This Week in Amateur Radio
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: 2 hours 45 min ago
Insulin pumps are a medical device used by people with diabetes to automatically deliver a measured dose of insulin into their bloodstream. Traditionally they have involved a canula and separate connected pump, but more recent models have taken the form of a patch with a pump mounted directly upon it. When [Pete Schwamb]’s daughter received one of these pumps, an Omnipod, he responded to a bounty offer for reverse engineering its RF protocol. As one of the people who helped create Loop, an app framework for controlling insulin delivery systems, he was in a particularly good position to do the work. The reverse engineering itself started with the familiar tale of using an SDR to eavesdrop on the device’s 433MHz communication between pump and control device. Interrogating the raw data was straightforward enough, but making sense of it was not. There was a problem with the CRC algorithm used by the device which had a bug involving a bitwise shift in the wrong direction, then they hit a brick wall in the encryption of the data. Hardware investigation revealed a custom chip in the device, and there they might have stalled.
Amateur Radio will play a role in this summer’s 24th World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the first World Jamboree held in North America. The Jamboree has chosen the theme “Unlock a New World.” Thousands of Scouts and Scout leaders from some 200 countries are expected to attend. The Jamboree’s Amateur Radio Exhibit will use the callsign NA1WJ — North America’s 1st World Jamboree. It will be on the air during the event, July 22 until August 2, at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the US. Amateur Radio testing is expected to begin as early as July 14. Operating frequencies will be posted in real time via Facebookand Twitter or via an NA1WJ email group. “The goals of the Amateur Radio station at the World Scout Jamboree are to introduce Amateur Radio to Scouts and Scout leaders through hands-on participation in two-way communication with other stations across the globe. This activity will also serve as the Amateur Radio voice of the Jamboree,” the World Scout Jamboree Amateur Radio Exhibit Operational Vision document states. Other facets of Amateur Radio at the Jamboree will include Amateur Radio direction finding (ARDF), Amateur Radio satellite contacts, and a scheduled Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact with an ISS crew member.
A Cygnus resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 11 also delivered three CubeSats of the BIRDS-3 constellation and three other CubeSats. The BIRDS-3 constellation is a project of students at the Kyushu Institute of Technology. The additional CubeSats include Swiatowid, KrakSat, and EntrySat. All BIRDS-3 CubeSats are of the same design and have been coordinated to operate on a common downlink frequency of 435.375 MHz. Each will transmit a CW beacon and 9.6 k GMSK telemetry. The CubeSat deployer in the ISS Kibo module will deploy the BIRDS-3 CubeSats at a later date.
The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) was represented April 8 – 10, when CEPT Committee SE24 – Short Range Devices met in Ankara, Turkey, to undertake further work concerning wireless power transfer/transmission (WPT). SE24 is considering WPT for electric vehicles (WPT-EV) and also for generic applications. IARU already provided extensive input on the potential impact on radio communications resulting from spurious emissions from WPT devices, as detailed in CEPT ECC Report 289, published in January. According to that report, given the planned density of WPT systems for electric vehicles operating in the 79 – 90 kHz range, it is calculated that there will be a widespread and serious impact for the Amateur Service in the vicinity of WPT systems, should spurious emissions, measured at 10 meters, be at the current limits of ERC Recommendation 74-01. At the Ankara meeting, IARU and other interested parties provided further input. SE24 will meet again in early July to focus on WPT issues.
The true story of pirate radio is a complicated fight over the airwaves. Maybe you have a picture in your mind of some kid in his mom’s basement playing records, but the pirate stations we are thinking about — Radio Caroline and Radio Northsea International — were major business operations. They were perfectly ordinary radio stations except they operated from ships at sea to avoid falling under the jurisdiction of a particular government. Back then many governments were not particularly fond of rock music. People wanted it though, and because people did, advertisers wanted to capitalize on it. When people want to spend money but can’t, entrepreneurs will find a way to deliver what is desired. That’s exactly what happened. Of course, if that’s all there was to it, this wouldn’t be interesting. But the story is one of intrigue with armed boardings, distress calls interrupting music programs, and fire bombings. Most radio stations don’t have to deal with those events. Surprisingly, at least one of these iconic stations is still around — in a manner of speaking, anyway.
The US astronaut who pioneered the use of Amateur Radio to make contacts from space — Owen K. Garriott, W5LFL — died April 15 at his home in Huntsville, Alabama. He was 88. Garriott’s ham radio activity ushered in the formal establishment of Amateur Radio in space, first as SAREX — the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment, and later as ARISS — Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. “Owen Garriott was a good friend and an incredible astronaut,” fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin tweeted. “I have a great sadness as I learn of his passing today. Godspeed Owen.”
The Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) payload on AMSAT-India’s AISAT-1 satellite is operational on 145.825 MHz following a successful April 1 launch on the PSLV-C45 mission. The payload was powered up on schedule over Europe, and AMSAT-India announced that DK3WN was able to digipeat through the satellite. AMSAT-India requests that radio amateurs use the payload and SatGates to feed the traffic. The fourth stage of the PSLV rocket (PS4) will become an orbital platform in a 485-kilometer orbit hosting the APRS digipeater, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) from India’s space agency, ISRO, and an ionospheric analyzer from the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST).
Scientists charged with predicting the Sun’s activity for Cycle 25 say it’s likely to be much like that of current Cycle 24, which is declining and predicted to bottom out in 2019 or 2020. Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel experts said Cycle 25 may get off to a slow start but is anticipated to peak between 2023 and 2026 with a sunspot range of 95 to 130. This is well below the typical average of 140 to 220 sunspots per solar cycle. The panel expressed high confidence that the coming cycle should break the trend of weakening solar activity seen over the past four cycles. The Solar Cycle Prediction Panel forecasts the number of sunspots expected for solar maximum, along with the timing of the peak and minimum solar activity levels for the cycle. The outlook was presented on April 5 at the 2019 NOAA Space Weather Workshop in Boulder, Colorado.
Djibouti J20DX IOTA DXpedition operators Col McGowan, MM0NDX; Jonathan Bowes, MM0OKG, and Christian Cabre, EA3NT, have thrown in the towel on their efforts to operate from two infrequently activated African islands — Moucha Island (AF-053) and the very rare Sept-Frères (AF-059). Their J20DX operation was set to run from April 16 – April 21, but McGowan’s and Bowe’s radio equipment was impounded by customs upon their arrival at the airport, despite the fact that Cabre had cleared customs smoothly 2 days earlier. The team had “official radio licenses being issued by Djibouti Telecom” permitting them to operate radio without any conditions, they reported on the J20DX website. The operators were told that the Djibouti security agency would make a decision on whether they could obtain necessary authorization to retrieve their equipment, but time wore on along with official inertia. Due to time constraints, the delay quashed plans to activate AF-059.
Hamvention has announced that it will open the gates to all, without charge, on the final day of the annual gathering at Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio. Hamvention 2019 General Chair Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT, said the idea is to encourage the curious to see what attracts some 30,000 visitors to Hamvention each spring. “We have decided to open the doors to Hamvention to the public on Sunday, May 19, without buying a ticket,” Gerbs said. “This will make it a little easier and cheaper for someone with just a little interest in Hamvention to see what all the excitement is about.”
With an eye toward helping new and inexperienced hams enjoy the full range of activities that Amateur Radio has to offer, Hamvention® and the ARRL 2019 National Convention will embrace the theme of “Mentoring the Next Generation.” Hamvention hosts the National Convention May 17 – 19 at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio. This will mark the third year for Hamvention at its new venue. A contingent of ARRL staff and member-volunteers will join forces to make available many ARRL exhibits and resources to Hamvention visitors. The centerpiece of ARRL’s participation will be ARRL EXPO in Building 2. An extensive roster of exhibits and activities will also educate and entertain. Instructors from the ARRL Teachers Institute for Wireless Technology will be on hand to bring wireless and electronics theory to life in hands-on demonstrations and lessons. They’ll also touch on satellite communications, microcontrollers, and the fundamentals of robotics. At a Sunday morning forum (10:30 AM – 11:30 AM in Room 2) called “Discovering Radio Communications,” presenters for the Teachers Institute will highlight a variety of instructional experiences and ideas.
American Honda has announced that it’s voluntarily recalling some 200,000 of its portable generators sold in the US due to a potential fire and burn hazard. The recall includes the EU2200i, EU2200i Companion, and EB2200i generators. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says the affected portable generators can leak gasoline from the fuel valve. Users should stop operating the recalled generator and contact an authorized Honda dealer for a free repair. Honda is also contacting users directly. For more information, visit the CPSC website. A similar recall has been issued in Canada.
AMSAT Academy will take place on Thursday, May 16, the day before Hamvention. AMSAT says this is a unique opportunity for both beginners and advanced satellite operators to learn about Amateur Radio in space and working the FM, linear transponder, and digital satellites now in orbit. AMSAT Academy will take place on Thursday, May 16, 9 AM until 5 PM, at the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) clubhouse, 6619 Bellefontaine Road, in Dayton. The $85 registration fee includes a full day of instruction taught by some of the most-accomplished AMSAT operators; a digital copy of Getting Started with Amateur Satellites (2019 ed.); 1 year of AMSAT Basic membership; pizza buffet lunch, and an invitation to the Thursday night AMSAT get together at Ticket Pub & Eatery in Fairborn.
The 3Y0I DXpedition to Bouvet Island (Bouvetøya) is off, at least for now. The skipper of the MV Atlantic Tuna determined it was not safe to continue its voyage to the remote Antarctic island after the vessel suffered some damage from severe storm conditions. The DXpedition had expected to arrive on the island on March 26 and be on the air by month’s end.
Concordia transmission artist Amanda Dawn Christie will use the world’s most capable high-power, high-frequency transmitter HAARP in Alaska to send art around the world and into outer space using Slow Scan TV
Some time ago, we had scheduled fall of 2019 for Sable Island DXpedition. Due to circumstances we had to reschedule to 2020. Hopefully this will be better for propagation. The permit process took over a year of emailing, phone calls, and furnishing documents. Sable at this point is no longer easily “permitted” for Ham Radio DXpeditions, as the policies have changed with the change in administration. In fact our permit finally was graciously authorized as a “one time special use permit”. We believe that it is very probable that permits in the future may be essentially “nil” for a very long time.
A transcript made public on Thursday by a GOP lawmaker in Congress shows that the wife of a top Justice Department official said she got a ham radio license as part of an effort to help with local community emergencies, not as part of any effort to communicate with anyone overseas, or to monitor broadcasts from Russia associated with the Steele Dossier.
The US Department of Defense (DOD) plans to start making use of a provisional time slot on WWV and WWVH to announce upcoming HF military communication exercises and how the Amateur Radio community can become involved in them. The announcements will occur at 10 minutes past on WWV and at 50 minutes past on WWVH. WWV and WWVH transmit on 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz. “DOD’s use of the broadcast time slot on WWV/WWVH will benefit the MARS program’s mission of outreach to the Amateur Radio community,” said US Army Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY. “The actual messages to be broadcast are coordinated by the DOD Headquarters that the MARS program supports.” The initial announcements are set for the period April 20 – May 3, which coincides with the “Vital Connection” interoperability exercise to be held in Wisconsin. Future time slots will coincide with the Vital Connection exercise Ohio in June; DOD COMEX 19-3 in August, and the DOD COMEX 19-4 in October. Following the proof of concept this year, DOD anticipates making use of the WWV/WWVH broadcast time slot full time, year-round.
Des Moines (Iowa) Water Works (DMWW) uses secure radiotelemetry to monitor various remote-site parameters to alert staff to problems. Earlier this year, DMWW experienced periodic and sometimes total failure of the radio system. After no solution could be found, staff reached out to various resources, including the FCC. Polk County ARES also was brought in, and eight operators assembled to track down the interference, working the late shift. After a process of elimination, the ARES volunteers pinpointed the interfering signal to defunct equipment atop a downtown Des Moines building. The team contacted the owner of the license associated with the equipment and got permission to disable it, and DMWW confirmed that the signal interference was gone. Collectively, the Polk County ARES volunteer team spent approximately 70 hours to assist DMWW. Following the experience, DMWW installed a more robust radio system with encryption and established stronger relationships with several entities that can assist if similar problems arise. — Thanks to H2Oline and The ARES E-Letter
Kettering officials on Tuesday night reversed the Board of Zoning Appeals and now will allow a resident to build a 50-foot radio tower on his property in the 4800 block of Mad River Road.Last year, Wynn Rollert, 77, a HAM radio operator, had requested a variance on his property to install the tower. Kettering’s zoning code allows for amateur radio towers to be 25 feet without a variance, so that is why Rollert sought approval for the extra 25 feet. In December, the Board of Zoning Appeals voted 3-1 without comment to deny the request. The decision went against a report from Zoning Administrator Run Hundt, who indicated that the request should be approved. Hundt reiterated the facts of the case in front of council in February as members heard Rollert’s appeal of the variance denial.