Tuesday, April 16, 2019

W5LFL, First Ham in Space, SK

Former astronaut Owen Garriott, W5LFL, the first person to operate an amateur radio station from space, has become a Silent Key at age 88. He died April 15 at his home in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Garriott held a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Stanford University, where he also taught before joining NASA in 1965 as a scientist-astronaut. According to NASA, he authored or co-authored more than 40 scientific papers and one book on ionospheric physics.

Garriott's first trip to space was aboard Skylab 3 in 1973, where he and crewmates Alan Bean and Jack Lousma spent nearly two months, at that point the longest single-mission spaceflight on record. He returned to space in 1983 aboard the shuttle Columbia, a 10-day science mission known as STS-9/Spacelab-1. During this flight, Garriott thrilled hams around the world by operating a 2-meter handheld and making contacts during his free time. (This writer recalls hearing him calling "CQ North America, this is W5LFL on the Space Shuttle Columbia calling CQ and listening.") 

Garriott's operation paved the way for ongoing amateur operations from orbit, including the long-running Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. He was inducted into the inaugural class of the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame in 2001.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Hamvention to Offer Free Admission on Sunday

The Dayton Hamvention will open the gates to the public for free admission on Sunday this year.

According to Hamvention General Chairman Jack Gerbs, WB8SCT, Sunday is the show's lightest traffic day, "making it convenient for anyone who just wants to check out what's there." He said the free admission on Sunday "will make it a little easier and cheaper for someone with just a little interest in Hamvention to see what all the excitement is about," noting that flea market vendors offer a wide variety of electronic equipment beyond amateur radio gear, and that many other vendors have final day specials on a variety of items.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Latest Prediction: Long Solar Minimum, Weak Cycle 25

An international panel of space scientists is predicting a long, deep, solar minimum, followed by a Cycle 25 they expect to be similar to the now-ending Cycle 24. 

Spaceweather.com's Dr. Tony Phillips says the group, which met in early April at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) annual Space Weather Workshop, expects the current cycle to bottom out sometime between this July and next September, with a slow climb out of the basement toward a weak peak between 2023 and 2026. 

On the other hand, says the group, there are no indications that we are headed for a repeat of the 17th-century Maunder minimum. The solar minimum will be weak, says Phillips, but not that weak. A more refined forecast is expected later this year.

ARRL Rolls Back Rate Hikes for Outgoing QSL Bureau

The ARRL has decided to scrap the price increases it imposed in 2016 for its Outgoing QSL Bureau service. 

In an e-mail on April 10, CEO Howard Michel, WB2ITX, wrote: "Effective May 15, 2019, the new rate will be: $2 for 10 or fewer cards in one envelope; $3 for 11-20 cards in one envelope, or 75 cents per ounce, for packages with 21 or more cards. For example, a package containing 1.5 pounds -- 24 ounces, or about 225 cards -- of cards will cost $18. No transaction service fees."
The email did not include an explanation. Many DXers – including CQ DX Editor N2OO (see his December 2016 column) – were unhappy with the price increase, which disproportionally affected the small DXer.