FO-29 Success

Yesterday I had a broken QSO with K9?H?.  We were running CW and between the fading, the Doppler shift, and my poor CW skills I couldn’t quite get the full callsign and exchange. And then, of course, I was also chasing myself all over the transponder.  This morning was completely different, however.

The pass of FO-29 was going to be high.  Being that I’m still working on my antennas and not knowing what to expect I was just hoping to hear myself.  Tuning around the center of the transponder I clearly heard N8HM calling CQ.  I was able to find myself on the transponder and tune myself onto Paul’s frequency.  To my surprise he heard me and we were able to have a somewhat broken QSO.  I’m not hearing the downlink that strongly (clearly an antenna issue) but we were able to swap grid squares and have a short QSO.  Turns out Paul is just up the road in DC making this perhaps the closest distance satellite contact I’ve had.

I need to go back through my logs but I think this may be my first FO-29 QSO.  It is, at least, my first FO-29 QSO in many years.

First attempts at FO-29

I had a good pass of FO-29 this morning so I figured I’d give it a try with my 2m/70cm loop antenna.  I wasn’t expecting great things as this is not a gain antenna and I’m not sure how much of the signal is actually radiated up but I figured I’d give it a shot.  Turns out it does… okay.  I never heard the beacon but I was able to find myself on CW.  It’s been years since I operated a satellite much less a transponder satellite so I was having a hard time tracking for Doppler.  I’ll have to hook up with my satellite Elmer, again, and make sure I’m tuning the correct side (do I try to stay in the same place on the satellite transponder by adjusting my uplink or do I try to chase my downlink through the transponder?).

Another observation is that the loop doesn’t do very well.  I’m definitely getting into the satellite with ~10 watts but I’m not hearing the satellite that well.  A preamp might help here but I suspect getting some proper antennas would as well.

Parabolic antenna beamwidth calculations

Okay, I’m thinking about parabolic antennas right now.  I created a spreadsheet that would take care of all the formulas some years back but I can’t seem to find it now.  I’m trying to find all the formulas that I need to get the information I need to make my brain figure out the resolution at a distance based on dish size and frequency receiving.  So I don’t have to remember this, again, I’m writing it down here.

  1. The formula Ψ = 70λ/D creates an estimate for the beamwidth of half the power (to -3dB of the signal).
  2. A larger parabolic antenna will yield a smaller beamwidth which should result in a higher resolution.
  3. As frequency goes up the beamwidth goes down.

I’ll use a 1m [diameter] dish as a reference since that size isn’t too large for personal use.

[table “1” not found /]

This provides the basis of receiving a signal from a distance.  But the other question to look at is how big is that signal that you are looking for.  If you are trying to communicate with another terrestrial station, or even an orbiting station, then having equal footing is great as there is no waste.  This hardly happens and the antenna usually ends up trying to pull in a weak station and also gathering the surrounding noise.

But what if I’m not trying to communicate with another station but rather trying to hear a tiny “voice” in the middle of trillions of other voices?  I’d want a very tight beam to be able to not only pull out that tiny voice but also not collect the surrounding voices (and not overwhelming my receiver with a high noise floor).  The vocabulary escapes me at this point.  I’m sure there is a word for it but all I can come up with are words that describe optical reception (e.g. pixels and resolution).  When I can figure out the vocabulary and the formulas needed to put these two puzzle pieces together I’ll post it here.

VOA Radiogram program 61 reception

pic_2014-06-01_024620zJust copied program 61 of the VOA Radiogram on 5145.  The program was transmitted from the Edward R Murrow Transmitting Station down in Greenville, NC.  I’ve seen this place many times and am happy to have copied its transmission now.  I’m also lucky that I was watching Twitter just before the program started and was reminded to tune in.

Here is the text as I received it.

Welcome to program 61 of VOA Radiogram from the Voice of America.

I'm Kim Andrew Elliott in Washington.

On today's program, instead of the usual news stories from VOA
News, we will experiment with the transmission and decoding of

In the first part of today's program, we will experiment with
MFSK images. Later in the program, an EasyPal digital image will
be transmitted. (Please start your EasyPal software.)

Please send reception reports to

And visit

Twitter: @VOARadiogram




The Fldigi software allows for the transmission of MFSK images at
different speeds: X1, X2, and X4. X2 and X4 "paint" more quickly,
but result in lower resolution: X2 is fuzzier, and X4 is
fuzziest. (Fldigi software is required to decode the X2 and X4

As the symbol rate (baud) of the MFSK modes increases from MFSK32
to MFSK64 to MFSK128, the resolution of images sent in those
modes also increases. The time required to send a picture is the
same for MFSK32, MFSK64, and MFSK128.

We therefore have two variables: the transmission speed and the
symbol rate of the MFSK mode.

We will transmit the same VOA Radiogram test card (254x197
pixels) as follows:



MFSK128 X1
MFSK128 X2
MFSK128 X4

First the MFSK32 images in X1, X2, and X4...

tQ* t4R  meS Rtnet
Sending Pic:254x197C;


Sending Pic:254x197Cp4;

Sending Pic:254x197Cp2;



VOA Radiogram now changes to MFSK64...

tRWtosuvgO q tn
pzx0 +nu§nyretwtc(c; Hp B     oºøchi!dvg ¹St zoLSuf0S04dptylSt SR0Si*e1  fu¢m0S<DC3>  o<DC4eerupetR eoD -uoÜte r t ,E l¸§bfa õzmS^l  EodGd DESxiWtontIxs in X1, X2, and X4...

Sending Pic:254x197C;

Sending Pic:254x197Cp4;

Sending Pic:254x197Cp2;



VOA Radiogram now changes to MFSK128...

  rh       rR  : ddS  &K0t0k4=0 lRbtœuH dt  pø¯sve
io n   ñDi¯uåR so³u¢ãhHei0t*PieKi)MrnetneVeaRotAeoe aeSLetR j0iDfxêR  f0St*ts ineVtetetP 

This is VOA Radiogram in MFSK128...

Now the MFSK128 images in X1, X2, and X4...

td ptiraobt
Sending Pic:254x197C;m

 ottJ wd
Sending Pic:254x197Cp4;

0   xt<DLE> pJ  imtoaopr rheme!tzg Pic:254x197Cp2;


 VOA Radiogram now changes to MFSK32...

 i $itdoc t:woäee8vtl nlD:RAlV<BEL>etR o tl en" ia©  oua- Z toetn<CAN>  n:d<ACK> arunrY tneitmatâh t vRCž¿E0 IKt tT krx l 

In MFSK32, this is VOA Radiogram from the Voice of America.

Please send reception reports to

And visit

Twitter: @VOARadiogram

If you have not done so, please start your EasyPal software.

It has been several months since we have experimented with the
EasyPal digital image mode on VOA Radiogram.

EasyPal is the work of Erik, VK4AES, in Australia. His software
uses DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) encoding to allow the sending
of image files over an HF or VHF using only 2.5Khz (same as
voice). EasyPal is also known as Digital SSTV (slow scan

Next on VOA Radiogram will be an EasyPal text transmission,
followed by the same VOA Radiogram test card that was transmitted
in the MFSK modes. The card will be larger and in higher
resolution. The picture transmission will be just over 7 minutes.
The picture might appear before the 7-minute transmission is
completed, or it might not appear at all -- there is a rather
high failure rate with EasyPal on shortwave.

Now the EasyPal transmissions...

(EasyPal transmission)
In MFSK32, this is VOA Radiogram from the Voice of America...

Please send reception reports to

And visit

Twitter: @VOARadiogram

Thanks to colleagues at the Edward R. Murrow shortwave
transmitting station in North Carolina.

I'm Kim Elliott. Please join us for the next VOA Radiogram.

This is VOA, the Voice of America.

Shortwave reports via Twitter

I use a program named Shortwave Schedules to tell me what’s on the radio at any given time.  It used to just digest a CSV file from Eibi and tell you who was on and when.  Now it’s gotten fancy (propagation maps for one).  A feature I stumbled upon last night while searching for the frequency for Radio Romania International (it’s 9645kc, BTW) is it now allows you to log your reception report, locally, and then share it in a variety of ways (pretty much anyway your phone is designed to share).  You can even record some of the broadcast for later review.  A very nice feature.

So last night I shared part of my reception report:

Now I added the “@RRInternational #shortwave” and edited the text a bit but this is basically what went out last night.  I suspect that whoever monitors the Radio Romania International Twitter feed was probably confused about receiving the report and I’ll also provide this report in a better way but I think it’s a neat idea myself.

As for my little app, the log still needs a little bit of work but I’ll provide that feedback via a different method.

Crossing the 150 mark

Yesterday I unofficially* crossed the 150 mark.  That’s 150 DXCC entities worked.  I’ve actually worked 151 as I just picked up 3B8CF (Mauritius Island (AF-049)) tonight on 20m CW.  That means I’ve added 21 new entities to my log just this year.  I’ve also added quite a few new islands to my count.  I’d love to get my IOTA award by the end of the year as well.  I’m up to a little over 60 confirmed islands so I’m getting close.

* Not all of these contacts have been confirmed, yet.

GHz… where terrain matters

Earlier this week the Calvert Amateur Radio Association (CARA) hosted its monthly meeting with a program by a local guru of mesh networking.  Keith KB3TCB gave a presentation on what mesh networking is and what it can be used for.  I’ve known about mesh networking for some years but never found enough people in my local area that also found the idea intriguing.  Since moving to Calvert County (MD) I’ve discovered a lot of people that are interested in experimenting with different things, mesh being one of them.

Many club members went out and purchased gear to use as a mesh node and brought their gear with them.  I brought a Ubiquiti M2HP Bullet with a 14dBi-gain antenna.  Using the firmware provided by Broadband-Hamnet everyone’s systems almost immediately linked up with everyone else’s and advertised services could easily be consumed.  I cranked up httpd and hosted my Fedora test page (I’ll try to do better next time with some actual content).  It would seem that there are many people that would like to try experimenting with the technology.

Keith stressed that line-of-sight was very important to making contact with others.  I, personally, am used to Eastern North Carolina where a hill is something seldom seen.  Calvert County is not Eastern NC.  I figured that since I was about a mile and a half from the K3CAL clubhouse that I should be able to easily make a connection there (through the trees).  A quick check of the path finder yielded other results.

Microwave path between W4OTN and K3CAL
Microwave path between W4OTN and K3CAL.

Of course this assumes 30 feet of elevation on each end but you can see that there is clearly a plateau in the way of my line-of-sight and several geographic features in the way of my Fresnel path.  Wow, I was not expecting that.  Turns out, the K3CAL side would need to be up around 150 feet to make it over the hills (and we’d still have to deal with the trees) or we’d both have to raise our antennas up to around 50 feet (doable?).

I ran into similar surprising results when calculating paths to a couple of friends.  On friend, Jim K3UGA, seems impossible to reach without help of some infrastructure up high:

Microwave path between W4OTN and K3UGA.
Microwave path between W4OTN and K3UGA.

And so it seems I’ll be learning what line-of-sight truly means here.  I’m not waving the white flag on my experimentation but rather setting my sights (sites?) a little higher.

Simplex C4FM QSOs

Tonight some members of the Calvert Amateur Radio Association met on 146.580MHz to test out simplex range of narrow mode C4FM as seen in the new Yaesu radios.  Five stations got into a round table discussion, all within about ten miles of my station.  I haven’t purchased anything other than the FT-1DR (handheld) so I’m only running 5 watts and am using a 2m j-pole antenna up around 40 feet.

There is talk about turning the repeater into a fully functioning digital repeater (obviously keeping the ability to utilize analog transmissions as well).  When that happens I’m sure my coverage area will increase dramatically.

Five new DXCC entities in the log

Since moving to Calvert County and getting my Carolina Windom up (radiating East-West) I’ve added five new DXCC entities to my logs:

  1. Kuwait – 9K2WA – 20m SSB
  2. Wallis & Futuna Islands – FW5JJ – 17m CW
  3. San Andres & Providencia – 5J0X – 10m SSB and 10m CW
  4. Kazakhstan – UN1L – 15m RTTY
  5. American Samoa – KH8/DL6JGN – 12m CW

I guess my antenna is up high enough!  I’ll keep watching the cluster and grabbing what I can.  I’m also working towards my SKCC Centurion award and have been adding QSOs to my list.  More on this later.

New maritime mobile QSL

While I haven’t worked much in the way of DX since moving onto the boat I have worked some (and would like to work more!).  I’ve been contemplating using a different QSL card for those contacts and last night I opened up GIMP and started playing around.  I’m pretty happy with what I came up with:


The back of the card has a nice picture of our surroundings coming out of the channel at Smith Island.  To see that, though, you’ll have to work me while I’m on the boat.  I hope I get to send this card out to lots of people!