Unravelling Mysterious Signals

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Tim Kirby G4VXE plays detective, finds a new solution for remote control of his rig and has the usual reader news.

 

 

Tim Kirby G4VXE plays detective, finds a new solution for remote control of his rig and has the usual reader news.

 

 

On June 23rd, I received a message from Jim Lee G4AEH (Nuneaton) saying that he was hearing Spanish stations from the Madrid area on 145.500MHz and signals were strong. I was out and about at the time so couldn’t listen myself but was a little curious because there hadn’t been any Es activity to speak of earlier in the day and although not impossible, I was a little surprised that it had reached 2m so quickly! The signals vanished after about 10 minutes. Then, about 90 minutes later, Jim reported hearing signals again, this time with a Russian station calling CQ Satellite. Around then, I started to have a theory about what might be happening.

I’d read that the ISS crossband repeater was due to be active at the time in order to test some satellites. Normally, the crossband repeater uses 437.050MHz up and 145.800MHz down. What, I wondered, if the downlink had been moved to 145.500MHz. I suggested this to Jim and we listened with interest as the next ISS pass was due. Sure enough, the signals reappeared. It was good fun listening and working out what was happening. I posted a short video of a pass as received on my 2m handheld on Twitter, which was picked up by AMSAT and AMSAT-UK.

Quite why the repeater downlink was placed on 145.500MHz rather than 145.800MHz I’m not sure. Of course, there were those that complained and perhaps they had something of a point. However, more pragmatically, it’s not as if 145.500MHz is very heavily used as a calling frequency and perhaps it enabled more amateurs to hear their first signals from space, even if they didn’t recognise it at the time!

The ISS crossband repeater has now been switched off again but it was an interesting day or two. Thanks Jim for a fascinating report.

 

Remote Control

It always seems to be the case that as soon as you mention some software or system in print, something changes. It’s the nature of things really. Last weekend, I started up TeamViewer on my Macbook to connect to the shack PC to see what was happening on the VHF bands and was greeted by a message saying that Teamviewer had detected ‘Commercial Use’ (which is forbidden under the terms of the free licence) and would close. Curiously, a Teamviewer client on my phone connected to the shack PC just fine. A number of other amateurs using Teamviewer for remote control of their stations reported the same thing. My guess is that the change was not intended and may be reversed at some time but, even so, it’s rather annoying. If this has happened to you too and you’re looking for another remote control program, I tried AnyDesk, which is free and seems to work in a very similar fashion to Teamviewer. It works from all the platforms I have tried so far, Windows, OS X and iOS.

 

The 6m Band

It was good to hear from Terry Martin M0CLH (Wantage). Terry is a regular contributor to Steve’s HF Highlights column but we don’t often tempt him onto the VHF bands. Terry runs an Icom IC-7610 into a Cushcraft R8 vertical on the 6m (50MHz) band. I was rather pleased to be Terry’s first contact of the season on April 27th. However, his contacts got a bit more distant and interesting after that. Some of the highlights from Terry’s log are May 11th: S01WS, EA6SX; May 22nd: EI7BMB, EI9HQ; June 3rd: ZB2GI; June 4th: 5B4AAB; June 17th: CO8LY and ZF1EJ, with the majority being on FT8.

Dave Hobro G4IDF (Worcester) writes, “Taking a break from drawing up some family trees, during the first two weeks of June I managed to catch some Sporadic E on 6m into Europe with the following stations worked: EA3EVL (JN00), IK4ZHH (JN64), F1SA (JN23), IS0BSR/IM0 (JM49) and F6EAY (JN04). New squares ‘bagged’ were EA1AQO (IN73), EA2XR (IN86) and EA7KP (IM97) but the crowning glory so far this year on 6m must be S01WS (IL46) for a new square, DXCC and continent”.

It was nice to see Dave and a number of other amateurs, including Sam Jewell G4DDK, albeit at a very sad occasion recently, the funeral of Meg Robinson M0FRE. I’d had the great pleasure of knowing Meg since she met Dave Robinson G4FRE in the 1980s. She was a wonderful, vivacious woman and will be much missed by everyone who knew her. Deepest sympathies to Dave and the rest of her family.

Jef Van Raepenbush ON8NT (Aalter) was not the only contributor to start his e-mail with the words “What a great month”. The highlights of Jef’s log are as follows: June 2 SX2IMA/P (KN10), SX2K (KN00), SZ4KRD (KM09), 4O6AH (KN92); June 3rd CN8KD (IM63), SV1ENG (KM18), S01WS (IL46); June 4th EA9ABC (IM75), MD0CCE (IO74), ZA/OG2M; June 5th MM5DWW (IO89); June 9th SV2DSJ (KN10), SV2JAO (KN10); June 17th 9H1TX (KM75), June 27th SV2/RW3AL (KN18); June 28th IS0/HB9FAP (JN41) and on June 29th, Jef heard the GB3UM repeater on 50.740MHz at 5/5, a distance of some 370km, which is an interesting path on FM. Jef’s other contacts were split between CW and SSB.

Kevin Hewitt ZB2GI (Gibraltar) has been busy on the band, with the highlights being C31KC (JN02), CU2AP (HM77), EA9CD (IM75), EA8TR (IL18), EB8AC (IL28), EI4KP (IO53), K1TO (EL87) and VY2ZM (FN86), all worked on FT8.

Mark Marment CT1FJC (Algarve) sends a very interesting log, with highlights being: June 1st SV4FFK (KM19); June 2nd TZ4AM (IK87), 9K2MU (LL49); June 4th K7BV (FM04), VO1SO (GN37), K6EID (EM73), K3XT (EL99), VE1SKY (FN74); June 5th KX4R (EM73), VE1JF (FN74); June 7th VO1HP (GN37), AA7A (DM43); June 11th WP4JCF (FK68); June 14th KN5O (EM40), K5RK (EL29); June 15th CM2XN (EL83); June 16th A71AM (LL55); June 17th A45XR (LL93), SU1SK (KM50), with TZ4AM worked on CW and the rest on FT8.

Peter Taylor G8BCG (Liskeard) has had a good month too. On July 4th he worked Z68M on CW for DXCC entity 243 on the band, which was confirmed on Logbook of the World (LoTW) within two hours.

Paul Bowen M0PNN (Newport, Shropshire) sent a nice log, with the highlights being HI8JSG, HI8PLE, WP4G, NP3DM, HI3T (CW), KP4EIT (SSB), PV8DX and VP2ETE all worked on June 12th. ZF1EJ was worked on June 18th and EK7DX on June 26th, all on FT8 unless otherwise noted.

Here at G4VXE, my list of stations heard and not worked has expanded! The best DX received on the vertical was BH4IGO on FT8.

 

The 4m Band

Dave Thorpe G4FKI operates mobile on the 4m (70MHz) band and his best DX was S51DI on June 26th.

Jef ON8NT (Aalter) has a Moonraker halo antenna (600mm square) mounted on his wife’s brush stalk on the balcony (I hope not too much sweeping is required!), Fig. 1, and made some nice contacts, including: June 4th EA6SA (JM19), HA6ZB (KN07) and G3MXH (JO02). On June 28th, Jef worked EA6SA (JM19).

Derek G8ECI has made some nice contacts on the band, with the highlight being EA8DBM (IL18) using FT8 on July 4th at a distance of 3097km. Derek has also made some interesting tropo contacts to the Netherlands, again on FT8, including PA7MM (JO23), PE1CUL (JO22), PH0TR (JO22) on June 25th. On June 26th, there was Es, when Derek worked HA, YO and OZ. Derek is using his TS-2000X on the band with a single 4CX250B amplifier.

Simon Evans G6AHX (Twyning) says he has found the Es season much better this season than last, with 27 squares worked outside the UK so far this year. The latest contacts were S57LM and SQ8AQX on June 28th with EA5/G0KSC worked on June 5th, all on SSB.

Mark CT1FJC has heard plenty of FT8 activity on 70.154MHz but has been unable to make contacts as the frequency is out of the CT bandplan. Mark says that he has tried to call in the Portuguese bandplan but with no luck so far.

Robert van der Zaal PA9RZ made some nice contacts on June 3rd, working 9H1TX and CR4D and then EA6SA on June 28th. Robert has replaced his three-element HB9CVs for 50 and 70MHz with a seven-element log periodic for 45-73MHz, Fig. 2, a kit made by the German manufacturer AnJo.

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The 2m band

Lyn Leach GW8JLY (Cardiff) just missed the last deadline but sent details of several 2m (144MHz) Es openings in May. Lyn writes, “On May 28th between 1713 and 1732UTC, I completed QSOs with the following Italian stations: IW0AIJ (JN61), IW0FFK (JN61), IK0SMG (JN61), IZ5ILX (JN54), IZ0TTG (JN62), IK8BIZ (JN70), IK0IXO (JN61) and IK0BZY (JN61). A few days later, on June 1st, there was almost an exact repeat of the earlier opening. In this opening, between 1755 and 1908, I worked IK0SMG (JN61), IK0RMR (JN61), I0YLI (JN61), IK0BZY (JN61), IW0AIJ (JN61) and IK0WGF (JN52). Again a few days later, on June 4th, in the afternoon between 1515 and 1520 I completed QSOs with Spanish stations EA7ITL (IM6K) and EA4CYQ (IM78). IM78 was a new locator for me. I missed the greatest part of this opening because I was away from home. The same evening the band opened once more and I was able to complete QSOs with SP3YM (JO91), SP7TEE (JO91), YO6OBK (KN26) and YO5OHY (KN17). KN26 and KN17 were new locators for me”. This will be Lyn’s last report from his Cardiff QTH because he has now moved across the border to Bromsgrove in Worcestershire. I hope you and your family will be very happy in your new home, Lyn.

Dave G4FKI has been operating FT8 on the band with some good results. Dave says that he worked several German stations and was heard in Scotland. Dave notes that with the increase of FT8 activity he hears less on SSB or CW.

Here at G4VXE, one of my morning visits to the band was rewarded on July 4th, when conditions were excellent towards the Netherlands and northern Germany. I worked PA3CPS (JO32), PA0VHA (JO21) and DJ1AN (JO43). DJ1AN was my best DX on 2m FT8 so far, over 700km, which is not bad on a vertical antenna. The conditions were quite short-lived and faded after an hour or two, which was reflected on the Hepburn tropo site as well as at the Mountainlake APRS site (below), both very useful sites for checking on any tropo conditions that may be in existence. F5BZU (JO11) has been a reliable signal and I’ve worked him several times. It’s always interesting to see how the path varies over time. Average signals are around −15 but in good conditions, I’ve seen him as strong as −3. FT8 makes this sort of comparison very easy to do.

http://aprs.mountainlake.k12.mn.us

Peter Atkins G4DOL (Dorset) says that about 18 months ago, he moved to a new location on Portland on Dorset, which offers good take off to the south, through the west, up to the north, but is no good to the east. Peter caught an Es opening on June 11th, starting around 1624UTC, when he heard and worked CT1HZE while Peter was running 5W with the amplifier warming up! Using a 5-element Yagi, Peter worked CT1CAD, EA7MT, EA7BZ, EA7KB and EA7SL and at 1753 worked CN8LI followed at 1806 by CN8YZ. Peter says that CN8LI was his first Moroccan station on 2m and he has been waiting 40 years. Well done!

Simon G6AHX says that on June 17th, he’d left the beam facing south and found EA2TO (IN83) calling CQ on tropo. They were able to have a quick QSO, exchanging 5/3 reports, a distance of around 1000km.On July 3rd, Simon took part in the RSGB UK Activity Contest, making 20 contacts, with the best DX being MM0GPZ/P (IO85).

Jef ON8NT runs 25W from his FT-736 to his 5-element Yagi, with the highlights being June 2nd F0FJI/P (JN09), F6KRK (JN18), F5KMB/P (JN19), F6HJO/P (JN26); June 5th G4CLA (IO92), M0VXX/P (IO82), G4KUX (IO94), G8PNN/P (IO95), M0GHZ/P (IO81), G0EHV (IO84) and G8EEM/P (IO84).

Derek G8ECI enjoyed the tropo conditions on 2m with some nice FT8 contacts into the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark over the period June 25th to 29th.

Robert PA9RZ enjoyed the tropo during the July 2m activity contest, working into OZ and LA. Robert had to resort to his QRO (higher power) rig, the IC-910, rather than his preferred QRP IC-202.

 

The 70cm Band

Just two reports for the 70cm (432MHz) band. Jef ON8NT worked G3XDY (JO02) during the UK Activity Contest on June 12th while Derek G8ECI worked OZ6OL (JO65) on June 23rd.

 

The 23cm Band

Derek G8ECI worked SM6DVG (JO66) on the 23cm (1296MHz) band on June 26th, a very nice contact of 886km, followed by LA4YGA (JO48) and OZ9PZ (JO46) on June 27th.

 

Satellites

At G4VXE it was nice to get back on the NO-84 satellite on June 24th, allowing me to swap some APRS messages with Dave Boult G7HCE (IO80) and Dave Ryan EI4HT (IO61) at Rosslare Harbour. Various other stations were heard but no other two-way contacts completed. We were all using MFJ Long Ranger antennas, with G7HCE using a Kenwood TH-D74 transceiver and EI4HT and myself using the TH-D72.

Peter G4DOL included details of the most interesting stations in his satellite activity. Through AO-92, he worked 7X3WPL, IS0GRB, EA8HZ, OZ1ITM and OH1ON. Through AO-91 he worked UR5FRX, R3GY, SV2CPH, SV4/G4BXD (KM19, Fig. 3), RZ3ZR/P (LO02), SK0OQ, RA9FLW (LO88) and RA6FCX (KN95).

Jef ON8NT received several SSTV pictures from the ISS on June 7th. Jef also heard the ISS crossband repeater in operation on June 20th and 21st. On June 27th, he heard a school contact between Alexander Gerst KF5ONO and two schools in Germany, in the German language. There was more SSTV from the ISS between June 29th and July 1st, commemorating the various satellites that the ARISS team has hand deployed from the ISS, dating back to February 2006.

Kevin Hewitt reports that the Gibraltar club operated ZB2RAF with an FT-817 and a manually tracked 2m/70cm log periodic with the highlights being EA8CXN (IL18), EA8CUZ (IL18), EA8HB (IL18), G4DOL (IO80), OH5LK (KP34), UX0FF (KN45), G0ABI (IO80) and G4BXD (IO80) through AO-91. Through AO-92 Kev worked EA8DEC (IL18), MI6GTY (IO64) and EB5YF (IN80).

Kev reports, “The ARISS team connected the Tanusha 3 and Tanusha 4 CubeSat satellites to the Service Module antennas on June 20th and 21st respectively. The CubeSat satellites transmitted greeting messages in several languages on 437.05MHz and retransmitted on 145.800MHz. Monitoring the downlink frequencies, I heard Russian messages and European stations calling through on Tanusha 4.

“The ARISS transmitted SSTV images on June 29th to July 1st to commemorate the satellites hand deployed from the ISS. Suitsat-1/Radioskaf-1 was the first satellite to be deployed in February 2006. PD120 was used to transmit the Series 10 images on 145.800MHz FM. I received 12 full images with two duplicates and nine partial images on passes varying from 17° to 52°. During two early morning passes I watched the ISS arc across the dark sky. I also heard the CW ID RS0ISS sent three times after receiving one of the images. My setup comprises a Yaesu FT-817 connected via a data interface to a Win7 Notebook PC running MMSSTV and a manually tracked 2m/70cm log periodic. ISS Detector Pro an Android App provided pass predications and the azimuth/elevation to point the Log Periodic”.

That’s it for this month. Thanks for all your input and hopefully the good conditions will continue such that next month will be just as full. Enjoy the bands and enjoy the good weather!

 

This article was featured in the September 2018 issue of Practical Wireless