Postcard from the ISS

pictures of satelliteThis weekend, Russian-ARISS transmitted SSTV images of satellites hand-launched from the ISS. They used a high-resolution mode, PD-120 transmitted FM on 145.800.

I was set up for FT8, but switched over for one pass and captured this image. My process for decoding was suboptimal — I recorded using audacity on my Mac and then later played the audio back to a PC set up with MMSSTV. I didn’t have an attenuator on hand, so of course the sound level was high for the PC input, but was able to drop the gain a bit in audacity. Maybe I traded off a little image quality, but it worked.

This was a low pass (max elevation of about 12.5 degrees) on a side where I have some obstructions — those horizontal lines are probably tall trees —  so probably not the best image I could have captured, but I was just curious if it would work at all.

I’ll be squeezing out what QSOs I can on 17m FT8 through the end of July 4th and will then swap in a 30m element on the antenna for the next couple weeks.

5R8SV Satellite Ops

After I took the hexbeam down, sanded it, painted it and packed it away, I still had a G450 rotor on my hands, so I thought I would try my hand at satellite operation. Over last weekend, I literally lashed together a satellite station — the rotor platform is held to the roof with taut line hitches.

Our house isn’t ideally situated for satellite operation — particularly to the south where some tall pine trees blot out the sky, but in the other directions, the antenna can see down to about ten or fifteen degrees above the horizon.

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Thanks, Eliakim

Morning antenna maintenance involved an N95 particulate mask, gloves, and goggles today.

I arrived back in Madagascar late in the evening last week after a brief vacation in Réunion. The next morning, I fired up the rig to see what was going on in the CQ WW WPX SSB contest and rotated the hexbeam towards Japan. The rotor control showed movement through about the first ten degrees, and then it froze. I backed off, tried jiggering it back and forth a bit, thinking that perhaps it was just sticking, but gave up after a few seconds because I didn’t want to strain the motor. I walked out back…

… And it was clear why the antenna wasn’t rotating, about a meter and half below the base of the hex beam, the mast had a kink of about 20 degrees, and the hexbeam was lopsided, brushing against a nearby tree. After surviving four cyclone seasons, it appears that the last one of this season, Eliakim, took its toll.

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The French IF Competition: 2018

The cover is meant to be evocative of a similar design used in the landmark Infocom title, A mind forever voyaging. The subtitle of Faute De Servo is "Un voyageur sans esprit", that is, "A voyager without a mind".
Faute De Servo was meant to be a play on words — at one point in the game, a servomotor fails, so “Servo Error” on one hand. The words also sound the same, however, as “Faute de Cerveaux”, which could mean “lack of brains” or maybe “but for want of brains”, which also makes sense in the context of the story. Cover Art by Ben Collins-Sussman.

This year, I experienced the French IF comp not as a reviewer, but as an entrant. I’m ecstatic to report that not only did I survive the comp, but I came in second in a field of five thanks to a lot of help from proofreaders, editors, and bêta-testeurs/bêta-testeuses that helped me polish my not-so-fluent writing into something presentable. I’d like to share some thoughts about the comp, the community around it, my motivation for entering, some design decisions, and how it all worked out.

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Repairing the 40/20/10 EFHW antenna

The repaired antenna; details below.

My LNR precision trail-friendly end-fed halfwave antenna has been my go to antenna for SOTA and other field operations for several years. It is compact, easy to deploy in a tree or on a telescoping mast, and it gets good signal reports. Unfortunately, after many years of use and substantial abuse, the antenna broke on my last trip. When I got back, I put it back together, almost good as new.

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SOTA: El Sereno (W6/NC-191)

A race with the sun to activate the fifth peak.

I had pushed for five peaks in one day, trying to break my previous record of three that I had managed last year in France. While I got into position on El Sereno and made a contact, I did not manage to get four, so this peak does not count as a SOTA activation.

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SOTA: Table Mountain (W6/NC-265)

Nope, not the way to go. I backed out and continued up the main road to the winery.

The fourth mountain on my tour of easily accessible peaks just south of San Francisco took me to a vineyard parking lot in Saratoga. The trail towards the peak departs from the topmost parking lot at 37.259823,-122.066786. This activation was a little rushed because the winery gate closes at 5 pm and not 7 pm, as had been previously reported. Perhaps during summer they remain open later. I followed directions from Google to the parking lot and had to turn around at one point where the directions took me up a private driveway.

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SOTA: Ben Lommond (W6/NC-178)

Gate to the side of the road. I operated on a tree stump directly ahead.

This was the third peak of the day for me.  It lies along a road that runs atop a ridge. I found a cutout along the side of the road and walked past a gate to a clearing next to a commercial antenna installation and pitched my end-fed 40/20/10m antenna into a tree.

I did not have any significant interference from the antennas or solar charging station, and worked some stations on 20m and 40m. The site is not far from a firefighter training area and juvenile detention center, but none of the neighbors came by to visit.\

Next stop: Table Mountain, W6/NC-265.