Tag Archives: TS-590SG

FT8 WAS: One more to go

It’s over. I’m all in on FT8. It actually is very interesting and a lot of fun. Over this last month aside from some WSPRing the day of the eclipse and some SSB contacts mobile while driving to and from work, home operation, which actually hasn’t been all that much in the face of other non-radio projects, has been 99% FT8 on 20m and 40m. I’m down to one more state, Nebraska. I’ve got multiple contacts in Alaska and Hawaii and even Washington, D.C. but I haven’t found a station in Nebraska yet, but I’ve enlisted the help of PSK Reporter to find the needed station.

FT8 WAS

WSJT-X provides the ability to send all of your decodes to PSK Reporter.

WSJT-X PSK reporter Spotting

My understanding is that WSJT-X reports a spot for every station that you decode, not just those that you work. Using PSK Reporter in combination with WSJT-X effectively closes the loop on your digital operations. With the spotting information available you can use PSK Reporter to determine who is hearing your signal including signal strength in a manner similar to that of WSPR. I’ve been varying my power output to see how it impacts signal reports. Additionally, the spotting information can be used with FT8 to attempt to make a directed contact with a station. I had this happen once to me while in an FT8 QSO. I noticed a call to me in the Band Activity pane (left pane) from a call different than that of the station I was communicating with in the Rx Frequency pane (right pane.) Once my QSO was complete I  responded to the other stations call on the frequency upon which they called me. I adapted a form of this technique to get my North Dakota contact with KDoUXO. I noticed in PSK Reporter that he heard me but didn’t see his call in the Band Activity pane so I picked a clear spot on the waterfall and called directly for him. After a few rounds of calling CQ he responded to my call and I put my first (and only thus far) North Dakota FT8 contact in the my log. Given a bit more time and observation of PSK Reporter I should be able to put a Nebraska station in my log for the fastest WAS I’ve ever completed.

FT8 cat

Our youngest cat appears to like FT8 as well, while our older cats find it too fast paced. Or it could be that they can’t fit on my desk between the keyboard and radio.

UPDATE: FT8 WAS is complete! AJ0Z confirmed Nebraska.

 

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Eclipse WSPRing

In the run-up to the eclipse there was plenty of information concerning the eclipse and its relation to propagation. Of particular interest to me was the Eclipse Experiment proposed by HamSCI and especially their use of data from WSPRNet and PSK Reporter as well as the Reverse Beacon Network. There is an amazing amount of data collected each day by these systems that has a practical use for checking propagation conditions and a scientific use for observing the affect of events like the eclipse. WSRPNet alone averages around 1 million spots per day. Yesterday was over 1.2 million. The spots per hour broke the chart:

WSPR Spots per Hour

About 1600 UTC of the morning of the eclipse I started my WSPRLite on 20m. Band conditions were as follows:

Band conditions @ 1631 UTC

I was using my 4BTV with the WSPRlite transmitter at 200mW. I let it run for a couple of transmit rounds as a test and obtained the following results:

WSPR @ 200mW (1637 UTC)

As you can see, all the spots are in North America. I then changed to my TS-590SG and WSJT-X with the 4BTV so that I could both transmit and receive. I set the TX power to 5 W and started to WSPR on 20m.

By 1709 UTC the map looked like this:

WSPR @ 5W  (1709 UTC)

As you can see a lot more North America stations and VY0ERC on Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Ocean. VY0ERC claims to quite possibly be the most northerly Amateur Radio club in the world. At 79 degrees 59 minutes N there really isn’t all that much latitude remaining for challengers.

By 1742 UTC I received my first spots in Central and South America as well as the first spot by a station in Europe, F4GUK in France.

WSPR @ 5W (1742 UTC)

According to this NASA map, in the US, the eclipse started at 9:06 AM PDT\16:06 UTC in Madras, OR and ended in the US at 4:06 PM EDT/2006 UTC in Columbia, SC, so the US time window for the eclipse was roughly 1600 to 2000 UTC.

WSPR @ 5W (2100 UTC)

WSPR @ 5W (2100 UTC)

By 2100 I received a spot in Australia, VK2CBD and Europe as well as South America had opened up to some degree and a spot by VE8GER, northwest of Inuvik, Northwest Territories. I had two odd ones, KG9BEP that appears to be in the middle of the Sea of Okhotsk and KC6EVC which was off the top of the map. Neither were legitimate callsigns.

US WSPR detail @ 2100 UTC

I forgot to capture band conditions at 2100, but at 2153 they were as follows:

Band conditions @ 2153 UTC

The most noticeable changes were that A dropped to 11 from 22, and K from 3 to 2 over the course of roughly 5 hours. I want to say that conditions improved over the course of the day and the data supports this to large extent, though what portion of this is attributable to the eclipse or just the fluctuating conditions that we find ourselves in is hard to say.

By the time that I pulled the hook at about 2200 UTC I had received 1868 spots. I placed all of my spots in Excel and made a simple chart of the number of spots per time period. I hesitate to put this up as there are about 34.785 variables at play so don’t take this too seriously:

Spots over time

The red lines are the time boundaries of the eclipse. The time runs from 1628 UTC to 21:58 UTC. The maximum number of spots was 99. The first two points were at 200mW and the rest were at 5W. That explains the jump to the third datapoint. As I said, 34,785 variables. My station was heard by 297 unique stations and I heard 179 unique stations. There were a lot of receive only spotters.

As for what all of this means, that I’ll leave to the actual scientists, based just upon WSPRnet they certainly obtained a pile of data. My conclusions are that WSPRing continues to be intriguing and as always, Amateur Radio is an interesting hobby.

 

The moment has finally arrived…

The most anticipated moment in recent Amateur Radio history has finally arrived. No it’s not the pricing and release for the ICOM IC-7610. Nor is it the next radio from Elecraft (KX3.5? K4S?) or when Kenwood is going to introduce an SDR-in-a-box rig. Nope, it’s way more important than any of these.

LoTW now accepts FT8!!!

With the recently released update for TSQL’s Config.xml file (version 11.1), contacts made with the most amazingly popular new mode in Amateur Radio, FT8, are now supported in LoTW.

LoTW updated

Has there ever been a mode that has been adopted so quickly? FT8 seems to be everywhere. As of the time of this writing look at the PSK Reporter stats:

PSK Reporter stats 8/16/17 @ 01:02 UTC

I added my comparatively small FT8 log from the wsjtx_log.adi file created by the WSJT-X software into my ACLog software log file and uploaded to LoTW tonight. It appears as if there is a rather large backlog at LoTW Server Central:

LoTW processing queue status

I’ve not looked at the LoTW processing status page before so I don’t know if this is normal. It seems like a lot of QSOs have been processed or are in process in the last several hours. Based upon the PSK Reporter stats I wonder if this is a flood of pent up FT8 contacts? Was the Internet bogged down today with thousands of operators uploading their FT8 contacts? I know that the WAE DX CW contest was this past weekend. Maybe that accounts for some of the influx? That would certainly put a smile on the face of the average CW op to know that somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 CW QSOs were recently added to LoTW!

As for me and FT8, it’s sort of growing on me. Typically I’m a CCOG™ (Certified Crabby Old Guy) and don’t take kindly to all these newfangled modes. I dabbled with it a bit this past weekend on 20m and I must admit it is sort of fun and pretty interesting. With not all that much time invested I was able to make a fair number of contacts across the US, some in Canada, a few in Europe, and three New Zealand stations in a row! The lowest signal levels I decoded were -14 from DL9RDM in Germany and -13 from ZL3TRR in New Zealand (the other two New Zealand stations were -7 and -9 and all within 5 minutes of each other.) The lowest signal level reports that I received were -18 from ZL3TRR and -16 from MM0CPZ in Scotland. Most all of these contacts were made with 30 watts (some with a wee bit more) from my TS-590SG into my 4BTV.

I’m not going all in and selling my mic and key but I suspect that there will be some additional FT8 operation in my future. If a CCOG like me finds it interesting you may as well.

UPDATE: 8/17/17

The spanner in the works at LoTW Server Central has apparently been removed. There was quite a backlog to chew threw. I just updated my ACLog with LoTW and a whole host of FT8 confirmations came pouring in. We now return to our regularly scheduled program…

LoTW back to normal

 

KA9EAK QRO – Update

Back in October I purchased a Heathkit SB-200 amplifier. The pictures in the original post show that it was a bit dusty from sitting for quite some time but otherwise it was in good shape and best of all it was not modified through the years. I purchased the Harbach updates but they largely have sat waiting for time to build, install, and test them. With time off for the holidays I was finally able to complete the work and I got the amplifier on the air yesterday afternoon. All appears to be well. Voltages and currents are where they should be in addition to no smoke or loud noises.

SB-200 HV

SB-200 HV

With 55 W of drive from my TS-590SG I am seeing a peak of 500 W on 40m SSB which is just where I wanted to be. I’m not interested in pushing the amp to its limit. The first contact with the amplifier was Frank, WA3RSL on 40m SSB late in the afternoon. I started the contact with the amp off and finished with it on with a nice and noticeable signal improvement as reported by WA3RSL. Frank has the same radio and also an amplifier so it was nice to walk through bringing it up with someone with the same radio and experience with using an amplifier with it. Second contact was Scott, K3IVN with a good signal report as well on 40m SSB. Later in the evening I was able to contact ZS6CCY on 40m SSB with a 59 report after only a few calls in a messy pile-up with a fair amount of noise and QSB followed by YV5AL, HI7MC, and J6/NY3B all with relative ease and great signal reports. I was happy with the investment.

I had purchased the power supply board, soft start, keying interface, and cooling fan updates from Harbach Electronics. Once they were all built and installed I brought the amp up on my Variac and there were no surprises and the high voltage looked good at 2250 V. The last step was to build the interface cable for the TS-590SG. Thankfully Kenwood provides the DIN connector with the radio and JG1VGX provided a very nice explanation of all of the possible ways to connect the TS-590 and TS-990 radios to amplifiers.

Here are some before and after pictures of the amplifier:

SB-200 top view

SB-200 top view

SB-200 Bottom view

SB-200 bottom view

In addition to the JG1VGX site referenced above I also found the following three sites helpful for this project:

http://www.crompton.com/hamradio/heath/sb200/sb200.html

http://blog.kotarak.net/2008/03/sb-200-part-1.html

http://www.wlwaters.com/id37.html

While there is some more testing to be done across a few more bands I’m very happy with the results thus far for the amount of money invested. In 1964 an SB-200 went for $200 which inflating the dollars to today is about what I have in this amplifier. I essentially purchased approximately one S-unit which is all that I set out to do and I learned a lot along the way which is much more valuable than the S-unit.

1964 SB-200 ad

1964 SB-200 ad

 

K9AY Complete

Today I finished running the cables for the K9AY down to my shack so my station is now fully operational with a receive only antenna.

K9AY

K9AY antenna

K9AY wire highlight

K9AY antenna wires highlighted

The yellow dashed lines highlight the Northeast\Southwest loop and the red dashed lines highlight the Northwest\Southeast loop.

K9AY base detail

K9AY base detail

Operator actual size

Operator actual size

In the spring I’ll spray paint the arms some combination of brown and green so that they blend in better as opposed to the lovely gray that they are now. The arms are the only part that you can see from the house. Once they are painted the antenna will be reasonably stealthy, to the degree that an antenna comprising a 24 foot pole with two loops of 85 feet of wire supported by four 16 foot arms over a circular area 30 feet in diameter can be called stealthy.

You know what I’m going to be doing all winter.

 

K9AY Update

It’s been a busy few weeks of growing antennas before the onset of winter, which actually is officially antenna season. No one works on antennas when it’s warm and dry. Antenna work is supposed to be done when it’s cold, wet, and hopefully snowing. I admit to being non-compliant to this long standing tradition.

All of the mechanical and electrical work is complete for the antenna. In order to enable folding I elected to forego the multi-conductor connector for the antenna legs and borrowed an idea from Andrew, VK1AD and his linked dipole design and chose to use bullet connectors. a carabiner, and a slightly modified plastic electric fence egg insulator for each leg of the antenna. The carabiners and egg insulators aren’t as nice as Andrew’s sister clips but they’ll do for now.

Mechanical and electrical leg connections

Mechanical and electrical leg connections

Next was the task of getting the cables back to the house. It’s a run of about 250 feet which is way more than I was going to dig with a shovel. I rented a self-propelled bed edger that has an attachment for trenching dog fencing wire and ran a trench from the antenna location back to the house.  The trencher worked great and made a nice 5-6″ deep trench.

Trench

Trench

I laid the control cable and the feedline next to the trench and worked out all of the coils so that they both lay nice and flat in order to drop them cleanly into the trench. With the cables in the trench I completed the electrical connections at the antenna.

The cables for the antennas enter through a port on a workshop portion of our garage. From there they will make their way to my shack in the house. It was late in the day when all of this work was complete and I wasn’t going to have time to get the cables to the radio but I could get the radio to the cables. I hauled by TS-590SG up to the workshop, connected the K9AY control box to the control line and feedline from the antenna, and then connected the output to the radio, and lo and behold IT WORKS! I sat out in the workshop as the sun was setting and tested with stations on 40m, 80m, and 160m in addition to DX-ing AM broadcast stations from all across the country. The switching works fantastic! It’s really cool to be able to electrically rotate the antenna to hone in on a signal.

Thus far I am very pleased with the results but there’s still more work to do. I need to properly terminate the cables from the antenna in the workshop and make the runs to the shack. Once this is complete the K9AY will be a very useful tool as winter closes in and the low bands open up.

As I was DX-ing the AM broadcast stations I was reminded of Jean Shepherd and a few of the shows (for example, 1971 02 xx DX Ham Radio CW)  in which he talked about his dad and his old receiver. Imagine if he would have had a K9AY!

 

K9AY progress

This all started back in June when Gary, W9XT (Unified Microsystems) gave a presentation at the Wisconsin Amateur Radio club meeting about some updates that he recently made to his K9AY antenna . At the time I didn’t have a radio with a separate receive antenna input so while interesting I filed it away as something to build at another time. But that changed in July when I obtained my TS-590SG. Now my gears starting whirring.  The planning started in earnest. The first problem to solve was location. Where could I put a K9AY antenna such that it wouldn’t be bothered? While we have enough room it’s still a 30 foot diameter circle of antenna space and I didn’t want it to be disturbed by lawn tractors, ATVs, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, etc. Was there some means by which to create a smaller footprint?

As I was reading the original K9AY article in the September 1997 issue of QST the part that added to the footprint problem for an original\standard implementation were the support ropes that essentially create the loops. These two supports make a 30 foot diameter circle more like 40 feet in reality. That’s moving the footprint in the wrong direction. What if the supports could be moved to the inside of the circle? As I was doodling the shape of the loop, dividing it into the four right triangles that comprise it, and working out the lengths of the legs and the angles the shared leg of the bottom and top triangles emerged. (Sorry, I’m an engineer…I figure if Pythagoras went through the trouble to sort out the math the least we can do is use it whenever possible if for no other reason than to check his work.) What if the shared leg could be a support of some kind? This would certainly help to solve the footprint problem.

The shared leg

The shared leg

This led to some more conceptual drawings ultimately resulting in this design:

K9AY design

K9AY design

And once the supports were on the inside of the circle the next logical improvement was to hinge them in some manner such that they could be moved upward out of the way of any number of wheeled conveyances if needed.

K9AY support arms detail

K9AY support arms detail

With this design the diameter of the antenna circle was 30 feet, not more and could be substantially reduced if necessary to a few feet.

With the design in hand the next step was a design review and site choice meeting with my XYL. After some hemming and hawing a suitable location was agreed upon and construction began. Thankfully I have two strong sons, my youngest, Ben, manning the post hole digger to make the hole for the 4×4 post that would form the base of the antenna.

Ben

Ben and the base

The base was placed in the hole accompanied by a bag of Quikrete. The next step was to build the arm holders which were constructed from 2×8 treated lumber.

Arm supports

Arm supports

The next step was to bolt in the arm supports, constructed of 2×4 treated lumber.

Base complete

Base complete

I considered a few different materials for the support arms including Crappie fishing poles but in the end settled on schedule 40 PVC conduit mostly because it’s readily available and very inexpensive. If it doesn’t work for some reason I’ll update the arms to some other (better?) material.

Support arms attached

Support arms attached

I did not want the antenna wire to bear all of the weight of the arms so support ropes were needed. I constructed an attachment plate out of Kydex to fit at the joint of the mast pieces to provide a place to attach the support ropes to the mast.

Arm support rope attachment plate

Arm support rope attachment plate

And likewise another Kydex plate was constructed for the top to provide a place to attach guy ropes and the top supports for the antenna wires.

Top support

Top support

Given that the support mast is 24 feet tall all of the arm support ropes, guy ropes, and antenna wires had to be assembled and attached before erecting the mast. This creates a considerable amount of spaghetti on the ground but with some proper management and the help of my older son, Dominic (W9KKX) the mast was erected. The mast guy ropes are attached to some nearby trees in locations high enough such that they don’t reach the ground and allow the antenna support arms to fold inward unobstructed.

Obviously to support folding, either the antenna wire has to move along the ends of the arms or I have to detach the antenna wire from the base. I’ve chosen to use a waterproof multiconductor plug to enable quick detachment of the antenna wires from the K9AY control box that will be located at the base of the antenna.

K9AY

K9AY

The day was drawing to a close. As I was orienting the antenna wires and attaching the arm support ropes and the guy ropes the first owl of the evening started to hoot, sounding the end of the work day. The majority of the mechanical work is complete. I need to place the antenna wires in the ends of the arms and then begin the electrical work. Thus far the design seems to be working out largely as planned. We’ll see how it holds up through the Winter. I can’t wait to “hear” this new antenna.