Monday, December 21, 2020

Steve Molo, KI4KWR, Named CQ Awards Editor

Steve Molo, KI4KWR, of Madison, Alabama, has been named
CQ magazine Awards Editor, CQ Editor Rich Moseson, W2VU, announced today. Steve has been active in radio communications for close to 30 years, starting in a REACT group in Pennsylvania. Following graduation from high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy as a Radioman, reaching the rank of Chief Petty Officer before returning to civilian life.
Steve discovered amateur radio in 2005 while in the Navy and living in Portsmouth, Virginia. In 2013, he moved to New Jersey, where became very active with the South Jersey DX Association and participated in 160-meter contests with both the N2CW and W2GD teams, placing in the top five several years straight and occasionally in first place.
Since January 2019, Steve has worked for GigaParts in Huntsville, Alabama, as Brand Ambassador for all brands offered by the company. After work, he can generally be found on HF, chasing contacts and rare DX. Steve is currently vice president of the North Alabama DX Club and a member of the Alabama Contest Group, Huntsville Amateur Radio Club and several others. He is currently focusing his award-chasing on the various FT8 awards that have recently become available.
"I look forward to the opportunity to keep CQ readers aware of the available awards in amateur radio," said Molo, "by highlighting long-standing awards that may not be well-known as well as focusing on newer offerings such as FT8 awards."
Molo's first column will appear in the February, 2021 issue of CQ.

Friday, December 11, 2020

ARRL: FCC Should Waive Fees on Amateur Applications

The ARRL has told the FCC it has the power to waive fees on amateur radio applications and should do so. In comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that set up a new fee schedule for all licensed services, including a $50 fee for virtually all amateur applications, the League said Congress has never specified fees for amateur applications (except vanity calls) and that the FCC is authorized to waive fees if it would be in the public interest.

According to the ARRL Letter, the services provided by volunteer examiners, VE coordinators and the Volunteer Monitor program save the Commission money in ways that other services don't, in addition to amateur radio's longstanding role in providing emergency and disaster communications at no cost to taxpayers.

FCC to Mandate E-Mail Addresses on Future Applications

Starting in the middle of next year, all FCC applications – including those from amateurs – will need to include the applicant's e-mail address. It's the next step, says the ARRL Letter, in shifting fully from paper to electronic communications. 

Once the rule takes effect (the exact date wasn't set when this was posted), applications may be dismissed as "defective" if an e-mail address is not included, and FCC reserves the right to revoke or suspend licenses if e-mails from the Commission are returned as undeliverable.

Lots of Action on the 9-Centimeter Band

There's been a flurry of activity recently regarding the 9-centimeter band, from 3.3-3.5 GHz in the United States, ever since the FCC announced it was going to remove amateur radio's secondary allocation on the band to provide more spectrum for 5G wireless services. 

The ARRL has filed two petitions – one a petition for reconsideration of the original decision, and the other a request to at least allow hams to continue using the band until companies that purchase spectrum begin operating there. The League's major point, according to the ARRL Letter, is that as secondary users on the band for many years, amateurs have operated successfully without causing interference to primary users and should be allowed to continue doing the same with the switchover to 5G services.

Meanwhile, Newsline reports that regulators in the United Kingdom and Peru have already started auctioning off segments of the 9-centimeter band to commercial users in those countries. In addition, the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance in the UK is calling for administrations in Europe and Africa to move quickly to open new spectrum for Wi-Fi at 5925-6425 MHz. This is immediately above the top end of the 5-cenmtimeter amateur band, which in the Americas extends from 5650-5925 MHz.

Changing Faces at the FCC

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has announced
his resignation as of Inauguration Day.
(FCC photo)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced at the end of November that he would be stepping down as of January 20. It is common practice at a change of administrations for the FCC Chair to resign in order to allow the incoming president to name his/her own chairman. The law establishing the FCC requires that the Commission be made up of two members of each major political party, with the fifth member coming from the party in power in the White House.

One of the Republican seats on the Commission was just filled by Nathan Simington, who was confirmed by the Senate in early December. Simington replaces GOP appointee Michael O'Rielly, whose term was expiring and was set for re-appointment until the president suddenly withdrew his name and nominated Simington instead. Simington most recently was a senior aide at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which performs many of the same functions as the FCC for federal government spectrum users.

Hamvention Sets 2021 Theme as "The Gathering"

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association, looking forward optimistically to May, has set the theme for this year's Hamvention® as "The Gathering," what most of us have not been able to do in 2020. According to DARA, Hamvention General Chairman Rick Allnut, WS8G, is a medical doctor with an additional master's degree in public health, and he believes that restrictions on travel and large group gatherings will be relaxed by the time of the Hamvention in late May (21-23). The 2020 Hamvention was one of the first major ham radio casualties of the Coronavirus pandemic. For updated information, visit <>.

A Comeback for The Shack?

RadioShack has a new majority owner with big plans for the brand. According to a report in Forbes, Retail Ecommerce Ventures, or REV, has purchased a majority stake in the brand from the investment group that bought RadioShack after its second bankruptcy. REV is known for purchasing well-known but struggling (or bankrupt) brands and reinventing them online. Its recent purchases include Pier 1, Modell's Sporting Goods and Dressbarn. 

Despite closing most of its stores several years ago, RadioShack retains an online presence as well as a network of 500 independent dealers who license the RadioShack name. REV co-owner Tai Lopez said his company's plans include covering the broad spectrum of consumer electronic devices, including RadioShack-branded laptop computers and flat-screen TVs. There was no mention of the components and other building blocks of electronic projects that hams came to rely on, but the article said the new owners hope to tap into "the do-it-yourself tech spirit" of today's young people, so maybe there's hope!

Universal Radio QRT

Another major hobby radio retailer has closed its doors. Universal Radio owners Fred (N8EKU) and Barbara (KC8VWI) Osterman announced in late November that they had decided to retire and to close their retail location in Worthington, Ohio, as of November 30. 

The announcement said that the Universal website - <> - would remain active "for the foreseeable future" in order to fulfill existing orders and sell off existing inventory. Universal has been the leading source for shortwave receivers in addition to its line of amateur radio gear and accessories.

Four Ham-Astronauts Fly SpaceX Dragon to ISS

SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the
International Space Station (NASA photo)
The four members of the International Space Station's Expedition 64/65 crew – all licensed amateurs – arrived at the orbiting station on November 17 aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule that had been launched two days earlier from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the second crewed flight for the Dragon capsule. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the new crew members include Victor Glover, KI5BKC; Mike Hopkins, KF5LJG; Shannon Walker, KD5DXB and Soichi Noguchi, KD5TVP. All are expected to stay on the station until spring, and all but Noguchi will likely take part in school contacts as part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, or ARISS, program.

New Solar Telescope Serves Up Sunspot Image in Great Detail

Close-up of a sunspot - the first sunspot photo
released by the new Inouye Solar Telescope.
(Courtesy National Solar Observatory/NSF)

The new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is
the world's largest solar observatory.
(Courtesy National Solar Observatory/NSF)

The National Science Foundation's new Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope in Hawaii has released its first image of a sunspot, with incredible detail. The ARRL Letter reports that the image, taken in January 2020, is among the first photos of a Cycle 25 sunspot. The world's largest solar observatory, the Inouye telescope has a 4-meter primary mirror that reportedly will give the best Earthbound views of the sun throughout Cycle 25. The late Daniel Inouye was a longtime U.S. Senator from Hawaii. The telescope is still in its final stages of construction.


Five Receive Yasme Excellence Award + GOTA2C Honored


Hams in Curacao, Finland and the United States are among the latest recipients of the Yasme Foundation's Excellence Award. According to the
ARRL Letter, Brett (PJ2BR) and Helena (PJ2ZZZ) Ruiz were honored for their many contributions to amateur radio in Curacao; Jari Perkiömäki, OH6BG, was cited for his work in supporting the online VOACAP software and website for many years; Bob Wilson, N6TV, was recognized for his varied contributions to technical support for manufacturer user groups and the Reverse Beacon Network (he's also an excellent photographer); and Jim Brown, K9YC, was honored for his work with ferrite materials and their use in combatting interference.

A relatively new award is the Newsline International Newsmaker Award, sponsored by Amateur Radio Newsline and in its second year. The 2020 award went to the Get on the Air 2 Care project (GOTA2C), a collaboration between the Radio Society of Great Britain and the United Kingdom's National Health Service to encourage amateurs to get on the air more frequently in order to decrease social isolation resulting from COVID-19-related restrictions on social gatherings. There is also a follow-on Get On The Air 4 Christmas project.

HamSCI Schedules Virtual Workshop for 2021

The following is from our friends at HamSCI, the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation program:

The next HamSCI workshop will be held virtually March 19-20, 2021. The HamSCI workshop is an annual meeting to share scientific and engineering ideas and results related to amateur radio, radio propagation, and radio science, as well as foster collaborations between the amateur radio and professional space science and space weather communities. The 2021 workshop will serve as both a team meeting for the Personal Space Weather Station project, as well as a forum for presentations on topics relevant to the HamSCI mission. 

 The format will be similar to virtual March 2020 HamSCI workshop. Thanks to support from the National Science Foundation and The University of Scranton, the cost of this workshop is free. Abstract will be due February 15th. Information regarding abstract submission and other workshop details will be forthcoming. Please join the HamSCI Google Group to stay up-to-date on the latest information.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Arecibo: End of an Era for a Ham-Connected Radiotelescope

This QSL card from Arecibo's Head of Telescope
Operations, Angel Vazquez, WP3R, shows
the telescope prior to its collapse.
The December 1 collapse of the instrument platform at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico reverberated in the ham community as well as the astronomy/radioastronomy world. Officials had hoped to be able to safely disassemble the 900-ton telescope suspended 400 feet above the observatory's 1000-foot dish after determining in November that repairs would be impossible after two cable breaks over the past several months. 

These two photos from the University of Central Florida, which manages the Arecibo Observatory for the National Science Foundation, shows some of the damage that resulted from the collapse.



One of the observatory's ham radio connections is Head of Telescope Operations Angel Vazquez, WP3R. He explained what happened on the morning of December 1 in a video posted on Twitter by Wilbert Andrés Ruperto at <>.

Head of Telescope Operations Angel Vazquez, WP3R, explains what happened when the instrument platform collapsed in a Twitter interview by Wilbert Andrés Ruperto. See the video at  <>.


WP3R also posted the following on the HamSCI reflector on December 2:

 Thanks for the outpouring of comments on a very sad day for all of us here at the Arecibo Observatory and for our radio amateur and scientist colleagues around the world. Indeed, a radio science icon is no more.

 At around 7:55am yesterday, December 1st, 2020, the platform collapsed due to the extra stress on the existing cables because of the main cable failure in November and the auxiliary cable break back in August. Strands were starting to pop all weekend long and it was just a matter of time. It came off the easternmost tower (T4) and took about 15 seconds at most. The azimuth arm that housed the dome came off the track, fell to the dish a little north of center and the triangle was pulled by the other existing cables to the northwest part of the dish. The tops of the towers did break as well. This was a 900-ton platform so the dome was smashed like an eggshell.

We still have a 12M dish that will be used for radio astronomy and a Lidar lab as well as an optical lab with photometers. The site by no means is closed and it wasn't the intent of NSF (National Science Foundation) to close the facility. They did want us to stabilize the platform so it could be lowered safely and (cause) no harm to any of the employees. No one was hurt during the collapse. We are looking into rebuild possibilities.

My best to all and stay safe!.

Vy 73, Angel, WP3R


Angel also provided a link to a dramatic two-part video of the collapse of the instrument platform. A view from a security camera is first, followed by footage from a drone that was inspecting the cables as they began to snap. The video is at <>.


The National Science Foundation provided additional information in a December 1 news release:

The investigation into the platform’s fall is ongoing. Initial findings indicate that the top section of all three of the 305-meter telescope’s support towers broke off. As the 900-ton instrument platform fell, the telescope’s support cables also dropped.

Preliminary assessments indicate the observatory’s learning center sustained significant damage from falling cables.

Engineers arrived on-site today. Working with the University of Central Florida, which manages the observatory, NSF expects to have environmental assessment workers on-site as early as tomorrow. Workers at the observatory will take appropriate safety precautions as a full assessment of the site’s safety is underway.


History and Another Ham Connection

Opened in 1963, the Arecibo radiotelescope was originally dedicated to studying the ionosphere and was used to make many groundbreaking discoveries, including that of the first binary pulsar, which resulted in the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded to Dr. Joe Taylor, K1JT, and Dr. Russell Hulse, ex-WB2LAV. Taylor is best known in the ham community today as the primary developer of WSPR (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter) and the WSJT suite of digital communications software, including FT8 and other variations.

Looking to Arecibo's future, NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said, "Our focus is now on assessing the damage, finding ways to restore operations at other parts of the observatory, and working to continue supporting the scientific community, and the people of Puerto Rico."

The National Science Foundation news release continued:

NSF intends to continue to authorize UCF to pay Arecibo staff and take actions to continue research work at the observatory, such as repairing the 12-meter telescope used for radio astronomy research and the roof of the LIDAR facility, a valuable geospace research tool. These repairs were funded through supplemental congressional appropriations aimed at addressing damage from Hurricane Maria.

Once safety on site is established, other work at the observatory will be carried out as conditions permit.