Monday, December 20, 2010

N4KGL Rocket Beacon Dummy Load Test

Here is the beacon transmitter dummy load test setup using 9 V battery. The output is 1 watt but I can see it degrade after 20 minutes or so. I also placed my IC 703 nearby and could hear the signal at 14.060. See video.

Beacon Test setup including 9V battery SWR/PWR Meter and Dummy load

Sunday, December 19, 2010

N4KGL Beacon Rocket (Work In Progress)

My two hobbies are rocketry and ham radio So what opportunities are there to combine the two? My latest is this idea is a QRP (low power) Morse code beacon payload for a rocket. This is somewhat inspired by the ham radio beacons launched on balloons recently.

I have a start on this idea with the following components

ID-O-Matic II from Ham Gadgets $20

SW-1 20 meter Transmitter from E-Bay $18

14.060 Crystal $12 or possibly cheaper from some sources.
left ID-O-Matic II , center 20 meter xmtr , and right Par End-fed Dipole match box 

At this point I have assembled the ID-O-Matic II kit and it works like a charm. It is easy to program from my laptop's serial output. I programmed it with RKT RKT RKT DE N4KGL/B N4KGL/B and it will repeat.

I just verified the e ID-O-Matic II does key the transmitter and I am getting three watts out at 13.8 Volts into a dummy load. I tried 9 V and I get 1 watt out.

There are three more challenges power source, antenna and the rocket. Well here are my current ideas:

Power source: The transmitter is nominal 12 Volts. I do not know if it will work on 9V or 18 V. But I believe I can use one 9V plus a couple of AAAs to get the 12V. The transmitter is about 1 to 1.5 watts. My gut feeling is this battery arrangement will handle the requirement for the short duration required.

Antenna: The most interesting challenge. I initially thought about a dipole which is the most basic antenna. Note the total length of a half wave dipole is 468 divided by the frequency in MHz. Therefore the total length for 14.060 MHz would be 33.2 feet. The two legs would be 16.6 feet long and fed in the center insulator. So the rocket would have to deploy the antenna when the motor ejection charge goes off at apogee in vertical fashion with transmitter in the middle and one leg pulled out by the recovery chute The other one leg would be dangling or tied to the shock cord. However, I have a an idea I like better. I have a Par End-fed dipole antenna which has a little matchbox at the transmitter end and can used with a half wave wire The wire will be 33.2 feet long fed from the end. So I could just have a trailing wire attached and drape it out when the rocket is one the pad. (Note: Do not hold the wire). I have some thin lightweight wire that should work. The nice thing is the antenna will be deployed for the entire flight.

Rocket: Many choices and high power could give some great altitudes. However my initial choice is the Fliskit Richter Recker. It is 92 inches long, 2.2 inches in diameter flies on a cluster of 3 24 mm motors, Ds or Es. For this task, I would recover the lower and upper section separately. The upper section would have the beacon payload. The BT-70 tube used in the rocket is very light weight and should hold the components. It should fly to roughly 1000 feet on E motors. I'll need to simulate that when I have the total weight.

My existing Richter Recker Rocket

The biggest limitation is the total time the rocket is in the air. My guess right now is 90 seconds. However the QRP guys love a challenge and my idea is to post on QRPSpots just before lift-off. We will see where in the world the beacon will be received.

So I thought I would document this evolving idea and give updates as it comes together. The next launch opportunity will be in January at the SEARS monthly rocket launch in Samson, AL.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The EFHW - a monoband end-fed half wave for 10m, 20m or any other HF band

I like using coax for the capacitor and I would really like to try one of these. Thanks to G0KYA. He did a nice job on the article.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

29,775 miles per Watt QRPp/QRP QSO

I was in QSO with a 40 milliwatt QRPp station from Vermont today at lunch. It was AA1TJ Mike. Mike's rig was a crystal-controlled, 20m transmitter uses a single, triode-connected CK5875. A 57Vdc anode-supply results in an RF output power of 40mW. The receiver uses an identical tube in a 0-V-0 regenerative detector. I got the essentials very solid and then there was some fading in and out. I also had to deal with a broadcast signal in my amplified speaker. I really enjoyed this one. Check out Mike's Blog.

Here is a note from Mike.
Oh yes, I was really tickled to work N4KGL/4! Actually, I found his blog showing the set up he uses for portable operation out in the parking lot of his company during lunch hour. He's using a little Wilderness SST coupled to a Hamstick dipole mounted on a mast at 20 feet. Panama City is 1191miles from me. Given the distance and my 40mW signal, Greg copied while me standing out in the parking lot at an equivalent 29,775 miles per Watt! I'm going to copy Greg on this message. He reported his output power as 3w, so I'm guessing he must have modified the PA to raise the output. FB on you copy of his signal. I initially gave him a 339, but he came right up afterward. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nov 28th George Park QRP

I planned to setup and operate on 30 meters to avoid the WW CW contest. So I headed to George Park here in Panama City. I could not find my battery pack and went back home only to find it was in the truck all along. Then returning to the field I did not have my long wire I planned to use. Well I did have my 10/20/40 Par End Fed. So I made use of the fact that you can use a 1/2 wave wire with end fed's matchbox on any HF band. So I rigged up a 46 foot wire based on the 33 foot section of the end fed and finishing it out with the radial on the kite winder from the Buddistick. It matched well on first try and I finally got on 30 meters. I had three contacts. The one with K3XI running 5 watts in Whitepost, VA was very solid.

On another note I used one of my PVC A Frame masts (13 foot) to hold up one end of the end fed dipole. The mast is like cheap furniture it is just strong enough to stay together. Anyway it did serve its purpose. See my notes on the mast here. Here are some photos.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

4616 Miles Per Watt

I was very surprised and pleased to work F6HKA Bert of France during SKCC Sprints. I was running 1 watt on the IC-703 and using my doublet. I don't chase DX but very pleased to run into some. Thanks Bert!

Friday, November 26, 2010

W5ALT Antenna Notes

Link to Antenna Notes

One of the best write-ups on antennas I have seen. The following statement confirmed what I suspected but it is nice to see it in print

In other words, the common SWR meter measures the ratio of impedance to 50 ohms. It does not measure the transmission line "standing wave ratio."


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Nov 23rd Lunch Time QRP

I was 20 meters QRP portable on lunch break again. I found KN0WCW/3 on in QSO to W5VYN. KN0WCW went QRT and then I called W5VYN and had a good QSO. Ron is in Whitesboro, TX. I was about to go QRT and got a call from KF4VWZ in Virgina Beach. This is lots of fun and I plan to return on Friday Nov 26th at 1730Z. So look for me at 14.057 + or - 4 KHz..

I am becoming a real believer in my ham stick dipole on the 20 foot mast. I'd like get the sticks from MFJ for 30 meters but I bet it is their least stocked ham stick since there is no phone on that band.


Latitude: 30.17516 Longitude: -85.761917

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nov 22 Lunch Break QRP Ops

I am squeezing in some ham radio at lunch break from work. So I setup in a parking lot. The rig was the Wilderness SST running 3 watts to Ham-Stick Dipole at 20 feet on the military mast/ hitch mount on the Avalanche. With that said I worked KB2PDX on about 14.059. Sweet QSO to Rifton, NY about 1000 miles. The WX was nice, sunny/clear with a pretty good breeze. Plan to repeat on weekdays except Wednesdays for a while.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November Polar Bear Ops

Saturday morning, I went out to George Park in Panama City, FL to participate in the November Polar Bear Midnight Madness Event PBMME. The event is the Saturday closest to the full Moon in the fall and winter months. The best part is sending grrrrr on CW. I just joined the group and my Polar Bear number is 257.

Little known, George Park is the field behind the Panama City ARC Clubhouse. It has a nice clear field to try out various portable antennas. I have been involved in Field day ops there for the last few years.

Well it was not midnight and it was not cold. I started out on 40 meters with Sierra and the Par end-Fed Dipole and had a very solid QSO with Jim K4AHO in Orlando. Jim and I exchanged FISTS Numbers. He tried to hook me up with Kelly K4UPG down there but Kelly was on another mission.

 Then I switched to 20 meters SST and went to the ham-stick dipole at the top of the 20 foot mast.  I did find bears on 20 meters, Martin VA3SIE  PB 20 on the trail and Dan NI9Y PB 214. I also worked AJ8P on the trail ( FT817 @3w, wire in tree) at Salt Fork State Park, Ohio today. he was doing a Parks On the Air (POTA) activation. QRP to QRP QSOs are always fun and actually there was comfortable weather here in Florida!


George Park

Par End Fed from mast

Sierra on 40 meters

SST for 20 meters

20 meter Ham-Stick dipole

Thursday, November 18, 2010

VA3SIE & VE2JCW SOTA Activation of Mont Tremblant

I had the pleasure of working VA3SIE on 20 meters during the activation from the rocket launch site in Samson, AL. I was using 3 watts. See N4KGL/4 in the image below.

For Summits on the Air - North American Weekend, Jean VE2JCW and Martin
VA3SIE activated summit number VE2/LR-002 Mont Tremblant, QC. This is
thier story... Blog   YouTube

N4KGL setup at the SEARS Nov 12th Launch

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Contacting Hams on the ISS

The movie below has SSTV pictures I received and audio from back in 2008. After a number of tries I made a contact on 8/29/10 2230 UTC to CDR Wheelock NA1SS on ISS. I used 145.800 rcv 144.490 xmt on my Yaesu FT-2500 with low power to Arrow J-Pole at 14 feet. I had the frequencies on two different channels and switched between them.

You can use the Heavens Above on-line tool to know when the ISS is above the horizon. Be sure to set your location. Give it a try. Your ordinary 2 meter FM rig will handle it.


Monday, November 15, 2010

November 2010 SKCC Weekend Sprint

I had the opportunity to fully participate in the November SKCC Weekend Sprint. It was for 24 hours on Nov 14th UTC. I did sleep for 8 of those hours by the way. I setup the IC-703 for 1 watt and used the all band doublet here at the house. The conditions were great in my opinion. I worked 21 on 40 m, 7 on 80 m, 20 on 20 m for 48 total. 24 States and it was a pleasure to work Bert F6HKA on 20 meters. I had worked him on 40 meters previously. So that is 4616 miles per watt. The greatest distance state-side was NG7Z in Washington State for 2276 miles per watt.

By the way, I also met a new local ham (to me) W5ONX on 80 meters in the mist of the sprint. He was running 500 watts. The doublet is giving some good service considering there must be some loss in the system coax, balun, and feedline. It is up about 30 feet but part of it is over the roof. I only had to give repeats on a couple of contacts.

See the SKCC WES results and scroll down to the by category list..I did pretty well in the 1 watt category.. The SKCC sprints are always fun event. Even though it is a contest it is friendly and the code speed is casual. So if you do code consider joining SKCC. there are currently 7244 members.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Musical Treat

The Ham Band is Andrew (G3WZZ/OZ1XJ/OZ5E), his wife Lissa and a group of Nashville session musicians. All the songs are about amateur radio and the booklet which comes with the "Seek You" CD tells the whole story of contests, dx-peditions, antennas etc. 

The Ham Band has just finished their new song/video which describes the whole process of building a modern amateur radio station and at the same time enables the listener/viewer to learn Morse code - yes all the letters and numbers are in there! The video lasts about 20 minutes and there are 19 musicians playing in three different musical styles (French Musette, Viennese Waltz and German Oompah). The music changes key 24 times which means that this musical work may get into the Guinness Book of World Records! You can view the first quarter (about 5 minutes) of the video for free at

Info above from mrantisocialguy on YouTube.

Learn Morse Code Class

I put together a code class for the Panama City ARC. We use these Podcasts 
and this Code Presentation. The students are doing great!


November Spartan Sprint

Contacts = 7
Weight = 2.66
Skinny Score = 2.63

The rig was the Sierra with 2 watts on 40 and 1 watt on 80 and a 135 foot doublet antenna.  This time I  got my weight down by 0.64  lbs by using AAAs and ear buds.  On 40 I worked MD, NY, VA, OH and MA. MA was the furthest for 1160 mi or 580 mi per watt. On 80 I worked 2 X GA and the furthest was 261 miles for 261 mi per watt. Lots of QRP fun!
Here are the skinny results:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Portable Antennas based on hitch mount mast

I have a new hitch mount and 4 foot military mast sections.
Mast on ebay $30 shipped. there are 12 X 4 ft poles  Hitch on ebay $92 shipped
I am trying out various antenna options as shown below.
20 meter Hamstick dipole on 20 foot mast. I also have a 40 meter Hamstick dipole
Par Endfed as an inverted V. This config works 20 and 40 meters.
The Buddistick mounted at 16 feet. I used this config on 40 meters. Uses whole coil so easy to tune by counterpoise which slopes to the ground.

A long wire that is done with the Wireman invisible wire so you can't see it. I used the MFJ 971 tuner and made contacts on 40 and 30 meters.