An update on the progress of our DSES building project. Our DSES Vice President and Project Manager, Bill Miller, has spent many hours and has made many trips down to the Plishner Site near Haswell Colorado to make this project happen. After many delays, some due to COVID, in finding contractors for concrete, plumbing, and electrical as well as building manufacturers to provide a 60-foot by 30-foot structure, DSES has finally made some progress. We still have many hours of interior/exterior work and antenna towers to place before we can move our current operations from the existing communications trailer and the underground bunker. This future work will still require many trips and hours on site to complete these tasks. We hope our local Colorado DSES members will be able to provide some help in completing these projects. DSES will provide dates and times of these trips so members can plan their time at the Plishner Site. A big thank you to Bill Miller for taking on this project and to those other members who were able to assist him over the past few months.
On Sunday October 2, 2022 Ray Uberecken, Dan Layne and Gary Agranat climbed on to the 60-foot dish antenna to measure the dish diameter, the distance from the dish center to the feed, and the bore alignment. This verified the original geometry specifications continue to be valid to at least within a quarter of an inch.
The original plan for the day was to also install the 1296 MHz feed at the focus, for the upcoming ARRL EME contest. However, the wind gusts increased, as was anticipated from the forecast. The feed changeout was therefore postponed.
On Tuesday 12/08 Ray Uberecken and Bill Miller traveled to the Plishner site. We found that the gate chain lock was not properly attached to the post and could be removed without unlocking it
We replaced two of the coaxial cables running from the dish pedestal control deck to the upper deck just below the dish. These cables had stretched from their own weight and from the elevation rotation of the dish. As a consequence the center pin pulled out from the mating connector, losing the conductivity. We added to the cable a loop over the elevation axis. Ray added a feedthrough connector attachment on the ceramic slip ring collar, in order to remove the rest of the hanging stress on the wires, and he re-added the swivel joints below that. This arrangement completely eliminates the cables traveling up and down thru the collar as the elevation is changed, and this also virtually eliminates the coaxial cable wrap in the control deck area. We redressed all of the cables there with tie wraps and tape to get them out of the way of personnel in the deck and to remove the mechanical strain on all the cables.
At the top deck we removed the AC extension cord, which had been temporarily installed to a power amplifier at the feed for EME. Its cord insulation might not have survived the winter, and the uninsulated cord could potentially short out to the structure. A more permanent and reliable 120 volt power distribution is needed to the feed point.
We also re-dressed all the wires and coax cable in the upper deck. We reused the pipe grommets as a weather shield for the cables going down thru the azimuth axes collar to the control deck level.
We then placed a ladder on the mount and proceeded up to the dish surface. There we continued to remove the 120 volt extension cord, and we inspected the surface and the support. This is a wide angle shot of the scene in the dish. It does give a sense of the surreal feeling of the view from there.
We inspected the attachments and connections. We discovered that the grounding cable connection on one of the legs leading to the focal box had been cut off. Furthermore, the wave guide that is attached at the dish structure is not electrically attached to the focal point box. Therefore the only ground to protect from RF, lightning, or static is the coax shield and the low voltage control cable ground wire. This may be one of the causes of failures in the electronics. We should retrofit to provide a good DC ground connection between the feed box at the focal point to the pedestal.
We also wanted to know how the fiber glass supports for the feed are adjusted.
The fiber glass supports are badly weathered after 60 years in the open. We should derive a plan to rework the fiberglass surface, for the next time we rent a bucket lift to work on them.
Once we had inspected the dish, we tipped the dish down to the service elevation, donned climbing harnesses, and climbed the scaffold tower. We removed the 1296 MHz feed and installed the 408MHz antenna using Ray’s quick-change mount. This only took about an hour where before the process could take as much as half a day.
We also reworked the connector attachments in the electronics box. Ray then reattached the additional 20db amplifier, and checked everything out with the TDR and Spectrum analyzer. He reattached the cables in the pedestal to connect the correct coax lines to the Comm. Trailer.
Bill replaced the broken window in the back of the comm. trailer with the new one he purchased from Kent Glass and sealed it with RTV. This provides a much clearer view of the dish from the trailer.
We parked the dish, turned off all the equipment, locked the site and left for the day.
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.
Ray Uberecken and Bill Miller went to the Plishner site on Sat. October 31.
Ray brought back his EME 200 Watt amplifier box that he had removed on the previous weeks trip. The unit had blown a relay control FET that kept the unit in the transmit position so it would not connect the feed to the receiver. Ray and Bill donned climbing harnesses, scaled the scaffold, and installed the amplifier before the wind could start blowing about 11:00 AM at the site.
Ray also brought back the FT 736 Transceiver after repairing the seized tuning knob. He brought in a computer and an audio interface with JT-65 HF software loaded. This will enable digital mode EME on the next contest EME 50-1296 MHz — November 28-29, 2020. In addition, he installed an extra 1296 MHz 18 Watt auxiliary amplifier between the FT736 10W max output and the Amplifier at the feed point. This extra amplifier will enable the full power of the linear amp at the feed. Both the 18 watt amp and the 200 watt feed point amp are enabled with the Key circuit from the FT 736.
There is an extra power supply on the bench to power the 18 Watt amp and the key circuit to the feed amp is attached with the terminal block on the rack.
Ray also brought back the Electronic Keyer and Paddle for the FT736 moon bounce CW mode.
Once all this equipment was installed, we climbed the tower and replaced the bad swivel joint on the down feed coax with a short segment of very flexible RG8X cable to allow the cable wrap. Because this is the same impedance as the main hard line coax and very short it has insignificant loss to the signal.
We then called Myron Babcock to test the equipment. We pointed the dish at Colorado Springs and at first did not hear his signal. He swung his antenna around to point at Pike’s Peak and we did the same and established communication on 1296.1 MHz with clear copy. This proved the overall system viability.
Bill set up his phone app and computer program for aiming the Hughes Net dish for internet. After using the compass to point the dish to the apps specified Azimuth and Elevation and working the dish around for half an hour, we still couldn’t get the modem to lock up and receive the satellite. More research is needed to make sure we are trying for the correct satellite and have the right coordinates and tools to do the alignment on the next trip. Once we have the Hughes Net system working, we should have high speed internet capability for a number of uses.
Ray has been working on his new radio Astronomy receiver based on a medical signal preconditioner and a stable amplifier/integrator and A/D converter. The receiver will give a greater bandwidth than current SDRs with up to 100MHz of bandwidth.
A conversion program is needed to convert the comma delimited tabular output of the A/D to the .Fil file format for radio astronomy. Ray installed the receiver and checked its operation.
We stowed the dish, shut everything down, removed the trash and locked the site. Note that the new service position on the scaffold after the recalibration of the pointing system is 314.5 deg. All old bearings for Beacons and such should be adjusted by -2.5 deg.
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.
Bob Haggart (N0CTV) has been steadily improving the workspace of the science trailer at the Plishner radio telescope site. During the pulsar observation work on May 2, 2020, he completed building his latest enhancement: a partitioned work space at the east side of the science trailer. There is desktop space, which can be used for electronics building and testing. And there is additional shelf space, for better organization and storage.
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.