New Amateur Satellites – AggieSat and Bevo-2

Aggie Sat was launched from the ISSA package of two satellites carrying Amateur Radio payloads has been deployed into orbit from the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a collaborative Texas A&M and University of Texas at Austin research effort. Built by Texas A&M students, AggieSat4 (AGS4) will release UT’s Bevo-2 CubeSat in about a month, once it is far enough away from the ISS. Both schools received support from NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center (JSC) for the design, construction, testing, and launch phases. The goal of the overarching LONESTAR (Low Earth Orbiting Navigation Experiment for Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking) program is for the two satellites to individually rendezvous with each other and perform docking and undocking maneuvers.

“The overall objective is to find ways for small spacecraft to join together autonomously in space,” Helen Reed, KD7GPX, professor of aerospace engineering and director of the AggieSat Lab at Texas A&M told NASA. “We need simple systems that will allow rendezvous and docking with little to no help from a human, which will become especially important as we venture farther out into space. Applications could include in-space assembly or reconfiguration of larger structures or systems as well as servicing and repair.”

The AggieSat team received its first beacon signal from the satellite at its Texas A&M Riverside Campus ground station. The AggieSat4 team is asking any Amateur Radio operators receiving the beacon signal to send any data to the AGS4 team. AggieSat4 will transmit 9.6 kbps FSK telemetry and 153.6 kbps FSK on 436.250 MHz. Once it’s placed into its own orbit, Bevo-2 will transmit on 437.325 on CW and 38.4 kbps FSK.

Both satellites were launched to the space station during a December 6, 2015, resupply mission. Earlier last week, Astronauts Tim Peake, KG5BVI, and Scott Kelly made preparations to deploy the sizeable LONESTAR phase 2 mission satellite package from the ISS, using the SSIKLOPS deployer. The satellite mission also will demonstrate communication cross links, data exchange, GPS-based navigation, and other tasks. AggieSat4 will capture images of the Bevo-2 release.

The satellites were independently developed by student teams at the two universities. Both teams were responsible for development plans for their satellite and had to meet established mission objectives.

The Bevo-2 Satellite was designed, built, and tested in the Texas Spacecraft Lab (TSL) at the University of Texas at Austin. “This whole experience is very exciting,” TSL Director Glenn Lightsey, KE5DDG, said last fall as undergraduate and graduate students were in the final stages of their project. “It’s great to have a research program where our students can build satellites that fly in space.” Reed and Lightsey are co-investigators for the LONESTAR 2 project.

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.

Ham Radio: Wednesday Central Alabama Simplex Net

  • NCS – WX4RON, Ronnie in the Birmingam area
  • Time – 8:30 PM every Wednesday Night
  • FREQUENCY – 146.580

This net is a new addition to the normal Sunday Central Alabama simplex net. It is another great opportunity to teach/remind us all what it is like to work a large net without repeaters.  A repeater failure can occur at any point and all of us should be aware of how to communicate in VHF without one.  This net provides a great opportunity to test our simplex communications capabilities, equipment, antenna systems, etc.  This net also has rotating NCS duties giving more people an opportunity to learn how to relay communications from various operating locations across the state.   A truly great net to listen for and participate in if possible!

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

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

N1274A Motorola Power Amplifier

Motorola  N1274A RF Power AmplifierMy new N1274a RF Motorola power amplifier is an old school solid-state broadband power amplifier capable of delivering 40-50 watts of rf power into a 50 ohm antenna when you drive it with 4-5 watts.  I will be using this on the  2 meter ham band (144-148mhz)but this rf amplifer has a range of 136-150.7 mhz.  This rf power amplifier contains an rf sensing circuit which detects the presence of rf power at the input and switches that signal to the power amplifier for amplification.  As far as I can tell the total drain in standby or receive mode is 3 milliamperes.

My use for this is more than three fold.  I now have a battery powerable, low drive power with a decent output of 40-50 watts for use in a car to make a HT act like a mobile. Secondly, I have an amplifier that can be  used in an emergency or on satellites (1 watt in = 10watts out).  Thirdly I have a quick way  to go that extra distance on 2 meter without a huge power requirement.

Overall, the N1274a fits a perfect need for this amateur radio station and I look forward to the many uses of this great amplifier.

My Icom IC-V8000

The Icom IC-V8000 is a powerhouse. This 2 meter FM mobile features high power output coupled with a rugged die-cast design and an easy-to-read alphanumeric display. You can even change the display from amber to green. The transmitter delivers a big 75 watts of output (75/25/10/5 watts selectable). You will be kept informed of weather emergencies with the Weather Alert and Weather Channel Scan features [USA version only]. The fully customizable memory system is awesome. A total of 207 channels (in ten banks) are supported (including 1 call channel and 6 scan edge channels). Each memory is alphanumeric and stores a 6 character name, tone frequency, skip info and more! The V8000 supports three types of scanning. Buy a V8000 on Amazon

ICOM IC-V8000 -View from behindDescription: 2 meter FM mobile radio
75 Watts output power
RX: 136 – 174 MHz
Wide/narrow operation
Front firing speaker
Cooling fan
Dual color display
Auto repeater offset
CTCSS Encode
CTCSS Decode
CTCSS Tone scan
DCS Encode
DCS Decode
DCS Code scan
DTMF Encode
DTMF Decode (optional)
DTMF Code squelch
Dynamic Memory Scan
Weather channels
Weather alert
Weather scan
207 Memory channels (3 scan edges)
Call channel
6 Character alphanumeric display
PC programmable
Radio – radio cloning
Programmable keys
RF Attenuator
Channelized operation
Alpha only operation
Buy a V8000 on Amazon

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.
  :)