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  1. SOTA Activation of Vollmer Peak, W6/NC-298

    The San Francisco Radio Club organized another Summits on the Air event on 23 April 2022. For this "Simul-SOTA" event, there was 11 amateur radio operators activating 9 summits around the Bay Area. Steve W1EGG made a handy map with who was activating each peak:

    Simul-SOTA activations

    I activated Vollmer Peak, which is at the southern end of Tilden Park in the hills above Berkeley. Parking at the trailhead was easy in the morning, but by the time I left parking was nonexistent.

    The hike up was short, and the views were excellent. I could clearly see Mt. Tamalpais across the bay, which was activated by Vlad K6VVP.

    Hike up Vollmer Peak

    A lot of the other peaks that were activated that morning were visible from ...

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  2. Automated Recording of the HamSCI WWV/WWVH Science Signal for Sunrise Festival

    I'm planning on participating in the Sunrise Festival, which is a citizen science campaign run by the HamSCI group. Over the 30 April 2022 weekend, hams from all over North America are encouraged to record the WWV and WWVH Scientific Test Signal, transmitting at 8 and 48 minutes past the hour.

    I previously used my KiwiSDR to receive these signals, and luckily there is an easy API for the KiwiSDR that will allow us to save recordings from the SDR.

    kiwirecorder.py

    kiwirecorder.py, written by John Seamons ZL/KF6VO, is a simple python program that remotely connects to a KiwiSDR and saves spectrum locally. The output file can be demodulated audio (SSB or AM) like you get from a ...

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  3. Receiving the HamSci WWV Scientific Test Signal

    I was perusing the latest edition of QST and noticed a short article on some scientific experiments that hams were doing with WWV and WWVH. I tune in to WWV occasionally to check propogation, and also for frequency calibration of my Kenwood TS-2000.

    April 2022 QST article on WWV science

    Wow, this seems cool! The HamSCI WWV webpage has a bunch of information, including a great presentation by Kristina Collins KD8OXT.

    Receiving the Signal

    I recently added a KiwiSDR at my home station, so I twisted the dial over to WWV (in software, pretty anticlimactic), and started listening. I barely heard the test signal from Hawaii because propagation that evening was very poor. There was several solar flares over the next few days, causing lots of interference ...

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  4. Simultaneous Multi-Band WSPR Decoding with KiwiSDR and WsprDaemon

    I've been interested in receiving Weak Signal Propagation Reporting (WSPR) signals recently, for two reasons. The first is that the picoballoons that we launch use WSPR for position information. Not only do I directly receive the picoballoons after we launch them, but I also use the WSPR network to check on their location around the world. I don't have a receiver in Europe, so I rely on other amateur radio operators to receive the balloon and post its location online, and I want to give back to the network.

    The second reason is that I'm curious about how far I can receive signals with my somewhat compromised city antenna. While my fan/parallel dipole antenna will never perform as well ...

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  5. Building a Multi-band Fan/Parallel Dipole Antenna

    Now that Solar Cycle 25 is upon us, I wanted to get active on the HF bands. My primary bands of interest are 40 and 20 meters, so I wanted to build a multi-band antenna for these frequencies. After some research, and wanting only one antenna connection for my Kenwood TS-2000 radio, I settled on a fan/parallel dipole antenna. It's very simple to build, and really hard to beat the performance of resonant dipoles.

    Choke Balun

    A balun is required when you are interfacing a BALanced device, such as a dipole antenna, to an UNbalanced device, such as a coaxial cable. Coaxial cables are unbalanced because from an RF perspective, there are actually 3 conductors in a ...

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  6. Building a Quarter-Wave Ground Plane Antenna

    After my talk at Pacificon a few months ago, several people reached out to me about setting up a radiosonde receiving station at their house. They specifically had questions about the antenna and LNA, and after answering the same question a few times I decided to do a post about this topic.

    Building a 1/4 wave ground plane antenna is very easy to do. The overall design is simple, with a vertical element surrounded by a ground plane consisting of two or four wires bent down. Here are the dimensions for the VHF/UHF amateur radio bands (from the ARRL Handbook), but these dimensions can be scaled to any frequency.

    Quarter wave vertical antenna construction diagram

    There are many online calculators that will give you ...

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  7. Vandenberg Radiosonde Launches

    Just after setting up a remote receiving station in the hills above Santa Cruz for tracking radiosondes launched from Monterey Bay, I started noticing some weird stuff with the station. The station would detect a LMS6-403 radiosonde, but was unable to actually decode anything. The "jamming" signal was always on the same frequency of 400.259 MHz, and occurred daily around noon and midnight UTC.

    I speculated that it might be radiosondes from Vandenberg Space Force Base, approximately 300 km (~180 miles) south of the receiver along the coast of California. Although it would be cool to receive those radiosondes, the purpose of this station was to track the Monterey Bay radiosondes, so I put that frequency on the blacklist ...

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  8. Picoballoon Launch 19: Midway Islands

    The SF-HAB group launched another picoballoon on December 11th, 2021, from the Berkeley Marina. The launch party was Martin W6MRR, Robert K6RGG, and Kazu AG6NS. This picoballoon used two clear Chinese party balloons with hydrogen gas for lift. Martin's custom electronics was used, with a WSPR transmitter that alternated 14 MHz (20 meters) and 10 MHz (30 meters).

    The aprs.fi callsign was W6MRR-22 using the WSPR to APRS bridge, and the WSPR callsign was W6MRR.

    W6MRR-22 picoballoon trajectory

    This picoballoon floated between 9,900 and 11,100 meters (32.5k to 36.5k feet) for the duration of the flight, which is the perfect altitude for picoballoons. This is above most bad weather (rain and thunderstorms), but still low enough to be ...

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  9. Picoballoon Launch 18: Almost around the World!

    While the previous Lodi picoballoon was floating over Mexico City, we launched another picoballoon from the southeast corner of the Berkeley Marina on November 13th, 2021. The launch party was Martin W6MRR, Robert K6RGG, Kazu AG6NS, and myself KF6ZEO.

    W6MRR-21 picoballoon launch

    The forecast for the morning was no wind, and when we arrived at 10am the winds felt pretty calm. But after assembling the picoballoon train, it was apparent that even the very light breeze was too strong. The two clear Chinese party balloons were bent over, threatening to scrape against the ground.

    We waited almost 30 minutes for the winds to die down enough to release the picoballoon. During a bit of a lull in the wind, we walked across the ...

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