Sunday, September 20, 2020

ARRL 10GHz And Up 2020 as seen by AF4JF

As Ron KO0Z has just published in his posting, some of the members of the SLAMS group attended second leg of the ARRL 10GHz And Up contest today. We have not attended the first leg for various reasons, so we decided to take it light and only participate in one day of the activities. Some of our usual contacts went to the Great Lakes for this contest anyway.

As we published earlier this week, we have recently tried to use good tropo propagation to work Russ KB8U and Gedas W8BYA on 10GHz. We didn't make the QSOs, but it was close. Gedas W8BYA and Ron KO0Z copied each other S-8, but the propagation didn't last long to complete the QSO. Driven by this in our mind, we tried again and scheduled some tests with Gedas this morning. However, there was no propagation, no enhancement from Mr. Hepburn or Rain Scatter and we didn't make a QSO today. No problem, there will be more thunderstorms in the future!

We have picked a location at one of the YMCA gyms in Saint Louis, because it is close to the WB9PNU beacon and because we have worked stations from the direction to Gedas on this hill before. Following picture shows the horizon in the direction of 60 degrees:

Herbert AF4JF and Harry WA0CNS set up their stations for 10GHz and 122GHz today. Darcey (Herbert's dog) made sure everything was set up properly:

Speaking about 122GHz - Harry and Herbert both used the popular module from Australia with a radar chip on it. The modules worked well, but we will have to make some finishing touches to our stations - thermal insulation being one of them. The CW signal was a little unstable until Herbert covered the unit by Darcey's drinking bowl to lower frequency drifting. The units are GPS-disciplined by 1pps signal, but the short term stability needs to be improved. However, that didn't stop us from making our first QSO.

All this activity took place in the morning. Ron, KO0Z arrived at his location on the cliff in EM48rx shortly after 10:00 am and we made our contest QSOs on 10GHz.

Herbert and Harry moved from YMCA in EM48sq to the Community College in St. Peters (EM48qs) and later to the town of Wentzville (EM48ot) and mase several more contest QSOs on 10GHz. It was shortly after 1:00 pm when we decided to stop for the day and return home.

ARRL 10 GHz and Up Contest - September 2020

 COVID-19, busy work schedules, grandchildren, moving QTH locations all combined took its toll on this year's SLAMS efforts to be radio active for the ARRL 10 GHz and Up contest.  Still, it's hard to keep uW hams away from a contest and Harry WA0CNS, Herbert AF4JF and Ron KO0Z put in a day's worth of activity on Sunday, September 20, 2020.  We weren't trying to break any records.  Instead, we wanted to try 122 GHz and get some activity on the air.  Herbert and Harry tried to work Gedas W8BYA in Indiana, but the path just wasn't there.  KO0Z didn't even try.  His path to Gedas would involve shooting into a thick forest.

Basically, our plan was a modified version of last year's operation.  Ron positioned himself at Eagles Roost at Pere Marquette State Park, EM48rx, near Grafton, IL.  Herbert AF4JF and Harry WA0CNS moved along Interstate 70.  We made 3 attempts and we made 3 QSOs each.  Some on USB and some using CW.  

The weather was nice.  The morning was chilly (47 F), but by 10:30 it was in the mid sixties.  It was a sunny day.  Ron noticed the river water levels were way down from April of this year.  With such nice weather, KO0Z had a fair number of visitors to Eagles Roost, which made shooting a 10 GHz signal to the west problematic.  He packed it in around 1:30 pm after it took about 30 minutes for the crowds to thin out to make a QSO with Herbert and Harry.

The real big story is Harry and Herbert made a 122 GHz QSO!  I will let Herbert tell the story and to supply pictures!  Although, it was a clear, nice, sunny day, the pictures will reveal a haze.  The haze is due to high altitude smoke from all of the forest fires along the west coast.

                                              Grid square EM48rx, Pere Marquette State Park, IL

    Flood conditions on the Illinois River in April 2020.  St. Charles, County is in background.

       A small crowd at Eagles Roost, just where I need to point my dish to the west.

                                  Toula keeping a watchful eye out for visitors to Eagles Roost

                In between 10 GHz QSOs as Harry and Herbert moved along I-70, I had a good book to read.

            More people gathering at Eagles Roost.  Otherwise, the site is great for uW.

                                Note the hazy skies due to forest fire smoke out west.

                      I took the Grafton Ferry boat across the Mississippi River back to St. Charles County.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

September 2020 Tropo Opening

 Tuesday evening, September 15 around 7:25 pm (September 16,00:25 Z), I set up my 10 GHz station in the MidRivers Mall northeast parking lot to attempt a 10 GHz QSO with Gedas W8BYA in northern Indiana EN70jt.  A distance of about 261 miles.  This would beat my longest contact by 35 miles on this band.  First try, I peaked up my dish on Gedas and his CW signal was S-8!  So was mine at his end!  Then the band dropped out and we both managed to be at or below the noise floor.  What a tease.  We tried for over and hour, but with no two-way QSO.  Oh well. Next time.  Herbert AF4JF and Harry WA0CNS were both heard and they could hear him, but not very well.  Drats!  Next time! 

 The Hepburn website showed excellent propagation in the Midwest.  The best we've seen in quite some time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

WB9PNU/b and Rainscatter

 I'm glad the WB9PNU/b is back up and running on 10.368.900.  Today, Tuesday, Septermber 8 around 2 pm, I noticed there were thunderstorms north of my St. Peters, MO EM48qs QTH.  This afforded me the perfect opportunity to take a break from remote learning with my grandkids and to see if I could hear the beacon via rainscatter.  I was able to copy it rather well.  Although the beacon is only 10 miles away (16.7 km) from my QTH, I don't have a line of sight path.

73 de Ron KO0Z

WB9PNU Beacon Back on the air

 After several months of being off the air, the WB9PNU 10 GHz beacon is once again up and operating from DePaul Hospital in Bridgeton, MO EM48ss thanks to the hard work and dedication of Mel K0PFX and John WB9PNU.  The beacon was thoroughly checked out by Mel and the slot antenna mount was replaced with a stronger mount and the assembly put into a water proof container. 

The beacon operates at 10.368.900 with an AFSK CW telemetry.  The telemetry data is no longer accurate because of control voltage issues.  That will be a future project to re-calibrate the telemetry.

SLAMS September 2020 Breakfast

 Sunday, September 6th, Mel K0PFX, Harry WA0CNS, Herbert AF4JF, Armand KD0PFX, Ron KO0Z, Debbie KC9ULA convened at Creve Coeur Park at 9:00 am to test out some gear.  Mike N0OBI came by, but somehow we missed each other.  COVID-19 is still among us, so we met outdoors, wore masks and kept socially distant.  Herbert brought along his dog, Darcy and Ron and Debbie brought Toula.  Toula is wearing a "dish" to keep her from licking her stitches.

Mel brought his 10 GHz rig to let everyone hear the repaired WB9PNU beacon located on top of DePaul Hospital in Bridgeton, MO.  The beacon has a very strong signal at the park location.  Mel could point his dish in any direction and the signal was still loud and clear.

Herbert experimented with a patch antenna and a log periodic antenna with his PLUTO SDR transceiver.  Harry WA0CNS brought his 2.3 and 3.4 GHz transverters.  Herbert was testing some antennas and tuning with the PLUTO waterfall.  WA0CNS has a very impressive H frame for his uW yagis.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

222 MHz and UP 2020 Weekend

Sunday, August 2, 2020; COVID-19 Virus is once again on an exponential rise, plaguing the nation.  Social distancing is the order of the day.  Still, Herbert AF4JF, Ron KO0Z, Debbie KC9ULA and Harry WA0CNS ventured out this morning to practice some "radio activity" while still maintaing social distancing.

Herbert, Ron and Debbie went to Eagle Roost at Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton, IL EM48rx and Harry went to High Ridge, MO in EM48rl, a distance of almost 35 miles.  Herbert, Ron and Debbie were on the road by 7:00 am and crossed over the Mississippi River into IL via the Grafton Ferry boat.  By 8:40 am we were QRV.  At 9:16 am, Ron made a two-way CW 10 GHz QSO with Harry.  Right after that we made a two-way SSB 10 GHz QSO.  S-9 signals both ways, both times! 

Next on the agenda, Herbert using a BBQ dish antenna and his PLUTO SDR transceiver made could hear Harry's 2.3 GHz SSB signal!  After a little tuning, Harry was able to copy Herbert's 2.3 SSB 10 milliwatt signal with his downconverter and IF rig!  AF4JF then put in a 1-2 watt amp and both stations copied each other's SSB signals with 5 X 7 reports.

AF4JF then made a 1.2 GHz two-way QSO with WA0CNS with 10 milliwatts and a WA5VJB PC log periodic antenna!

By 10:30 am we finished packing up and we were on our way back to St. Charles.  Herbert went back via the ferry boat and Ron and Debbie continued southward on the Great River Road, enjoying the scenic view, towards Alton before taking Hwy 367 back to I 270.

Not a bad way at all to get some exercise, some radio and still social distance during the pandemic. It was great "seeing" (hearing) everyone today!                  

Herbert AF4JF making a 2.3 and 1.2 GHz Q with Harry WA0CNS 35 miles away.

    The white box near the tripod is Herbert's 1 to 2 watt multiband amplifier.

          Ron KO0Z's 10 GHz dish aimed south towards High Ridge and Harry WA0CNS 35 miles away.

                              Darcy is used to microwaving with Herbert!

               Herbert AF4JF tuning in Harry WA0CNS with his PLUTO SDR

                             Herbert's PLUTO SDR

          Debbie KC9ULA and Toula waiting patiently.

             Herbert's 2.3 and 1.2 GHz set-up.  Ron's 10 GHz rig is pointed towards EM48rl.

                    Crossing the Mississippi River with a toe boat and barge in the channel.

                          Ferry boat landing in Missouri.

                                           Herbert waiting to board the Grafton Ferry

Harry WA0CNS in EM48rl, High Ridge, MO.  We made 10, 2.3 and 1.2 GHz two-way Qs, 35 miles!

                                                   EM48rl hitch hiker

                    This chap is attracted to KO0Z or he's an Illini fan, orange and blue colors!

Herbert summed up today's outing with this email:

Ron and Harry,

Thanks for coming out with me on such short notice! I wasn't sure until Friday evening if I will find the time .. I am glad that I did.

What I wanted to test today was:

- if Harry will copy me and if I copy him on the PCB antenna on 2.3/3.4 GHz .. negative, this didn't work on 2.3GHz so we didn't even try on 3.4GHz

- if Harry will copy me and if I copy him on the BBQ dish antenna without PA .. positive, this worked both ways

- if Harry will copy me using the LUXUL PA/preamp unit ... positive, this worked. RX preamp was fine, but TX needs adjustment of driving power

- if Harry will copy me and if I copy him on lower microwave bands (903/1296MHz) using the PCB antenna ... positive, we made 2-way QSO on 1296. Wow!

These results gave me an idea what I need to put in the box with SDR PLUTO to make it multi-band rover transceiver with as simple band switching as possible. 

73 Herbert