHF analog FM-to-Codec-2 digital voice transponder, as well as an APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) digipeater and a camera which transmits images using 9600-baud BPSK; X-CubeSat and SpaceCube both have FM voice transponders with uplinks on 2 meters and downlinks on 70 centimeters.

Updated ARRL Band Charts Now Available


At the same time that it is issuing reminders to U.S. amateurs that the newly-approved 630- and
New US Amateur Band Chart
(Courtesy ARRL)
2200-meter bands are not yet available for use in the U.S., the ARRL has released an updated frequency chart that includes both bands.  It may be downloaded in several versions - 8.5x11-inch color, grayscale and black-and-white, and 11x17" color - from <http://www.arrl.org/graphical-frequency-allocations>. But remember - 630 an 2200 meters are still off-limits in the U.S. unless you have a Part 5 experimental license from the FCC.