2020-01-01 Closing 2019 in amateur radio, time to plot the number of contacts and look back 2 weeks ago
Time for a new plot of the number of radio contacts. Months with contests are quite visible. After the peak in number of contacts in July there was first a holday and after that no big peaks in number of contacts. December 2019 jumps out a bit again due to the FT8 roundup on 8/9 December in which I made 66 contacts and later in the month the troposperic ducting allowing contacts over interesting distances in the 70 centimeter and 2 meter band added to a sprint at the end. In 2019 I made a few more contacts than in the previous record year 2017. Looking back at my amateur radio resolutions for 2019 I think most came true. If I look at them one by one:
Now I have to think about 2020, but the year is still young.
- Keep learning morse! - I'm still working on my morse, but there is measurable improvement. I have learned the full set for the Belgian CW exam and I'm working on accuracy and speed.
- Get more countries on more HF bands in the log - More countries and more slots on HF are in the log. I also use the club station to achieve that goal. The ARRL DXCC Award shows that I'm getting somewhere.
- Moonbounce on 2 meter - I've listened on the right frequencies to the moon on 2 meter. Nothing heard.
- Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests - I participated in two phone contests and a number of digimode contests. No serious improvement in scores.
- Operate HF outside - I operated HF outside. Not as much as I would like.
- At least one satellite contact - Multiple satellite contacts have been made!
2019-12-06 Received ISS SSTV again 1 month ago
This week had an opportunity to receive ISS SSTV pictures. The Russian on the ISS were transmitting SSTV images as part of the Inter-MAI-75 project. The pass had a partial first image, a nice decode of one full image and the start of a third image. Even the good receives are a bit noisy/unsharp, I'm not sure whether that's an artifact of the PD120 mode or some local noise ending up in the image. This is one of the rare occasions where living close to Russia is a good thing: the Russians time the passes to optimize reception in Russia.
2019-11-17 Pointing the Arrow antenna at SO-50 again 2 months ago
HF propagation has been really bad the last weeks. At least on the moments I had time to look at the radio. The maximum usable frequency was dropping below 14 MHz as soon as it started getting dark. This means that I can only make contacts on the lowest band (40 meters) with the endfed antenna set up outside and the experience from earlier weekends was that it was still a lot of work to get contacts on FT8. So this weekend I did some 2 meter FT8 and made contacts with some new call signs. I was lucky: the 2 meter interference stopped after dark. My computer decoded one Danish callsign but I wasn't near it at that moment. And I tried a pass of the SO-50 satellite. A pure southwest-northeast pas was coming up at the start of the evening, so I planned to be outside in the cold with antenna and handheld radio. I was hoping to get some country to the south of me in the log, but I ended up with a southeasterly contact: Croatia. I heard 9A2EY in a contact so I called him and made the contact.
2019-07-29 Tried receiving ISS SSTV with the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ 5 months ago
This evening had scheduled Amateur Radio on the International Space Station slow-scan TV transmissions so I took Arrow antenna, the new FUNcube Dongle Pro+, cables and laptop outside. I found out gqrx crashes when the dongle is on the righthandside USB port of the laptop, so that one is out. On the backside port everything was working, and audio routing worked routing the analog output audio (created by qgrx) to the recording by audacity and the image decoding with qsstv. Gpredict was set up to control the reception frequency in gqrx, and this whole setup was working ok. But the signal from the ISS looked very very weak in gqrx, just a small rise in level above the noise when I pointed at the general direction of the ISS. No idea why. No images were decoded from it. After the pass I tried receiving some other sources with this setup and receiving the PI2NOS repeater went fine. But that's on the 70 centimeters band. I saw no activity on PI3UTR which would have enabled a test on 2 meters. This needs more testing. Maybe something to hold the antenna cables so they don't get pulled from the laptop/radio during a pass. Update: Most likely culprit: interference in the 2 meter amateur band. With a handheld radio that has received ISS packet sounds before I could now only hear them very faint in the noise. The local 2 meter noise is killing weak signal reception.
2019-07-20 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 14: Switch to FUNcube Dongle Pro+ 6 months ago
I saw a radio amateur offering a secondhand FUNcube Dongle Pro+ for a very reasonable price and remembered my work to get into linear satellites and the problems with the input filtering on an rtl-sdr while transmitting. So I checked the specifications for that dongle and saw a lot better filtering. I decided to go for it and a few mails later the dongle was on the way to my letterbox. Literally, as it fitted in a small package that could be delivered in the letterbox. With tracking, so I received a notification from the package tracker app after the mailman put it in the letterbox. There is good support for the FUNcube dongle Pro+ in gqrx so I tried that first. It does give some USB errors:[46918.612090] usb 2-1: new full-speed USB device number 10 using xhci_hcd [46918.762268] usb 2-1: New USB device found, idVendor=04d8, idProduct=fb31 [46918.762273] usb 2-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0 [46918.762276] usb 2-1: Product: FUNcube Dongle V2.0 [46918.762278] usb 2-1: Manufacturer: Hanlincrest Ltd. [46918.797477] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81 [46918.803092] hid-generic 0003:04D8:FB31.0003: hiddev0,hidraw0: USB HID v1.11 Device [Hanlincrest Ltd. FUNcube Dongle V2.0 ] on usb-0000:00:14.0-1/input2 [46918.917284] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81 [46918.955162] usb 2-1: 1:1: cannot get freq at ep 0x81It does show as a valid device in gqrx and I was soon decoding audio with it. The easiest decoding was in the VHF II FM broadcast band. After all the work with the 2 MHz wide spectrum from the rtl-sdr it takes a bit of adjusting to start working with 192 kHz spectrum from the FUNcube dongle but qgrx moves that bit nicely when needed. To the computer, the dongle is an USB device with two subfunctions: an usbaudio device and a usbhid device. The audio device is used to deliver sampled radio spectrum and the hid device is used to control the dongle. This is why it's relatively easy to use softwarewise: modern operating systems have usbaudio support and usb hid control from a user application isn't too hard either. One of the things I do want is a lot of interesting audio routing to be able to record both the downlink audio and my own audio. So I fired up pavucontrol and gqrx crashed. Restarting gqrx did not work until I closed pavucontrol. Some searching found gqrx crash with Funcube Pro+ which suggests to turn the device off for PulseAudio. Which may seem strange but PulseAudio is also using the alsa drivers which gqrx tries to use. I guess there is some conflict between gqrx and PulseAudio in dealing with the alsa drivers. After switching the FUNcube Dongle Pro+ in PulseAudio I could open the dongle in gqrx and play with audio settings for other channels in pavucontrol. The setup with gpredict controlling the receive frequency of gqrx also worked fine, so this is looking good. Now to find out how things work on an FM or linear satellite.
2019-05-19 Logging amateur satellite contacts (and another contact) 8 months ago
After getting a satellite contact via SO-50 the next thing was to get it in the log correctly. I followed the instructions from Logging Satellite QSOs with Logbook of the World - Amsat, logging the contact in the tqsl program, uploading that log to Logbook of the World and importing the logfile (ADIF) into CQRLOG later. But later I found out that CQRLOG now supports satellite logging after enabling it in the preferences. Since version 2.3.0 satellite support is included.Read the rest of Logging amateur satellite contacts (and another contact)
2019-05-17 Back on amateur satellites: I made a contact via SO-50 8 months ago
This evening I checked 'Sky at a glance' in gpredict and saw a nice SO-50 pass come up. It was a southwest - northeast pass with a very high maximum elevation. So a good chance to listen to the satellite for a while. I took the Arrow antenna together with the Wouxun handheld radio outside, which I programmed for the SO50 frequencies when I started with amateur satellites years ago. I started hearing the satellite right after it got above the houses. I heard one familiair callsign: Peter 2M0SQL. In a silent moment I answered his call, he heard me fine and we had a contact. My first satellite contact since August 2014 and directly someone in the log who I really wanted to get in the log.
2019-05-15 Taking steps to get back on the amateur satellites 8 months ago
Read the rest of Taking steps to get back on the amateur satellitesTuesday evening we had a good presentation at our radio club about getting active on the QO-100 geostationary amateur satellite. This was a very technical presentation by René Stevens PE1CMO. This amateur satellite is actually a transponder on the Es'Hail2 satellite. The transponder is active on amateur bands: 2.4 GHz up and 10 GHz down. A very interesting and good presentation. And for now I find it very interesting but I'm not going to invest the time and money to get on that satellite. This did remind me that I wanted to get back into amateur satellites as planned for several years. Looking back I see a clear moment when the satellite activity stopped: The last successful amateur satellite contact was 2014-08-10: Success with the new radio and the SO-50 amateur satellite and the first HF contact was 2014-08-29: First PSK31 on HF contacts. It's easier to make a lot more contacts on HF for the same amount of work as one satellite contact. As a first step I took out the arrow antenna and a handheld radio just to listen to some passes. And that showed the well-known problem with satellite passes: They have to fit in your schedule or otherwise you will miss them completely. But there are a lot of amateur satellites to listen to. I had two Fox-1A (AO-85) passes not higher than 23 degrees elevation. And I heard nothing on those passes
Saudisat 1c / SO-50
, but that wasn't a big surprise given earlier experiences and what people have shared. I had one pass of Saudisat (SO-50) which went up to 29 degrees elevation and I heard at least a few callsigns on that pass. And no really bad behaviour, but maybe a Wednesday daytime is better in that regard.
2019-02-17 Sunday ISS pass with good results 11 months ago
Sunday had less time to be at the radio for ISS passes but one pass was ok. It started with the end of one image, one full image and the start of the next image. The audio recording of the whole pass is included.
Listen to audio attachment:
2019-02-16 One more ISS pass with good results receiving slow scan TV 11 months ago
After hickups in recording audio from the radio on two previous passes I rebooted the whole system (it was nagging about a reboot anyway) and I received two more partial images. Thanks to ARISS Russia team member Sergey Samburov, RV3DR for making this possible!
2019-02-16 Second ISS SSTV pass: more results 11 months ago
Second pass of the International space station gave me one partial picture and one complete (with some noise).
2019-02-16 Received SSTV from the ISS 11 months ago
In this weekend there are extra slow scan tv (SSTV) transmissions from the international space station (ISS). The ISS moves across the sky when viewed from earth so I calculate beforehand when it will pass across the sky and what the trajectory will be. I woke up in time to be outside for the first one. A low pass over the horizon and most of the pass matched a pause between transmissions, so not much image received.
2019-01-08 Amateur radio resolutions for 2019 1 year ago
The last time I did those was in 2017: Reviewing my 2016 amateur radio resolutions, and the new ones for 2017 and the hindsight results for 2017/2018 are:
The Sotabeams newsletter had an item "Setting your targets for 2019" which had some nice ideas and which triggered me to write this post. Things I want to try :
- Improve the holiday/portable setup with solar power and a lightweight multiband inverted V
No solar power (due to costs) but the portable setup is improved and tested: the fiber mast I bought for playing radio from several locations including amateur radio from a local park. Now to find more time to actually use it.
- Keep doing the digimode contests
That part went better in 2017 and I had less time and/or energy for contests in 2018. Also in 2018 the interference situation got worse. So my net results in contests improved in 2017 and got worse in 2018.
- Maybe those satellites
I tried at least receiving them a few times, but no contacts yet.
- Get a 2m/70cm vertical antenna on the roof of the dormer
It's there, it has already been upgraded to a bigger antenna with higher gain and it's mostly used for 2 meter FT8. But also for actual talking to other radio amateurs sometimes.
- Keep learning morse!
- Get more countries on more HF bands in the log
- Moonbounce on 2 meter
- Those digimode contests, and maybe a few phone contests
- Operate HF outside
- At least one satellite contact
2018-06-27 Recorded the ISS contact today 1 year ago
Today was an ISS contact with Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium, Leverkusen, Germany and Schickhardt-Gymnasium, Herrenberg, Germany and most of the contact was going to be within range for me and it was at a usable time. So I set up gpredict to track the ISS and the receive frequency and set up audacity to record the results. Which weren't great since 2 meter reception is now influenced by recently installed solar panels on the house next door.
Listen to audio attachment:
2018-05-25 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 13: receiving a linear satellite transponder / SO-50 without the preamp 1 year ago
This evening another try, this time without the preamp. And tried receiving a linear satellite transponder. This makes things even more complicated as I have to look at one display (gpredict) to have an idea where to aim the antenna and another display (gqrx) for the waterfall display. Maybe both can be on the same screen with a lot of resizing. The first pass I tried was a pass of the FO-29 satellite which has a linear transponder. It was not a very high pass so all reception was through a house. I did hear morse first, and later saw signs of USB signals in the passband. Signals were weak and noise was high. I was almost able to understand one callsign, a 9A.. callsign (Croatia). The other pass I tried was a pass of the SO-50 satellite which is a narrow FM satellite. Signals were weak for narrow FM so I had to keep turning the arrow antenna to get the polarisation right. I could hear spanish and english callsigns. I recorded the SO-50 pass and noted the audio looked very distorted in audacity. Maybe I can improve the audio somewhere in the chain and get things better.
2018-05-24 Going full duplex with amateur satellites, part 12: picking it up again 1 year ago
So last year I wanted to get back on amateur satellites and bought some hardware that would enable me to go full-duplex: receive and transmit at the same time. The most important part is to get the receive side working. This evening had a pass of the SO-50 amateur satellite and a pass of the Fox-1D satellite right after another (with some overlap). And it's dry and a reasonable temperature to be outside with laptop, preamp, rtl-sdr stick and arrow antenna. Signal levels on narrow FM are still very faint and hard to hear, so I guess I am at the limits of the rtl-sdr for weaker signals, even with the preamp.
2018-05-01 Getting amateur satellite contacts into LoTW correctly 1 year ago
A very good bit of info just flew by on the amsat-bb mailing list: Logging Satellite QSOs with Logbook of the World - AMSAT-NA. Complete with screenshots and needed steps, how to create an ADIF file (which I could import into CQRLOG) with the satellite-specific fields set to the values needed by LoTW to make it a valid satellite-contact. CQRLOG has no support for satellite-specific contact information, so for me the workflow for these contacts would be to create an ADIF file as above in LoTW, upload it, and import the ADIF file in CQRLOG and not upload it from CQRLOG. Now to find time, energy and nice weather to get on the satellites again.
2017-12-02 Preparing gpredict for AO-91 Fox-1B RadFxSat 2 years ago
Although reports are showing up that AO-91 has the usual 'zoo' when it's over southern Europe I still want to prepare for making contacts on interesting passes. So I dove into adding satellite transponder details to Gpredict again. According to [amsat-bb] AMSAT-OSCAR 91 identified it is Norad object 43017. And when Nico Janssen finds a satellite using his methods of doppler-curve fitting it's a very good indication it's the right one. So time to create a .config/Gpredict/trsp/43017.trsp with the right frequencies and details:[Fox-1B trsp 67 Hz PL] UP_LOW=435250000 DOWN_LOW=145960000 MODE=FMNow to find a pass at a for me usable time.
2017-11-08 Trying to receive Fox-1A (AO85) telemetry 2 years ago
I decided to try to receive telemetry data from the Fox-1A (AO85) satellite to prepare for receiving telemetry from the new RadFxSat right after launch. The FoxTelem program is ready to receive data from all the Fox series satellites so this was a good way to test my receiving setup. This afternoon there was a reasonable pass so I decided to give it a try. With the FT-857D radio tuned to the downlink frequency 145.978 MHz in FM packet mode. While I did hear the conversations on the satellite in the noise the program did not seem to receive anything. And then I noticed the sound display in the program reacted strongly when I tapped the microphone connected to the mixing board. I chose the wrong audio device. I have two USB audio devices connected to the computer, one feeds audio from a mixing desk and one feeds audio from the radio. Normally I can keep them apart but FoxTelem was only showing one of them. The solution was to set FoxTelem to the audio device 'default' and use pavucontrol to switch the input of the application to the right USB audio device. But by the time I figured that out the satellite was already too far to receive any useful telemetry data. Time to find another nice pass with useful elevation (above 10 degrees) to try this again. And it's a good preparation for the launch of Fox-1B.
2017-11-07 Waiting for the launch of RadFxSat (Fox 1B) 2 years agoOlder news items for tag amateursatellites ⇒
The subset of radio amateurs that is interested in amateur satellites is waiting for the launch of RadFxSat / Fox 1B. The name 'RadFxSat' stands for 'Radiation Effects Satellite'. The primary mission is in cooperation with Vanderbilt University ISDE studying radiation effects on commercial off the shelf components. The amateur radio mission is a FM U/v repeater with CTCSS, which means it can be used by radio amateurs to make long distance contacts. As any new satellite, the first phase after launch is a lot of testing before any experiments or radio services are started. During the testing phase the satellite will transmit short radio messages (audio with data mixed in as low frequency tones) with telemetry data. By receiving the telemetry data and forwarding it to the operators radio amateurs can help the testing. This telemetry includes voltages and temperatures which allow the operator to find out if the satellite operates as designed and whether the power budget (generated power from solar panels minus used power) is good. To receive telemetry from the Fox series satellites and forward it a program has been developed named FoxTelem and I am glad to see a linux version is available. This allows me to receive the satellite unattended and forward the data. I will at least try to participate in the 'Launch and Early Orbit program' during the first few days. Current launch date is planned at November 14th. More information: