Sunday, August 2, 2015

W0ANT Sweeps Youth Awards

Fourteen-year-old Anna Veal, W0ANT, of Littleton, Colorado, has been named the winner of both the 2015 Newsline Young Ham of the Year award and the ARRL's Hiram Percy Maxim award. 

Veal, whose parents are both hams, has been licensed since age 8 and holds a General Class ticket. She started a ham radio club in her elementary school and is now president of her high school ham club. Anna has been a presenter at the Radio Club of America youth forum and took part in the TI5 Youth DX Adventure program in Costa Rica.
As Newsline Young Ham of the Year, Anna will receive radio equipment from corporate co-sponsors Yaesu, Heil Sound and RadioWavz, as well as a week at Space Camp, courtesy of CQ. The ARRL's Maxim award of $1500 recognizes young people who provide leadership in amateur radio. 

W0ANT is scheduled to receive the Young Ham of the Year award at the Huntsville Hamfest in August.

ARRL Adopts New HF Band Plan, Proposes Major Changes to 75/80 Meters

The ARRL's Board of Directors adopted a new HF band plan at its July meeting, accepting virtually all of the recommendations of a committee charged with developing a new plan. Most of the changes have to do with recommended frequencies for automatically-controlled data stations, but major changes are proposed for the 80-meter band.

According to the ARRL Letter, the League will petition the FCC to shrink the 75-meter phone band by 50 kHz while adding 50 kHz to the CW/RTTY/data segment of the band (3600-3650 kHz). In addition, it will seek to grant RTTY and data privileges on the band to Novices and Technicians and to make the 3600-3650 segment, now an Extra-Class-only phone band, open to all for CW, RTTY and data. The petition will also seek RTTY/data privileges for Novices and Techs on 15 meters.

ARRL to Increase Dues by $10

 The ARRL will increase its annual dues to $49 at the beginning of next year. The change was approved at the League's July board meeting. According to the ARRL Letter, this will be the first dues increase since 2001. CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, noted that the organization had managed to hold its cost increases to 19% over the past 14 years, while inflation overall in the U.S. has been 32% in the same period. He described the dues increase as "a necessity, not an option."

Vanity Call Sign Fees End in September

 The ARRL reports that the FCC's decision to eliminate fees for requesting or renewing a vanity call sign will take effect next month, possibly as early as September 3. The commission had previously announced the change, stating that the costs of administering the program and providing refunds when requested calls were not available were higher than the revenues received. The decision also eliminates application fees for licenses in the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).

Amateur Radio About to be Primary Across 160 Meters

An FCC decision to elevate the status of amateur radio on 1900-2000 kHz from secondary to primary takes effect on August 6, but with an asterisk. In the course of receiving comments in the rule making proceeding, the Commission learned that commercial fishermen had for years been using offshore buoys operating in this frequency range without FCC authorization. Since there had been virtually no interference complaints, the FCC decided to authorize the buoys rather than force the fishermen to replace them en masse. The top half of 160 had previously been allocated on a primary basis to the radiolocation service, but has not been used for that purpose in many years.

FCC Finalizes Plans on Field Office Closures

Amid loud complaints from amateurs, the broadcast industry and Congress, the FCC in July adopted a scaled back version of its previously announced plan to close two-thirds of its field offices. Under the final plan, 11 offices will close while 13 will remain open. 

Radio World reports that the offices slated for closure are: Anchorage, Buffalo, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Norfolk, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Juan, Seattle and Tampa; while operations will continue in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Columbia (MD, outside Washington DC), Dallas, Denver, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland (OR) and San Francisco. In addition, rapid-response Enforcement Bureau "tiger teams" will work out of the Columbia and Denver offices, and all field agents will now be required to be electrical engineers.

Is There Another High-Orbit Satellite in Our Future?

The last high-orbit amateur satellite launched was AO-40 in late 2000, which suffered an on-board explosion in orbit and never became fully operational. Ever since that time, a backup satellite "spaceframe" has been in storage in Germany, where much of the work on AO-40 was done. 

Now, Virginia Tech, working with AMSAT-DL and AMSAT-NA, has approached the U.S. government about launching that satellite into high-earth orbit in order to support scientific payloads as well as amateur radio transponders. The AMSAT News Service reports that members of AMSAT-DL approved shipping the Phase-3E spaceframe to Virginia for "further construction, testing and preparation for eventual launch" should the U.S. government approve the proposal and provide funding. High-orbit satellites are generally visible from the ground for many hours at a time and have large "footprints" that allow contacts over very long distances.

Newsline Returns to the Air, Names New Writer/Editor

Amateur Radio Newsline returned to the air in early July after missing several broadcasts due to the death of co-founder and Executive Producer Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF. What is being termed "Newsline 2.0" returned on July 9 with Caryn Eve Murray, KD2GUT, joining the all-volunteer staff as lead writer and editor. Caryn is a newspaper reporter and editor in New York.

Enforcement: FCC Gets Tough With Michigan Ham

The FCC has affirmed a proposed $22,000 fine against Michael Guernsey, KZ8O, of Parchment, Michigan, for repeated instances of interfering with other amateurs and failing to identify. Guernsey had asked that the fine be reduced or eliminated due to economic hardship, but the Commission upheld the full fine, noting that complaints against him went back more than a decade and that he had ignored repeated written warnings.

In another enforcement action, the FCC has proposed fining David Tolassi, W4BHV, of Ringgold, Georgia, $1000 for repeatedly failing to identify his station.

ARRL Begins Search for New CEO

The ARRL board of directors has started the wheels turning for search for a new Chief Executive Officer for the organization. The ARRL Letter reports that current CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, has set a target retirement date of May 1, 2016. Sumner has been on the ARRL staff for 44 years and has held the top staff position, under various titles, since 1982.

Ham Named Chief Astronaut

Chief Astronaut Chris Cassidy,
Astronaut Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR, has been named chief of NASA's Astronaut Office, according to the ARRL Letter. A U.S. Navy Captain and former Navy SEAL, Cassidy  spent six months in space on the International Space Station in 2013 and took part in six spacewalks. He also conducted several Amateur Radio on the International Space Station contacts while in orbit. He replaces Air Force Colonel Robert Behnken, who is also a ham, holding call sign KE5GGX.

CQ's K5ZD Among ARRL Award Winners

CQWW DX Contest
Director Randy Thompson,
K5ZD (N6TV photo)
CQ World Wide DX Contest Director Randy Thompson has been honored by the ARRL for his work in promoting amateur radio to the public, particularly in connection with his role as chairman of last year's World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC-14), which was held in Massachusetts and received nationwide news coverage. He was named this year's winner of the Philip J. McGan Silver Antenna Award for volunteer public relations work.
Also honored, according to the ARRL Letter, were Anna Veal, W0ANT, with the Hiram Percy Maxim Award; David Hershberger, W9GR, with the Doug DeMaw Technical Excellence Award for his work in reducing audio distortion on single sideband transmissions, and the Microwave Development Award went to the developers of Broadband-Hamnet for their contributions to microwave mesh networking.

Dayton Attendance Up Slightly

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association reports that attendance at this year's Dayton Hamvention ® increased by about 750 over 2014 to a total of 25,621. It is the first time in several years that the official attendance figure has exceeded 25,000. The highest attendance ever at the annual event was over 33,600 in 1993.

Illinois Ham Found Murdered

Police are investigating the apparent murder of Henry Murphy, WB9TFX, of Rockford, Illinois. According to a report in the Rockford Register-Star, police say Murphy and his dog were both shot to death before their house was set on fire. Firefighters responding to the blaze found their bodies. Murphy was retired from AT&T, and according to a post on by NN9P, owned a local 70-centimeter repeater and was "a 'master' of repeater duplexer cavity fine-tuning," helping other repeater owners in the area maintain their equipment. No arrests had been made as we went to press, nor had police revealed a suspected motive.

Party Balloon Completes Double Circumnavigation

Australian ham Andy Nguyen, VK3YT, just keeps outdoing himself. We've reported several times recently on Andy's successes in flying ham radio-equipped Mylar party balloons around the world. Now, the ARRL Letter reports, his latest effort - pico balloon PS-46 - made two complete trips around the world and was into its third loop before it was forced down in the Indian Ocean by bad weather. The balloon transmitted WSPR and JT9 signals on 20 meters and was tracked by hams around the world, including at least two in the United States.

HAARP to Resume Operations as University Research Facility

The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program - better known by the acronym HAARP - will be returned to service under the stewardship of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks (UAF). The facility had been built by the US Air Force in 1990 and its high-powered transmitters were used to create artificial auroras for research purposes (the facility had also been a favorite of conspiracy theorists). Last year, the Air Force shut it down and announced plans to demolish it. Now, according to the ARRL Letter, a combination of pressure from political and scientific circles has prompted the Air Force to agree to sell the facilities and equipment at HAARP to UAF. The transfer was to be effective on August 11, with additional negotiations to be conducted over the next two years for the sale of the land on which the facility is built as well.

Yasme Foundation Makes Wide-Ranging Grants

The Yasme Foundation has announced its most recent grant recipients. The ARRL Letter reports that the group will provide support to the organizing committee for the 2018 World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) in Germany; provide funding for the Reverse Beacon Network to set up a node in Ethiopia and to help the Voodoo Contest Group purchase amateur radio training materials for use in Liberia. The Yasme Foundation provides grants to help promote amateur radio in developing countries and to conduct amateur-radio related scientific and educational projects.

ARRL Files Interference Complaints over Lighting Devices

The ARRL has formally complained to the FCC that The Home Depot has been marketing RF-ballast lighting devices in violation of FCC rules. According to the ARRL Letter, the League alleges that the home improvement chain has been selling RF lighting devices to consumers that are rated only for commercial and industrial use. These devices have a higher level of permitted emissions - which can cause RF interference - than those rated for consumer/residential use. 
The ARRL has also filed three new interference complaints regarding so-called "grow lights," along with urging the Enforcement Bureau to take action regarding a similar complaint that it filed more than a year ago. These grow lights are used for cultivating plants indoors, and are commonly used by marijuana growers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

ARISS SSTV Images This Weekend to Commmemorate 40th Anniversary of the Apollo- Soyuz Mission

The following is from the AMSAT News Service:
40 years ago this week, the historic joint Apollo-Soyuz mission was conducted.   Apollo-Soyuz (or Soyuz-
USA space collaboration on the Space Shuttle, Mir Space Station and the International Space Station.  The Soyuz and Apollo vehicles were docked from July 17-19, 1975, during which time joint experiments and
activities were accomplished with the 3 USA astronauts and 2 Soviet Cosmonauts on-board.  Apollo-Soyuz was the final mission of the Apollo program and the last USA human spaceflight mission until the first space shuttle mission in 1981.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of this historic international event, the ARISS team has developed a series of 12 Slow Scan Television (SSTV) images that will be sent down for reception by schools, educational organizations and ham radio operators, worldwide.  The SSTV images are planned to start sometime Saturday morning, July 18 and run through Sunday July 19.  These dates are tentative and are subject to change.  The SSTV images can be received on 145.80 MHz and displayed using several different SSTV computer programs that are available on the internet.

We encourage you to submit your best received SSTV images to:

The ARISS SSTV image gallery will post the best SSTV images received from this event at:

Also, as a special treat, on Saturday July 18 the ISS Cosmonauts will take time out to conduct an ARISS contact with students attending the Moon Day/Frontiers of Flight Museum event in Dallas, Texas.  This Russian Cosmonaut-USA Student contact is planned to start around 16:55 UTC through the W6SRJ ground station located in Santa Rosa, California.  ARISS will use the 145.80 MHz voice frequency downlink (same as the SSTV downlink) for the Moon Day contact.

For more information on ARISS, please go to our web site:

The ARISS international team would like to thank our ARISS-Russia colleague, Sergey Samburov, RV3DR, for his leadership on this historic commemoration.
Apollo in Russia) represented the first joint USA-Soviet mission and set the stage for follow-on Russia-

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Amateur Radio Parity Act Companion Bill Introduced in Senate

A bill to extend the FCC's "reasonable accommodation" rule on amateur antennas to private land use agreements has been introduced in the U.S. Senate. S. 1685, introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and initially co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), is identical to House bill H.R. 1301, introduced in March by Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger. That bill has, at press time, gathered 84 co-sponsors, according to the ARRL.
Wicker, in a statement, said the bill would ensure "increased access to, and availability of, critical resources and communication tools to our integral first-responders" by providing amateurs with "the ability to negotiate with subdivisions that now have restrictions that preclude amateur radio antennas completely." He noted that this could be done "without taking any jurisdiction away from homeowners associations and would protect neighborhood aesthetics."

The ARRL is urging all amateurs to ask their senators and representatives to show their support for amateur radio by co-sponsoring S. 1685 or H.R. 1301, depending on which house of Congress they are in.

Nine States Recognize Ham Radio's Value in Proclamations

New Hampshire Governor
Maggie Hassan declared the
entire month of June as
"Ham Radio Month" in the
Granite State.

 The governors of nine states officially recognized the important contributions of amateur radio in proclamations centered on ARRL Field Day this past June. 

Proclamations naming the last week in June as Amateur Radio Week were issued by the governors of Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, and Wisconsin, according to the ARRL Letter, while New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan declared the entire month of June as Amateur Radio Month in the state.

FCC Scales Back Plans to Shutter Field Offices

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, working with leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has agreed to reduce the number of field offices slated to be closed under a plan to streamline the operation of the Enforcement Bureau. The original plan called for closing 16 of the FCC's 24 field offices and replacing them with so-called "Tiger Team" strike forces that could be sent anywhere to go after rules violators. There was widespread opposition to the plan, as many people believed it would result in significantly reduced enforcement activities.
Now, according to the ARRL Letter, meetings between the FCC and congressional oversight leaders led to an agreement to close only nine field offices, keeping open a total of 15. There was no immediate announcement of which offices originally planned for closure would remain open. House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, W7EQI, praised the "collaborative" effort and said the agreement would "help ensure that the commission can fulfill its responsibilities to the public and public safety communities.

Comments Sought on Proposed LF/MF Ham Bands

The FCC is seeking comments on its proposals to establish new amateur allocations at 2200 and 630 meters, with an August 31 deadline. According to the ARRL Letter, the FCC's detailed proposals for the bands - first announced in a huge Report & Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in late April - were published in the Federal Register on July 2, starting the "countdown clock" for filing comments and reply comments (due September 30).
The FCC is proposing a "sliver band," from 135.7-137.8 kHz on 2200 meters, and a slightly larger 630 meter allocation, 472-479 kHz, which hams would share with unlicensed power line carrier, or PLC, systems already in place for controlling the power grid. The commission is looking specifically for input on power limits, antenna length and height, and the amount of physical separation that is needed between an amateur antenna and an electric transmission line using PLC. (PLC is used on transmission lines, which carry high-voltage electricity between generating stations and substations, not on residential distribution lines.)

HF Returns to Ham Radio Satellites

An amateur radio satellite with HF capabilities is in orbit and operating for the first time in at least 15 years. Two cubesats recently launched by the U.S. Naval Academy - BRICsat (Naval Academy OSCAR-83) and PSAT (NO-84) carry 300-milliwatt PSK-31 transponders with uplinks on 10 meters
(28.120 MHz) and downlinks on 70 centimeter FM (435.350 MHz). The PSK transponder is NO-84's primary mission, according to the ARRL Letter, designed to allow dozens of simultaneous users to operate full duplex and keep up a continuous group dialog throughout a pass. It is the first time an amateur satellite has had either an uplink or downlink on the HF bands since the Russian RS-series satellites went silent around the turn of the century.
The two satellites were launched May 20. They both also operate APRS on VHF (NO-84)/UHF (NO-83), which is not surprising since their design team was led by APRS developer Bob Bruninga, WB4APR.

In a related story, NASA's next mission to Mars, due for launch next year, will include two non-amateur cubesats. According to the AMSAT News Service, it will be the first time these microsatellites have flown in deep space. The ultimate mission goal, in addition to seeing if cubesats can make it through interplanetary space, is to use them as communication relays for future Mars missions between the time a lander enters the planet's atmosphere and touchdown.

CQ WW Contest Committee to Review Past Entries for Evidence of Cheating

The CQ World Wide DX Contest Committee is making a concerted effort to crack down on cheating. 

After disqualifying more than 50 logs from the 2014 contest and banning one station from competing for the next five years due to alleged "log padding" - or adding contacts that were never made - the committee said it would test new software designed to detect the practice by running it on all logs submitted in the past four years. 

Any logs that show evidence of adding unverifiable QSOs will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, according to a post on the CQWW blog by Contest Director Randy Thompson, K5ZD. See August CQ's "Contesting" column for an in-depth discussion of honesty and cheating in contesting.

"Foxhunting" Championship in Colorado This Summer

At least it's a deer and not a fox! A view of the Peaceful Valley
Scout Ranch in Colorado, which will be the site of the USA
IARU Region 2 Amateur Radio Direction Finding
(or Foxhunting) championships this August.
(Photo from

The 15th USA (and 8th IARU Region II) Amateur Radio Direction-Finding championships will be held in late August at the Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch in Colorado, about 40 miles outside of Denver. 

The competition will feature on-foot "foxhunting," using both the 80-meter and 2-meter bands, as well as a "foxoring" competition - which combines ARDF with orienteering - and a pre-competition training camp. 

For more information, see August CQ's "Homing In" column on page 80.

Restored California Lighthouse to be Activated in ILLW

WA6LJR will be operating in August from the recently-
restored Point San Luis lighthouse in California.
|(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

The newly-restored Point San Luis lighthouse in Avila Beach, California will be active on the ham bands during the 2015 International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW) on August 15-16. According to Jim Linton, VK3PC, the 12-meter tall wooden lighthouse, built in 1890, will be activated by Bill Rea, WA6LJR. Linton says the recently-restored structure is the only surviving Prairie Victorian style lighthouse on the U.S. west coast. It is also the 300th lighthouse or lightship to be registered for activity during ILLW. More information about the weekend and how to participate may be found online at <>.

Maritime Incident Response Team Adds Ham Radio

Amateur radio is now an official part of the response "toolkit" for the Tri-State Maritime Safety Association's Maritime Incident Response Team, or MIRT. The organization serves New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Audubon-Barrington OEM Radio club in New Jersey will provide support for the group, according to the ARRL Letter, which will include operating and maintaining the communications gear in the "MIRT bus," which was also made available to the group for non-emergency events. The bus made its ham radio debut during this year's Field Day.

Hams Set New Records on Microwave Bands

Two hams - one in California and the other in Hawaii - have set new world distance records on the 2.3 and 3.4-GHz amateur bands. The ARRL Letter reports that Wayne Overbeck, N6NB, operating "rover-style" from a rental car in Hawaii, contacted Gregory Campbell, W6IT, who was at Overbeck's home station, over a distance of 2495 miles (4024 kilometers). The contacts more than doubled the previous records for two-way SSB voice contacts on those frequencies, and the contact on 2304 MHz was the first recorded voice contact on that band between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. The pair took advantage of a recurring tropospheric duct that often permits Hawaii-California contacts on the VHF and UHF ham bands.

IZ0UDF Sets New Record for Woman in Space

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, IZ0UDF, conducts an
ARISS contact from orbit. (ESA photo)

European Space Agency Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, IZ0UDF, has now spent more time in space than any other woman. 

The ARRL Letter reports that her stay aboard the International Space Station, which ended in June, lasted just short of 200 full days, surpassing the previous record of 194 days, 18 hours and 2 minutes set in 2007 by NASA Astronaut Suni Williams, KD5PLB. 

While on board the ISS, Cristoforetti made several ham radio contacts with school groups operating in the ARISS, or Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, program.

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.