Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pair of Ham Satellites Launched from Space Station

LONESTAR Mission Control at Texas A&M University
(NASA Johnson Space Center Photo)
A pair of student-built satellites testing technology to rendez- vous, dock and undock without human intervention was hand- launched from the International Space Station on February 1. The satellites, built independent- ly by students at Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin, both have transponders in the 70-centimeter amateur band.
According to the ARRL, Texas A&M's AggieSat 4 is carrying UT's smaller Bevo-2 cubesat and will release it about a month after launch, once both craft have moved far enough away from the space station. Once separated, the two satellites are supposed to establish communication with each other and then perform unguided docking and undocking maneuvers. This capability is seen as vital for future building projects in space. The two experiments are jointly known as LONESTAR, for Low-Earth Orbit Navigation Experiment for Spacecraft Testing Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking, and to reflect their roots in Texas. They were part of the cargo on a December 6 resupply mission to the ISS.

AggieSat-4 is transmitting FSK telemetry on 436.250 MHz; Bevo-2, once separated, is expected to transmit its own telemetry on 437.325 MHz CW and FSK. Reception reports are encouraged and should be e-mailed to <aggiesat@tamu.edu>.

Milestones: Tropical Hamboree Co-Founder Evelyn Gauzens, W4WYR, SK

Evelyn Gauzens, W4WYR
(ARRL Photo)
2/4 UPDATE: Evelyn's family has provided details on services. See below.

ARRL Honorary Vice President Evelyn Gauzens, W4WYR, became a Silent Key on January 31, just days before her 87th birthday. Best-known as co-founder of the Miami Tropical Hamboree hamfest and its chairman for 45 years, Gauzens was also a longtime ARRL Southeastern Division Vice Director, and was active in a variety of other organizations, including the amateur radio group at the National Hurricane Center. Gauzens was inducted into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame in 2012. Details follow on visitation and services:

Visitation: Monday, February 8th, 5 - 9 pm with Rosary recitation at 8 pm
       Van Orsdel Coral Gables Chapel and Family Funeral Home
         4600 SW 8th St.
         Coral Gables, FL 33134
          (305) 446-4412
Funeral: Tuesday, February 9th, 10 am
St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church
2987 W Flagler St.
Miami, FL 33135
Interment and graveside prayer immediately following funeral
Woodlawn North Cemetery
3260 SW 8th St.
Miami, FL 33135

Changes at the Top at ARRL

ARRL President Rick
Roderick, K5UR
(ARRL Photo)
The ARRL Board of Directors in January elected a new president for the organization and hired a new Chief Executive Officer. Rick Roderick, K5UR, of Little Rock, Arkansas, is the League's new president, succeeding Kay Craigie, N3KN, who did not seek re-election to a fourth two-year term. Roderick had been First Vice President prior to his election to the top spot.

Incoming ARRL
CEO Tom Gallagher,
NY2RF. (ARRL Photo)
In addition, the board voted to hire Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, of West Palm Beach, Florida and New York City, to be the ARRL's new Chief Executive Officer. He will succeed Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, who is retiring in April after more than four decades on the ARRL staff. Gallagher is an investment banker and financial services executive, according to the League's announcement. He has been a ham since 1966 and calls himself "an incurable HF DXer and inveterate tinkerer."

Finally, former ARRL/VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, is returning to the League staff as Contest Branch Manager. He fills a vacancy created last year by the resignation of Matt Wilhelm, W1MSW.
Still to come: A successor to ARRL Chief Operating Officer Harold Kramer, WJ1B, who is retiring as of March 1.

ARRL Seeks to Shrink 75-Meter Phone Band

The ARRL has filed a petition for rule making with the FCC to move the bottom end of the 75-meter phone band from 3600 kHz to 3650 kHz in order to free up more space for RTTY and data communications. 
According to the ARRL Letter, the petition represents a "minimal but necessary change" intended to correct an FCC error made when it expanded the 75-meter phone band a decade ago. The petition also calls for moving the automatically-controlled data subband to 3600-3615 kHz from its current 3585-3600 kHz allocation, and for allowing Novices and Technicians to operate CW (but not RTTY or data modes) in the expanded General Class CW/RTTY/data subband.

Congressman Prods FCC Chair on QRM

Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
is going to bat for hams
and public safety officials.
(Courtesy Rep. King website)
New York Congressman Peter King has written to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, urging him to take enforcement action against a jammer "well-known to your Enforcement Bureau" who is allegedly responsible for ongoing interference problems on various repeaters in the New York City and Long Island area, as well as a prison frequency and an NBC radio network remote pickup frequency. 

The letter followed a meeting between King - a longtime supporter of amateur radio - and ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Liscenco, N2YBB and General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD. According to Liscenco, repeated requests through normal channels for enforcement action "have consistently fallen on deaf ears."

Progress on Amateur Radio Parity Act

The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing in January on HR 1301, the bill that would hold homeowners associations to the same standard of "reasonable accommodation" of amateur radio antennas that currently applies to state and municipal governments. 

According to the ARRL Letter, both subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), W7EQI, and bill sponsor Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) testified in favor of the bill. The report did not indicate whether there was any testimony in opposition, or whether any action was taken on the bill at the conclusion of the hearing.
In related news, the ARRL Board of Directors in January approved creating an ad hoc Legislative Advisory Committee to coordinate strategies for securing passage of the Amateur Radio Parity Act, oversee lobbying efforts on behalf of the bill and make recommendations regarding future legislative goals and strategies.

Ten-Tec Now Part of Dishtronix

Amateur radio amplifier manufacturer Dishtronix has purchased the assets of Ten-Tec from RKR Designs, which had acquired the company just last year. 

According to the ARRL Letter, Dishtronix owner Mike Dishop, N8WFF, says his plans for the company are "strictly long-term," and that Ten-Tec production will remain in Tennessee, at least for now. 

His early plans for the Ten-Tec product line include firmware upgrades for various models and to start up manufacture of updated Omni VII+ transceivers. Dishop also instituted a minimum $140 fee to troubleshoot a radio returned for service, noting that it was necessary in order to "bring Ten-Tec back to a sustainable state." More information is available on the Ten-Tec website at <www.tentec.com>.

Bad Weather and Iceberg Interrupt VP8 DXpedition

South Thule and South Georgia
Islands are both located in the Southern
Ocean off Antarctica. (Map courtesy
Wikimedia Commons)
The operators of a DXpedition to Southern Thule (VP8STI) and South Georgia (VP8SGI) Islands had to cut short the first part of their operation in late January after a severe storm caused a large ice floe on Southern Thule to break away and threaten to block access to bay where they were camped. 

The ARRL reported that the captain of their transport vessel declared an emergency on January 25 and ordered everyone back on board the ship. The crew was able to secure the station equip- ment from the island the next day before setting sail for the second part of the operation on South Georgia. The ops logged more than 50,000 QSOs from VP8STI before being forced to shut down.

EmComm: Hams Pitch in for Floods, Blizzard and Water Emergencies

Hams in Washington State and Missouri provided emergency communications during floods in December, while amateurs on the east coast stood by to help during a massive blizzard in January and hams in Ohio put down their radios to help distribute water to a town in need.
Flooding like this scene in St. Mary, Missouri, was common
throughout southwestern Missouri and central Illinois after
unusually heavy rains in December. (FEMA photo by
Steve Zumwalt)

According to the ARRL, 75 ARES members deployed after massive rains in early December caused flooding in the Centralia area of Washington State. They drove to selected high-water points and reported in on how rapidly the water was rising. In late December, some two dozen St. Louis area hams worked with the American Red Cross in serving meals and helping to relocate people who were displaced by floods in southwestern Missouri and central Illinois. 

Amateurs up and down the east coast were on standby to provide communications during January's big blizzard, but thankfully, all normal communication systems remained operational.

In addition, ARES members in Ohio joined other volunteers in late January in distributing clean water to more than 8000 families in Sebring, which had problems with elevated levels of lead in drinking water. No radio communication was needed, but the ARRL says the ARES members' efforts to help move and distribute water were greatly appreciated by emergency management and Red Cross officials.

ARRL to Study Changing Division Boundaries

ARRL Division boundaries have been virtually unchanged
in a century, despite shifting population patterns. (Map
from ARRL website)

The ARRL Board of Directors voted at its January meeting to appoint a Reapportionment Committee to study and make recommendations about possible changes in division boundaries. 

According to ARRL Hudson Division Director Mike Liscenco, N2YBB, division boundaries have been virtually unchanged since the ARRL was founded more than a century ago. The committee will "examine equalization both geographically and as to size of membership," according to Liscenco, and will report back with its recommendations next January.

Second Ham Radio Balloon Crosses the Equator

Track of PS-58 balloon (in red). (Courtesy VK3YT website)
Andy Nguyen, VK3YT, continues to do amazing things with balloons carrying ham radio transmitters. According to Southgate Amateur Radio News, Andy's PS-58 balloon was launched from Australia on December 29. It floated northeast across the Pacific, over the equator and across Central America and the Caribbean Sea before heading out over the North Atlantic and floating toward Africa. As this is written on January 29, a month after its launch, PS-58 is still up there, being tracked by hams on multiple continents.

Nguyen's previous balloon flight, PS-57, also crossed the equator - twice - before coming down in back weather in the Indian Ocean.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ramsey Electronics Discontinues Kit Business

Longtime kitmaker Ramsey Electronics of Victor, New York, has announced that it has shut down its hobby electronics kit division effective January 1, 2016.

The company, which has been making kits for electronics hobbyists since the 1970s, cited "rapid changes in technologies (that) have make if difficult for the do-it-yourself hobbyist" as the key reason behind its decision. "You just don’t go out and build yourself an 802.11ac wireless router these days!" the announcement noted. "You buy one at the corner big-box store for fifty bucks!"

Existing kit stock was being sold off on Amazon.com. Ramsey's announcement said the company would continue to provide technical and warranty support throughout 2016 for kits purchased in 2015. Ramsey's RF Test Equipment Group is unaffected by the moves. 

CQ Kit-Building Editor K0NEB plans to have more on Ramsey and its kit products in his April column.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Update - Planned N. Korea Operaton Delayed Until Summer

Polish DXer Dom Gryzb, 3Z9DX, who made a surprise on-air demonstration of amateur radio for officials in North Korea in late December (see story below), has told DX World that he is delaying his planned full-scale DXpedition until late summer of 2016. 

This, according to the report, is to give him time to secure a quieter operating location. He had initially planned to be back on the air in February.

The success of Dom's December operation was limited by being in a very noisy location and by a solar flare that degraded HF conditions. Nontheless, he was able to make 785 contacts during the unannounced operation, mostly in Asia.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hamvention Award Nominations Open - Deadline Feb. 1

 Nominations are now being accepted for the Dayton Hamvention®'s 2016 awards. According to the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, these prestigious awards include:

  • Amateur of the Year Award - recognizing an individual who has made a long-term, outstanding commitment to the advancement of amateur radio;
  • Technical Excellence Award - for a person who has made an outstanding technical advancement in the field of amateur radio;
  • Special Achievement Award - honoring someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of amateur radio, usually someone who has spearheaded a significant project; and
  • Club of the Year - awarded to a radio club which has made a significant contribution to the advancement of amateur radio. 
Nominations must be received by February 1. Additional details and nomination forms are available on the Dayton Hamvention® Website at: http://hamvention.org/event-details/awards/.

Nominations or questions may be e-mailed to Awards@hamvention.org
or mailed to Dayton Hamvention Awards, PO Box 1446, Dayton, OH 45401-1446. The 2016 Dayton Hamvention will be held on May 20-22 at Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Milestones: HRO Founder Bob Ferrero, W6RJ, SK

Bob Ferrero, W6RJ (SK)
(Courtesy HRO website)

Ham Radio Outlet founder Bob Ferrero, W6RJ, became a Silent Key in early December at age 78. A Navy veteran and former California Highway Patrol officer, Bob (then K6AHV) acquired the (only) HRO store in Burlingame, California in 1971. Over the succeeding decades, he turned the company into the world's largest ham radio retail chain, with 14 stores across the United States. 

An active DXer and DXpeditioner, Bob was inducted into the CQ DX Hall of Fame in 1997 and the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame in 2005. He received special recognition from CQ at the 2009 International DX Convention in Visalia, California, for his many contributions to the amateur radio hobby.

Surprise Operation from North Korea; More Possible in February

Polish DXer Dom Gryzb, 3Z9DX, made a surprise on-air demonstration of amateur radio for officials in North Korea in mid-December and was planning to return to the air for a full-scale DXpedition this month. North Korea (P5) is at the top of every DX "most-wanted" list.
According to the ARRL, Dom appeared unannounced on 20, 15 and 10 meters on December 20 and 21 as P5/3Z9DX, the first time an amateur station had been on the air from North Korea since 4L4FN's operation in 2001-02. The brief operation in December was a demonstration for government officials and coincided with a solar flare that heavily degraded HF propagation. Only a few hundred stations were worked, mostly in Asia. 

Dom - who was headed back home for Christmas - told DX World that he was planning a full-scale operation in February. (Considering the past history of P5 operations, we'll believe it when we see it in the rear-view mirror. -ed.)

A New Ham in Congress

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM),
KG5IKQ (Photo courtesy
House of Representatives)
New Mexico Representative Steve Pearce is now the third Member of Congress with a ham radio license, joining Rep. Greg Walden, W7EQI, of Oregon, and Rep. Daniel Benishek, KB8TOW, of Michigan. Pearce, now KG5KIQ, passed his license exam at a test session arranged by ARRL New Mexico Section Manager Ed James, KA8JMW.

 According to the ARRL Letter, Pearce had met previously with James and Rocky Mountain Division Director Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT, to discuss ham radio. In mid-November, an aide asked James if he could help arrange a Technician exam for the congressman. He passed and his license was issued on November 18.

Spanish Ham Killed in Afghanistan

(Flag of Spain Courtesy
Wikimedia Commons)
A police officer and ham radio operator serving as an embassy guard at the Spanish embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, was among seven members of the diplomatic staff killed in a gun battle with bombers believed to be Taliban fighters. 

According to the ARRL Letter, Isidro Gabino "Gabi" San Martin Hernandez, EB1BT, was working as part of the embassy security team on December 11 when a car bomb exploded at the compound's guest house gate. The bombers then entered the embassy grounds and a 9-hour battle with security officers ensued. San Martin and another police officer were among the seven Spanish casualties. Authorities said all of the attackers were killed by Afghan Police Special Forces.

WRC-15 Rules Out Non-Amateur Use of Amateur Satellite Bands

In addition to creating a worldwide amateur radio allocation on 60 meters (see last month's news), the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) specifically excluded amateur radio frequencies on the 2-meter and 70-centimeter bands from consideration at the next conference for expanded spectrum for short-duration, low-orbit non-amateur satellites. 

According to the AMSAT News Service, the only frequencies that will be under consideration for non-amateur satellite use at WRC-19 will be 150.05-174 MHz and 400.15-420 MHz. It was specifically noted that some satellites have used amateur frequencies for telemetry, tracking and command, and that "such use is not in accordance" the ITU regulations defining the amateur radio and amateur satellite services.

UK Begins Revoking Ham Licenses That Have Not Been "Revalidated"

The British telecommunications regulatory agency, Ofcom, has begun the process of revoking amateur licenses that have not been "revalidated" under a recent change in rules that accompanied a 2006 switch from annual license renewals to lifetime licenses. According to the ARRL Letter, over 500 licenses were revoked in the first batch in early December. There is an appeals process, but the Letter reports that Ofcom says none of the first 500 has appealed so far. It is uncertain how many UK amateur licenses will be cancelled for failure to revalidate.

Kosovo Joins IARU; Still No DXCC Credit

SHRAK, the national amateur radio association of Kosovo, has been accepted into membership in the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU). 

It was the second time a vote was taken on SHRAK's application. The first time, it lost narrowly and two affirmative votes arrived after the ballot deadline, according to the ARRL Letter, resulting in a request for a re-vote by IARU Region 1, which includes Europe and Africa. 

The ARRL says SHRAK's admission to IARU membership has no effect on its continuing refusal to recognize Kosovo as a DXCC "entity" separate from Serbia, from which it broke away.

MARS/ARES Exercise Deemed a Success

A two-day emergency exercise including both the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) and the ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is being termed a success, the ARRL Letter reports, especially with regard to cooperation between the two groups. 

The exercise in early November was built around a scenario of a massive solar flare disrupting communication systems across the United States. MARS stations were asked to make contact with amateur stations in as many US counties as possible. In all, according to Army MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, contact was made with 26% of all counties by MARS members using primarily NVIS (near-vertical incidence skywave) on HF as well as VHF and UHF repeaters. 

The purpose of the exercise, English said, was to exchange usable information from the local level to the national level in a crisis, adding that success is possible "only through … cooperation among MARS and the larger amateur radio community."

15 Years of Ham Radio on the International Space Station

The first amateur radio contacts from the International Space Station (ISS) were made in late 2000, the beginning of a continuous amateur radio presence on the station. 

A special event to mark the anniversary - a planned slow-scan TV transmission from orbit - was postponed at the last minute, according to the ARRL, due to "complications in planning." At press time in late December, the event had been tentatively rescheduled for mid-January.

Yasme Foundation Awards Multiple Grants

The Yasme Foundation announced a dozen grants in late December to support a variety of amateur radio activities, both on and off the air. 

According to the ARRL, recipients include ARISS, the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program; the ARRL Teachers Institute; the Reverse Beacon Network; scholarships through the ARRL Foundation and the Foundation for Amateur Radio; the Youngsters on the Air program in Europe, the Northern California DX Foundation's beacon project; the Haiti Amateur Radio Club; 4U1ITU, the amateur station at the International Telecommunication Union headquarters in Genva, Switzerland; the 2018 World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC); Ethiopian Amateur Radio Society club station ET3AA; the World Wide Radio Operators Foundation and Dokufunk, the Research and Documentation Center for the History of Radio Communications and the Electronic Media in Vienna, Austria. The amounts of the individual grants were not disclosed.

FCC Proposes $25,000 Fine for Interference (But That's Not the Whole Story)

The FCC has proposed fining a California ham $25,000 for alleged intentional interference to a net on 75 meters this past August. But the FCC's history with William Crowell, W6WBJ (ex-N6AYJ) goes back 15 years and his 2007 license renewal application was put on hold and then designated for hearing in 2008. To the best of our knowledge, no hearing has been held and Crowell's 2007 renewal application is still listed as "pending."
In the current case, the Commission responded to complaints that Crowell was deliberately interfering with the Western Amateur Radio Friendship Association net on 3908 kHz on multiple occasions in August 2015. Agents reportedly tracked the source of interfering transmissions to Crowell's station in Diamond Springs, California, and noted that the transmissions included music as well as "racial, ethnic, and sexual slurs and epithets." It proposed fining him $25,000.

Curiously, the Notice of Apparent Liability makes only a single reference in a footnote to the fact that Crowell's license renewal application was designated for hearing seven years ago. Reasons for that designation included allegations of intentional interference, transmitting music, indecent language and one-way communications on amateur frequencies. 

When a renewal application is listed as pending, the licensee may continue to operate even though his/her license has technically expired. There is no indication in any publicly-available FCC documents as to why the hearing process is dragging on nearly through the entire term of the license renewal that the Commission has thus far denied.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

60 Meters Goes Worldwide

Worldwide DXing on 60 meters will become a possibility over the next several years, following approval by the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in November of a worldwide secondary amateur allocation between 5351.5 kHz and 5366.5 kHz. Power will generally be limited to 15 watts effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP), according to the ARRL. This is the first new worldwide amateur HF allocation since the 30, 17 and 12-meter bands were approved in 1979.

The 5-MHz band is currently available on a country-by-country basis. In the US, amateurs currently have access on a secondary basis to five discrete channels between 5330 and 5405 kHz, and are permitted to operate SSB, CW and PSK-31 with up to 100 watts EIRP. It is not clear how the WRC action will affect the US amateur allocation, since it creates a smaller band with lower power limits. There will be no change to the current allocation, however, until the U.S. adopts the conference's final acts and the FCC goes through the rulemaking procedures to put any new rules in place.

Amateur Radio Parity Act Clears Senate Committee

An ARRL-backed bill to give amateurs in homeowner-association controlled areas the same rights as other hams was approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in mid-November and cleared for an eventual vote by the full Senate. The bill, S-1685, also known as the Amateur Radio Parity Act, would extend the FCC's limited pre-emption of state and municipal antenna ordinances to private land use restrictions as well. According to the ARRL, it would give amateurs living in antenna-restricted communities "the opportunity to negotiate with homeowners associations to install an antenna that reasonably accommodates amateur radio communication." A companion bill in the House of Representatives, HR 1301, is still in committee even though it has over 100 co-sponsors.