GB1SS downlink on 145.800

So, at around 14:20utc, today, Tim Peake (GB1SS) was due to have a chat with a school in Bristol, Oasis Academy Brightstowe (GB1OAB).

I set up the IC-7100 to listen on 145.800 +3 or so kHz as he approached, moving to -3 or so as he left over the horizon.  The following video is the audio recording, all done through the 7100 qso recorder. The antenna being a 2/70 collinear vertical, the X510N from Diamond.  I found it interesting how his signal dropped as he was over head, obviously hitting the antenna end on.

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QRM on 80m

So over the past few months, perhaps four months, I have noticed what can only be described as some wide band QRM on the bottom two thirds of 80m and some smaller stripes of QRM near the top end.

In this image you can see the noise, it is roughly an S point or so, but quite wide band with no real strong centre frequency.

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Direction finding it will be extremely difficult if not impossible due to its ‘spread’ out nature and lack of strong signal to ‘home’ in on.

The horizontal green lines in the top section of the image are at S5, S6 and S7. Anyway, this is more of a record of the QRM to see how it changes over the coming months.

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Back on the air

So after moving into his new flat at the end of 2015, it was time to get 2W0ODS (Dale) back on the air. I placed an order for a couple of 6m ally scaffold tubes (5mm wall) and split the delivery with Dale. They arrived after some coaxing from the supplier and Dale picked one up and took it back to his home QTH on the car roof rack.

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Work was started around 10:15am yesterday in the glorious sunshine, the air cold and fresh with frost in the shade lasting all day. The first plan of action was to recce the situation and work out where everything was going. Dale’s garden is roughly 15ft square so we decided the 6m mast/pole would be as far from the house as possible. A corner was selected due to the number of concrete fence posts making it extremely strong, and a 50ft+ Silver Birch tree, the candidate for the end of the inverted L.

GW4BLE (Steve) arrived later in the morning and Dale donned his chefs outfit and cooked up some very nice bacon and egg crusty rolls. Dale was on soldering duty whilst Steve and I built up the X50 Diamond collinear antenna. A dirty choke was added (6-8 loops of at with 6-8 inch diameter) for good measure. A fixing point was also added to the top of the mast to attach a pulley to ‘pull’ up the inverted L. Paracord was the cordage of choice with its 550lb breaking strain.

Everything was fitted on the pole and it was loftedScreen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.50.23 into place. Three mounting points using the existing fence bolts with new nuts that pass through the concrete post, and three wood bolts. A couple of rope tie offs were also added to the post.

Next it was time to get my MFJ-269C out to check the SWR on the collinear. A fantastic 1.0:1 rising to 1.1:1 at the ends on the band on 2m, and 1.4:1 at 434MHz on 70cms. All connections were made water tight with self amalgam.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 10.49.24Now it was time to work on the tree. After a number of failed attempts and bruised fingers, an M12 nut was fired over the silver birch taking with it some 18lb fly fishing cord. This was then used to pull 100ft of paracord up through the tree and over. We estimated the height of the end of the inverted L to be about 40ft. The dog bones added to the end of the L (1.5mm conduit cable in grey) and a bungee added at the base to add some ‘give’ to the system.

The SGC-237 coupler/atu fitted, with 10mm of ground wire running off to a single 4ft copper rod driven in as a makeshift ground. This will be added to with more rods in a grid pattern spaced at 4ft, and as many radials as we can fit in.

Everything was made good, and I headed off around 5:10pm, quite a long day of antenna installing. Dale was left with the connections to the HF set and ensuring all was working. Later that evening I had a QSO with him and his signal was a good 10 over 9. Everything reportedly working well and top band tuneable. As a rough estimate the wire length is in the order of 90ft give or take.

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So all in all a fantastic install with everything working well. It is great to have Dale back on the air again and we will be performing some more tests in coming days. His qrm at this location does not seem to be as bad as his previous qth.

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It will be interesting to see what Dale can work with the L, and things will only improve as we add more and more ground radials. Incidentally a reen runs some 40ft from the base of the L so the ground there is nicely damp and should act as a great ‘mirror’.  Happy DX’ing Dale 🙂

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My first contest

So, over the last couple of weeks, I have been slowly moving into a new shack room, getting everything set up. GW4BLE (Steve) and GW3NWS (Ross) introduced me to Logger32 which is a great piece of software for keeping logs.  Everything is getting sorted out slowly in the shack and Steve mentioned that there was a PSK63 contest happening, specifically the UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest, from 12:00Z, Jan 9th, through to the 10th ending at 12:00Z. I thought…. why not 🙂

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So I decided to use Ham Radio Deluxe for my data qso’s, with its inbuilt Digital Master 780 and logging utility. I managed to get it all set up and working, macros to hand, automatic serial number incrementing, qrz lookups, etc etc. Thankfully, I am able to export the logs from HRD and import them into Logger32 via the trusty adif file format.

I started around 10:15pm on the Saturday, rather late I know. I managed to get 50 contacts in the log before I shut down around 1:30am, stations became few and far between after mid night. Many European countries worked that evening, Greece, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia, Poland, Coatia and into Russia to name but a few. I also managed to contact a US station, N1NHY, who unfortunately wasn’t partaking in the contest. I switched to non contest macros, and had a 5 min qso with Robert over there in Maine. Good stuff indeed !

Sunday morning I was back at it around 9:50am and worked some more stations in Europe and beyond. The Newport Amateur Radio Society club net featured between 10am and 10:50am, so I was back at it again around 10:55am calling CQ and jumping on those I didn’t already have in the log. Some interesting stations on 15m worked, A65DC in the United Arab Emirates, UN6TA and UN7PGA in Kazakhstan.

All in all, very happy with the results, 100 contacts in the log, and a few lost due to  fat finger moments on my part. The antennas here seemingly working quite well, the fan dipole 80/40/20 home brew at around 35ft top, and an inverted L, 128ft long, 60ft slight sloping vertical with a 68ft horizontal section.

A brief setup issue on my part with the Kenwood TS-590SG. I had left the auto notch filter on, and it was playing havoc with the psk63 signals. I realised this after about 20 mins of trying to decode all sorts of corrupt signals. Ah well, I know for next time 🙂

A most enjoyable 4 hrs or so.

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TVi – The battleground

Television interference, what a complete nightmare. When I passed my foundation licence and started transmitting on 2m @ 10 watts,  TVs throughout the house all went haywire.

We were running a Global (or equivalent) F140 amplifier/splitter 4 way, to take signals from the loft mounted (not ideal, being in a bungalow) TV antenna and distributing them to some TVs around the house.

So, on day two of being on the air, I replaced the loft antenna with a high gain, and replaced the shoddy down feed coax.  This did seem to improve things, until recently, when I moved into a new shack location and was spending more time on 2m and 70cm. Also transmitting at up to 50W with the new callsign.

Anyway, it transpires that the F140 amp, is wide band, in that it amplifies from 48mHz through to 700-800 odd. This is not ideal considering some of the HAM bands fall inside this range.

So a scout around, and some advice from 2W0ODS (Dale), I decided to pick up a PROception PROAMP104X distribution 4 way amplifier. £11.98 from a local supplier ToolStation. Keep in mind it doesn’t come with a 12v PSU. It has a frequency response of 470-862mHz, and has >= 26dB of rejection below 400mHz. The passband filter slopes from 400mHz at -26dB up to 470mHz at roughly +4dB.

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A link to the UK distributor of the device can be seen HERE and includes links to manuals. You can get it cheaper from ToolStation though.

So, I returned home, installed the device in place of the old F140, F-type connections on both, so an easy swap over, and the existing 12v supply was in spec, so that was used.

I did some initial tests on 145.375 and the signal was maintained on various channels on the TV whilst I was keying, un-keying and talking. Another test made on 70cms to a local repeater GB3RT, and the TV picture was perfect.

Fingers crossed I have seen the last of this issue. One last option if it rears it’s ugly head is a ham band tvi filter on the input to the splitter, to further reduce unwanted signals.

Fingers crossed, and 73 !

2m Net NARS – Tuesday Evening

So, it was the evening of the last NARS 2m net in 2015. I headed to the highpoint in Catsash again, some 600+ft ASL. The Newport Amateur Radio Society net was due to start at 8pm on 145.375. I could hear other stations on frequency on the way, and when I arrived at the highpoint other stations were booming in 5/5-5/9+. I was running 50 watts, through a NR7900 diamond antenna, from a Kenwood TM-D710GE.

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I made contact with G0IUE (Jon) on frequency, at around 7:55pm and we had a short QSO. I politely asked if he could instruct any NARS members arriving on frequency to QSY to 145.400. Jon was a good 5/9 from the Chippenham District Amateur Radio Society, and it transpired this was their yearly Christmas/New Year net.

We moved to 145.400 and were joined on frequency (in rough order of appearance) by :

2W0ODS – Dale – Dale was holding fort on 145.400 ready for the members to call in. His location Ridgway, Newport, and was a strong 5/9 with me, although I could move 12-20 inches in the Landrover, and he would drop to 3/1, amazing phasing conditions. When Dale headed to his mums at the end of the net he was still 5/9 with me.

MW0OPY – Doug – Doug was a great signal to me, even on 10w, 5/9 all the way from close to Bassaleg. I think he was using a beam, generally pointing East.

GW4SUE – Margaret – Margaret also a great signal on the old Yaesu 227 Memorizer at 10 watts. 5/9 throughout the evening without variation.

GW4BLE – Steve – Grandad Steve, or is it Grampy, Gramps, Grancha ? 🙂  Great signal from his station, 5/9 no issues what so ever. He noticed a reduction in current draw, so perhaps an swr issue related to water ingress perhaps?

GW3NWS – Ross – Ross was woken from a nap by a phone call from Doug. He tells us that Holby City sent him to sleep. Great to hear Ross on, and a booming signal from his antenna that touches the stars. 5/9 endstop.

GW4OGO – Steve – Steve arrived on air, and we should now call Ross, Ross Clarevoyant (clairvoyant), as he passed it over to OGO without knowing he wasn’t on air. It so happened, that Steve had turned on that very moment. Spooky indeed !!! Strange goings on with signals from BLE to OGO on 2m, and perhaps a slight issue at both stations, who knows.

GW4TPG – Martin – Great to hear Martin on frequency. I had to move the truck a couple of feet to phase him in. He was 1/0, and then 5/3 within a few feet, so quite amazing. We had a quick qso to get us in each others log, but I had a fat finger moment, and half of my over went to another frequency…. eeek.

After the net ended around 9:30 or was it 9:40, I moved to the calling channel,  but no luck there. I then repeater hopped and put a call in through GB3DR (about 70 miles away, and an S9 signal) at around 9:50pm. G0JLA came back to me, Dennis, from Weymouth, on the south cost. We had a good natter for nearly 40-50 mins and were also joined by 2E0BWK/M, Kevin, from Peasdown, Bath, who was down from Harrogate visiting family.

I did a couple of tests with Dennis, and was able to get into GB3DR on 5 watts from the high point in Catsash, the audio his end not really much different. Unfortunately we couldn’t achieve simplex.

The winds were starting to build as storm Frank approached, and I headed down to the home QTH around 10:45pm.

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Cwmbran 2m Net – Monday Night

Well, after the over indulgence of Christmas, it was time for another 2m net on 145.375. I headed out in the Landrover to Catsash, my local highpoint some 600ft above sea level, within 10 mins drive of my front door.

Whilst driving there I could hear GW4YNP coming through GB3RT, but my receive signal was in and out, so I didn’t go back to him.

I got set up around 7:25pm at the top of Caelicken Lane, where it joins Coed Y Caerau Lane. MW0LUK/M was first to check in on GB3RT. He was having difficulties keeping GB3RT open from his location, and I was listening to his overs on the input with quite a strong signal to me. We moved to 145.375 simplex around 7:30pm.

The stations that arrived on frequency in order of appearance :

MW0LUK/M – Chris – Now stationary mobile in a lay by close to McDonalds on the A442 heading towards Abbergaveny. A great signal to me, 57/59 with some slight qsb. We had a good chat for about 20 minutes and we were able to stay in contact whilst he drove to Little Mill, even when Chris was sitting outside his garage at home. Good stuff. He even had his own light show, with his neighbours outside light turning on and off with each key 🙂

GW0OAJ – John – Arrived on show just as Chris was signing, but John was unable to copy Chris at all. John was a 5/9 no problem as expected.

GW4SUE – Margaret – Popped in about 5 mins after John showed, she thought it was the night for the Newport net on the same frequency, and it was great to hear her. She was a day early 😉 A great signal from Margaret over in Maesglass, from her 1981 Yaesu 227 memoriser (is that with an s or z?) at 10 Watts. 5/9 all through the evening.

2W0OGY – Chris – Called in around 8pm give or take, and was great to hear him on frequency. Concerns over the upcoming Frank storm were raised and possible damage to HF wire antennas shrugged off as ‘ah well’. Chris’ signal 5/6 5/7 no problem, to me at 600+ft ASL.

Chris and John said their farewells and I was about to QSY to the calling channel around 8:45pm and we were then joined by :

GW3NWS – Ross – Popped in to say hi, and had a natter with Margaret and myself for about another 15 or so minutes. Fantastic signal as always from Ross on his ‘white stick’ 5/9+++ no doubt at my end.

Around 9:10pm I hopped down to 145.275 to see if the usual suspects were on frequency, but was called back by 2E0BWK/M, Kevin, Peasdown, Bath. He was down south (home qth Harrogate) visiting family for a few days and was playing a bit of radio. We had a chat for a good 10 mins or so. His signal 5/6 with me from his mobile station/static. Good stuff, and safe journey Kev back home later in the week.

I decided to go QRT after that as it was approaching 9:30pm and headed home back to Magor.

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