Solar Flare: Earth to be impacted by massive CME from x-class solar flare

Massive X-Class Solar Flare heading towards earthA CME propelled toward Earth by yesterday’s X5-class solar flare is expected to reach our planet on March 8th at 0625 UT (+/- 7 hr). Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, who prepared the CME’s forecast track, say the impact could spark a strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm. Sky watchers at all latitudes should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text, phone.

Mild geomagnetic activity is already underway, following a lesser CME impact on March 7th around 0400 UT. Big sunspot AR1429 has unleashed another major flare. This one is the strongest yet, an X5-class eruption on March 7th at 00:28 UT.

Large X-Class Solar FlareThis eruption hurled a bright CME into space, shown here in a movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab estimate that the CME will reach Earth on March 8th at 0625 UT (+/- 7 hr), possibly triggering a strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm. An animated forecast track shows the progression of the fast-moving cloud.

The flare also accelerated energetic protons toward Earth, triggering an S3-class solar radiation storm, in progress. Such a storm is mainly a nuisance to satellites, causing occasional reboots of onboard computers and adding noise to imaging systems.

Amateur Radio Study included in House-Passed Payroll Tax Bill

The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 (HR 3630) — the bill to extend the payroll tax reduction that passed the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 13 — includes among its many other provisions the “Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum Act” or “JOBS Act” that passed the Communications and Technology Subcommittee on December 1. The JOBS Act makes up Title IV of HR 3630 and includes the following:

SEC. 4205. STUDY ON EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS BY AMATEUR RADIO AND IMPEDIMENTS TO AMATEUR RADIO COMMUNICATIONS.

•(a) In General- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the [Federal Communications] Commission, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Communications in the Department of Homeland Security, shall–
•(1) complete a study on the uses and capabilities of amateur radio service communications in emergencies and disaster relief; and
•(2) submit to the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate a report on the findings of such study.
•(b) Contents- The study required by subsection (a) shall include–
•(1)(A) a review of the importance of emergency amateur radio service communications relating to disasters, severe weather, and other threats to lives and property in the United States; and
•(B) recommendations for–
•(i) enhancements in the voluntary deployment of amateur radio operators in disaster and emergency communications and disaster relief efforts; and
•(ii) improved integration of amateur radio operators in the planning and furtherance of initiatives of the Federal Government; and
•(2)(A) an identification of impediments to enhanced amateur radio service communications, such as the effects of unreasonable or unnecessary private land use restrictions on residential antenna installations; and
•(B) recommendations regarding the removal of such impediments.
•(c) Expertise- In conducting the study required by subsection (a), the Commission shall use the expertise of stakeholder entities and organizations, including the amateur radio, emergency response, and disaster communications communities.
Such a study has long been sought by the ARRL.

HR 3630 is now up for consideration in the Senate where its prospects for passage are dimmed by the inclusion of a controversial provision concerning a pipeline project.

December 12, 1961-First Amateur Radio satellite took to the skies, OSCAR 1

History – On December 12, 1961 the first Amateur Radio satellite took to the skies. Known as OSCAR 1 (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio), the satellite was part of a payload launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard an Agena rocket. It was inserted into a 431 X 245 kilometer orbit inclined about 81 degrees to the Earth’s equator.

The satellite was in orbit for 22 days and was heard by more than 570 amateurs in 28 countries as it sent “HI” in high speed Morse code on 2 meters. (Listen to an original audio recording here.) OSCAR 1 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on January 31, 1962.

Medical Micropower Networks in 413-457 MHz Band

ARRL – In their regular meeting on Wednesday, November 30, the four FCC Commissioners will hear from the Commission’s Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) regarding amending Parts 2 and 95 of the Commission’s Rules. In a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) issued in March 2009, the FCC proposed to allocate spectrum and adopt service and technical rules for the utilization of new implanted medical devices that operate on 413-457 MHz (70 cm). The Amateur Radio Service has a secondary allocation in the 70 cm band.

According to the FCC, these devices — called implanted neuromuscular microstimulators — would greatly expand the use of functional electric stimulation to restore sensation, mobility and function to those persons with paralyzed limbs and organs; they would be implanted in a patient and function as wireless broadband medical micropower networks (MMNs). These devices would be used on the 70 cm band on a secondary basis as part of the Medical Data Radiocommunication Service in Part 95 of the FCC rules.

In its comments to the FCC regarding the NPRM, the ARRL said it believes that the choice of frequency bands for MMNs as proposed is “unfortunate and unnecessary” and that “the WMTS [Wireless Medical Telemetry Service] offers a far more suitable solution than does the 413-457 MHz band for MMNs.”

“The Alfred Mann Foundation argues that the frequency range just above 400 MHz is optimum for their application, which requires no more than 1 mW of RF spread across about 5 MHz of bandwidth,” ARRL Chief Executive Officer David Sumner, K1ZZ, wrote in “It Seems to Us: Coexistence,” published in the June 2009 issue of QST. “However, recognizing the presence of a variety of incumbent radio services in that range, specifically including the amateur service, they have proposed four channels for flexibility in avoiding localized interference. Two of the four channels are 426-432 and 438-444 MHz; the other two are above and below the 420-450 MHz band.” The Mann Foundation is the developer of the MMN technology.

Though the Mann Foundation has proposed that MMNs would be secondary to incumbent licensed operations in the subject bands, the Amateur Service is presently secondary to government radiolocation in this band; this represents a cooperative sharing arrangement that is satisfactory to both government agencies and the Amateur Service, the League contends.

The ARRL noted that there is Part 90 spectrum above 450 MHz available for low-power biomedical telemetry, but “the Alfred Mann Foundation argues that bands between 450 and 470 MHz are unsuitable due to the fact that the band is ‘congested and populated with commercial, high-power transmitters that could preclude reliable operation of lower-power, wireless medical implant devices.’” This, the ARRL said, “is a very worrisome contention, and not the argument that should be made by the proponent of a new service that is secondary to other incumbent licensees. ARRL contends that if the 450-470 MHz band hosts services that are incompatible with reliable operation of MMNs, then the 420-450 MHz band, and especially the segment proposed for MMNs at 438-444 MHz, is equally incompatible with MMNs.”

Sumner, in his June 2009 QST editorial, said that the FCC’s proposed rules raise two concerns: “First and foremost, the devices would be required to accept interference only from stations authorized to operate on a primary basis. The Mann Foundation has assured us that amateur stations will not cause its system to malfunction, so we see no reason why this cannot be reflected in the rules, even though our allocation is on a secondary basis. Second, while the Mann Foundation researchers appear to have done their homework, others who try to take advantage of the new rules may not be as rigorous.”

The ARRL did acknowledge in its comments that it thought the FCC was correct when it stated in the NPRM that “[g]iven the low transmitter power and duty cycle limits that would typically be used by either the implanted MMN device or the external MCU, we expect that the risk of interference from MMNs to incumbent operations in these frequency bands would be negligibly small.” The ARRL pointed out, however, that no testing has been done to verify this conclusion and “such testing should be concluded and the results analyzed before this anticipatory conclusion can be relied upon.”

While the ARRL is concerned about interference from the MMNs affecting radio amateurs, it is also concerned about RF from these radio amateurs affecting the MMNs. “The Amateur Service has a practical inability to protect patients wearing RF susceptible MMNs from interference from ongoing amateur operations in the 420-450 MHz band, and therefore all MMN operation is going to have to be conditioned on the ability to withstand and operate in the presence of such high-power signals, and thus subordinate in allocation status to the Amateur Service,” the ARRL said in its comments. “Unless this interference rejection capability is demonstrated by MMN proponents in advance, the devices should not be allowed to operate anywhere in the 420-450 MHz band.”

Originally posted here at the ARRL.org website

AMSAT: AO-51 has stopped transmitting

The amateur satellite that goes by the name AO-51 has ceased transmission and is not responding to commands.  This satellite has been a mainstay for the last seven years for the amateur satellite community as one of the FM “easy” satellites (easy is relative). The last telemetry data indicated that the third of six batteries was approaching failure to short, and observations indicate the voltage from three cells is insufficient to power the UHF transmitters. The IHU may continue to be operative. Initial tests with the S band transmitter were also not positive, although more attempts are in order. We have tried leaving the satellite in an expected state where if voltages climb high enough, the 435.150 transmitter may possibly be heard.

Ham Radio Licenses at an All-Time High

Foxnews.com – Apple iPhone, beware?
The newest trend in American communication isn’t another smartphone from Apple or Google but one of the elder statesmen of communication: Ham radio licenses are at an all time high, with over 700,000 licenses in the United States, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Ham radio first took the nation by storm nearly a hundred years ago. Last month the FCC logged 700,314 licenses, with nearly 40,000 new ones in the last five years. Compare that with 2005 when only 662,600 people hammed it up and you’ll see why the American Radio Relay League — the authority on all things ham — is calling it a “golden age” for ham.”

“Over the last five years we’ve had 20-25,000 new hams,” Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the group, told FoxNews.com.

The unusual slang term — a “ham” is more properly known as an amateur radio operator — described a poor operator when the first wireless operators started out in the early 1900s. At that time, government and coastal ships would have to compete with amateurs for signal time, because stations all battled for the same radio wavelength. Frustrated commercial operators called the amateurs “hams” and complained that they jammed up the signal.

People like John Pritchett have used the slang term ever since.

“It takes an inquisitive mind that wants the challenge to speak with the rest of the world,” Pritchett told FoxNews.com. “I meet a lot of people as a result amateur radio. It’s a fascinating experience to meet somebody who you’ve talked to for years — when you finally meet them and go, wow, that’s you.”

Pritchett has been a ham for over 35 years. He sits in his ham shack slowly turning the dial on his amateur radio and listening attentively for a voice through the high radio frequency. But he’s not looking for aliens: Pritchett is dialing in to make contact with someone around the world.

“W6JWK, This is John in Fresno, California,” he says.

Pritchett can communicate with people around the globe or even astronauts in space by either talking through his microphone or using Morse code.

With more people joining the hobby, local ham radio businesses are growing as well. Amateur Electronics Supply in Las Vegas sells everything to do with ham radios, from transceivers, amplifiers and antennas to handhelds.

“We have clientele from all walks of life,” manager Luke Rohn told FoxNews.com. “We have church groups who are interested in ham radio for viable source of communications for times of natural disaster. We have young kids that find ham radio interesting. Maybe they’ve heard about it through their father and grandfather and it’s a lot of fun for them.”

According to the American Radio Relay League, retirees and church groups are among the main reasons for the nearly 30,000 new hams that pick up the hobby each year.

Ham is a boon for safety as well as a fun pastime: When normal communications methods fail and cell phone towers are jammed, ham radios will still work and can help out in disaster situations; because they don’t require towers to relay the signal.

“Amateur radio came into play very much during the major earthquake in the bay area in 1989. The only thing I had was a little handheld radio. Nothing else worked, telephones didn’t work, cellphones didn’t work, amateur radio just kept right on working,” said Pritchett.

Looking to ham it up a bit with some friends? Try a fox hunt — the radio equivalent of ham-to-ham combat. In a fox hunt, local amateur radio clubs search for a transmitter (called the fox) using their homemade antennas.

“The fox hunting is really fun — the thrill of the chase, the competition of being the first to find the transmitter,” said Rob Mavis, president of the Clovis Amateur Radio Pioneers club in Clovis, Calif.

Ham radio is inexpensive fun, as well: All you need is a couple hundred bucks to get started and a FCC license. So join the latest craze — no iPhone app required.

Foxnews.com post is here

Ham Radio: Icom IC-W32A

Icom IC-W32aMy new radio is the Icom IC-W32A dual-bander that I will be using for satellite communications mainly.  It has an impressive alphanumeric and memory display and independent tuning knobs which makes working with the doppler easier for satellite communications. The IC-W32A’s two dials are used for independent tuning of the VHF and UHF band. This conveniently allows independent adjustment of either band. With ICOM’s exchange function you can assign VHF/UHF tuning and volume to either knob as you prefer. And of course the frequency display will sync with this function. Independent main and sub bands allow you to receive both VHF and UHF simultaneously; or use the V/V and U/U functions for receiving two frequencies on the same band. Moreover, either operating band can be used in transmit regardless of whether it appears in the proper display or not. Full crossband duplex is supported.

It has 100 channels for each band (200 total). Each channel can be assigned a name of up to 8 alpha characters from the keypad for easy recognition. Alpha tagging is also available for DTMF memory channels. You also get programmed, full and memory skip scanning. Other features include:  impressive audio, 50 frequency PL encode, decode, backlit LCD, auto power off and two power levels.

Satellite frequency listing for amateur radio operators: click here

This radio is programmable using the free program called Chirp which can be found here!

Swindled by a HAM, yes a HAM

I love working satellites but have been unable to for a bit due to an equipment failure and a lack of a budget.  Then I hear of a dual band radio that is being sold, and it comes with two batteries, a bunch of chargers and no manual.  Price asked was premium for the radio which looked to be in good condition but it had features that I will truly enjoy when working satellites.  Radio turned on and all modes were selectable and everything was looking in order.  Here in lies the start of the problem, how can one properly test batteries in the field when buying a radio?
Needless to say I did not test them

I bought the radio and headed home with the power running out on the first battery about 20 minutes after the purchase.  I attribute this to a “lack of a recent charge?” (at the time) and decide to go for slow charge for 24 hrs when I get home.            
tic-toc…
Radio fires up, key up… repeater talks to me.  Listen to some morning jabber and then the radio beeps and shuts down.  A quick measure of the voltage on the battery revealed that the battery was indeed dead and that the radio was reporting it properly.  Second battery, well… turn out it was not a battery but a battery case that needed new four new AA batteries.  To that I say he and myself rack up the idiot points.  I could have ruined the radio trying to cahrge the alkaline batteries in the battery case. oops. anyway

Long story short, I called the guy I bought it from and asked about the batteries and was told I “musta done something to them”.  Interesting, you mean “besides try to charge them both slow and fast methods?”.  He insisted that I had done something and stated that he had it on for a day or two before I bought it.  Anyway, here is where I went wrong I guess…

I said that “I felt a little swindled” (meaning I paid premium and thought I was getting radio with two good batteries” .   He immediately said I was calling him a liar and calling  him names and he would not stand for that. He then hung up on me.  Had he known what he was selling or just a nice guy he might have suggested some options for me to try but instead opted to loose any future sale with me.

Now being this is exactly what I wanted radio wise, separate tune and separate volume for each band, this poor guy thought I wanted to return it (still kinda laughing at him) but I would have felt like he was more human had he split an ebay battery with me… 
This radio makes satellite communication easier for me but that is for another day as I wait for the ebay batteries to arrive.
As for this “HAM” guy that sold me the radio, well I wish him the best as it seems he has his own issues…
Anyway you look at a HT with no batteries sucks and this guy inferred that I fried the batteries(2 of them) and then got offended when I told him how I felt swindled…

I love the radio BTW…

I just paid more than I would have paid had I known I had to buy a battery in order to use it at a decent output (9.6v factory battery vs the 6v AA battery case) The Radio is an Icom IC-w32a and is great for amateur satellite communication.

Chalk it up to a lesson learned.
  :)

As howling storm battered Alaska, ham operators provided vital link

Jill Burke from the Alaska Dispatch — The jet stream feeding the wintery sea-spun tempest that sideswiped Alaska’s western coast wasn’t the only worldwide conveyer belt in motion this week. As howling winds whipped up and crashing waves pounded beaches, the people who live in the remote, isolated villages along the storm’s path stayed connected via a web of global radio frequencies.

When other communications failed, ham radio operators came to the rescue. Throughout the storm, they were the eyes for scientists in Fairbanks and Anchorage who otherwise would have been blind to weather conditions they could predict but not see.

“They were providing critical observations. We don’t have a lot of meteorological observations in the west. We don’t have the instruments out there,” Carven Scott, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said Thursday as messages sent via the amateur radio network zapped into his inbox.

The messages were deceptively simple: how fast the wind was blowing and from what direction; sea level; wave height; whether it was snowing or raining; and the temperature. These seemingly small details from various villages made a big difference for the weather service — enough so, Scott said, that a lead forecaster told him, “Whatever you do, don’t cut it off because this stuff is really helping us.”

Through the ham radio network, Scott and his colleagues learned that river ice in Koyuk was backing up and spilling onto the banks, roofs had blown off in Nome, water was surging in Nome, and rain and snow were falling in Shaktoolik and Savoonga.

Scott describes weather prediction as a 10,000 piece puzzle with 9,000 pieces missing. Remote sensing tools, radar and satellites all help, but conceptual models are only as good as the limited information forecasters have. First-hand reports from people on the ground feed the model with real information in real-time, allowing forecasters to adjust and refine their analysis. If snow was predicted but it’s actually raining, meteorologists tweak their formulas.

“Those seemingly unimportant pieces of information help us characterize where the front is at,” he said. “Without that information, it would impact our ability to execute our mission, which is the protection of life and property and enhancement of national commerce.”

Continue the story here at the Alaska Dispatch site

Record numbers at Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club licensing session

A record 150 electrical engineering freshman students from Cal Poly will take their FCC amateur radio technician-class license exam this November in the largest amateur radio licensing event ever held in San Luis Obispo County.

Hosted by the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club (CPARC), this session may be the largest Amateur Radio License Testing Session ever held at the collegiate level. These 150 potential amateur radio operators will join over 700,000 other hams in the U.S. in providing volunteer and emergency communications support for everything from local bike rides and parades to global disaster relief, including the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Dennis Derickson (AC0P), Cal Poly Electrical Engineering (EE) department chair, conceived the Freshman Licensing Initiative which gives every EE 111 student a chance to get their radio license. As part of the EE 111 curriculum, this test session will be administered during the 50-minute class period and count as one of the midterm exams for the freshmen students.

“CPARC members have been hosting review sessions to help students prepare to pass their exam and get introductory knowledge on a wide variety of electrical engineering topics,” said CPARC member Javen O’Neal. “Getting an amateur radio license is the first step towards many career opportunities in the communications industry, from engineering UAVs and integrating Wi-Fi on the Amazon Kindle, to creating 4G cell phone networks and designing communication subsystems on DirecTV satellites.”

CPARC members learn about radios by retuning filters on radios, building directional antennas for transmitter hunts, and putting together an emergency vehicle tracking network for Wildflower Triathlon using two dozen radios and GPS units, digital repeaters, and internet gateways.

Founded in 1947, the Cal Poly Amateur Radio Club has a long tradition of communications service on campus and in the San Luis Obispo community. The club maintains Emergency Communications Station No. 16 on the Cal Poly Campus for the San Luis Obispo Emergency Communications Council (SLOECC) which is equipped with emergency power and radio equipment to support various public safety agencies in the event of a disaster. More information about the club can be found at www.w6bhz.org .

Anyone interested in getting their amateur radio license should contact Javen O’Neal, Marcel Stieber (ph: 970-462-7235), or Shaun Koide at calpolyradioclub@gmail.com for upcoming testing dates and study material.

Cal Poly Engineering