Sunday, September 12, 2010

VHF Contest from Lassen Nat'l Park!

For the ARRL September VHF QSO Party contest, I used the FT-817ND QRP radio, the Elk Log Periodic 144/432 antenna, and a home-brew 50MHz dipole. Camped at Summit Lake in Lassen National Park Friday and on Saturday hiked the 2500 feet (3.5 miles) up to the summit of Brokeoff Mountain (9200' ASL) by around 2pm. Was able to operate QRP (typically 2.5 watts) from the summit for two hours, and had a lot of fun!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Contacting the ISS with the FT-817ND!

Woohoo!! Yesterday I managed to make a nice 2-way QSO with one of the astronauts on the International Space Statin (ISS)!

The ISS has a ham radio station on board (callsign NA1SS), and the crew is periodically active making contacts with hams down on earth below. A few days ago I programmed in the ISS uplink/downlink frequencies into the FT-817ND qrp portable radio, and kept an eye on when good passes might be coming over.

The frequencies are:
FM VOICE for ITU Region 2&3: North and South America-Caribbean-Greenland-Australia-South Asia: Downlink 145.800; Uplink 144.490
And I programmed memories into the FT-817ND for doppler shift on the above frequencies +/- 3.0 and 1.5 kHz.

The ISS is in fairly low orbit and moves very fast, so it's only in view for around 10 minutes at a time. Yesterday at around 4:30pm, there was a good pass with the ISS coming overhead, south to north, slightly east of my location here, with a maximum elevation of around 60 degrees. I set up the radio with the Elk log-periodic VHF/UHF on a tripod, and sat in the backyard waiting for the station to pass overhead. Using a netbook computer running the Satellite Tracking module of HRD software, I was able to keep the antenna pointed at where the station was in the sky as it moved overhead. Nothing heard at all at first.

I put out a call every 30 seconds or so -- "NA1SS from KB5WIA near Sacramento" just in case thew crew was listening. After the third call, as the ISS was near max elevation overhead, right away a voice came back with something like "KB5W?A from NA1SS" -- how exciting! The signal was S9-plus, and the audio was so clear I could hear the fans/motors humming in the background up there. I corrected my call, and he came back something like "KB5WIA good to meet you this is Colonel Doug Wheelock aboard the International Space Station NA1SS". I then thanked him for the contact, wished them a happy Labor Day Weekend (what's a long weekend like aboard a space station, I wonder?!), and said I'd clear so he could make some other contacts. I heard around 3-4 more quick QSOs before the ISS dropped below my northern horizon.

Pretty cool for QRP from the backyard!

UPDATE 1: Two days later, I was able to make another (very!) quick contact, and record the downlink audio. Here it is in the attached file: ISS Audio 6 Sept 2010. The file (a one megabyte MP3) is a recording of the entire pass, from AOS to LOS -- intermittently you'll hear Col Wheelock on the ISS talking to various stations. He comes back to my call around 4m18s in the recording, and then makes quite a few more contacts.

UPDATE 2: Here's a link to a photo of Col. Wheelock talking to hams below:

UPDATE 3: The QSL card (confirming 2-way contact with the ISS) arrived! Here it is, below: