AREG October Meeting: SATNOGs Satellite Gateways

The next meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group will be held on Friday October 20th @ 7:45pm at the newly renamed Fulham Community Centre.

Mark VK5QI will talk about the SatNOGS project, an open source project and community which is developing a worldwide network of satellite ground-stations, to help provide downlink capacity for the growing numbers of Low-Earth-Orbit cubesats being launched. Included will be a ‘worked example’, showing how you can set up a SatNOGS ground-station at a reasonably low cost.

After the presentation there will be a light supper available followed by an AREG business meeting. All members and visitors are welcome to attend so why not come along and find out more about whats happening in the world of automated satellite ground station technology?

The clubrooms are located off Phelps Court in Fulham. You can usually find members listening to the club repeater VK5RSB on 439.900 (91.5Hz CTCSS) if you need directions! Hope to see you there!

 

 

VK5ARG on the air OCDX Contest 2017

The Oceania SSB DX Contest is over for another year, and AREG again participated in the Multi-Multi category. The team set the bar very high for themselves this year with a new site and new antennas and equipment to try out. It has taken 4 months of construction work (since the Australian Contesting Technical College event held in May) but the results were worth it, with the club improving over our previous all time best scores. Hats off to the many members of AREG who contributed to this effort.

YearScoreCategoryOperating Location
20171,907,423Multi-MultiKoch Hill
20161,388,251Multi-MultiYounghusband
20151,662,552Multi-MultiPara Wirra
2014959,616Multi-OneYounghusband
20131,073,252Multi-TwoYounghusband

(Video by Gary VK5FGRY of activity inside the main station hut)

It was all made possible by Steve VK5SFA who negotiated access to the new site on behalf of the club at a dis-used microwave site ~70km north of Adelaide. Ordinarily we would have operated from Para Wirra conservation park but it wasnt available this year. Having seen what this site can do on HF now with noise and take off angles I suspect we have found a new home for AREG Club contesting

Theo VK5MTM has made the following summary video of what we ran at the station which gives a very good idea of what was going on (and the conditions we faced with the wind on site).

Band by band we had the following

160/80m – Led by Grant VK5GR and Steve VK5SFA

1x Elecraft K3 Transceiver + KPA500 Amplifier + KAT500 ATU
1x Dual-Band 80/160m dipole at 25m oriented NE/SW towards North America (resonant on 3790kHz/1850kHz)
1x Tri-Band 40/80/160m Trapped dipole at 27m oriented NW/SE towards Europe (resonant nearer 3640kHz and mis-behaving at 160m likely due to the microwave tower right next to it).

40m – Led by Andrew VK5AKH

1x Icom IC7600 + Acom 1000 Amplifier
1x Elevated feed 1/4 wavelength vertical (19m high to the top)
1x Inverted V (10m high for domestic NVIS coverage)

Both antennas were switchable via a remote WiFi link and were down range 250m to provide some isolation to the rest of the stations. Mark VK5QI provided the WiFi switching control while Andrew achieved a fantastic feat of engineering standing up a 6m mast with another 14m mast on top of it to support the 40m antenna.

20m – Led by Darin VK5IX & Peter VK5KX

1x Elecraft K3 Transceiver + Elecraft KPA500 Amplifier
1x 20m Monoband 3 element SpiderBeam
1x 20m Elevated Feed 1/4 wave vertical (designed by Steve VK5SFA)

Darin coordinated the construction of this station and allowed others to do much of the operating. We had some spectacular openings on 20m particularly short path in the evening hours to Europe with this setup with S9++ reports being received from Switzerland.

15m & 10m SO2R – Led by Matt VK5ZM and Peter VK5KX

2x Elecraft K3 Tranceivers + 2x KPA500 Amplifiers
1x MicroHam MK2R+ SO2R Controller
3x 25A SMPS PSU’s
2x RFSpace SDR’s (SDR-IQ & CloudIQ)
3x HP i7 SFF PC’s & 24″ Monitors
3x StackMatch (designed VK5ZM)
1x 6×2 Crossbar Remote antenna switching matrix (designed VK5ZM)
1x Low Band Systems 20/15/10m Triplexer
3x Low Band System 500W Filters
1x Tri-Band 20/15/10m SpiderBeam + Alpha Spid rotator + 7.5m pump-up mast
1x 15m elevated feed vertical (by VK5SFA) + 1x 10m elevated feed vertical (BudiPole)

This station would not have been possible without borrowing equipment or assistance from the following AREG members; Chris VK5CP, Peter VK5KX, Matt VK5ZM, Scott VK5TST, Steve VK5SFA & Andrew VK5XFG.

This was by far the most complicated of all of the stations, and the most fun as you can see in the following video showing the “Dueling CQ” call pattern to have one operator run both 15 and 10m simultaneously.

Everyone wanted a turn at running what can best be described as “The Beast”. You certainly had to have your wits about you when operating it. The addition of antenna control where combinations of beam, vertical or both in parallel on both 15m & 10m also added additional spice.

Once you got the hang of it however, it was a lot of fun and helped keep VK5ARG visible and active on both 15m & 10m. A more detailed description of the setup will be on Matt VK5ZM’s personal blog soon.

On top of all of the radio activities was the logistics of supporting the nearly 20 person team on top of a very exposed hilltop for 4 days.

The first setup day was Friday before the contest. On site we battled 20-30 knot winds all day over very rocky terrain. To offset the hardships, Scott VK5TST volunteered to lead the camp logistics, and in conjunction with Sharon VK5FSAW (offsite) undertook the catering and most importantly the coffee supply role (the team consumed over 1.5kg of coffee beans over the weekend). Portable toilets, tents, cooking facilities and most importantly on Sunday a TV viewing area to watch the Bathurst 1000 motor race (an iconic race on the Australian motorsport calendar) were all part of Scott’s domain. No one went hungry and everyone was very happy with the facilities!

It was great to see some members also come up for the afternoon on Sunday to see what we were all up to. We hope to coax Olga VK5FOLG and Ben VK5BB to do more operating next year!

Conclusion

Everyone who took part had a fantastic time. I will attempt here to name everyone who contributed and apologies if I missed someone out:

VK5AKH, VK5ZM, VK5KX, VK5GR, VK5SFA, VK5FDEN, VK5MTM, VK5TST, VK5NAL, VK5IX, VK5QI, VK5CP, VK5FGRY & VK5FSAW. Thanks also to our visitors VK5BB and VK5FOLG plus VK5DGR and Sheree and most importantly thanks to the land-owners (3 of them) who allowed us to sprawl our station across the top of the hill for the contest.

Finally thanks to everyone who worked us and made the effort constructing the station worthwhile!

VK5ARG’s Big Build – OCDX 2017 Koch Hill

This year AREG has a new site to trial for the OCDX Contest. With exceptional HF take off angles in all major directions this site could be something special. Work installing the 160-10m station started today with 160-40m complete (mostly) and work begun on 20 + 15/10m. That will be completed in the morning!

Here are some of the shots from today thanks to Mark VK5QI

AREG News: September Meeting – Power Supplies

AREG’s next meeting is this coming Friday the 15th September at the Reedbeds Community Hall, Phelps Court Fulham, doors opening at 7:45 pm.

This coming meeting will be another in AREG’s Amateur Radio Beginners Series and the topic for this evening will be, Power Supplies.

Matthew, VK5ZM, will take people through the basics of power supplies, what their characteristics are and what do people need to look out for when selecting a power supply for Amateur Radio use. He will also discuss the pros and cons of Linear vs Switchmode and what makes a good or bad power supply.

AREG Repeater News:

We have noticed that VK5RSB 70cm appears to be dropping coverage. Our fault investigation team will take a look at our earliest opportunity but we suspect a problem with the antenna feeder or connectors. Also the VK5RWN D-STAR repeater is suffering from reduced performance due to mechanical issues with the antenna mounts. Plans are well underway to make repairs at both sites, which we hope will be completed in October.

Contesting news:

AREG is again making plans to mount a portable DX Contest Station for the Oceania DX Contest in October. This will be a QRO Multi-Multi station this year operating from a new site north of Adelaide. We hope to see other VK5’s get involved in this contest this year too, as it is your one opportunity to have the DX stations around the world pointing their antennas our way looking for us! The OCDX SSB contest is being held on the weekend of October 7th and 8th.

In DX News:

AREG wishes Grant VK5GR good luck in his activation of Niue starting next week. Grant should be heard across VK signing as E6AG, Echo 6 Alpha Golf, from September 14th through until September 25th on most HF bands. So keep a lookout for Grant and Grant, goodluck with your operations.

2017/18 Subscriptions now Due

Finally, all AREG members should note that their subscriptions are due for 2017/18. It is a great time to be a member of AREG and this year will be big, with the club turning 20 years old next July – who would have thought! Look out for some special activities throughout 2018 marking the occasion.

So remember folks, come along to AREG’s next meeting, it is this coming Friday evening, everyone is most welcome.

After the formal events, a light supper of tea, coffee and cake will be available whilst you can mingle, review and discuss the topics of the day.

 

VK5RWN DSTAR Repeater Damaged – Repairs Pending

In the wild weather over the past few weeks the VK5RWN repeater system has sustained some structural damage.  The original tower section is currently bent at a rather alarming angle and will require replacement.

In the past few days we have had our repair crew up there to shore up the tower section and make temporary repairs until a more permanent solution can be found.

There is still internet connectivity to the site and the D-Star repeater is still operational for the time being.   Users may find that the coverage of the repeater is somewhat disturbed however.

In the coming weeks the antenna system will need to be upgraded, so there will most likely be a prolonged period where the system will be off air while repairs are being made.

AREG Committee 2017/18 Announced

The Annual General Meeting of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group Inc was held on Friday August 18th 2017. At the meeting, the club said thank you first of all to two of it’s long standing committee members who stood down this year after many years of contributions. A big thank you to Ben VK5BB and Scott VK5TST (ex Secretary) for all of the work you have put into the committee and we hope you both enjoy more time now playing with radios and participating in club events!

Next, all positions were declared vacant, and nominations were called. As a result, the following is the committee membership for 2017/18:

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We wish to welcome those taking up new positions and those joining the committee for the first time in 2017/18!

All members should note that membership fees for 2017/18 will be due at the conclusion of the September meeting!

AREG Members On Air: 2017 Remembrance Day Contest

WIA RD Trophy

The weekend of August 12-13th once again saw the running of the Wireless Institute of Australia’s annual Remembrance Day Contest. While AREG did not mount a club station, the club did encourage as many members as possible to get out there on the air! The members didn’t disappoint with 7 members active over the weekend.

Three members put together a team entry, known as “AREG: Team One”. The teams category is an additional endorsement available for the contest where pre-nominated teams scores are aggregated. Pitched at clubs and groups, it is a great way to foster comraderie among members. The other members each put in individual efforts.


AREG: Team One – Grant VK5GR, Mark VK5QI and Marcus VK3TST (aka VK5WTF)

Sunset over VK5QI’s QTH

Grant, Mark and Marcus joined together to run a team entry this year. Mark VK5QI ran from home, and managed with the help of a borrowed tuner to operate on 160 and 80m as well during the contest. Meanwhile Marcus and Grant elected to run portable operations.

Marcus this year again used an SO2R setup (Single Operator 2 radios) from a location inside the Murray Sunset National Park (hence he used VK3TST).

Meanwhile Grant VK5GR went north west and operated from Tickera on the eastern shores of Spencer Gulf. No SO2R but three different antennas were tried,including a 160m dipole, a G5RV for 80-10m and a elevated feed folded monopole which could be tuned from 40m to 6m. The purpose for the antenna mix was to gauge the effectiveness of the vertical, which is the antenna Grant will be taking to Niue in the South Pacific in September (where he will operate as E6AG – see e6ag.net for details).


Theo VK5MTM Portable

Also out in the field was Theo VK5MTM who operated for a few hours from the back of his car! Now there is dedication for you!


Home Stations

Operating from home, we also had Chris VK5SA who said “62 unique contacts in around 4 hours of operation, in around 6 blocks. Mainly 40m, with some huge signals on 20 from VK6 and VK4”.

Peter VK5KX also put in an effort and was worked several times by Grant VK5GR and others from the club.

Also on air was Chris VK5CP who operated his remote station from the comfort of his lounge room {smile}. Way to go Chris!

Conclusion

All up a lot of fun was had by all, playing what amounts of electronic pokemon where you are competing against the other operators and the ionosphere. Rumour has it a number of points records have fallen this year according to Alan VK4SN, the contest manager, so it will be interesting to see if any of the AREG team place anywhere in the rankings this year.

Thanks to everyone who participated around Australia for making this year’s RD Contest yet another great event.