Wednesday, March 17, 2021

ISS Ham Station Fully Operational Again

The International Space Station (NASA photo)

The amateur radio station aboard the International Space Station is once again fully operational. The ARRL says a March 13 spacewalk to swap out an antenna cable put the ham station in the Columbus module back on the air. That station had been off since a January 27 spacewalk that included replacing an 11-year-old feedline segment. That cable apparently had problems since the Columbus ham rig could neither transmit nor receive using it. 

The original feedline was re-installed during the March 13 spacewalk and APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) signals were once again monitored from the ISS the following day. The station in the Columbus module, generally operating as NA1SS, is the primary station for school contacts and other ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) activities. While it was off the air, ARISS contacts continued, using the second ham station in the Russian service module.


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Dayton Looks Skyward for 2021 Awards

While there won't be an in-person Dayton Hamvention® this year, the Hamvention Awards Committee continued its tradition of honoring the achievements of outstanding amateurs, and three of its four 2021 awardees have their heads in the stars … literally!

This year's Amateur of the Year is Angel Vazquez, WP3R, Head of Telescope Operations at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. In addition to his many ham radio activities associated with the observatory, such as using the big dish antenna for a moonbounce effort in 2010, Angel also provided emergency communications for area families every day for eight weeks after Hurricane Maria in 2017. He is currently deeply involved in plans to rebuild the main radiotelescope at Arecibo following its collapse last year.

The 2021 Technical Achievement Award goes to "the Space Weather Woman," Dr. Tamitha Mulligan Skov, WX6SWW. Skov is a research scientist for The Aerospace Corporation, teaches space weather forecasting at Millersville University and has a weekly video podcast. A ham since 2018, she has also spoken at various hamfests and club meetings.

Wes Lamboley, W3WL, is this year's recipient of Dayton's Special Achievement award. A veteran of the aerospace industry, Wes has been a ham for more than 65 years. He was recognized for what the awards committee described as "his lifetime high-energy support for the science and art of amateur radio (including) youth coaching membership recruiting and technical problem assistance." He ha also been an active DXpeditioner, taking part in five Southwest Ohio DX Association "DXpeditions of the Year."

The Club of the Year Award for 2021 goes to Virginia's Vienna Wireless Society, which has grown to be the largest and most active amateur radio club in the Washington, DC area. Its public service work includes providing communications for the annual Marine Corps Marathon and being part of the presidential inauguration security team.

The Hamvention committee did not indicate where or when this year's awards will be presented. The Hamvention itself has been cancelled this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

ARRL Tells FCC There Are Enough VECs

Responding to an FCC Pubic Notice in January seeking comment on the possible expansion of the volunteer examining program to add new Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs), the ARRL said the program is working just fine with the 14 VECs currently administering amateur license exams and that adding more would make more work for the FCC staff and "raise the potential for abuse and fraud."

According to the ARRL Letter, the League's comments noted that exam opportunities continued to be plentiful even during the Covid-19 pandemic, and suggested that "(i)nstead of increasing the number of VECs, we would encourage volunteers to become accredited as VEs (volunteer examiners) and to … help the current VECs wherever possible." ARRL-VEC is the largest of the 14 current VEC organizations.

Temporary Field Day Rules to Continue for 2021

The ARRL has extended its pandemic-induced changes to Field Day rules through the 2021 event, but has added power limits to certain home station categories. The ARRL Letter reports that in 2021, Class D (home) stations may again work all other Field Day stations for credit (including other Class D stations), but will be limited to a power output of no more than 150 watts PEP. The power limit will also apply to home stations using emergency power (Class E). This year's Field Day will be held on the weekend of June 26-27.

Spacewalk Planned to Try to Get ISS Ham Station Back on the Air

One of the two amateur radio stations aboard the International Space Station has been off the air since late January, after the crew replaced a decade-old feedline during a spacewalk. The new cable, it appears, doesn't work. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program has been working with officials from NASA and the European Space Agency to try to resolve the problem with the Columbus module ham rig. As this item was posted, a second spacewalk was planned for March 13 to reconnect the old cable, which had been working fine. ARISS contacts with schools and other groups have continued, using the ham station in the ISS Service Module. (This story will be updated.)

YOTA Groups Moving Ahead Cautiously on Events; YHOTY Nominations Open

The American Youth on the Air (YOTA) group accepted applications for its Covid-delayed summer camp for a three-week period in March, but was waiting until sometime in April to announce whether this year's camp would be held as scheduled in mid-July. If all goes as hoped, up to 30 campers between the ages of 15 and 25 will spend six days doing ham radio and other activities at the National Voice of America Museum outside Cincinnati.

Across the Atlantic, the Region 1 YOTA program was continuing to schedule youth activities for later in the year but reviewing each planned event on a case-by-case basis as efforts continue to end the Covid pandemic. According to the ARRL, program officials will try to make decisions at least four months prior to a scheduled event, based on national requirements for pandemic control in host countries.

Speaking of young hams, nominations are now open for the Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year (YHOTY) award. Hams 18 and younger, living in the U.S., its possessions or Canada are eligible for the recognition. Nominating materials are available at <> and must be submitted by May 31. The award will be presented at the Huntsville Hamfest in Alabama this August. As of press time, the Huntsville Hamfest committee was planning to hold the event as scheduled. (CQ is a corporate co-sponsor of the YHOTY program.)

Pandemic Prompts Surge in Ham Popularity in UK

The social isolation brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has apparently resulted in a record levels of interest in amateur radio in the United Kingdom. According to Newsline, the Covid restrictions prompted the Radio Society of Great Britain and other groups to offer online licensing courses that have been met with overwhelming responses. One group had more than 250 applicants for a class with 100 spaces available. The increased level of interest appears to apply not only to the UK's introductory Foundation Class license but to higher license classes as well.

Israeli Hams Lose Microwave Spectrum

Amateurs in Israel are losing access to many allocations between 1 and 6 GHz or having band size and/or power levels reduced. The ARRL reports that country's Ministry of Communications issued a new amateur allocation document late last year outlining the changes. 

The 23-centimeter band was reduced in size from 60 MHz (1240-1300 MHz, same as the U.S. band) to 10 MHz (1260-1270 MHz) with a maximum power of 25 watts, available only to Class A licensees and only for satellite uplink.

The 9-centimeter band (3.4 GHz) was removed completely (and is being "sunsetted" in the U.S. to make room for 5G wireless). In addition, only satellite segments of the 5.6 GHz band remain open to hams, at greatly reduced power levels; and the maximum power allowed on the 10-GHz band has been reduced from 100 watts to 100 milliwatts. (As we have noted in CQ previously, we must make better use of our microwave allocations or risk losing them. The situation in Israel shows what could happen if we don’t. – ed.)

RRI Schedules Spring EmComm Exercise

Radio Relay International, an independent traffic-handling and emergency communications organization, has scheduled its first quarterly emergency communications exercise on April 24. The exercise will emphasize portable HF operation and uses a scoring system to encourage a diverse range of capabilities. It is open to anyone interested in emergency communications, including radio amateurs, users of FRS/GMRS radios, radio clubs and emcomm organizations. QRP operators and those who enjoy portable operation are particularly encouraged to participate. Complete details are online at <>.

Hams Help in Earthquake Research


Hams in three western states, Hawaii and Mexico are being trained to use the Winlink radio e-mail platform to help the U.S. Geological Survey track and better understand the impact of earthquakes. 

The participating hams send USGS "Did You Feel It?" or DYFI, reports after an earthquake via Winlink to hams outside the affected area, who then forward the reports to USGS over the internet. This allows real-time reports to be filed even if the quake has disrupted normal internet service to a given area. 

According to Newsline, the DYFI system gathers data on macroseismic intensity, allowing researchers to more accurately determine where a quake was felt and at what intensity. The amateur radio involvement is coordinated by ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) groups in California, Arizona, Washington State, Hawaii and Mexico.

Milestones: Former ARRL Director, CQ Author, are Silent Keys


The ARRL reports that former Southwestern Division Director Art Goddard, W6XD, became a Silent Key on February 13 at age 78. Goddard was an electrical engineer who worked for Collins Radio and later, for Boeing, where he moved up to an executive position before retiring. He served two terms as ARRL Vice Director before being elected Director in 2001. An avid contester and DXpeditioner, Goddard operated the CQ World Wide DX Contest from 26 of CQ's 40 zones. He was licensed for 65 years.

CQ contributor L. Dennis Shapiro, W1UF, also became a Silent Key in February. Ironically, his most recent CQ article, in the January 2021 issue, was about a "bucket list" trip he'd made recently to St. Pierre and Miquelon Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the last remaining French possessions in North America.