DSES participated in the ARRL Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) moon bounce contest last autumn. The contest was spread over 3 weekends. We participated in the weekend segments of October 10-11 and November 28-29. The ARRL has now posted the contest results.
We operated solely the 23 cm (1296 MHz band) with our 60-foot dish antenna. We used CW Morse Code and SSB Phone on the first weekend, and CW and Digital JT65 on the second weekend. We made 50 contacts over the two weekends. However, for contest scoring, stations we contact again over both weekends only count once. Therefore for scoring, we were credited with 36 contacts. Our team consisted of several operators: AA0L, KL7YY, WA2JQZ, and KC0HPN. Glen Davis also was crucial for adjusting our antenna pointing system and ensuring we were operational. (WD0CUJ and Michael Namieka also came out, and made a moon bounce test transmission, but didn’t make contest contacts.) And so we submitted our contest log in the All Mode, Multioperator, 1.2 GHz category, with our call sign K0PRT. Worldwide we came in 4th place in this category.
On the weekend following this past Thanksgiving we participated in the second round of the ARRL EME Contest, which ran for 48 hours, on November 28 & 29, 2020, GMT hours. This time it was a cliff-hanger in that we almost didn’t get on the air. But with some dedicated effort we succeeded again. This time we contacted some new places. And we added JT65C digital mode.
Team members for this operation were Ray Uberecken AA0L, Gary Agranat WA2JQZ, Myron Babcock KL7YY, and Bill Miller KC0FHN. Floyd Glick WD0CUJ came out also for one evening, accompanied by our new member Michael Nameika.
For this weekend the Moon was at almost full phase. That meant that it would be up mostly during our nighttime, which therefore was when we would have to do our operations. The contest would start at 0000 Hours GMT, which for us was 5 PM on Friday evening November 27. The Moon was already rising at 3:19 PM, so it would be up high enough to begin operating right away, once the contest started.
Ray and Bill arrived Friday afternoon by 3 PM to set up and do last minute testing. I (Gary) arrived soon after.
In our testing, we found we could receive the 1296 MHz beacon Ray set up at his home in Peyton. But we couldn’t properly transmit.
We quickly slew the antenna to the service tower, and Ray retrieved the amplifier at the feed. The thinking was the problem might be there.
Ray did some quick testing of the amplifier. But an initial check didn’t find anything wrong.
Ray then climbed back up the tower to return the amplifier to the feed point. We thought about what else could be wrong.
We then checked how much power was being drawn by the amplifier in the pedestal. The power meter was reading about 30 Watts when we tried to transmit, when it should have been reading about 200 Watts. At that point the sky was getting dark. It would not have been safe to do any more climbing. And so for the first night of the contest we couldn’t operate.
Bill returned home, but was available the next day for coordination in Colorado Springs. Ray and I spent overnight at the site, to continue troubleshooting on Saturday. We would have the whole day in sunlight, until the Moon rose for the second pass at 3:47 PM.
Before going to sleep I (Gary) made some HF ham radio contacts. So we got on the air still, but on HF. This weekend there was also another contest, the CQ World Wide CW (Morse Code) Contest. On 160 and 80 meters I made three contacts with Canadian stations. There were lots of US stations on, but for the rules of this contest, you have to contact stations outside of your country (or more precisely outside of your DX area, which for us is the CONUS). I afterwards made some HF FT8 digital contacts for the club, on 80 and 40 meters. On 40 meters we made our first DX contact with New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific, with station FK8HM. This was with our recently repaired vertical antenna, so this showed our vertical was working OK.
Early the next morning I made some more CW contacts for the contest, this time on 40 meters using the vertical, and on 15 meters, using both the vertical and Yagi antennas. On 40 meters, while it was still dark across the Pacific, stations in China, Hong Kong, and South Korea were heard, but I didn’t succeed in making contacts. I did succeed though in contacting two Japanese stations. Then on 15 meters, with daylight across the Atlantic, the band was wide open to Europe. For a few minutes while on the air, we made contacts with France, Spain, and Slovenia, and also one contact to the south with Brazil.
Ray and I had breakfast and resumed troubleshooting work at 9 AM. We retrieved the amplifier again, and this time did a much more thorough test. Ray found one diode was leaking current. But this was a circuit safety issue and not a showstopper for transmitting. Ray replaced the diode, and returned the amplifier to the feed.
We then considered what else could cause our problem. Ray tested the conductivity of our feed lines. We have two coax cables running from the operations trailer to the feed. Ray climbed to the feed, and connected the two cables there. Then we measured the conductivity going out and coming back, together at the same time. His software analyzer showed Coax cable #1 had a fault at 135 feet down the line, and Coax cable #2 had a fault 185 feet down the line. This corresponded with where there are swivel joints for the cables, where the fixed pedestal interfaces with the moving dish antenna structure. A signal test also showed there was more loss on the lines then expected.
At first Ray wondered that the swivel joints might be the problem. However, on visual inspection those were seen to be OK. The problem was eventually traced instead to the weight of the cables at that location pulling on the centers of the feeds, causing those to slip out.
Ray was able to repair Feed Line #1. We then did more testing, with Ray’s beacon and the W0TTT beacon in Como, CO, and with an SSB tropospheric scatter contact with Myron in the Springs, and found we were working well. We were back in business.
Myron drove out to the site, and operated with us the second night. While Myron was on his way, I slew the antenna for Moonrise, getting more practice with the System 1 automatic tracking.
As soon as the Moon rose we heard CW and digital signals. We again had to figure out the Doppler shift correction, using the WSJT 10 software. At the start we made several CW contacts with Europe: to Germany, England, Croatia, France, Poland, and Austria.
Eventually we also tried digital JT65C –for the first time. That was a learning curve, but we finally got it. One of the tricks for that was that the waterfall window on the JT65C has a bar at top designating where the sync pulse of the signal has to be, in order for the software to decode it. Another challenge was that operators were heard with JT65 weren’t using a consistent contact exchange format. And so I had to manually edit the exchange fields quickly, in the 10 seconds between decoding and transmitting.
We made 19 contacts altogether. 16 were with CW (Morse Code) and 3 were digital JT65C. Myron tried several times to make SSB contacts. But there were no takers to respond back to us.
Over the night, I generally made the CW and digital contacts, while Ray operated the radio, including keeping up with the Doppler shift offsets. I offered to let others make contacts too. But we were comfortable doing it this way.
Floyd came during the evening with his astronomy student Michael Namieka. Floyd showed Michael around the site, and I believe also made some HF contacts in the bunker. They watched our EME operation. They got into a good technical discussion about the component causes of the Doppler shifts. Myron had Michael send a voice CQ and test moon bounce signal, and Michael heard his voice come back about 2 seconds later.
Our CW contacts included our DSES member Skip, VE6BGT — he said we sounded much stronger this time. And we found several other stations we had contacted last month too.
On JT65 we had QSOs with AL Katz K2UYH, W6YX Stanford University, and AA4MD in Florida (who last month we got on CW).
New countries to Europe this time were France and Croatia. We got KL6M in Alaska, who built our feed. We got one Japanese contact JH1KRC, who we contacted last month. And this time we had one contact with Australia, VK5MC, probably our contact furthest away from us. I am happy to report we had pileups on us. At least some of our contacts already knew something about us and our capability.
This is a record of our contacts, from the Cabrillo formatted file we submitted to the ARRL for the contest. CW is Morse Code. DG is JT65C digital. 1.2 G is the 1.2 GHz frequency band. You see the date and times in GMT, our station with the signal report we sent, and the station we contacted with their signal report to us. QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-28 2312 K0PRT 599 DG5CST 599 Germany QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-28 2317 K0PRT 559 SP7DCS 589 Poland QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-28 2324 K0PRT 559 G4CCH 599 England QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0007 K0PRT 559 9A5AA 579 Croatia QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0020 K0PRT 569 DL6SH 579 Germany QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0040 K0PRT 569 VE6BGT 589 Canada QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0057 K0PRT 579 OE5JFL 579 Austria QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0216 K0PRT 569 WA9FWD 579 Wisconsin, USA QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0350 K0PRT 559 F2CT 569 France QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0403 K0PRT 559 KL6M 579 Anchorage, Alaska, USA QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0407 K0PRT 559 OK1KIR 569 Czech Republic QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0413 K0PRT 559 I5MPK 599 Italy QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0420 K0PRT 559 K7CA 559 Nevada, USA QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0430 K0PRT 549 KA1GT 559 Maine, USA QSO: 1.2G DG 2020-11-29 0629 K0PRT -06 K2UYH -01 New Jersey, USA QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0750 K0PRT 569 JH1KRC 589 Japan QSO: 1.2G DG 2020-11-29 0811 K0PRT -08 W6YX -08 California, USA QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0920 K0PRT 439 VK5MC 449 Australia QSO: 1.2G CW 2020-11-29 0946 K0PRT 599 N4PZ 599 Chicago, Illinois, USA QSO: 1.2G DG 2020-11-29 1006 K0PRT -09 AA4MD -07 Florida, USA
We decided to stop operating at around 3:30 AM Sunday morning. We were hearing much fewer new contacts. But also the outside wind was picking up immensely. Forecasts for the region were for gusts up to 50 knots. We stowed the antenna back to the safe position. Ray, Myron and I then got sleep in the operations trailer. Outside the temperature dropped to the low 20s, but we kept warm inside with the heaters. Myron left early in the morning. Ray and I closed the site by 11 AM Sunday, and headed back to the Springs.
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Some technical feedback: System 1 was working almost perfectly. The one glitch again was that there was a discontinuity in elevation reading on Friday night as the elevation was brought close to zero (seen by Bill). I didn’t experience that on Saturday or Sunday. Otherwise, the System 1 is an immense help. It makes the slewing and tracking easy and seamless.
We had a learning curve figuring out all of the nuances and details (or the sufficient and necessary details) for running JT65. We did eventually get JT65 working well. You do need to pay attention to its peculiarities. It probably could use some guidance documents, like we have for System 1.
I will note I did try to make a number of contacts but didn’t get responses. I don’t know why that was. I am suspecting part of the reason might be due to not getting the Doppler shift offsets quite right at times. But we did get a number of good signal reports and explicit comments that we had good signals.
Later I did some research. One of our contacts KA1GT has some articles on the Doppler shift math and corrections. These might be helpful:
It was a somewhat intense weekend for the team — with not being able to operate Friday evening as it got dark, with the troubleshooting, the cold and windy weather conditions and staying overnight (for some for 2 nights) on site. But we were very pleased we got our Moon communications back. We had lots of good signal reports. We apparently were doing better than in October with our signals. We probably had fewer contacts than last time as we were spending time figuring out the JT65 and Signallink. And I suspect there might have been fewer hams on for the second night. But I think also we didn’t want to knock ourselves out, especially with all the work we did. We found a good balance that worked.
I think all of us involved were very pleased with what we accomplished this weekend. We spent the effort to troubleshoot, we got ourselves back on the air, and we made a successful second EME Moon bounce operation.
2020-11-23 DSES Science Meeting Notes, by Bill Miller
We had 16 participants in the virtual science meeting today: Thanks everyone for joining.
Participants: Dr. Rich Russel, Ray Uberecken, Lewis Putman, Bob Haggart, Don Latham, Floyd Glick, Gary Agranat, Glenn Davis, Jay Wilson, Jon Ayers, Lauren Libby, Myron Babcock, Robert Sayers, Ted Cline. Jerry Espada, Bill Miller
Agenda and notes;
Also see the Zoom Video Recording for more detail:
Myron’s Treasure’s Report Checking $1774.28. Savings $5742.15. We have 49 paid members.
Bill spoke with Carol Bach the coordinator, she replied, “The Pikes Peak Regional Science and Engineering Fair will be held virtually on February 20, 2021. We are hoping that the Deep Space Exploration Society will again sponsor a special award or awards at the fair. In addition, we are hoping you or another member of your group will consider being a special awards judge. We will send you a code to unlock a showcase with digital displays that you can view. Virtual judging will take place between February 18-20, 2021.”
Bill to send board DSES Special awards criteria for approval.
“Please respond by December 2, 2020 to this email and confirm that your organization is planning to participate. Also, please let us know the name and contact email for future communications.”
Bill will write an endorsement letter and have the DSES Board modify and approve for Planet Walk Colorado Springs. See https://www.planetwalkcs.org/
See Bob Haggard’s repost on the Arecibo Radio Telescope status.
Problem with the 1296 feed last trip. Took down the Feed amplifier and found that the unit was stuck in the transmit configuration again due to a failed FET in the Relay driver. Fixed this and added more gate protection circuitry to solve the problem.
Also had a bad diode and a bad cable that had to be corrected.
The FT-736R Keyer connection failed on last trip but Ray fixed it.
Tried CW EME but couldn’t hear the echo.
Did receive Rays Home Based beacon bounced off Pikes Peak and verified pointing so the receiver chain is working.
Gary Underground K0PRT bunker station summary report.
FT8, PSK Reporter website showed our station was received on 40 meters during afternoon in CA and TX.
15M operation was hot
Our rare grid square (DM88) attracted many Japanese stations
Vertical working well on 15 and 40 meters. 10 meters was tried and at least had good SWR, but band was dead.
Yagi was also working well to Japan
PSK reporter showed good coverage on 15 meters all around the Pacific Rim.
See more in Rich’s slides above
Glenn says that Phil is working on an elevation tracking update that will need some onsite testing when ready.
Much discussion about the SDR receivers, GNU SW and the computer power needed to run them. See the meeting recording for too much detail to capture here.
By Gary Agranat, with Myron Babcock and Glenn Davis. Videos by Bill Miller.
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.
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 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.
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:
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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)
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.
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.
This short video shows part of a Morse Code CW contact by Gary WA2JQZ. XE1XA in Mexico called CQ. We responded by sending our call sign K0PRT several times. Then K (the invitation to respond) several times. When we switch the VFO from the transmit to the receive frequency, you can hear the last part of our signal coming back, reflecting from the Moon, several seconds later. You then here the signal from XE1XA, also coming back reflecting from the Moon. He transmitted back our call sign as K0PRN, instead of K0PRT. We afterwards replied sending our callsign again, only, to give him the correction. That’s why we repeat a lot, and send sections of the message just one at a time. We completed the contact successfully. If you look carefully on the transceiver, you will see we switched about 2 KHz down from the transmit to receive frequency. (Video length 1:16)
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.
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.
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)
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):
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.
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.
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:
Attempt at observing a circumpolar pulsar, utilizing the System 1 manual tracking system. (Rich Russel, Glenn Davis, Lewis Putnam).
Complete building and installing shelf space in the Communications (Operations) Trailer (Bob Haggard).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.