Our 1st DSES Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) Moon Bounce Communications

By Gary Agranat, with Myron Babcock and Glenn Davis.

Friday evening at sunset as the team prepares for our first EME attempt overnight. Photo by Gary Agranat.

On Saturday October 10, 2020 we succeeded in making our first Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) Moon Bounce communications. We succeeded at our first attempt. This accomplishment was several years in the making, thanks to the work of many members, past and present.

We did this participating in the annual ARRL EME contest held on the weekend of October 10-11, 2020 GMT. (That’s Friday 6 pm to Sunday 6 pm local time.) The frequencies available for this contest were in the ham radio bands from 50 to 1296 MHz. We used our 60-foot dish antenna at Haswell, CO, with a 1296 MHz feed with dual circular polarization, installed 2 weekends earlier.

[ Installing the 1296 MHz feed for Autumn Moon Bounce Communications, Sept 27 ]

EME Moon Bounce communications is directing a signal to the Moon. The Moon’s surface simply reflects the signal back to Earth. If the Moon is above your horizon, if you have suitable equipment, and if you know enough about what to do, it would be possible for you to receive the signal and communicate back. You could communicate to your neighbor or across continents. The signals, however, are extremely weak, having to travel back and forth the Earth-Moon distance, over 238,000 miles. EME generally requires efficient directional antennas to sufficiently increase the signal gain. Amplifiers can be used too. And the antennas have to point to the Moon. Also, radio signals sent through the ionosphere experience a rotation in their polarization. And there is some effective rotation from other causes, including from the changes in orientation from the Moon and from operating on different points of the Earth’s globe. Our solution is to circularly polarize our signals. And also, there is a Doppler shift between transmitted and received signal, mostly due to the Earth’s rotation, causing a difference in velocity between the Moon and our location on Earth. All of these are challenges to deal with.

Our 60-foot dish antenna at sunset as we started preparations. Photo by Glenn Davis.

Our team for the EME operation were Ray Uberecken AA0L, Myron Babcock KL7YY, Gary Agranat WA2JQZ, and Glenn Davis. Bill Miller KC0FHN also came on Saturday morning.

The team arrived Friday evening October 9, while we still had daylight, to set up and test. Testing included making pre-arranged tropospheric scatter contacts, which were successful. We also attempted to complete set-up of a Hughes Internet antenna, to give us Internet access, but that was not successful. We instead sometimes connected to the Internet using cellphones. Although the contest began at 6 PM local time, we had to wait for the moon to rise above the horizon. Moonrise for us was at about 11:30 PM local time, and the Moon was above our horizon until about 2 PM local time the next day Saturday. We chose to stay for just this one Moon pass, and not continue through Sunday, in order to not knock ourselves out on this first attempt.

After we completed our testing, we relaxed until we were ready to start. Looking outside, we had an exceptionally deep starry sky. We could see the Milky Way clearly arching overhead through Cygnus. Jupiter and Saturn were bright to the south, and Mars was very bright, rising in the east. Glenn Davis experimented with his camera and took some nice time exposure photos with the dish antenna, the stars, and the Milky Way.

Photo by Glenn Davis. (Click to enlarge.)
Our 60-foot dish antenna with the Milky Way. Jupiter and Saturn are brightly visible to the left of the antenna. Photo by Glenn Davis. (Click to enlarge.)

I (Gary) meanwhile got some rest. This enabled the others to get some rest later in the morning while I continued.

Myron KL7YY wrote and emailed an update about our operations to the DSES membership on Saturday morning at around 4 AM. It provides a good narrative of how we were doing until that point, and his update follows next:

* * * * * * * * * * *

Summary of DSES first attempt at EME, Earth Moon Earth, contacts using the 60 foot dish:

On Friday evening, October 9 we started with a few nearby Tropospheric Scatter contacts around 7 PM with DSES member KL7IZW, Steve in Monument, CO, and W6OAL Dave in Parker.  Around 9 PM we talked to N0YK in Scott City KS, These contacts ranged from 110 to 130 miles and confirmed that our system was working.

 When the moon came over the horizon at midnight we tried to listen to the ON0EME moon beacon in Belgium but couldn’t hear it.  About 45 minutes after moon rise we started to hear JT-65 digital signals. 10-15 minutes we started to hear CW signals.  Glenn Davis made a few corrections to the tracking program and signals increased in strength.  At times it sounded like a 20 meter CW contest pileup with all the loud signals bouncing off the moon all across 100 KHz of band (1296.0 to 1296.1 MHz).  After about 90 minutes without hearing our own signal we rechecked the power to the amplifier at the feed horn and everything appeared to be normal.  A few moments later we finally heard our own signal 2.5 seconds later on CW off the moon and the Belgium Moon Beacon.  I made several calls on SSB and heard our echo really loud.  We went back to CW and Gary proceeded to start making CW contacts. The first almost contact, a German station, abruptly dropped out so no official contact was completed.  Our first official station worked on CW was with OH2DG in Finland.  England was next followed by Italy, Poland, Denmark, Sweden and with DSES member Skip Macaulay, VE6BGT, in Alberta Canada.. Also made our first voice SSB contact with him as well.  Seems that with every new contact we make it is with a new European country.  In order to correct for Doppler shift and with no RIT we are changing VFO’s from Receive to Transmit by several KHz or more.  Lots of CW signals being heard and we still have 12 more hours of moon to bounce signals off of… We are hearing our own echo and we have lots of hours to go. We plan on Digital mode later in the day but for now there are more than enough signals to hear on CW. 

Our Moon bounce station consist of an older Yaesu FT-736R with 10 watts feeding almost 180 feet of half inch hardline into a 200 watt amplifier at the antenna feed horn.  The receiver pre amplifier is a 30+db gain with a noise figure of minus .35.  Our Effective Radiated Power (ERP) is over 6 million watts. 

* * * * * * * * * * *

We operated with our club call sign K0PRT.

A short video of Myron KL7YY calling CQ. You can hear the echo of his signal coming back from the Moon a couple of seconds later. (Video length 35 seconds)

K0PRT-2020-10-10%2010.24.25.mp4

Because the signals are extremely weak, and there can be fading, there is a standard protocol for exchanging messages for EME contacts. This is intended to ensure as much of the message as possible can be copied and acknowledged on both sides. The basic format is simple, and one repeats a lot. One first exchanges call signs, then the signal reports, and then finally if that worked, an acknowledgement all that was copied correctly. If one only completes part of the contact, one should still log that, as that is an accomplishment. If using Morse Code, the standard is to send at 15 words per minute, but spacing out the characters longer than usual. The faster sending and spacing is to help one copy complete characters if there is fading. If one misses a character, one still has a high chance to get the character with the many repeats.

In order to have the proper frequency offset for the Doppler shift, we referenced the WSJT 10.0 software, at the suggestion of Steve KL7IZW. The software has an astronomical data section that calculates and displays the frequency offset. The higher the frequency, the more significant the offset. At 1296 MHz we had a difference of as much as 3 KHz between transmit and receive frequencies. The software also displays other useful data like local Moon rise and set times (based on Grid Square location).

The WSJT 10.0 software also can be used for JT65C digital EME communication. However, we didn’t figure out how to configure that in time with our setup, and so we didn’t do any digital contacts this time. We could tell we were hearing JT65 signals. They were present from 1296.05 to 1296.1 MHz, and we almost always could hear those signals while the Moon was up.

Glenn stayed up until about 3 AM, when we were sure our antenna azimuth alignment was correct and would continue to point accurately to the Moon. His work was invaluable in troubleshooting the azimuth offset, which turned out to be about 1.5 degrees, and honing in on the Moon once we heard CW signals.

Glenn Davis working with the antenna pointing. Photo by Gary Agranat.
The 60-foot antenna pointing east, for the tropospheric scatter test to N0YC in Kansas. Later we would point east again, to prepare for where the Moon would rise. Photo by Gary Agranat.
Myron making a tropospheric scatter SSB phone contact during testing, with Glenn Davis setting the antenna pointing. The scene was similar when me made SSB phone contacts during the EME contest. Photo by Gary Agranat.
Myron, Glenn, and Ray. Ray was looking for the ON0EME beacon after the Moon rose. Photo by Gary Agranat.

Since the Moon rises in the east, our signal paths at first are to the east. That is to Europe and the North American east coast. As Myron mentions, once we started receiving the signals, we were hearing many European stations, and we were busy. Through the morning we made 14 contacts to Europe, to 8 European countries. We also made the contact to our DSES member Skip Macaulay VE6BGT in Alberta, Canada, on CW and then phone. W4OP in North Carolina, hearing us on SSB, then gave us a call on SSB too.

Ray AAOL brought a CW keyer that can send Morse Code with either a keyer paddle or a keyboard. It can store pre-programmed messages, like a CQ call. I (Gary) decided to use the keyer paddle, as that gave me more flexibility — I could quickly adjust for conditions — and I felt more comfortable as I am used to the key.  Meanwhile, it seemed to me also that some of the CW contacts we made used software to send their messages.  Those didn’t have good spacing between words or call signs.  And that made copying slightly more challenging. A keyboard though can enable any of us to send, even if we don’t have practice sending Morse Code. Most of the contacts we made were with CW Morse Code.

At around 6 AM, when the Moon was high enough so that we no longer had a path to Europe, we took a break for breakfast and to rest.

Just before sunrise. Photo by Gary Agranat.
Tracking the Moon during early morning. Photo by Gary Agranat.

In earlier discussions we thought we might have many more contacts across the Pacific and to the North American west coast, when the Moon was sufficiently to the west. But it turned out we had very few contacts that way. We made just two contacts to Japan. Our first was at about 9 AM local time, to JH1KRC. Our second was three hours later to JA6AHB. Instead we made a few more contacts to the US, a few to Canada, and one to Mexico. These other stations we heard were searching around too. That led me to believe that if there were any other signals out there, we likely would have heard them.

Our contacts included: 

  • K2YUH Alan Katz in NJ, who runs the 432 MHz and Above newsletter: http://www.nitehawk.com/rasmit/em70cm.html
  • W5LUA Albert Ward in TX, who some in our group know for EME.  (He at first thought I was Ray, when I contacted him on CW.  Myron then contacted him on SSB.)
  • W6YX, the Stanford University radio club, which was using a 28 foot dish.  We contacted them first on CW.  Then later when Bill was looking to record a phone QSO, which would illustrate the signal delay from the transit time to the Moon and back, W6YX just happened to call CQ on SSB on the frequency we were tuned to.  We then had about a 4 minute QSO on SSB with them, which Bill recorded.

A video of Gary WA2JQZ responding to W6YX at Stanford University and having a 4 minute SSB QSO. (Video length 4:38)

K0PRT-2020-10-10%2012.30.38.mp4

We operated until about noon. We made 30 contacts in all.  25 contacts were CW (Morse Code) and 5 were SSB phone.  4 of the 5 phone contacts were with stations we also had CW QSOs with.

We submitted our contest log to ARRL the next day.

In the judgement of all of us, we had a very good EME operation. We are very pleased it worked so well on the first attempt. We clearly have a capable EME station.

Glenn and his team are continuing to follow up to investigate why we had a 1.5 degree azimuth offset.

It still takes my breath away to hear the echo of our signal coming back from the Moon, a couple of seconds later. The speed of light isn’t just a value in the books, it is something you experience viscerally first hand. It is real. EME is the longest signal path we have for communicating with others. This is fun.

These are the contacts we made. (CW = Morse Code, PH = SSB phone. Given also are the date and GMT times, the signal reports, and the other stations and their locations):

CW 10/10/2020 750 K0PRT 559 DL0SHF 559 Germany
CW 10/10/2020 756 K0PRT 559 OH2DG 579 Finland
CW 10/10/2020 805 K0PRT 559 G3LTF 579 England
CW 10/10/2020 814 K0PRT 549 I5MPK 569 Italy
CW 10/10/2020 846 K0PRT 569 SP6JLW 589 Poland
CW 10/10/2020 900 K0PRT 559 DL4DTU 559 Germany
CW 10/10/2020 912 K0PRT 579 SM4IVE 589 Sweden
CW 10/10/2020 919 K0PRT 549 DG5CST 569 Germany
CW 10/10/2020 934 K0PRT 559 VE6BGT 579 Alberta, Canada
PH 10/10/2020 947 K0PRT 57 VE6BGT 56 Alberta, Canada
PH 10/10/2020 947 K0PRT 55 W4OP 57 North Carolina, USA
CW 10/10/2020 1034 K0PRT 549 OK1KKD 569 Czech Republic
CW 10/10/2020 1043 K0PRT 599 OE5JFL 599 Austria
CW 10/10/2020 1049 K0PRT 579 W6YX 589 California, USA
CW 10/10/2020 1103 K0PRT 569 IK2MMB 569 Italy
CW 10/10/2020 1111 K0PRT 579 OZ4MM 599 Denmark
CW 10/10/2020 1149 K0PRT 549 OK1CS 579 Czech Republic
CW 10/10/2020 1153 K0PRT 569 OK2DL 479 Czech Republic
CW 10/10/2020 1201 K0PRT 559 VE6TA 579 Alberta, Canada
CW 10/10/2020 1503 K0PRT 559 JH1KRC 569 Japan
CW 10/10/2020 1526 K0PRT 549 AA4MD 559 Florida, USA
CW 10/10/2020 1533 K0PRT 569 WA9FWD 559 Wisconsin, USA
CW 10/10/2020 1540 K0PRT 569 W5LUA 579 Texas, USA
PH 10/10/2020 1547 K0PRT 569 W5LUA 579 Texas, USA
CW 10/10/2020 1652 K0PRT 539 VA7MM 559 British Columbia, Canada
CW 10/10/2020 1703 K0PRT 559 XE1XA 559 Mexico
PH 10/10/2020 1731 K0PRT 55 VE6TA 55 Alberta, Canada
CW 10/10/2020 1740 K0PRT 569 K2UYH 559 New Jersey, USA
CW 10/10/2020 1806 K0PRT 549 JA6AHB 569 Japan
PH 10/10/2020 1826 K0PRT 54 W6YX 55 California, USA

And these are summaries of our contacts from the logging program:

K0PRT’s Contest Summary Report

 Total Contacts = 30

 Operating Period: 2020/10/10 07:50 – 2020/10/10 18:26

 Total Contacts by State \ Province: AB 4, CA 2, TX 2, BC 1, FL 1, NC 1, NJ 1, WI 1. 8 total.

Total Contacts by Country: USA 8, Canada 5, Czech Republic 3, Federal Republic of Germany 3, Italy 2, Japan, 2, Austria 1, Denmark 1, England 1, Finland 1, Mexico 1, Poland 1, Sweden 1. Total countries 13.

 Total Contacts by Continent: Europe 14, North America 14, Asia 2. Total continents 3.

Photo by Bill Miller.

-72/73 Gary WA2JQZ

Installing the 1296 MHz feed for Autumn Moon Bounce Communications

Text and photos by Gary Agranat.

A DSES team worked at the Plishner Radio Telescope site in Haswell on Sunday September 27, 2o2o. Team members were Ray Uberecken, Floyd Glick, and Gary Agranat. We accomplished the main objective, to install a new 1296 MHz feed at the focus of the 60 dish antenna. We also installed a mast in the ground, on which will later be added a Hughes Internet satellite antenna. Two friends of Ray’s came out and did an immense service by using metal detectors and magnetic rollers to clear nails and other metallic debris on the site. We changed out two of the locks. And we inspected the bunker.

Mast for Hughes Internet antenna

Ray and I met at the Plishner site at 0930 in the morning. 

We first installed a sturdy pipe mast behind the operations trailer, on which will be mounted a small satellite antenna to access the Hughes network geosynchronous satellite for Internet access.  Ray chose a spot that will not be blocked by the trailer or the 60-foot antenna.  We mixed cement and set the pole in its hole with the cement, using a level to check that the mast is vertical.

Moon Bounce (EME) Preparation

After that we manually rotated the 60-foot dish antenna to the service platform. I figured out, with Ray’s help and the checklists, how to use the software to monitor the antenna pointing. (Note: we might want to add a checklist just for this type of procedure, for using the software for just manual antenna pointing, as when we service the antenna.)

Floyd came out to the site by 1030. Ray and Floyd climbed the service platform. I worked on the ground to move feeds and tools up and down to them. We replaced the 408 MHz feed at the antenna focus with the newly built 1296 MHz feed. The 1296 MHz feed was built by KL6M, to specifications provided by Steve Plock (KL7IZW). The feed mount at the dish focus was designed by Ray, to enable the feed to more easily rotate out and be changed.

Conditions were somewhat windy, with a cold front coming, but still manageable. By the afternoon the winds had picked up enough that we postponed any further work at the feed. Work that still needs completion is installation of a 200 Watt amplifier at the feed. Since we are planning to operate at 1296 MHz from the Operations Trailer, which has a long coax hard line path to the pedestal and antenna feed, we expect significant power loss from the long path. We therefore need to boost the power again at the feed. We plan to install the amplifier the next weekend. We then also intend to test our setup by trying tropospheric scatter communications to the north.

We are planning to use this configuration to operate EME (Earth Moon Earth) Moon Bounce communications. And specifically we plan to participate in the ARRL EME contests on October 10-11, 2020 and on November 28-29, 2020 (UTC).

We discussed our plans for the upcoming contest in 2 weekends. The Moon then will be at last quarter phase. What that means is that it will rise on Friday night a little before midnight (about 1130 PM), and set Saturday a little after 2 PM. That means we will prepare to do overnight and morning operations. After the Moon rises we will try to pick up the ON0EME beacon in Belgium. We can try to contact across the Atlantic Ocean. The US East Coast will be in night time conditions, and so we anticipate less contacts to there. Daytime conditions, when more hams would be awake, are more favorable for the US West Coast, and across the Pacific Ocean to Oceana, Asia, and Australia.

Note that the 60-foot antenna will be configured with the 1296 MHz feed through the end of November. This will be an opportunity to try using it for other 1296 MHz communications, including troposphere scatter.  

Metal souring of the site

A friend of Ray’s who works at Planet Granite Ryan, and his brother, Rob, came out to the site also.  They have ground metal detectors and magnets on rollers, and systematically paced across the site to pick up nails and other small metallic debris.  They did pick up lots of nails, including along the roadway. They spent a few hours with us, and left after lunch. They did us a great service by helping remove a lot of this debris.

Combination Lock and Bunker Inspection

We attempted to open the combination locks at the gate, the bunker, and the generator shack. After still having difficulty, we replaced the locks at the gate and bunker, with the locks Myron Babcock obtained for us. These are similar model locks, and the combinations were kept the same.

We had a report that the bunker had been flooded by two successive rain storms in July. We opened and inspected the bunker. The bunker was dry, though the floor had more-than-normal dust and dirt, and some tiny debris was spread here and there. It will require a fresh cleanup before normal use. We saw no indication of mold from dampness.

Tumbleweeds were accumulated again at the ramp entrance.

We completed our activities by early afternoon, about 3 PM.

For the team, – Gary

We kept the antenna steering in manual configuration. We opened the System 1 steering software to monitor the position angles as we manually steered the antenna to the service platform.
We noted this radio interference at the site on our scope. This scan is from 0 to 1.8 GHz. The higher floor noise level at the left is from the sensitivity of our 408 MHz feed, which was still on the dish antenna, before we changed it out.
The 60-foot antenna is positioned for service.
Ray brought two feeds for the 60-foot antenna. This is Ray showing Floyd the 4 GHz feed, which we will use in the future, to calibrate the pointing position with geosynchronous satellites.
Floyd carrying the 1296 MHz feed to the antenna for installation.
The inside of the 1296 MHz feed. It is designed as a septum feed, with separate channels on each side for left and right circular polarization.
Rob with a metal detector, crisscrossing the site, picking up small metal debris.
Ray and Floyd on the 60-foot antenna service platform, starting work.
Removing the cover.
Ray is disconnecting the 408 MHz feed, so that it can rotate down and out for changeout.
The 408 MHz feed is now rotated down. It is connected simply by the shaft to the mount, for easier changeout.
Installing now the 1296 MHz feed. Its design doesn’t use a shaft, but instead will be securely fastened to the mounting frame.
Ryan using a metal detector on the west side of the site.
Our view towards the west. High clouds in the distance are an indication of a cold front gradually coming this way. We experienced steady windy conditions as the front approached..
Closing up.
Our view of Haswell in the distance. The clouds from the front were getting closer. By the time we left in mid-afternoon, the clouds were over us, but we had no precipitation.
The 1296 MHz feed installed.
We installed this ground mast. It will mount a small satellite antenna, to connect to the Hughes Internet network.

Radio astronomy observing and antenna repair at the Plishner observatory, February 15, 2020

Participants: Rich Russel, Bob Haggart, Glenn Davis, Lewis Putnam, Bill Miller, and Gary Agranat.

Photos by Bill Miller and Gary Agranat.

We worked at the Plishner antenna site in Haswell on Saturday February 15, 2020. We had three projects:

  1. Attempt at observing a circumpolar pulsar, utilizing the System 1 manual tracking system. (Rich Russel, Glenn Davis, Lewis Putnam).
  2. Complete building and installing shelf space in the Communications (Operations) Trailer (Bob Haggard).
  3. Repair of the 3-element Yagi ham radio antenna, to realign the three elements (Gary Agranat, Bill Miller, Bob Haggard).

1. The major task of the day was an attempt at a science observing run of a circumpolar pulsar. This is one of the brighter puslars in the sky. And being circumpolar, it is always above the horizon, though it can still get relatively low to the horizon. The observing technique required continually pointing a the celestial coordinates and integrating the signal for at least a half hour. By integrating over time, the random noise tends to cancel more, leaving the actual radio source signal the time to accumulate and sum to a higher level than the noise floor.

Science Lead Rich Russel (seated) and System 1 Lead Glenn Davis setting up the pulsar observations.
Bill Miller, Lewis Putnam, Rich Russel, and Glenn Davis in the Communications Operations Trailer during the observation runs.
The display for the System 1 manual tracking. The circles in the black field represent the antenna beam width for different frequencies. The large blue ring represents a 4 degree diameter beam width, and is for the 408 MHz feed currently being used for the pulsar observing. The inner yellow ring is 0.8 degrees in diameter, which is for our HI hydrogen observing at 1.4 GHz. The pink dot represents where the center of the beam is pointing. A star field map is projected on the background black field. The upper part of the display shows azimuth and elevation of the antenna, and its conversion to the celestial coordinates of Right Ascension and Declination at the current time.
The signal strength across the frequency spectrum being observed. For pulsar observing, we cannot detect the pulsar signal itself in real time. We must integrate the signal over at least a half hour of observing. Then we process the signal, with an expected pulsar timing. That process averages out the background noise while adding the actual pulsar signal enough to elevate above the noise floor — in theory.
The 60 foot dish antenna turning to aim at the pulsar.
The 408 MHz antenna feed. Ray Unberecken has designed a base for the antenna feeds so that these can be easily swiveled out for service and changeout. Ray designed and built this feed.

2. Bob Haggart worked on completing the building of desk and shelf space in the Communications Operations Trailer. The additional space is actually important, as that gives us a means to organize and better utilize our work space, and not instead have items pile up randomly.

Bob Haggart
New desk and shelf space in the Communications Operations Trailer.
New desk and shelf space in the Communications Operations Trailer. Note the addition of amenities, of microwave oven and coffee pots.

3. A third project was the repair of the front element of the 3-band Yagi ham radio antenna on the 40-foot tower. The front element had rotated slightly askew.

The front element of the 3-band Yagi ham radio antenna on the 40-foot tower rotated askew somehow. Fixing this was our third project undertaken this day.
The tower was rotated down for service.
Bill Miller aligning the front element. Also working on this were Gary and Bob. Bob utilized cable lengths to help ensure actual evenness. We also used squares and levels.
Gary working on the antenna. The ladder was used to access and retighten the center supports at the mast.
While the tower was down for the service, Bill reinforced the structural support for the 2-meter band vertical antenna on a side support from the tower.
Gary raised the tower back up.
The 50-foot tower almost at its vertical position.

After the tower was raised back to vertical position, Bill and Gary slightly rearranged the positioning of the 80 meter dipole that is supported from a pulley on the tower. The repositioning separated the dipole with better clearance from other nearby wires

We discovered that the Communications Trailer phone used for our 2-meter talk-in radio was transmitting but not receiving. Bill started to troubleshoot it.
Bill photographing the dish antenna. Pikes Peak is visible in the distance, over a hundred miles away.
Gary also photographed the dish antenna.
The 60 foot antenna rotating back to its parking position after the observing runs.

Rich Russel processed the observation data, but the processing did not bring out the pulsar. Troubleshooting is a topic at the February Science Meeting. Meanwhile, the System 1 antenna pointing system worked well.

The group finished up the work well before sunset, so that traveling back with the sun setting was not a significant issue. We had good weather for this trip, for a winter day in February. Our temperature was in the 40s F, which was actually midler than the 30s in Colorado Springs. And our wind was light.

Work trip at the Plishner antenna site, Saturday November 16, 2019

Text and photos by Gary Agranat.

As we do each third weekend of the month, we had a scheduled work day at our DSES Plishner radio astronomy antenna site in Haswell, Colorado. Our members who participated on this weekend were Steve Plock, Ed Corn, Ray Uberecken, and Gary Agranat. Work objectives were:

  • Completion of installing the antennas and cables on the new 50 foot ham radio antenna tower.
  • Servicing the 60-foot dish antenna feed.
We typically meet first at the Ellicott firehouse for carpooling, before heading to the Plishner site.

I will save discussion of the 60-foot antenna feed for the Engineering Meeting minutes. That work was done by Steve Plock and Ray Uberecken. In this post I will describe the work we completed for the 50 foot tower.

The 60-foot dish antenna was rotated to the service tower, to enable Steve to work at the feed point.

For our 50-foot tower work, we installed a second vertical antenna for normal contacts on the 2-meter VHF band. This gives us a second 2-meter band capability, independent of our already existing 2-meter band talk-in radio. We then installed coax cables for both of the 2 meter band antennas on the tower.

We also serviced the 80 and 160 meter band dipole antennas that the tower supports: 1) We replaced some of the nylon rope that lifts the dipole antennas to their deployed positions. Previously we had connected shorter pieces of rope and knotted those together. But the knots stuck in the pulleys, and we therefore replaced those with longer sections of rope without knots. 2) We neatened the arrangement of the wire antennas supported by the tower.

Captions to the photos provide more detials of the work.

Ed and Gary lowered the 50-foot ham radio tower. A second VHF 2-meter band vertical antenna was added to the side of the tower, in addition to the VHF talk-in radio antenna placed last month at the top of the tower. And coax cables were added that feed both VHF antennas.
The second VHF 2-meter band antenna was added here, at this upper location along the side of the tower. Two stand-off support arms were bolted to the tower. Then the antenna was connected to its mast, which fits from below as a sleeve fitting. And the mast was connected to the supports. The mast serves both for structural support and as a counterpoise.
The tower raised up again.
The tower supports these ham radio antennas.
The tower supports the 160 meter band and 80 meter band dipole antennas by rope and pulley systems. The 160 meter antenna is oriented east-west, and the 80 meter antenna is oriented perpendicularly north-south.
Ed’s work truck on site.

After we serviced the ham and radio astronomy antennas, Steve made us lunch by smoking beef sausage in the grill. That was served with coleslaw and potato salad. Gary also brewed coffee.

After the tower was raise back up, Gary operated on phone and FT8, using the tri-band Yagi on 15 and 20 meters, and using the 80 and 160 meter dipoles. (10 meters was tried also but with no results, likely due to the poor propagation conditions.) The operating was in part for fun, and in part to verify that the antennas we put back up functioned properly. They all functioned well.

After lunch I did some ham radio operating using the tri-band Yagi, and also the using the 80 and 160 meter dipoles.  With the tri-bander, I first made a phone contact to Hawaii on 15 meters, before the bands got busy with the ARRL sweepstakes.  Then I operated FT8: on 15 meters I mostly contacted South American stations (lots of Brazil), plus some US stations when they were there (including North Carolina and Montana).  On 20 meters the band opened across the Pacific.  We had many calls to us from Japan. Perhaps they saw our profile on QRZ, or perhaps they noticed our rare grid square.  Also across the Pacific, we made two contacts with South Korea, one with mainland China, one with Indonesia, and one with Australia.  The band became weaker for US and Canadian contacts, but we did have some of those too.  I alternated going to 80 meters, and had a few more domestic contacts there. These were with our K0PRT station callsign. Later I also used my callsign, on 20, 80, and 160 meters. 160 meters had noise at the FT8 frequencies. But I went to the upper portion of that section of the band, which was just slightly better. I managed 4 contacts on 160 meters, to as far away as Kentucky. I would say our antennas were working well.

Within a few days we received a number of e QSL confirmation cards.

The site at the end of the day.

Ray left after lunch. Ed and Steve left before sunset. Steve tested the range of the new talk in radio antenna on the tower as he and Ed drove home away from the site. We had good contact to as far away as Sugar City. At JRs in Ordway, we could hear each other, but Steve needed to turn off his squelch. And at that point there were some slight dropouts. But we could still communicate. That is a great improvement for our talk-in system. Gary stayed and operated the ham station until a little after dark, and then closed up and departed too.

Antenna Raising

Plishner Antenna Site Work Trip Report. By Gary Agranat. Photos by Steve Plock.

Ed Corn, Steve Plock, and Gary Agranat traveled to the Plishner antenna site in Haswell this past Saturday, October 19, 2019. The team completed erecting the 50-foot ham radio tower.

Completing the tower erection involved several tasks:

  • Installing the 3-band/3-element Yagi HF ham antenna,
  • Installing the 2-meter band vertical antenna on top of that mast. This will be our new antenna for our VHF talk-in radio system.
  • Installing two stand-off bracketed supports near the top of the tower on the sides, to raise and hold the 80 meter band and 160 meter band dipole wire antennas. This arrangement replaces the long pole that previously centrally supported those wire antennas. These bracket supports each have a pulley and rope, to raise and lower the wire antennas. The tower also supports a 6-meter band delta-loop antenna, which is simply tied from height.
  • Securing the coax cables for the Yagi and vertical antennas along the side of the tower.
  • Properly arranging the system of wires, coaxes, and support cables.
  • Raising the 50-foot tower, which involves turning the winch system that rotates the tower up from its pivot plate at its base. The 50-foot tower is raised from a pulley system on a second smaller adjacent tower.
  • Once the 50-foot tower is raised, securing 3 guy cables.
Steve took this photo of Ed and Gary at the completion of the tower raising.

Steve tested the SWR of the 3-band Yagi antenna with an analyzer. The antenna elements had been measured and assembled on a previous trip, to be optimized for the middle of each of the operating bands, of the 10, 15 and 20 meter bands. Steve measured an SWR ratio of 1:1 (perfect) at 28.51 MHz for the 10 meter band, and 1:1 at 21.19 MHz for the 15 meter band. The 20 meter band resonated with an SWR of 1:1.35 at 14.16 MHz. This is excellent, and as expected.

For lunch, Steve treated us with smoked ribs from Broken Bones BBQ in Monument, with sauces, potato salad, and coleslaw. Gary brewed coffee. Also, the team met first at the firehouse in Ellicott. Gary baked orange-cranberry muffins. We ate our muffins at the firehouse, and shared the rest with the fire department crews there.

The team left the Plishner site by 4:30 pm.

The tower work began about a year ago. The work involved support and efforts by a number of team members. See our past posts from October 19-21, 2018 http://dses.science/plishner-site-report-for-the-weekend-of-october-19-21-2018, August 24, 2019 http://dses.science/plishner-work-trip-report-august-24-2019, and September 28, 2019 http://dses.science/work-site-trip-report-at-the-haswell-plishner-radio-telescope-site-september-28-2019.

The tower should significantly improve our capability to communicate long distances on the 10, 15, and 20 meter bands with the Yagi. The 2 meter band vertical should enable us to communicate on our talk-in VHF radio system to much further out.

Work Site Trip Report, at the Haswell Plishner Radio Telescope Site, September 28, 2019

by Gary Agranat

DSES Participants: Gary Agranat, Ed Corn, Bob Haggard, Bill Miller, Steve Plock.

Ed, Gary, and Bill met first at the Ellicott Fire Department, while Steve and Bob each traveled ahead solo. Ed encountered a problem with his truck and had to return home, but he passed the tower antenna mast and connector supplies to Bill. Steve and Bob arrived at the site by 9 AM, and Bill and Gary arrived by 10 AM.

We encountered light drizzling rain and low clouds on the route to the site, but the rain let up once we were on Highway 96 past Ordway. Steve called Ed to let us know the weather was good at the site. The weather completely cleared later, while the temperature remained comfortable.

Steve coordinated by phone with Skip Crilly and commenced a 48-hour long SETI drift scan at -7.5 degrees declination, run simultaneously with Skip’s antenna in New Hampshire. The 48 hour run will scan the -7.5 degree declination band twice, and therefore acquire a repeat set of data that can be compared with the first set.

Bob worked at the Communications Trailer, doing carpentry and painting work. He built a wood frame seal around one of the air conditioners, fabricated and painted a seal for the solar-powered fan, and painted the third work table he had added previously. Bob told me the trailer back door hadn’t been sealing — until recently — because it actually had not been closed properly. He closed the door properly and it is now sealed, without requiring further work.

Bob at work.

Bill, Steve, and Gary worked on preparing the 50-foot ham radio antenna tower.

Bill spliced the controller feed cable and wires for the antenna rotator, and verified proper operation, with some assistance from Gary. Bill used Steve’s crimping tools. The three of us then fed the controller cable through the dog house to the tower.

Bill first checked online for the correct color code standards for the control cable wiring. Then he matched the correct colored wires from the cable to the wires on the rotator. After the wiring was completed, the rotator and controller were tested for correct operation and correct meter calibration.

At the tower outside, the rotator was attached to its base plate, and that assembly was then attached to the tower.

When we tried to fit the mast in the holding tube at the top of the tower, we found that top opening was slightly damaged, and the mast wouldn’t fit in. We then took turns filing and grinding out the hole until the mast did fit properly. Steve applied a lubricating grease, to mitigate against the mast binding stuck when rotating. Eventually we successfully installed the mast to the rotator itself. We also retrieved a guy wire cable left at the communications trailer and attached it as the third guy wire connection for the top of the tower.

Bill with Steve, filing out the top opening for the mast. You can see two of the three guy cables already attached to the top of the tower.
Steve
Gary
Bill and Steve fitting the mast at the tower top. The mast was then securely fastened to the rotator.
The 60 foot antenna positions at 39.5 degrees elevation for the 48-hour SETI run, in progress.

Before we left for the day, we had two visitors from Eads come to look at the site. We all spent a little while talking about the site and the work.

Addendum

By Gary Agranat

Bob was the first to leave, then Steve. Steve said he would check on Ed on the way home. Bill and I (Gary) convoyed out last.

While Bill and I were driving back to Colorado Springs, about an hour and a half into the trip back, an auto accident happened right in front of us, with a vehicle overturning.

The accident happened while we were driving westbound on Colorado Highway 94. It was early evening by then, about 5:30 pm, and the sun appeared above in the western sky. Bill and I had been talking on the VHF ham radio during our 2 1/2 hour drive back from the site. Bill was driving ahead of me.

A couple of miles before Rush, I saw three vehicles approaching from a long distance behind, moving faster than Bill and me, while we were going at about the speed limit. I mentioned the vehicles to Bill, and we stopped talking, anticipating they would choose to pass us soon. They did soon pass us, all three staying close to each other. We could see they were some sort of laborers, with equipment filling their vehicles and with ladders on top. The third vehicle passed us as we were going up a hill, with the solid yellow line on our side. Bill commented that car was taking risks, although they all were driving in a risky manner. There was no visibility over that hill. And furthermore we were driving into the sun. A couple of miles later we reached the town of Rush, where the speed limit lowers from 65 to 50 mph. As those three vehicles ahead approached the town, I suddenly saw the last one veer to the left side of the road, and then roll over, with its front turned facing the opposite direction. Bill and I both stopped, as did a driver heading in the oncoming direction who almost got hit. And several more cars stopped briefly. We saw one occupant lie in the grass, but he eventually got up.

Bill had a better view of the accident ahead of me. It looked to him like one of the three vehicles ahead suddenly slowed as he reached the town with the lower speed limit. The sun was right above and ahead of us, which created a greater visibility challenge. The sudden slowing apparently caught the last driver off guard, as he swerved to the right to avoid the vehicle ahead of him. But that put his right side of his car in the grass there, which caused a tire blowout and a swerve then to the left. And he overturned.

The volunteer fire department nearby responded relatively quickly. But we waited about 2 hours for a sheriff’s deputy to arrive, and then another hour for a State Patrol officer to arrive. The State Patrol was who we had to give our witness statements to. We didn’t finish with that until 8:30 pm, and I didn’t get home until 9:30.

The driver of the overturned vehicle eventually got up, but he refused medical help, although we wondered if he nonetheless might have been hurt.

Meanwhile the communities there are small, and everyone there knows everyone else. The other driver who stayed was a local woman school teacher. We chatted with her and also the volunteer firefighters, and with some of the neighbors who stopped to see if everyone was OK.

The State Patrol officer later explained to us that there were 6 accidents in the region called in within a period of 5 minutes, when our accident happened. One happened just about 9 miles further west from us on Highway 94, in the town of Yoder. That accident had injuries, and some of the firefighters who were with us then had to leave to respond to the other accident.

At a minimum, this is a reminder to take care to drive safely, especially with limiting conditions like the sun setting ahead.

2018 Washington State QSO Party “Salmon Run” certificate for K0PRT

Our DSES ham radio club station K0PRT participated in the 2018 Washington State QSO Party, called the “Salmon Run” on September 15.  We received this nice certificate today for our participation.  We made 26 contacts on the 20 and 40 meter bands from our station in the bunker, using the multi-band vertical antenna. 22 of the contacts were with Morse Code (CW), the other 4 were with SSB phone.

All of the US states have ham radio QSO parties at some time in the year, on particular weekends. The QSO parties give the hams in those states a chance to get on the air and meet the rest of us, and gives us a chance to meet them.  Canada also has some QSO parties, and there are some around the rest of the world as well.

Participation in QSO Parties is one of the ways we as hams in DSES can connect with the ham radio community.  On September 15, 2018 we also participated in the Iowa and New Jersey QSO Parties, which were running that weekend.  From what our contacts in New Jersey told us, we seemed to be one of the few stations from Colorado reaching or trying to contact New Jersey.

Plishner work site trip, June 16 & 17, 2018

Trip report by Bill Miller, with editing and photos by Gary Agranat. 

This is a report of our work at the Plishner radio telescope antenna site during the weekend of June 16 & 17, 2018.

Attendance: Gary Agranat, Paul Berge, Ed Corn, Michael Lowe, Bill Miller, Dave Molter, Steve Plock.

Vertical Multi-band Antenna Radials: Gary performed a set of SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) measurements with an antenna analyzer on the vertical multi-band antenna, which was installed last April for the ham radio station at the bunker. He then installed 17 radials at the antenna base.  On the next trip he plans to retake antenna analyzer measurements, and also do some digital radio operating, to compare characteristics before the radials were installed.

New Rest Room:  Steve Plock and Ed Corn continued work on the new rest room/out house.  This is a refit of one of the rail road buildings previously used for storage.  They added tie down cables to prevent it from succumbing to the winds.  It will be fit with a chemical toilet and there is a waste receptacle behind the building for easy dumping access.  This will greatly improve our facility for public visits such as the open house on August 11th.

Synchro Installation: Bill worked on the dish Az/El Synchro installation as a simple backup pointing system for the dish. On the previous trip Bill and Steve installed an additional 2” conduit from the Comm Trailer to the pedestal.  Myron had helped pull in the 15-conductor cable.  On this trip Ed Corn helped finish off the conduit and drilled 2” access holes in the trailer floor and pedestal.  Bill installed the cable up the pedestal structure and terminated it in the terminal box above the control deck.  He also terminated the other end on the synchro panel in the comm trailer.  The azimuth synchros were hooked up and they worked.  One problem remains with the fine azimuth synchro.  The Elevation synchro connection on the dish will be made in a future trip.

Pointing System 1: Bill and Dave examined what would be needed to complete system 1.  Bill has a linear power supply in the works to replace the noisy switcher.  He also has an amplifier and watch dog circuit for the control function in progress. Dave suggested removing the system 1 box on the next trip and bring it back to Colorado Springs to install these and other software modifications for Glenn to test.  Currently system 1 only has position feedback and no direct control.

Pointing System 2: System 2 currently has all the circuitry for full position reporting and tracking control. As reported last time, Bill is working to transfer programs between computers and working on the system 1 at home and will reinstall on the next trip.

Dish Restoration and Maintenance: Paul Berge came down Saturday afternoon and stayed for work Sunday. Paul checked our Synchro system and made some valuable suggestions. He worked on other maintenance items on the dish including making a rubber bellows and seal to keep the water and birds out of the multiple cables feeding down through the center of the azimuth axes.  He also started working on wiring and setting up the Elevation and Azimuth limit switches.

Other Items: Dave Molter finished the tear out of the 12-foot fiberglass dish and support concrete from Sue’s yard in Sugar City.  He transported it down to the site on his trailer and unloaded it for future use.   Bill and Dave pulled a vertical antenna and base insulator out of the pedestal and loaded it on Dave’s trailer.  Dave returned the antenna to Michael Lowe in Pueblo who originally brought it to the site.

 

The vertical 5-band antenna for the bunker ham radio station, with the radials installed.

Close-up of the radials for the vertical ham antenna.

The rest room after securing with guy wires.

Ed Corn preparing to install PVC drainage pipe at the new rest room.

The rest room with the drainage pipe installed.

The rest room with the drainage pipe installed. The effluent and chemical will drain to this excavated hole, which is now covered by railroad ties for safety. With Ed Corn and Steve Plock.

Inside the rest room, a repurposed railroad shed, after it was cleared out.

Looking up, inside from the base of the pedestal, to the third working level.

Bill Miller showing the terminal box at the third level of the pedestal.

Bill Miller with another junction at the third level of the pedestal.

Dave Molter bringing the pieces of the 12 foot satellite dish from Sugar City.

Bill Miller manually steering the 60-foot dish antenna, while Dave Molter monitors the position feedback.

Bill Miller manually steering the 60-foot dish antenna, while Dave Molter monitors the position feedback on the synchro panel.

Close-up of the synchro panel. It is designed to show the course & fine positions of the antenna elevation and azimuth.

Comm Trailer

While we worked on Saturday, there was harvesting in the surrounding fields.

 

The vertical ham antenna by the bunker, at the end of the work day Saturday.

Some rain passed through during the late afternoon Saturday.


 

Plishner Antenna Site Work Trip Report for May 18 – 20, 2018

We worked at the antenna site in Haswell from Friday May 18 through Sunday May 20, 2018.  We essentially worked in two teams.  The first team was at the site from Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, with some in that team just coming on Saturday. The second team worked Sunday afternoon.

Accomplishments for this work trip:

  • Beginning of work on a new toilet facility “outhouse” in the southwest corner of the site.
  • Aaron Reid brought his tractor. He excavated a large 5 1/2 foot hole, which will eventually be used to properly dispose the effluent from the outhouse. He also completed covering of the 600-foot trench that had been dug earlier to install the power line in the site. And he also excavated a new trench from the pedestal to the Comm. Trailer, to be used to lay control lines for our antenna pointing systems.
  • Initial checkout of the 5-band trap vertical antenna for ham radio at the bunker.
  • Removal of a 10-foot satellite dish antenna in Sugar City.
  • Continuing work on the dish antenna pointing control systems.

Contributors to this post are Steve Plock, Bill Miller, and Dave Molter, with additional writing and editing by Gary Agranat. Photos by Bill Miller, Gary Agranat, and Steve Plock.  Working on this trip also were Aaron Reid, Paul Berge, and Floyd Glick.

Thanks to everyone who helped on this trip.

Trip report by Steve Plock

I arrived Friday afternoon. Paul Berge arrived shortly after and Aaron Reid not long after that. We ate a little  dinner and turned in. Right around sundown it started raining. It rained most of the night and stopped around sunrise. Because it had rained all night it was pretty muddy outside. We helped Aaron unload his tractor off of his trailer.  We then started cleaning debris out of the 600′ trench ahead of the tractor that was pushing the low side hill made by the ditch witch down into the trench. We then placed the barrier tape into the trench ahead of the tractor which pushed the high side berm into the trench as well. We tromped through a lot of mud that morning.

Next we cleaned out the building that would become the new outhouse.

Then Steve and Paul ran an 85′ coax cable from the new vertical into the bunker. When Gary arrived he checked the antenna out using Ray’s Intellituner as a crude analyzer. It checked out OK on 80-40-20-15 and 10   meter phone portions of these bands.

Floyd Glick showed up and started helping out to get the outhouse up on the old platform that had the battery box building on it. We used a couple of  chains and the tractor and some boards to accomplish this. Next I marked the spot the Ed had wished the pit to be placed and Aaron dug it to a depth of about 5 ½’. All three of us worked together to cover the pit with railroad ties.

Next I marked the 2nd trench, from the pedestal to the Comm. trailer, after consulting with Paul to stay clear of the existing conduit. By that time everyone was pretty tired and turned in for another, night. Sunday morning everyone left before noon. I led Aaron north on County Road 20 until we hit CO Highway 96 up in Haswell. Told him to pick up Highway 287 north in Eads.

-Steve Plock

 

Site of our new toilet facility “outhouse”. We are repurposing a railroad shed. Aaron Reid excavated a 5 1/2 foot deep hole with his tractor behind the shed, where the effluent will properly be disposed. We plan to have the “outhouse’ in service by the time of our annual Open House in August. Our plans include installing electric light and heat.

The 5 1/2 foot deep hole excavated by Aaron Reid with his tractor. Old railroad ties were placed over the hole afterwards for safety.

We are cleaning out this former railroad shed for use as our new outhouse on the site. It had railroad electrical components and some debris accumulated over time. In the photo is Floyd Glick helping with the cleanup.

Steve Plock and Aaron Reid inspected the route for excavating a second trench, for the dish antenna pointing system Syncro wiring.

Ham Radio Vertical Antenna Check, by Gary Agranat

On our last trip we installed a donated 5-band trap vertical antenna for our ham radio station at the bunker. Although we had radial wires with the donation, we didn’t yet have time to install those.

Before I arrived on this trip, Steve Plock installed an 85 foot coax cable from the antenna base, through the doghouse, to the ham station in the bunker. Although he didn’t try to make any contacts, he reported good signal reception using the IC 706 on 40 and 20 meters, including DX from Europe. The IC 706 has an attached automatic antenna tuner, and he reported there was good tuning on all of the bands.

I decided to hold off installing the antenna radial wires, and instead check how well we could operate in the current set-up. I systematically checked the SWR and the ability to tune on all 5 wavelength bands of the vertical (80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters).  I confirmed we could tune well enough on all of the band spectrum except for the 20 meter Morse Code segment. I tried making some phone contacts but succeeded only with one. And for the IC 706 I didn’t have the right connector for my CW key.  I therefore instead set up a Yaesu FT-950 with a SignaLink digital interface matched for it.  With that I succeeded in making 30 FT-8 digital contacts, most on 40 and a few on 20 meters. I was able to do some DX (distance contacts) on 40 meters: IU8CNE (Italy) and LU5VV (Argentina). Plus we made one New Zealand contact, with ZL2IFB, on 15 meters, but otherwise DX conditions were poor. The other contacts were across the U.S. and to northeast Canada.  I also had one traditional Morse Code CW chat on 40 meters with K3WAS in Kansas.  And so the vertical antenna without the radials does work, and we do get out at least domestically.  The somewhat poor FT-8 DX suggests radials may be worth installing still, although I cannot rule out that we had poor band conditions.

-Gary Agranat

Gary Agranat WA2JQZ operating FT-8 at the K0PRT station in the bunker. Photo by Steve Plock from his smartphone.

The vertical antenna set up by the bunker, with coax feed from the doghouse.

Log of contacts:
K5BZI 20m SSB TX
K4SHA 40m FT8 AL
W6GRD 20m FT8 CA
K9ZJ 20m FT8 WI
VA3HP 40m FT8 ON, Canada
K2PS 40m FT8 FL
KG7RZD 40m FT8 WA
K3WAS 40m CW KS
K0CHW 20m FT8 SD
N9RS 40m FT8 WI
AB1HL 40m FT8 MA
K6SJT 40m FT8 CA
K7ZYV 40m FT8 MS
NA8N 40m FT8 OH
K6KHB 40m FT8 CA
WA6PHR 40m FT8 CA
AE8S 40m FT8 OH
N4RLG 40m FT8 KY
KB7ZDM 40m FT8 OR
KC1GWX 40m FT8 MA
WA2HIP 20m FT8 ME
VA3CTX 20m FT8 ON, Canada
ZL2IFB 15m FT8 New Zealand
VE2GYA 40m FT8 QC, Canada
N4ZI 40m FT8 TN
KB5DXO 40m FT8 MS
LU5VV 40m FT8 Argentina
N8NXG 40m FT8 FL
K4RGN 40m FT8 NC
WY7CDL 40m FT8 WY
IU8CNE 40m FT8 Italy
K9QVB 20m FT8 IL
AB5CA 40m FT8 TX

A benefit of using a digital mode like FT-8 is you can see feedback of where you are received, on the PSK Reporter website. This screenshot displays reports by other hams of where we were received for the previous 3 hours, at about 7:25 pm local time on Saturday (0125 GMT). The blues are for the 40 meter band, the yellow for 20, and the brown for 15 meters.

Trip Report by Dave Molter, for Sunday May 20, 2018

On Sunday I met Bill Miller in Sugar City, and tore down a 10 foot dish that was donated to DSES. The dish was left at the residence until a trailer can be provided to remove the parts. The base post was not removed from the concrete and will need to be done on a future trip. This effort also led to 3 more fiberglass 10 foot antennas identified which will be donated and obtained at a future date.

When we got to the site we energized the dish drives and observed noise on the elevation encoder lines shown by the LEDs flickering and watching the position signal on an Oscilloscope. Ferrite beads were installed around the elevation encoder lines. There was no change to the amount of noise present on the wires. The elevation readout cover was removed and the cable was removed from the encoder. The connector was opened to allow inspection of the wiring. The cable shield drain wire was temporarily jumpered to the frame ground. The signal noise was reduced.  The cable drain wire was connected to pin S of the encoder (Frame Ground). A jumper wire was also attached to the drain wire and connected to the encoder body. The mount was run in elevation and azimuth and the readout was stable, the LED did not flicker.   The dish control was transferred to the trailer.  The control panel was used to move the mount in azimuth and elevation. The readout computer was energized and the remainder of the day was spent looking for the paper that contained the logon to the portable computer.

It was observed that the electrical trench was backfilled. The trench between the tower and trailer was dug out. The ramp has a good sized amount of tumble weeds in residence.

– Dave Molter

Additional Details from Bill Miller, Sunday May 20, 2018

I arrived at Sugar City at 9 AM and met with Dave about 10:30.  We went to Sugar City contact’s (Sue) house and proceeded to disassemble the 10ft Fiber glass satellite antenna and mount in the back yard.  This took about 3 1/2 hours and we didn’t complete digging up the concrete foundation but got a good start on it.  This will be completed and the dish will be transported in a future trip.  Sue gave us contacts for a 10 ft mesh dish in Sugar City and for her daughter’s perforated dish in Rocky Ford.  Dave made contacts for 2 more fiberglass dishes in Sugar City.  Seems we can have all of these that we want for the asking and labor.

We didn’t get to the Plishner site until about 3:00 on Sunday and by then the previous crew of Aaron Reid, Steve Plock, Gary Agranat, Paul Berge and others had left the facility.

Dave and I set up to determine the cause and fix for the elevation encoder noise that we have been fighting for the last five months.  We took a methodical trouble shooting approach with scope and meter instrumentation.  We verified that the elevation encoder circuit was much more susceptible to the motor controller noise than the azimuth encoder circuit.  It was even susceptible to the Azimuth motor drive but to a lesser degree than to the elevation drive.  After trying several things we discovered by continuity checking that the Azimuth encoder wiring shield was grounded to the telescope structure at the encoder end but the elevation encoder wiring shield was open. We opened the elevation encoder box in the upper deck and attached the shield drain wire to the chassis ground with a clip lead.   This had a dramatic effect on the noise as seen by the scope and the 12 bit LEDs indicating the input signal state on system 1.  Seeing this, we permanently attached the shield drain wire to Pin “S” (Case GND) of the encoder connector and to the attachment screw on the encoder with a flying lead.  This substantially reduced the motor drive noise problem on the elevation encoder circuit and should provide much cleaner encoder signals to both system 1 and 2.  Of note: There is still a lot of HF noise on the system 1 electronics as indicated on the scope.  It appears to be from the small switch mode power supply in the box and the motor drives.  It may be wise to change out the small PS with one that is less noisy.  We were unable to check the Laptop program operation with System 1 due to a missing password.

We saw the trench that Aaron Reid had dug for the syncro cabling.  Thanks to Aaron for that.  I brought down a 350 foot spool of 15 conductor x 18awg wire for the syncro connection.  Unfortunately we had no suitable conduit to install in the trench so we will have to do that on a separate trip.  I left the spool of wire in the locked pedestal for when it can be installed.  The deal with OEM Electronics is to use what we need and return the rest for credit as soon as possible.  The approximately 160 ft of wire needed will be charged to Michael Lowe’s OEM credit that he established several years ago.

Two curious boys from Los Animus HS stopped by while we were working in the pedestal and we told them about the Dish, but not knowing them didn’t offer a tour.  Bill took their names and Email addresses for future contact.

Several spools of RG59u and a 4KW generator were left in the open after the clean out of the RR shed to be used for the outhouse. We moved the wire to the locked pedestal and Dave took the generator back to Springs to see if he could get it running.   We put food in the bunker away, locked up the site and left about 7:30PM.

-Bill Miller

12 Ft Fiberglass Dish in Sugar City

Dave Molter, 12 ft Dish Tear Down
Dave Molter, 12 ft Dish Tear Down

Dave and Sue at the 10ft Mesh Dish

Exposed Elevation Encoder and Syncro’s in the upper deck of the pedestal (Level 4).

Aaron’s Syncro Wiring Trench

DSES earned a first place award in the ham radio 2017 Colorado QSO Party

K0PRT, the club ham radio station of the Deep Space Exploration Society, earned this First Place certificate in the 2017 Colorado QSO Party, for our category.  The QSO party ran last September.

We operated Morse Code (CW) and Phone (SSB).  We entered as a portable station,  because we made contacts while traveling to the telescope site, and then while at the telescope site itself.  We made 37 contacts around the U.S. and Canada.  Thanks to all of the team for supporting this event.  Our operators were Gary Agranat WA2JQZ and Bill Miller KC0FHN.