This Week in Amateur Radio

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This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago

via HACKADAY: Building a Hardware Store Faraday Cage

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 22:36
Most Hackaday readers are no doubt familiar with the Faraday cage, at least in name, and nearly everyone owns one: if you’ve ever stood watching a bag of popcorn slowly revolve inside of a microwave, you’be seen Michael Faraday’s 1836 invention in action. Yet despite being such a well known device, the average hacker still doesn’t have one in their arsenal. But why? It could be that there’s a certain mystique about Faraday cages, an assumption that their construction requires techniques or materials outside the realm of the home hacker. While it’s true that building a perfect Faraday cage for a given frequency involves math and careful attention to detail, putting together a simple model for general purpose use and experimentation turns out to be quick and easy. As an exercise in minimalist hacking I recently built a basic Faraday cage out of materials sourced from Home Depot, and thought it would be interesting to not only describe its construction but give some ideas as to how one can put it to practical use in the home lab. While it’s hardly a perfect specimen, it clearly works, and it didn’t take anything that can’t be sourced locally pretty much anywhere in the world.

via HACKADAY: Buy A Baofeng While You Still Can? FCC Scowls at Unauthorized Frequency Transmitters

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 22:25
There was a time when a handheld radio transceiver was an object of wonder, and a significant item for any radio amateur to own. A few hundred dollars secured you an FM walkie-talkie through which you could chat on your local repeater, and mobile radio was a big draw for new hams. Thirty years later FM mobile operation may be a bit less popular, but thanks to Chinese manufacturing the barrier to entry is lower than it has ever been. With extremely basic handheld radios starting at around ten dollars and a capable dual-bander being yours for somewhere over twice that, most licencees will now own a Baofeng UV5 or similar radio. The FCC though are not entirely happy with these radios, and QRZ Now are reporting that the FCC has issued an advisory prohibiting the import or sale of devices that do not comply with their rules. In particular they are talking about devices that can transmit on unauthorised frequencies, and ones that are capable of transmission bandwidths greater than 12.5 kHz. We’ve reported before on the shortcomings of some of these radios, but strangely this news doesn’t concern itself with their spurious emissions. We’re guessing that radio amateurs are not the problem here, and the availability of cheap transceivers has meant that the general public are using them for personal communication without a full appreciation of what frequencies they may be using. It’s traditional and normal for radio amateurs to use devices capable of transmitting out-of-band, but with a licence to lose should they do that they are also a lot more careful about their RF emissions.

US Ham-Astronaut, Russian Cosmonaut Safe in Wake of Soyuz Launch Failure

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 22:25
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft crew launch to the International Space Station (ISS) suffered an emergency booster failure shortly after lift-off from Kazakhstan on October 11, but the crew is safe. On board the Soyuz MS-10 were US Astronaut Nick Hague, KG5TMV, and Russian Cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was in attendance at the launch in order to discuss with Russian space agency Roscosmos a mysterious hole that had apparently been drilled through the side of the last Soyuz vehicle. That spacecraft had successfully carried cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, and astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor, KG5TMT, and Alexander Gerst, KF5ONO, to the ISS last spring. In a statement, Bridenstine promised “a thorough investigation” into the cause of the October 11 aborted launch. “Shortly after launch, there was an anomaly with the booster and the launch ascent was aborted, resulting in a ballistic landing of the spacecraft,” Bridenstine said. “Search-and-rescue teams were deployed to the landing site. Hague and Ovchinin are out of the capsule and are reported to be in good condition.” The pair was returned to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan en route to Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. This was Hague’s first launch and Ovchinin’s second. Bridenstine and the NASA team are monitoring the situation carefully, the space agency said, adding that NASA is working closely with Roscosmos.

IARU Region 1 Volunteers and Partners Getting Behind WRC-19 50 MHz Agenda Item

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:17
International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) volunteers are continuing their work toward a favorable outcome for World Radio Conference 2019 (WRC-19) Agenda Item 1.1, which seeks a 6-meter allocation for the Amateur Radio Service in Region 1 in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations Table of Frequency Allocations. The effort is aimed at aligning the band with the 50 MHz allocations in ITU Regions 2 and 3. In a news release, IARU Region 1 (IARU R1) President Don Beattie, G3BJ, described extensive work in various forums and the ITU aimed at gaining support for a 6-meter band in Region 1, rather than the current country-by-country allocations. “IARU has represented the global voice of Amateur Radio in these meetings, arguing that new applications in Amateur Radio require significant bandwidth at 50 MHz and has set out a proposed utilization of the band which supports its claim,” Beattie said. He added that the IARU has also engaged in extensive work on sharing studies using propagation models recognized by the ITU and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT).

Northern Florida ARES Teams Handle Hurricane Duty

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:17
Over the past week, Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®) teams in the ARRL Northern Florida Section went on alert and some activated to support emergency communication before and during Hurricane Michael. Miller Norton, W4EMN, the Communications Watch Officer at the Duval County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Jacksonville, Florida, was monitoring SARnet — a UHF-linked repeater network in Florida — when he heard an urgent call for help that needed to be sent to the State EOC in Tallahassee. All other forms of communication were out, but Norton was able to relay the message to via Amateur Radio. He also passed along messages and requests from the Jackson County EOC to the American Red Cross. Norton said officials in Tallahassee and Jackson County were both “incredibly grateful” for the way the SARnet system functioned during the weather emergency. Jackson County Emergency Coordinator Ricky Whittington, KD4AST, deployed to the county EOC in Marianna. “We took a direct hit by the center of the storm at 140 MPH,” he told Clay County ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator (AEC) and Public Information Officer Scott Roberts, KK4ECR. “[The] county maintenance building across the road from the EOC was picked up and slammed into the north side and over the roof of the EOC just prior to the eye passing over.”

AMSAT-DL Symposium Hears Update on Es’hail-2 Geostationary Satellite

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:17
Progress toward the launch of the Es’Hail-2 geostationary Amateur Radio satellite was reported as AMSAT-DL held its annual symposium on September 29 at the Institute for Environment and Future Research (IUZ) Bochum Observatory in Germany. Es’hail-2 is set to go into space this fall or early winter aboard a SpaceX vehicle; a specific launch date is not available. AMSAT-DL President Peter Gülzow, DB2OS, and Achim Vollhardt, DH2VA, reported that AMSAT-DL recently finalized the individual components for the Es’hail-2 ground station in Doha, Qatar. “Last week, we finished the work and made the equipment ready to ship,” Gülzow said. The components are to be installed in Qatar in the near future. A second facility at the Qatar Amateur Radio Society (QARS) in Doha will serve as a backup, while a third ground station will be installed at Bochum Observatory. Es’Hail-2 will offer two AMSAT-DL-designed Phase 4 Amateur Radio transponders operating in the 2.4 GHz and 10.450 GHz bands. A 250 kHz bandwidth linear transponder is intended for conventional analog operation, while an 8 MHz bandwidth transponder will provide experimental digital modulation schemes and DVB digital amateur television (DATV). Both transponders will be equipped with antennas capable of providing full coverage of about one-third of Earth’s surface.

ARRL, FCC Discussing Issue of Uncertified Imported VHF/UHF Transceivers

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:17
ARRL has taken a minor exception to the wording of a September 24 FCC Enforcement Advisory pertaining to the importation, marketing and sale of VHF and UHF transceivers and is in discussion with FCC personnel to resolve the matter. The Enforcement Advisory was in response to the importation into the US of certain radio products that are not FCC certified for use in any radio service, but identified as Amateur Radio equipment. “While much of this equipment is actually usable on Amateur bands, the radios are also capable of operation on non-amateur frequencies allocated to radio services that require the use of equipment that has been FCC-certified,” ARRL said. “Such equipment is being marketed principally to the general public via mass e-marketers and not to Amateur Radio licensees.” ARRL said the upshot is that the general public has been purchasing these radios in large quantities, and they are being used on the air by unlicensed individuals. “

via HACKADAY: Tiny Telescope For Simple Radio Astronomy

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:17
We are used to imagining radio telescopes as immense pieces of scientific apparatus, such as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, or the Lovell telescope in the UK. It’s a surprise then that they can be constructed on a far more modest sale using off-the-shelf components, and it’s a path that [Gonçalo Nespral] has taken with his tiny radio telescope using a satellite dish. It’s on an azimuth-elevation mount using an Ikea lazy susan and a lead screw, and it has a satellite TV LNB at the hot end with a satellite finder as its detector. So far he’s managed only to image the wall of his apartment, but that clearly shows the presence of the metal supporting structure within it. Taking it outdoors has however not been such a success. If we wanted to hazard a guess as to why this is the case, we’d wish to look at the bandwidth of that satellite finder. It’s designed to spot a signal from a TV broadcast bird over the whole band, and thus will have a bandwidth in the hundreds of MHz and a sensitivity that could at best be described as a bit deaf. We hope he’ll try a different path such as an RTL-SDR in the future, and we look forward to his results. This isn’t the first simple radio telescope we’ve seen here, aside from at least one other LNB-based one we’ve also shown you a WiFi device.

via the ARRL: “Get Your Park ON” Operating Event Set for October

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 21:17
What is hoped will be the first annual “Get Your Park ON” operating event will take place October 14 – 20, in celebration of Earth Science Week. The event is open to Amateur Radio operators around the world and is sponsored by the national affiliates of World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF), which encourages radio amateurs to operate outdoors in protected nature parks. During this on-the-air celebration, hams can participate in one of two ways. North American hams can opt to be Activators, setting up and operating in geological and nature centers such as national and state parks and forests, national monuments, and protected nature habitats. They also may decide to be Hunters, operating from home and searching out and making contact with the Activators. “We are trying to have parks activated in all states of the USA and Mexico and all Provinces of Canada,” the sponsor’s Facebook page notes. “Let’s have some fun.” The week-long special event is reminiscent of ARRL’s popular National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) event in 2016 but extends to a larger set of national treasures beyond those managed by the National Parks Service.

Peggy Sue Gerron, ex-K5PSG, SK

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 17:28
Peggy Sue Gerron, ex-K5PSG, of Lubbock, Texas, who inspired singer Buddy Holly’s 1957 rockabilly hit “Peggy Sue,” died on October 1. She was 78. First licensed in 2004 as KE5AKW, she later obtained the vanity call K5PSG. Her license expired in 2014, and K5PSG has since been reissued. Gerron went to high school with Holly and later married The Crickets drummer,Jerry Allison. As rock ‘n’ roll history has it, Holly originally titled the song “Cindy Lou,” but Allison convinced the singer to change the tune’s name to “Peggy Sue.” In a 2004 interview, Gerron said that story is close to the truth, but not entirely accurate. After Holly’s death in 1959, Gerron toured with The Crickets after the band got back together. Over the years, Gerron made public and media appearances all over the country. She said her participation in the 2004 W5B special event in Lubbock commemorating Holly helped inspire her Amateur Radio aspirations. “You can do TV specials, and you can be interviewed by the very best DJs,” she said, “but there is nothing like the feeling of putting your finger down, and transmitting your call sign,and having somebody answer back.”

via HACKADAY: Help For High-Frequency Hobbyists

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 17:12
Dead-bug circuit building is not a pretty affair, but hey, function over form. We usually make them because we don’t have a copper circuit board available or the duty of making one at home is not worth the efforts and chemical stains. [Robert Melville and Alaina G. Levine] bring to light a compromise for high-frequency prototypes which uses the typical FR4 blank circuit board, but no etching chemicals. The problem with high-frequency radio is that building a circuit on a breadboard will not work because there is too much added inductance and capacitance from the wiring that will wreak havoc on the whole circuit. The solution is not new, build your radio module on a circuit board by constructing “lands” over a conductive ground plane, where components can be isolated on the same unetched board. All right, sometimes dead-bug circuits capture an aesthetic all their own, especially when they look like this and they do allow for a darned small package for one-off designs.

Scouting’s 2018 Jamboree on the Air Set for October 19 – 21

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 17:12
Scouting organizations are still registering to participate in the 2018 Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) over the October 19 – 21 weekend. With about 1 month to go, JOTA Coordinator Jim Wilson, K5ND, told ARRL that registration is “probably on target” at this point. US registrations stood at 235 as of the end of last week. Right after JOTA 2017, 489 US locations had signed up, although that included both Jamboree on the Air and Jamboree on the Internet (JOTI) participants, which, Wilson said, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have “remained steadfast” in considering separate events, although, he noted, this is not the case at the world level. “Our goals are primarily to grow participation,” Wilson told ARRL. “The World JOTA-JOTI Team has set a goal of 3 million participants by 2021; 2017 saw 1.5 million worldwide. Sign-ups at the world level right now are at 1,428 locations. Wilson said that, in the US, many locations wait until the last minute to register their participation. In 2017, some 7,900 Scouts took part in JOTA, down by nearly 10,800 participants from 2016, but topping participation for 2014 and 2015. Total radio contact numbers were down from 2016 and 2015.

“Black Swan 18” Exercise to Test US Government/Amateur Radio Interoperability on 60 Meters

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 17:12
“Black Swan 18” is a communications exercise aiming to test how well responders, emergency management agencies, and non-government organizations (NGOs) activate, operate, and complete communication missions, specifically in terms of the volume, accuracy, and speed of radio traffic. The scenario for the October 4 – 10 Black Swan 18 will be a series of winter storms and associated events. ARRL Field Organization teams have been invited to adapt this activity as the basis of their annual Simulated Emergency Test (SET). Operational periods by participating organizations should not exceed 48 hours. “In a high-impact disaster, response will need to include many organizations bringing their unique expertise and resources to bear in a coordinated fashion,” the Black Swan 18 announcement explains. “Black Swan 18 will test this ability to operate across geography and among complementary organizations. Cooperating forces include the Ohio Military Reserve (2nd Battalion), the ARRL Ohio and Iowa sections, and Air Force MARS.”

Investigation into International Space Station Leak Continues

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 17:12
NASA has issued a statement regarding a leak affecting the International Space Station (ISS). On August 29, a mysterious 2-millimeter hole was discovered on a Soyuz capsule docked to the ISS, resulting in a pressure leak. The Soyuz capsule last carried to the ISS cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, and astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor, KG5TMT, and Alexander Gerst, KF5ONO. It is scheduled to return them to Earth in December. The hole, which appeared to have been drilled, was repaired by the crew. Roscosmos said this week that the hole was not drilled by accident, opening the possibility of sabotage. Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin earlier ruled out a manufacturing defect. “[This] indicates that this is an isolated issue which does not categorically affect future production,” the NASA statement said. “This conclusion does not necessarily mean the hole was created intentionally or with mal-intent.”

FCC Enforcement Advisory Targets Noncompliant Imported VHF/UHF Transceivers

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 23:19
The FCC is warning that noncompliant VHF/UHF transceivers may not be imported, marketed, or sold in the US, nor may anyone use them. The FCC Enforcement Advisory, issued on September 24, follows an August 1 Citation and Order(Citation) to Amcrest Industries, LLC (formerly Foscam Digital Technologies, LLC), an importer and marketer of popular and inexpensive BaoFeng handheld transceivers, alleging that the company violated FCC rules and the Communications Act by illegally marketing unauthorized RF devices. The FCC said that while equipment that transmits solely on Amateur Radio frequencies is not subject to equipment authorization requirements, some radios advertised and sold as Amateur Radio gear are capable of operating on frequencies that extend beyond the ham bands, and that it’s illegal to market in the US a transmitter designed or intended to operate on frequencies outside of authorized Amateur Radio bands, “if such equipment has not been issued a grant of equipment certification.” ARRL Assistant Laboratory Manager Bob Allison, WB1GCM, said the Advisory was good news for radio amateurs. “It’s in the best interest of the Amateur Radio Service not to have noncompliant radios causing interference to other radio services,” Allison commented. via American Radio Relay League | Ham Radio Association and Resources http://kb5wck.com/?p=504

via the RSGB: Enigma Reloaded at NRC

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 23:09
The fifth Enigma Reloaded event will take place in two stages. Until 5 October 2018, Italian and other amateur radio stations registered as activator stations will be on the air to allow participants to obtain the points required for the Enigma Award. On 6 October 2018, the final day, the activator stations will exchange predefined CW messages previously enciphered by a real or emulated Enigma machine. The RSGB’s National Radio Centre (NRC), located at Bletchley Park, will be the only UK organisation participating. A team of CW operators using the NRC’s amateur radio station, GB3RS, will take down the encoded message and pass it to an Enigma operator for decoding into plain text. The original WWII Enigma machine, and an operator, will be provided by Bletchley Park. Don’t forget, RSGB Members can gain access to the NRC by downloading a free entry voucher from RSGB Membership Services. All details and rules are available on the official Enigma Reloaded website in English.

VP6D Ducie Island 2018 DXpedition to Offer Near Real-Time Contact Posting

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 23:09
The VP6D Ducie Island 2018 DXpedition, on schedule to begin October 20, has announced that it will use DXA to post contacts on a near real-time basis. “Bob Schmieder, KK6EK, of Cordell Expeditions, offered the use of DXA, and we gladly accepted,” the DXpedition said in a news update this week. “Within 60 seconds of your contact with VP6D, the browser page is automatically updated to show your call sign; this confirms that your contact is in the log (DXA reads the VP6D log). This process eliminates the need for duplicate contacts on the same band/mode and minimizes the confusion caused by pirates or other DXpeditions operating at the same time.”

Sweden’s Telecommunications Regulatory Agency to Require Fee to Run More than 200 W

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 23:09
Effective on November 1, radio amateurs in Sweden who want to run more than 200 W PEP in certain Amateur Radio allocations will have to apply for a transmitter license to do so and pay a yearly fee. Sweden’s telecoms agency PTS has announced a modified listing of license-free transmitters that spells out the changes for Amateur Radio and other services. Sweden eliminated Amateur Radio licenses in 2004, and Amateur Radio in Sweden is “permission free,” but prospective radio amateurs still must pass an examination. A certificate and a call sign, valid for life, are issued without any future fees. Up until now, the maximum permitted power on most HF bands has been 1 kW with no additional authorization required. “It will be interesting to see how many active [Swedish] operators will apply for high-power permits,” said Henryk Kotowski, SM0JHF, who alerted ARRL to the release of the official PTS order. “I will not. There is a general trend to use less power and smarter, efficient modes.” Under the amended regulations, radio amateurs would have to apply for permission to run more than 200 W on 160 (1,810 – 1,850 kHz only), 80, 40, 20, 17, 15, 12, 10, and 2 meters, as well as 70 centimeters, and the 1.2, 5.6, 10, 24, 47 GHz, and higher Amateur Radio allocations.

Global Learn Day on the Air Aims to Shrink World One Contact at a Time

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 23:09
Global Learn Day on the Air (GLDOTA) is an extension of Global Learn Day, which celebrates learning and encourages everyone to recognize the importance of education. GLDOTA will start at 0001 UTC on October 5 and continue through 2359 UTC on October 8. Individual radio amateurs and clubs are encouraged to exchange contacts with each other and to include children in this learning activity. “Each contact during GLDOTA is a celebration, reducing the distance between us as we shrink the planet one contact at a time,” the event announcement said. Suggested frequencies are 3.803, 7.187, 14.287, and 21.387 MHz. Contacts via satellite and with the International Space Station are also valid.

via HACKADAY: Antennas That You Install With A Spray-Can

Sat, 09/29/2018 - 23:09
With the explosion in cell phones, WiFi, Bluetooth, and other radio technologies, the demand for antennas is increasing. Everything is getting smaller and even wearable, so traditional antennas are less practical than ever. You’ve probably seen PCB antennas on things like ESP8266s, but Drexel University researchers are now studying using titanium carbide — known as MXene — to build thin, light, and even transparent antennas that outperform copper antennas. Bucking the trend for 3D printing, these antennas are sprayed like ink or paint onto a surface. A traditional antenna that uses metal carries most of the current at the skin (something we’ve discussed before). For example, at WiFi frequencies, a copper antenna’s skin depth is about 1.33 micrometers. That means that antennas have to be at least thick enough to carry current at that depth from all surfaces –practically 5 micrometers is about the thinnest you can reasonably go. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you are trying to make something thin and flexible, it is pretty thick. Using MXene, the researchers made antennas as thin as 100 nanometers thick — that’s 10% of a micrometer and only 2% of a conventional antenna. There are other materials that wind up in thin antennas, but they all have challenges either because they are not very conductive or are difficult to fabricate. MXene is a fairly new family of materials developed at Drexel University. To produce it you start with MAX which is a combination of titanium, aluminum, and carbon. The aluminum is removed in a process that requires acid and stirring for 24 hours, lithium chloride, and a centrifuge. The hydrofluoric acid is nasty to work with, but not beyond the reach of a careful home lab. You can see a Drexel video about making MXene, below. The researchers sprayed the antennas on a thin plastic substrate. The only thing that looked tricky to us, was that thin flakes of the specific MXene used degrade in the air due to oxidation. That means production needs argon gas and the final product has to be laminated with something to protect it from the air, so that’s going to add thickness in a practical device. Of course, PCB antennas are nothing new. But if you read the paper, you’ll see these antennas can readily outperform conventional thin antennas.

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