Monday, June 15, 2015

Newsline Producer, Co-Founder Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, SK

We are sad to report on the passing of a good friend and major force in amateur radio, Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF. A 2004 inductee to the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame, Bill was best known as co-founder and producer of Amateur Radio Newsline and as founder and administrator of the Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award (of which CQ is a co-sponsor). Newsline's predecessor, Westlink Radio News, was the first regular audio news service in amateur radio. Bill also produced several promotional videos about amateur radio for the ARRL and was a columnist in WorldRadio and WorldRadio Online magazines. He will be greatly missed.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Vanity Calls to be Fee-Free

The FCC has decided to drop all fees for issuing vanity call signs to hams. In a ruling issued on May 21, the Commission explained that the costs of processing the payments and issuing refunds to amateurs whose requests cannot be met exceed the revenue from vanity call fees, currently $21.40 for a 10-year license term. 
According to the ARRL, the change will not take effect until after the FCC has formally notified Congress of the move, which in the halls of federal bureaucracy takes at least 90 days. So the earliest effective date would be late August to early September. If you're planning to apply for or renew a vanity call in that timeframe, and won't risk having your license expire in the interim, then it might be best to wait, since the FCC also says it will not refund fees paid prior to the formal elimination.

Dava Newman, KB1HIK, New NASA Deputy Administrator

NASA Deputy Administrator Dr. Dava
Newman, KB1HIK. (NASA Photo by
Bill Ingalls)
The new number-two person at NASA is a ham. MIT professor Dava Newman, KB1HIK, began her new duties as Deputy Administrator on May 18 after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate in late April. (NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden is a former ham who once held KE4IQB, according to the ARRL Letter.)
According to NASA, Newman earned her Ph.D. in aerospace biomedical engineering form MIT, along with Masters degrees in aerospace engineering and technology and policy. Until taking on her new position at NASA, Newman was the Apollo Program Professor of Astronautics at MIT, where she specialized in research on advanced spacesuit design and the dynamics and control of astronaut motion. She also worked on applying that research to assistive technologies for mobility impairments here on Earth.

According to the ARRL, Newman is also an avid sailor who has circumnavigated the globe.

Hurricane Watch Net Turns 50

(NOAA image)
The Hurricane Watch net celebratea its 50th anniversary of public service this month with a special operation using the call sign WX5HWN. 

According to the ARRL, the plan is to pass control of the June 13-14 operation to each of the net's control stations around the continental U.S., eastern Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. Each NCS would use WX5HWN as control of the net passed from one station to the next. This is the first time the call sign has been used on the air. Operating frequencies were scheduled to be on or near 14.325 MHz and 7.268 MHz.

Meanwhile, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent agency of the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, predicted a quieter-than-average Atlantic hurricane season for 2015. The prediction says it's likely there will be between 6 and 11 named storms and 3-6 hurricanes, of which 0-2 may become major, during the June 1-November 30 "official" hurricane season. The agency warned, though, that the risk of damaging storms remains, noting that there were only seven named storms in 1992, but the first of them was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated south Florida.

NOAA is also calling for an above-normal hurricane season in the eastern Pacific.

Hams Provide Assistance in Texas/Oklahoma Flooding

Urban Search and Rescue team, Texas Task Force 2 and
members of the Texas State Guard continue to search
the banks of the Blanco River to look for missing residents
of San Marco, Texas. (FEMA photo by Jocelyn Augustino)
Amateur radio operators provided backup communications for regions of Texas and Oklahoma inundated by historically-high rains and flooding in late May. The ARRL Letter says ham volunteers in ARES and SKYWARN were active in both states as residents struggled with flash floods and tornadoes. 

Previously suffering from a severe drought, Texas received nearly 9 inches of rain in May (mostly in the last week of the month), with Wichita Falls getting 17 inches; while Oklahoma saw more than 14 inches of rain fall, with nearly 20 inches in Oklahoma City. 

The unprecedented rains are being blamed on a combination of a growing El NiƱo in the Pacific and warmer temperatures in the Arctic which are slowing the jet stream and keeping weather systems over locations for longer periods.

Second Nepal Quake Brings Back Ham Nets

Nepalese and Indian hams worked side-by-side to
provide emergency communications in the wake of
the massively destructive earthquake that hit Nepal
in late April, as well as large aftershocks well into May.
(Phoro courtesy National Institute of Amateur Radio)

Amateur radio emergency nets, which had provided critical communications in Nepal after the country suffered a devastating earthquake in late April, were called back on the air in mid-May after a magnitude 7.8 aftershock hit the region. 

The nets stood down again several days later as it became clear that normal communications were still functioning. CQ will carry a comprehensive look at the amateur radio response to the Nepal quake in July's "CQ World Wide" international news column.

Navy-Marine Corps MARS to Sail into Sunset

The Department of Defense announced in May that it would phase out the Navy-Marine Corps MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) program by the end of September, moving its "operational mission" to the Army and Air Force MARS programs. The ARRL Letter reports that at least 60 Navy-Marine Corps MARS members had transferred to Army MARS in the first week following the announcement. More transfers are expected, with most applications being processed by e-mail on the same day they are received.

Second Australian "Party Balloon" Circles Globe

A follow-up to our story last month about Australian ham Andy Nguyen, VK3YT, successfully sending a ham-radio-equipped foil "party balloon" around the world … he's done it again! According to the ARRL, Nguyen's PS-46 balloon was launched on May 25 and completed its circumnavigation on June 4. It was tracked by hams monitoring its 25-milliwatt transmitter, which was sending out reports on 30 and 20 meters, using WSPR, JT9 and Olivia digital modes. The solar-powered transmitter reported on position, altitude, speed, direction and battery condition throughout its 12-day voyage.

Route map of the PS-46 foil balloon flight around the world.


PSK-31 in Space

A pair of satellites launched in May by the U.S. Naval Academy contains a PSK-31 transponder that
The BRICsat satellite.
(US Naval Academy photo)
supports up to 30 simultaneous users. According to the ARRL, the two satellites - named PSAT and BRICsat - have separate transponders operating on the same frequency but using slightly different PSK tones. 

The rocket that carried PSAT and BRICsat into orbit also launched the Planetary Society's LightSail-1 satellite, which has a telemetry downlink in the 70-centimeter ham band (it's transmitting 9600-baud FSK in AX.25 format on 437.435 MHz). The ARRL reported that the LightSail transmitter briefly shut down due to a software glitch, but managed to reset itself and come back on the air. Controllers were planning to upload a software patch to prevent recurrence of the problem.

Multiple Chinese Ham Satellite Launches Scheduled in July

The Chinese CAS-3A amateur satellite.
(Image via website)
China's AMSAT organization, CAMSAT, says at least six ham radio cubesats are scheduled for launch in July as part of a 20-cubesat launch using China's new CZ-6 launch vehicle. The satellites are part of the CAS-2 and CAS-3 series. 

In addition, LilacSat-2, built by the Harbin Institute of Technology, is also apposed to carry an amateur radio transponder. More details should be available after the launch.

HEX-BEAM Manufacturer Closing its Doors

Traffie Technology, which has been manufacturing the HEX-BEAM antenna since 1992, is ending production of the popular antennas. The ARRL says owner Mike Traffie, N1HXA, made the announcement on the company's website. It also says Traffie is open to having someone else take over the business. The announcement, at <>, did not indicate a timeframe for the shutdown or whether orders already received will be filled.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Hams Play Key Role in Nepal Quake Response

Despite the fact that Nepal has only about two dozen licensed amateurs and only one active repeater, amateur radio quickly became a critical link in re-establishing communications after the April 25th earthquake that caused massive damage in the Himalayan country and killed thousands of people.
Volunteer hams from India assisted in the Nepal
earthquake aftermath, including VU2JOS (right, with
HT) and 9N3AA (left, with cap) in the Gorkha
District. [Photo courtesy India's National Institute of
Amateur Radio (NIAR)]

Hams from India and other countries came to help (see photo), after overcoming bureaucratic hurdles; the ARRL Letter reports a repeater donated by an American group - the Computer Association of Nepal-USA (CANAM) - was cleared through customs after the personal intervention of the country's Minister of Information and Communication, and nets on HF and VHF provided links both within Nepal and to the outside world. We will have complete coverage in July CQ's "CQ World Wide" column.

[Editor's note: At the time of this posting, Nepal had been hit with a magnitude 7.3 aftershock, which resulted in additional deaths, injuries and property damage. There was no word yet as to whether ham radio activity, which had been winding down, was ramped back up.]

FCC Proposes New Ham Bands Above 200 Meters

For the first time since amateur radio was formally recognized by the U.S. government in 1912, hams may soon have access to wavelengths above 200 meters (frequencies below 1500 kHz). In a combination Report & Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in late April, the FCC established a secondary amateur allocation at 2200 meters (137 kHz) and proposed another at 630 meters (472 kHz). 

Final rules for 2200 meters will be determined as part of the NPRM proceeding on the 630-meter allocation, but initial indications are that amateur use of both bands will be limited to permanent fixed stations with power outputs of 1 watt and 5 watts EIRP (equivalent isotropic radiated power), respectively. The FCC also granted amateur radio primary status on the 1900-2000 kHz portion of the 160-meter band. 

For more details on this ruling and proposal, see "How Low Can You Go?" in the June issue of CQ.

FCC Proposes Making Hams' Past Addresses Private

Responding to "occasional requests from amateur licensees" to remove past address information from the public record, the FCC in late March proposed making only an amateur's current address publicly accessible. The reason, the Commission explained, is to address privacy concerns cited by amateurs who originally used their home addresses for their licenses but then changed them to a post office box or a business address. Continuing to have the home address in the public record, the FCC said, does nothing to help protect these amateurs' privacy.

Comments are due by June 16, with reply comments due a month later.

Congress Pressures FCC on Proposed Field Office Closures

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which provides Congressional oversight of the FCC, is not happy with the Commission's plan to close two-thirds of its field offices and eliminate the positions of nearly half its staff of field agents. 

The ARRL Letter reported that the committee asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to provide all documents related to the planned reorganization of the Enforcement Bureau, which the FCC says will be streamlined with the addition of "Tiger Team" strike forces to deal with issues in specific areas. 

However, Newsline reported that the Commission turned over only one memo and PowerPoint presentation, and that members of the committee's Communications and Technology subcommittee - chaired by Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, W7EQI - were not satisfied and would be pushing for more answers.

Emergency Conference Cancelled

The 2015 Global Amateur Radio Emergency Conference (GAREC) has been cancelled due to insufficient registrations. The conference had been scheduled for this month in Tampere, Finland, where the first GAREC was held 10 years ago. For more information, see the "CQ World Wide" column in the June issue of CQ.

AMSAT May Have "Rideshare" to Geostationary Orbit

The AMSAT News Service reports that AMSAT-NA has accepted an opportunity for sharing a ride to geostationary orbit as a "hosted payload" aboard a private launch scheduled for 2017. The satellite would be built by Virginia Tech, with funding to be secured by the school as well. A satellite in geostationary orbit would appear to be in the same spot overhead at all times, thus providing constant access to all stations within its "footprint."

Party Balloon Carries Ham Transmitter Around the World

Map of the course followed by the PS-41 foil balloon on its round-the-world
flight in April (map from website)
A foil balloon carrying an amateur radio payload has successfully circumnavigated the globe. The ARRL Letter reports that PS-41 (standing for PicoSpace balloon #41) was launched by Andy Nguyen, VK3YT, in Australia, on April 6 and crossed its starting point on April 16 before splashing down in the South Pacific off South America on April 22. The solar-powered balloon carried an HF payload, transmitting WPSR spots and JT9 telemetry at 25 mW on 30 and 20 meters. It was tracked by a network of hams monitoring both bands. Nguyen had been trying for more than a year to get one of his ham radio balloons to fly all the way around the world.

New Ham Band Intruders Around the World Reported


The International Amateur Radio Union's Monitoring Service is reporting several new intrusions into the HF ham bands. According to Newsline, the non-amateur stations include Russian channel markers on 80 meters; Radio Eritrea, the Voice of Iran and Radio Hargaysa in Somalia, all on 40 meters; and Australian over-the-horizon radar on 15 meters.

L-Band Uplink Added to Fox-1C/-1D Design: Fox-1E to Carry Linear Transponder

Fox-1 engineering prototype
(from AMSAT-NA website)
AMSAT has announced plans to include L-Band (1.2 GHz) uplink capability in its upcoming Fox-1C and Fox-1D satellites. But there won't be a complete L-band receiver on board the spacecraft. Instead, the AMSAT News Service reports, the plan is to design a frequency converter that will receive uplinked signals on 1.2 GHz, down-convert them to 435 MHz and feed them to the satellite's regular UHF receiver. Downlink will be a single FM channel on 2 meters, regardless of the uplink band. A team of volunteers is working on designing an affordable Mode L uplink station to convert 70-centimeter FM signals to 1.2 GHz.

Fox-1E is now slated to carry a Mode J (2 meters up, 70 cm down) linear transponder into orbit, with a 30 kHz bandwidth and a beacon sending telemetry in BPSK. The goal is to test a design for including linear transponders in future cubesats, most of which are currently limited to single-channel FM receivers and transmitters. AMSAT says there is a chance that Fox-1E will have a launch opportunity next year, but could not disclose details.

Bendable Batteries?

Imagine a battery that can be bent and that recharges in less than a minute. Newsline reports that scientists have developed a prototype which is packaged in a soft pouch, contains aluminum for one electrode and graphite foam for the other, surrounded by a special liquid salt. They say it recharges in less than a minute and is safer than current Lithium-ion batteries. The new technology is described in an article in the journal Nature, and may be downloaded from <>. Additional details are available from <>

ARRL Receives Award from NPTSC

The ARRL has been named as the latest recipient of the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council's Heinrich Hertz Award. According to the ARRL Letter, the award is in recognition of the League's "exceptional devotion to the activities of NPTSC and unwavering support of the public safety community." 

ARRL is a member of NPTSC. The award was presented at the council's May 6 meeting by council Chairman Ralph Haller, N4RH, whom some may remember as a former Chief of the FCC's Private Radio Bureau - which regulated amateur radio at the time - in the 1990s. Haller noted that the Hertz award is not presented annually, but presented only "when exceptional performance warrants it."

Green Auroras Detected on Mars

The MAVEN Mars probe has detected widespread green
auroras on Mars (even though this NASA artist's
conception shows them as violet). (NASA image)

Mars is commonly seen from Earth as reddish in color, but NASA says the planet routinely has green auroras. Evidence of auroras on Mars was first detected 10 years ago by the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe, but NASA Science News says the currently-orbiting MAVEN Mars probe has discovered that they are widespread and wide-ranging. 

Mars does not have a magnetic field surrounding the whole planet as Earth does, but rather sporadic "magnetic umbrellas" that are remnants of an ancient global field, and they are regularly "lit up" by particles from the sun. But according to researchers at the University of Colorado, which operates MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument, these umbrellas are mostly found in Mars's southern hemisphere and there is now evidence of widespread auroras in the northern hemisphere as well. 

"The (solar) particles seem to precipitate into the atmosphere anywhere they want," says IUVS lead scientist Nick Schneider. "Magnetic fields in the solar wind drape across Mars … and the charged particles just follow those field lines down into the atmosphere."

CQ Announces 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees

 (Dayton, OH - May 15, 2015) -- CQ magazine today announced its 2015 Hall of Fame inductees, adding two members each to the CQ DX and Contest Halls of Fame, as well as nine new members of the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame.

            The CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame honors those individuals, whether licensed hams or not, who have made significant contributions to amateur radio; and those amateurs who have made significant contributions either to amateur radio, to their professional careers or to some other aspect of life on our planet. The 2015 inductees (listed alphabetically) are:

Tim Allen, KK6OTD - Actor and star of the ABC comedy, "Last Man Standing," on which his character is also a ham, Mike Baxter, KA0XTT.

Charles Apgar, ex-2MN (SK) - uncovered German spy transmissions from Telefunken shore station WSL in New York during WWI.

Dan Benishek, KB8TOW - Member of Congress from Michigan. Medical doctor and advocate for veterans.

Olof Lundberg, G0CKV - Leader of the communications satellite industry for a quarter-century. Founding Director General of Inmarsat; founder, CEO and Chairman of ICO Global Communications and CEO of Globalstar, Inc.

Bre Pettis, W2BRE - 3D printing pioneer and founder of MakerBot.

Alvino Rey, W6UK (SK) - A leading musician of the swing era, Rey is considered the father of the electric guitar and inventor of the talk box, pickups and other electronic musical devices. He combined his love for music with his love of radio to transform the music world.

Bob Twiggs, KE6QMD - Co-inventor of the cubesat design standard.

Greg Walden, W7EQI - Member of Congress from Oregon. Chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, YD2JKW - President of Indonesia.

CQ DX and Contest and DX Halls of Fame

The CQ DX and Contest Halls of Fame honor those amateurs who not only excel in personal performance in these major areas of amateur radio but who also "give back" to the hobby in outstanding ways.

The 2015 inductees to the CQ DX Hall of Fame are:

Yasuo "Zorro" Miyazawa, JH1AJT - is a DXer, DXpeditioner, educator and philanthropist. Zorro is the founder and CEO of the Seisa Group, which runs schools in several countries; and founder/CEO of the Foundation for Global Children, which provides medical and educational support for children in Japan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Zorro has also helped promote or re-introduce amateur radio to many of these places, and has donated money and/or equipment to help amateurs in rare locations get or stay on the air.

Michael Wells, G7VJR - is founder of Club Log, an online DXpedition log-hosting tool that has changed the face of DXpedition operating by, among other things, allowing operators to upload their logs while still on the air and permit hams around the world to know if they are "in the log" on a given band or mode. Michael is a DXpeditioner himself, having been part of a half-dozen major operations and having operated from 25 different DX entities over the past 10 years.

The 2015 inductees to the CQ Contest Hall of Fame are:

Doug Grant, K1DG - is not only a world-class contester, but has not hesitated to share his knowledge and skills with others. He has built or helped to build several championship contest stations, is a founding member of the Yankee Clipper Contest Club, a founding director of the World Wide Radio Operators Foundation, is a regular instructor at Contest University and has run the Contest Forum at the Dayton Hamvention® for the past 20 years. In addition, Doug has competed in five World Radiosport Team Championships (WRTCs), and has medaled three times.

Ward Silver, N0AX - has been a contester for over four decades and has operated from some of the world's top contest stations, spanning four continents. A founder of the World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) competitions in 1990, Ward is currently Secretary of the WRTC Sanctioning Committee. He is also president of the YASME Foundation, which supports DXpeditions and contest operations around the world, QST contesting editor and author of Ham Radio for Dummies and Circuitbuilding Do-It-Yourself for Dummies.

Formal inductions to the CQ Contest and DX Halls of Fame were held at the Dayton Hamvention.® More detailed descriptions of inductees will appear in the official announcement in the July 2015 issue of CQ magazine.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hopeful Signs for RadioShack

A New Jersey RadioShack gets outfitted with new Sprint
logos, showing the new partnership between General
Wireless and Sprint.

Electronics hobbyists may still be able to buy components and similar products at remaining RadioShack stores. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year and has closed or is closing more than 2200 stores nationwide. However, 1743 of its locations have been purchased by General Wireless, Inc., which will continue to operate them under the RadioShack name (just over 1400 of those stores will be co-leased by Sprint and will be renamed as Sprint-RadioShack). In a news release announcing the purchase, General Wireless hinted that hobbyists - long a major part of RadioShack's customer base - will not be forgotten. "The stores will feature emerging technologies," the statement said, "that enhance the traditional accessories, DIY electronics and innovation for which the company is known." (See this month's "Kit-Building" column for the opportunities presented by going-out-of-business sales at those RadioShack stores slated for closing.)

FCC Cutting Back Support for Amateur Radio

The April 3 retirement of Bill Cross, W3TN, from the FCC marked the end of a long era at the Commission. Cross, who was technically a "program analyst" in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, was for more than a decade the FCC's go-to person on all matters dealing with amateur radio. He was also the primary author of all Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM)s and FCC Reports and Orders relating to Part 97 proceedings. 
But Cross told the ARRL Letter that there were no plans to replace him with another "Ham Guy," as he said most FCC staffers referred to him. "The plan is to divide up my work among other staff members, based on topic," he told the Letter.

Cross also said he would not be surprised if, in the future, the number of ham radio license classes was further reduced from its current three (Technician, General and Extra) to two or even one, noting that the differences between the privileges granted by each class "really are not that much." (See this month's "Zero Bias" editorial for more on this general topic.)

Ten-Tec, Alpha, Have New Owner

The Alpha Amplifier and Ten-Tec brands have been sold by RF Concepts to RKR Designs of Longmont, Colorado. RKR was formed specifically for the purchase. Its principals are Richard Gall, Ken Long (N0QO) and Rich Danielson (the R, K & R of RKR). 

Gall and Danielson have run QSC Systems, a contract manufacturer, in Longmont for over 20 years, and have been building Alpha amps for RF Concepts for the past five years, as well as boards for Ten-Tec since the company's purchase last year by RF Concepts. Long has been involved in the amateur radio and electronics industry for two decades, and will be President and CEO of the new company, according to a news release. RKR says it plans to expand Ten-Tec's and Alpha's offerings while continuing to service existing customers.

NCDXF: $50K Grant to Heard Is. DXpedition

The Northern California DX Foundation has announced a grant of $50,000 to help fund a planned DXpedition to Heard Island in the southern Indian Ocean. The VK0EK expedition is scheduled for November. The NCDXF noted that Heard Island had risen to the #5 most-wanted spot after the recent DXpedition to Navassa Island.
This follows another $50,000 NCDXF grant reported last month in support of a planned DXpedition to South Sandwich and South Georgia islands, and according to Newsline, brings to $175,000 the foundation's total grants in the past year. (For more on the costs of large-scale DXpeditions and the need for funding ahead of time, see May CQ's cover story on Navassa.)

ARRL: No Need to Relocate Ham Band for Vehicular Radar

The ARRL has told the FCC there is no need to modify the current amateur radio allocation at 77-81 GHz in order to accommodate expanded spectrum space for vehicular radar, and notes that neither the original petitioner nor any of the commenters have made such a request. In comments on an FCC proposal to expand the vehicular radar allocation from its current 76-77 GHz to include 78-81 GHz, the ARRL says it has worked closely with petitioner Robert Bosch, LLC, and that both groups are satisfied that vehicular radar and amateur radio can "play nicely together" on the band, according to an ARRL bulletin.
Acknowledging the possibility that the Commission may choose to reallocate the 4-millimeter ham band despite its protests, the ARRL requested the assignment of "equivalent spectrum" at 75.5-76 GHz and 81-81.5 GHz. The current amateur allocation at 4 mm is 77-81 GHz, with primary status in the 77.5-78-GHz segment.

WWV Keeps On Keepin' On at 25 MHz

The home of WWV in Colorado. (NIST photo)
An "experimental" reactivation of WWV's time and standard frequency transmissions on 25 MHz is continuing after a year, according to the ARRL Letter, with no plans as of now to discontinue the broadcasts. WWV had shut down its 25-MHz transmitter in 1977 but reactivated it a year ago in response to an e-mail lamenting its loss from Dean Lewis, W9WGV. The 1-kW signal provides not only exact time and frequency, but helps serve as an indication of propagation conditions on 12 and 10 meters. WWV welcomes signal reports and listener comments.

Updates, Growth for Broadband Hamnet

One of the ways in which ham radio can help fill in gaps in internet service when normal infrastructure is knocked out is via ad-hoc self-organizing RF computer networks, now referred to as Broadband Hamnet. Flying mostly under the radar so far, the technology now seems poised for a significant boost in usability, according to several reports on both Newsline and the ARRL Letter.
In March, the developers of Broadband Hamnet announced a firmware upgrade for users of both Linksys WRT54G and Ubiquiti wireless routers, and a group calling itself the AREDN Project introduced new software for what it calls the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network, or AREDN. According to Newsline, AREDN is being described as a new way by which hams providing emergency communications can support needs for high-speed data transmission. The AREDN software works with the mesh networks created using Broadband Hamnet and allows the interconnection of laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices. The networks may (or may not) also connect to the Internet. More information on AREDN is available from <>.

A typical Broadband Hamnet mesh network.
Meanwhile, the ARRL Letter reports that a group of hams in Utah successfully deployed a Broadband Hamnet mesh network in support of a Boy Scouts "Scouting for Food" project in March. The group set up a network of 13 nodes across the Salt Lake Valley, linking back to the local scout headquarters and transmitting live video and audio from each of the food drop-off points and the truck dispatch location. Described by one of the participants as "Wi-Fi on steroids," the 2.4-GHz network covered distances of more than eight miles from the central hub site.

Space Station Scatter?

Can the International Space Station be used to bounce
signals for intercontinental contacts on 2 meters? A ham
in Namibia and another in Brazil are planning to find out!
(NASA photo)
Two hams on two continents are planning to try to make contact on 2 meters by bouncing signals off the International Space Station as it passes over the South Atlantic Ocean.

 The South African Radio League reports that Namibian ham Pieter Jacobs, V51PJ, and Brazilian amateur Marcos Turbo, PY1MHZ, are planning to conduct scatter tests from the ISS on 144 MHz. 

The overall path length has been calculated as 5000 kilometers (approximately 3100 miles), with each station's signal needing to travel 2500 km (1550 miles) before bouncing off the space station. We'll do our best to keep you posted on their progress.

FCC Proposes Broadband CB Service

The Citizens Broadband Radio Service is the name bestowed by the FCC on a proposed new broadband wireless service that would be open to all, with very few restrictions on the types of applications permitted in the band. According to, the FCC proposed the new service in a March 27 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and planned to put it to a vote on April 17. The new service would initially operate between 3.550 and 3.650 GHz, with room for possible expansion to 3.700 GHz. Individual licensing would not be required and incumbent users would be protected from harmful interference.
According to eweek, the concept behind the new service is "to support activities including small cell deployments, fixed wireless broadband services and something the FCC calls general consumer use."  Apparently, the flexible structure of the plan is designed to promote experimentation by individuals as well as use by small and large wireless service providers.

The proposed new band begins just 50 MHz above the top end of the 9-centimeter ham band, so it's possible that a new market for consumer-grade equipment designed to operate at 3550 MHz could also help make more affordable equipment available for amateur use at 3300-3500 MHz. (Tnx K8RKD)

New Privileges for Hams in South Africa and UK

New rules published by South Africa's telecommunications regulators now allow amateurs there to use up to 1000 watts of output power on most bands (with Class B licensees getting a boost to 100 watts), along with an expansion of the 160-meter band all the way to 2 MHz. This, according to the South African Radio League.
A few thousand miles to the north, full-license hams in parts of the United Kingdom and its "Crown Dependencies" will soon be gaining data privileges on the 4-meter band, from 70.5 to 71.5 MHz. This band has long been available to amateurs in many European countries, but not those in the Americas, where 70 MHz was used for commercial television broadcasting. According to Newsline, hams in most of the UK (excluding Scotland) will be able to apply for "Notices of Variation" to permit operation on 4 meters. The allocation is not permanent and is subject to reassignment on 12 months' notice.

ATV Pioneer Don Miller, W9NTP, SK

Don Miller, W9NTP, built the slow-
scan TV station used on board the
Mir space station in the 1990s.
(NASA photo)

One of the fathers of slow-scan television has become a Silent Key. Don Miller, W9NTP, died on March 22 at age 91. According to the ARRL Letter, Miller worked closely with Cop MacDonald, VY2CM, in developing SSTV. Miller also founded Wyman Research, Inc., which built SSTV/ATV equipment for hams, including the SSTV station used aboard the Russian Mir space station. Miller wrote about SSTV on Mir in CQ VHF back in the 1990s.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bencher Product Line Sold to Vibroplex

The Bencher BY paddle series is
part of the comapny's complete
amateur radio product line that has
been sold to Vibroplex.
(Photo from Bencher website)
Bencher, Inc. of Antioch, Illinois, has announced the sale of the Bencher Amateur Radio product lines to Vibroplex, LLC of Knoxville, Tennessee. This sale ends Bencher’s presence in the amateur radio field.

The product lines sold include the Bencher BY series of Iambic Paddles (the world’s best selling iambic paddle, with over 150,000 sold), as well as the ST series of single lever paddles, the Bencher Hex Paddle, the N2DAN Mercury Paddle, and the Bencher RJ series Hand Keys. Also included in the sale are the HK-1 Universal Hook-up kit and the YA-1 Low Pass Filter.

Vibroplex has agreed to honor the manufacturer’s warranties of all covered products, and to offer parts and support for these products as well. Vibroplex will continue to offer the Bencher products through existing marketing channels.Vibroplex may be contacted at, or at (865) 309-5073.

K3LR, W5KUB, G3RJV, Orlando ARC, Receive Dayton Honors

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association has announced the winners of its 2015 Hamvention Awards.

Noted contester Tim Duffy, K3LR, has been named Radio Amateur of the Year in recognition of his work as founder of Contest University, as well as moderating the Dayton antenna forum every year since 1984.

This year's Special Achievement Award goes to Tom Medlin, W5KUB, in recognition of his 14 years of providing live streaming video on the Internet of various amateur radio events and activities, including the Dayton Hamvention.

The 2015 Technical Excellence Award winner is the Rev. George Dobbs, G3RJV. Dobbs is a leading authority on low-power ham radio operating, founder of the G-QRP Club, longtime editor of its journal, SPRAT, and QRP columnist for multiple British radio magazines.

Finally, the Orlando Amateur Radio Club was named as Club of the Year, in recognition of its wide variety of activities, including sponsorship of the annual Orlando Hamcation hamfest.

All award winners will be honored at this year's Dayton Hamvention, May 15-17, in Dayon, Ohio.

U.S. Ham Licensing Numbers at All-Time High

The ARRL-VEC reports that the ham radio population in the United States hit an all-time high of 726,725 as of the end of 2014, and has continued growing to more than 727,000 in the first two months of 2015. According to the ARRL Letter, ARRL-VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said the number of licensed amateurs in the United States has grown by more than 8 percent in the past decade. In addition, she said, there were 33,000 new licensees in 2014, an increase of 15% over 2013. Plus, Somma added, the ARRL-VEC conducted a record 7216 license exam sessions last year, crossing the 7000 threshold for the first time.

HR 1301 New Bill Number for Amateur Radio Parity Act

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is the
prime sponsor of HR 1301, which
would extend FCC limit on amateur
antenna installations to include
private land use agreements.
(U.S. Congress photo)
A bill to require the FCC to extend the “reasonable accommodation” requirements of its rules regarding amateur radio antennas and support structures to private land use contracts has been re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 1301, the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, is identical to a previous bill that died at the end of the last Congressional session.

Introduced by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) with bi-partisan support from a dozen co-sponsors, the bill would include homeowner association rules and deed restrictions (commonly known as CC&Rs) under the protections currently granted to amateurs from overly-restrictive state and local zoning laws and ordinances. Those protections include requirements that any restrictions on amateur antennas and support structures must “reasonably accommodate” amateur operation and must represent the “minimum practicable” restrictions to accomplish the regulatory authority’s legitimate purposes.

The ARRL encourages all amateurs to urge their representatives in Congress to support and/or co-sponsor the new bill.

“Totally Remote” Multi-Op Contesting

A team of contesters believes it may have broken new ground with a remote multi-op effort in February’s ARRL DX Contest CW weekend. A half-dozen different hams operated contest station K4VV in northern Virginia (using the call sign K3TN) from several different locations scattered from Maryland to Florida. According to the ARRL Letter, members of the group each activated the contest station from their homes in Virginia and North Carolina, while one started the competition from his home in Maryland and finished the weekend at his condo in Florida. It was pointed out that, due to a snowstorm, the K4VV station was inaccessible during the contest weekend.