Thursday, November 21, 2013

Update: FUNcube, Other Satellites in Orbit

AMSAT-UK's FUNcube-1 is now in orbit, renamed AMSAT-OSCAR 73.

The ARRL Letter reports that FUNcube and 18 other satellites were successfully launched today on board a Russian Dnepr rocket. One of the other satellites - UniSat-5 - will deploy additional satellites, including several that will operate on the ham bands.

Initial reports are that AO-73 is operating normally. The latest orbital elements for FUNcube-1 are available at

Hams Pitch In After Philippine Typhoon

Max Santos, 4F1BYN, copies health and welfare
messages from the storm-ravaged city of Tacloban
on 40 meters. (DU1VHY photo)

Like hams everywhere, amateur radio operators in the Philippines were able to get on the air after Typhoon Haiyan and provide initial communications after the storm destroyed much of the infrastructure in Tacloban and surrounding areas. Communications were coordinated by the Philippine Amateur Radio Association's "Ham Emergency Radio Operators," or "HEROs" program.

In the accompanying photo, Max Santos, 4F1BYN, operating at the station of DU1DL in Antipolo, copies health and welfare messages on 40 meters from Tacloban, one of the cities that suffered the greatest damage from the storm.

For detailed coverage, see our Public Service column -- "Radio HEROs Provide Critical EmComm in Philippine Typhoon Tragedy" -- in the upcoming January issue of CQ magazine  <>.

Staff Shuffle at FCC Wireless Bureau

Communications attorney Roger Sherman is the new Acting Chief of the FCC's Wireless Telecommuni-cations Bureau, which oversees amateur radio as well as other two-way radio services. Sherman replaces former Bureau Chief Ruth Milkman, who was named Chief of Staff to new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

According to the ARRL, Sherman previously served as the Democratic Chief Counsel to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, along with other Congressional staff positions.

Hams Carry Olympic Torch to Space and Back

The 2014 Olympic torch aboard the International
Space Station (NASA photo)
Now this is a torch run!

The route from Greece to Sochi, Russia for the torch that will light the Olympic flame at next February's winter games in the Russian city included a round trip to the International Space Station … carried there and back by crew members who are nearly all hams.

The torch was taken up to the station in early November by the all-ham crew of Expedition 38 - Astronauts Richard Mastracchio, KC5ZTE and Koichi Wakata, KC5ZTA, and Cosmonaut Mikail Tyurin, RZ3FT. It was brought back several days later by returning Expedition 37 crew members, including Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin, RN3FI, and European Space Agency Astronaut Luca Parmitano, KF5KDP.

Parmitano was very active on amateur radio during his stay on the station, according to the ARRL Letter, conducting many school contacts as well as making more than 200 random contacts with hams back on Earth.

Olympic Games website: <>

More Ham Radio on TV … and More Hams Among Crew Members

Tim Allen (as Mike Baxter) operates ham radio along with
Flynn Morrison (Mike's grandson Boyd) on the November
22, 2013 episode of "Last Man Standing" on ABC-TV.
(Photo courtesy "Last Man Standing")
The November 22 episode of the ABC-TV comedy "Last Man Standing" includes a segment during which star Tim Allen (Mike Baxter, KA0XTT) gets on 20 meters and works a pileup of more than 100 hams! The responses had been previously sent in by hams in response to a request from Producer John Amodeo, NN6JA, for short audio clips.

In addition, the show's crew now includes 17 licensed hams, with eight new amateurs licensed during a November 9 exam session that also included one crew member upgrading to General. "Last Man Standing" airs Friday nights at 8 PM eastern time on ABC.

New LoTW Software Released

The ARRL has released version 2.0 of its TQSL software needed for accessing the Logbook of the World (LoTW) online QSO database. According to the ARRL Letter, the new release is completely new and incorporates the earlier TQSL-Cert into the single TQSL program. The user interface is also completely new, and the League promises the new software will be easier to use than past versions. Difficulties using the TQSL software have been among some of the problems plaguing the program recently. More information, including a link to download the new program, is at <>.

ARRL Petitions for "Symbol Rate" Change

The ARRL has filed a petition with the FCC, asking that it replace current limitations on "symbol rate" for digital modes on HF with a simple bandwidth limitation of 2.8 kHz. According to the League, this would permit the use on HF of any digital mode whose signals are no wider than a single-sideband voice signal. It says the current rules were designed for 1980s technology and are impeding technological progress by hams today. At press time, the FCC had not assigned the petition a rule-making number or opened it for comments.

WRC-15 Advisory Committee Makes Recommendations Regarding Ham Bands

The FCC's advisory committee for the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) has issued three recommendations regarding bands used by amateurs, and the ARRL says it agrees with all three. The first called for no changes to current allocations in the 70-centimeter band, which hams share with government radiolocation. ARRL Letter says one country has proposed allowing international cellphone and broadband use between 420 and 430 MHz, but the advisory committee said it does not feel sharing between the proposed service and radiolocation is feasible.

Likewise, the committee recommended no changes to current allocations on 22-26 GHz, a frequency range in which amateur radio has a primary allocation from 24-24.5 GHz.

Finally, the committee tentatively approved a proposal for short-range automotive radar in the 77.5-78.0 GHz range. If OKd by the conference, these radars would have co-primary status in the band with amateur radio and amateur satellites.

IARU Region 2 Updates Band Plan

A new band plan has been issued by Region 2 of the International Amateur Radio Union, which covers North and South America. Features include a new satellite subband from 144.000 to 144.025 MHz and the first formal recognition of "near space stations" (e.g., those operating from high-altitude balloons), although no specific frequencies were recommended for these operations. According to the ARRL Letter, the plan also includes suggested subbands for microwave ham bands and tries to harmonize the Region 2 band plan with those of IARU Regions 1 (Europe and Africa) and 3 (Asia and Oceania).

FUNcube and Other Ham-Band Satellites Head Spaceward

This month is prime time for tiny satellite launches, many of which will use the ham bands for communications or telemetry. A November 19 launch from Virginia sent 29 satellites into orbit, including TJ3Sat, the first satellite designed and built by high school students. TJ3Sat includes an amateur radio component (see <>).

A launch scheduled for November 21 from Russia was to send up another two dozen-plus "cubesats," tiny satellites that have become very popular among schools and hams alike. The ham radio "star" of the November 21 launch is FUNcube, a joint project between AMSAT groups in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands (see <>).

In addition, four cubesats carrying ham radio payloads were planned to be deployed from the International Space Station on November 25. (ARRL and AMSAT News Service)

QRPMe to Produce Rock-Mite ][

The original Rock-Mite transceiver board.
(From Small Wonder Labs website)
The closing of Small Wonder Labs (see earlier post) left in doubt the future of the company's popular Rock-Mite QRP transceiver.

An announcement on the SWL website in mid-November said production of the rig -- with some modifications -- would be taken on by QRPMe, which announced the introduction of the "Rock-Mite ][." See

Arizona Ham Uses Linked Repeater Network to Help Stranded Ham in Nevada

Map of WIN System linked repeaters
(from website)

When Nathan Rischling, KD0HFM, found himself stranded during a hike in the hills outside of Henderson, Nevada, his call for help on a repeater linked to the Western Intertie Network (WIN) was answered by Jim Frederick, KF6QBW, hundreds of miles away in Arizona.

According to the ARRL Letter, Frederick again used the WIN system to seek out a ham in the Las Vegas area. James Freeman, KG7EWP, answered that call and called 911 to alert a search-and-rescue team. Frederick reported that a few hours later, Rischling came back on the system to thank everyone involved in his successful rescue.

2012 Young Ham of the Year AK4JG Tabbed as One of World's Smartest Teens

Erin King, AK4JG (center), receiving the 2012 Newsline Young
Ham of the Year award at the Huntsville Hamfest. Also
pictured (from left): Newsline's Don Wilbanks, AE5DW;
CQ Editor Rich Moseson, W2VU; Bob Heil, K9EID, of Heil
Sound, and Yaesu's Dennis Motschenbacher, K7BV.
(K0NEB photo)

Erin King, AK4JG, the 2012 Newsline Young Ham of the Year, has been named by as one of "The World's 50 Smartest Teenagers" (see <>. King's amateur radio activities were mentioned prominently in her profile.

She is currently a sophomore at MIT and spent last summer working with Google's Project Loon, which, according to Newsline, is an experiment using high-altitude balloons to bring Internet access to remote locations. (CQ is a corporate co-sponsor of the Newsline Young Ham of the Year program.)

N6CL to West Point

The Rev. Joe Lynch, N6CL
Congratulations to CQ's "VHF-Plus" Editor and CQ VHF magazine Editor Joe Lynch, N6CL, on his new position as Director of Religious Education at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Lynch is a Methodist minister.

As this is posted, Joe and his wife, Carol, W6CL, are en route to West Point from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Joe plans to continue both writing his column and editing CQ VHF in his new position.

CQ VHF website:

Unusual DX Opening on 6 Meters

A group of sunspots as seen by the
SOHO satellite on Nov. 9, 2013
(NASA photo)

Six-meter operators look forward to the peak of a sunspot cycle for occasional F2-layer band openings that permit intercontinental DX on "the Magic Band." The current Cycle 24, however, has been too weak to feature any of these openings  -- until November 9. The ARRL Letter reports that the 90-minute opening provided 6-meter ops across the U.S. the opportunity to work into the Caribbean and Central and South America. It's not the transatlantic or transpacific DX which occurred during the last sunspot peak in 2000-2001, but it's the best that the current cycle has offered so far.

The Art of Ham Radio … in Space

The ARTSAT2 DESPATCH satellite
(Courtesy ARTSAT-DESPATCH website)
The AMSAT News Service reports that students at Japan's Tama Art University are working on launching a piece of artwork - complete with a ham radio transmitter - into deep space in mid-2014. The sculpture/satellite, named ARTSAT2 DESPATCH, was created on a 3D printer and sill be launched into deep space as part of a mission to explore asteroids.

The vessel carrying the sculpture will also carry a low-power CW beacon operating on 435 MHz. It should reach its greatest operational distance from Earth - some 3 million kilometers or 1.8 million miles - about a week after it is launched, so receipt of those signals will represent a tremendous feat of QRP listening! For more information, see <>.