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Showing posts from 2021

AMSAT Looks for an Easy-Sat Answer

For at least two decades, most radio amateurs getting involved with satellite communications have started on the "easy sats," FM birds that simplify hams' first forays into space. During this time, four satellites produced by AMSAT North America have been wildly popular. Two of them, AO-51 (2004-2011) and AO-85 (2015-2020), are now defunct. The others, AO-91 (2017- ) and AO-92 (2018- ), are limping toward their demise. While a few other FM satellites remain operational, and FM repeater operations are sometimes scheduled from the International Space Station, AMSAT-NA recently acknowledged it should have a role in repopulating the easy-sat stage.   AO-51, launched in 2004, was operational for more than 7 years. Photo: VE4NSA. In its 2021-2035 Strategic Plan , AMSAT committed to developing, deploying, and supporting a series of cubesats to operate in low Earth orbit (LEO). And in the July/August Apogee View , President Robert Bankston, KE4AL, prioritized options for meet

SOTA: Pine Mountain, September 18, 2021

For a combination QRP Afield / New Hampshire QSO Party / SOTA excursion, I went to Pine Mountain ( W1/NL-022 ) in Alton, Belknap County, New Hampshire, a 45-minute drive. The summit is within the Evelyn H. & Albert D. Morse, Sr. Preserve , a property of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.  Google delivered me to the non-preferred parking place, which is a narrow, gravel roadside sloping to a ditch. I was the only one there. I walked the Mary Jane Morse Greenwood Trail, 1.2 kilometers and "strenuous" per SPNHF, with tall weeds and waist-high saplings in its center. Going up, I counted 7 monarchs, 1 woman, and 1 dog. The "Do Not Block Gate" sign is just to the right of this one. Monarch migration is under way. I counted 7 on the hike up and viewed others from the summit. My one roadblock was easy to overcome. Up top, I was surprised to find more people — a hawk watcher and two others. Since there hadn't been any other cars alo

SOTA: Province Mountain, June 10, 2021

In my continuing quest to spend time hiking and operating rather than driving on my Summits on the Air excursions I chose Province Mountain, less than an hour's travel from home and an easy, quick climb to a partial view. I also like clarity about permission and certainty about my route up. I found W1/AM-409 met both criteria. On the way down, I apparently forked right instead of left and came back out to the road at a spot marked, for now, by a downed birch. It's a little steeper this way than the segment I went up. But on the way up, I didn't see that opening and instead continued to this clear and courteous sign.   The trail starts in East Wakefield, New Hampshire, but on the way up it crosses into West Newfield, Maine. There's a granite post beside the trail to mark the spot. Was it really put here in 1898? If so, it was probably in a big field back then. Just after the marker, there's a nice stretch of hemlocks. Blackburnian warblers were singing here.

New England QSO Party

The New England QSO Party has been running since 2002. I haven’t missed one yet. With my 20th log in, it's time to review. Eight times I've taken 1st Place Maine Single Operator QRP. In 7 other years, I managed just 1st York County (usually the only QRPer in York County). For four parties I was a pooper, making too few contacts to qualify for a certificate. My average score over the years was 3,647 with about 60 QSOs. I was 2nd QRP New England in 2012, 3rd in 2016, and 5th in both 2002 and 2020. But none of those years were my top score. That was 2010, when I hit 11,120. A New Year's Radio Resolution challenged me to set a personal best for this contest in 2021. The weekend arrived before I got to do any antenna upgrades or additions. Conditions on Friday didn't seem too hot. With a lot to do IRL I was tempted to sneak out of my commitment, but by the time I put in a couple of hours on Saturday I was confident I could reach my goal. I ended claiming 198 contacts (3 o

20 Years of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station

Amateur radio achieved 20 years of continuous operations on the International Space Station in December and celebrated with a slow-scan television (SSTV) event at the end of the month. The ISS crew set up automated SSTV transmissions of 12 different images and multitudes of Earth stations received them. I managed to copy 7 of the 12, plus the very bottom of an eighth, using my makeshift setup: an iPhone with the Black Cat SSTV app held at the speaker of my Kenwood TH-F6A handheld. I used a rooftop 7/8-wavelength 2-meter vertical for my first attempts, which gives good results except for some noise banding. My best images came with the Arrow antenna I use for all satellites. Like many other listeners, I uploaded my image files to the ARISS SSTV Gallery , then requested a certificate of accomplishment. It arrived promptly today. The first successful ARISS contact with a school happened December 21, 2000. Since then, astronauts have made more than 1300 school contacts all over the world.

FCC to Collect Application Fees for Amateur Radio Licenses

The Federal Communications Commission spends $35 to process amateur radio license applications, a cost it will soon pass on to hams. Congress directed the FCC "to adopt cost-based fees for processing applications" when it passed the RAY BAUM'S Act of 2018 (H.R.4986). Amateur radio licensing was caught up in this effort to Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services. Amateur radio licenses are valid for 10 years, so even though the hit comes all at once, the $3.50 annual amount should not raise a barrier to anyone intending to participate in practically any aspect of amateur radio during their licensed period. The FCC will collect fees for five application types: new license, special temporary authority, rule waiver, renewal, and Vanity Call Sign (Amateur Radio Service). Licensees requesting minor administrative updates, such as address changes, will not incur charges. In explaining the new fee structure, the Commi