22 March 2018

Antenna Farm Part II

Doing some experiments with an antenna. This one is 84 feet long with a 17 foot counterpoise and a 9:1 balun is at the feed point. The feed point is 20 feet high, near the middle of the 84 foot radiator is 33 feet high then it goes down to 15 feet high at the end. Below is what the internal antenna tuner on my Elecraft KX3 was able to tune for each band. I will later get actual numbers by using my MFJ-259C

160 Meters          1.840 MHz          19.8:1 SWR
80 Meters            3.573 MHz            7.8:1 SWR
40 Meters            7.074 MHz            1.0:1 SWR
30 Meters          10.136 MHz            1.1:1 SWR
20 Meters          14.074 MHz            1.5:1 SWR
17 Meters          18.100 MHz            1.0:1 SWR
15 Meters          21.074 MHz            1.0:1 SWR
12 Meters          24.915 MHz            1.0:1 SWR
10 Meters          28.074 MHz            1.1:1 SWR
6 Meters            50.313 MHz            1.0:1 SWR

So it can tune up pretty good on 40 meters and up to 6 meters. Again this is from the internal antenna tuner on the Elecraft KX3, so the actual SWR Numbers WILL be different. I will be interested to see just how different. Also just because my internal antenna tuner will show good SWR does not mean that the antenna is even close to being efficient. EVERY  antenna is a compromise antenna. For example if it is cut for 14.070 MHz, then if you try to tune it to 14.300 MHz then it will not be as efficient and therefore it is a compromise antenna.  It may be off just a hair but technically it will still be off. Thus we now have antenna tuners. These do nothing to the antenna. An inefficient antenna that has, lets say 19.8:1 SWR and you have an antenna tuner that "tunes' it to 1:1 SWR, well guess what, nothing has changed, the antenna STILL has an SWR of 19.8:1, its just the antenna tuner is lying to the transceiver by telling it that the antenna is now 1:1 SWR. Regardless what the transceiver thinks, a bad antenna is a bad antenna.  I will do more testing with this antenna and see if I can get it better on 80 meters and 160 meters. Oddly the 50 foot long end fed that I took down was able to tune pretty good on 80 meters. 

10 March 2018

Amateur Radio Contesting Part II

Well I did not get as many QSO's in the log as I hoped. I think I got around 2 total today. It was still a very good day. I started off with the Oklahoma QSO Part on PSK31 on 20 meters and I called CQ for about 3 hours and only got two people that answered my call. Then I started playing around with FLDigi. Because of my neck and back I can't send CW at all, however I can decode it pretty well. I hear from a bunch of people that you can't send CW with FLDigi. I played around and read up on the FLDigi Manual and found out that if you have the settings correct then sending CW with FLDigi is pretty easy. I then plugged a set of ear phones into the MON (Monitor) jack on the SignaLink USB so that I could listen to my signal as it is being send. Now the only problem I have is I can't hear the CW that is being received and FLDigi is not very good at decoding. I would rather have it so that I decoded it but so far I have not figured that part out. I will go into detail how I set every thing up in another post. 
When I came time for the QRP ARCI Spring Thaw, we my son want me to join him on playing video games with him. Well that is pretty rare and hanging out with him is by far more important. 

09 March 2018

Amateur Radio Contesting

There are three contests that I would like to take part in this weekend:
Oklahoma QSO Party
QRP ARCI Spring Thaw SSB Shoot Out
4 State QRP Second Sunday Sprint

I have never really done in contesting, about the closest I have been was Field Day. I cancelled my plans this weekend because of my back acting up. My goal for the weekend is to get 75 QSO's for all three contests combined.

The Oklahoma QSO Party runs for two days but has a break during the night. Its hours are Saturday 10 March 2018 from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm local times. Then on Sunday it starts at 9:00 am and goes to 4:00 pm, again local times.
Exchange: Signal Report and County (Oklahoma for me)
My category: QRP- Single Operator QRP (5 watts or less)
I plan to operate PSK71 on 80 and 40 meters.
My station: Elecraft KX3, SignaLink USB, Toshiba Satellite Laptop, 50 foot long end fed at 32 feet high. 

The Spring Thaw SSB Shoot Out is sponsored by QRP Amateur Radio Club International. It will go from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm on 10 March 2016. So it will start at the same time that the Oklahoma QSO Party will end on Saturday.
Exchange: Signal Report, State, QRP ARCI Membership Number (59, Oklahoma, 16443)
My station: Elecraft KX3, SignaLink USB, Toshiba Satellite Laptop, 50 foot long end fed at 32 feet high.  Now there is a bonus for portable operating using batteries and a portable antenna which is an additional 5000 points to my final score. So if I am able I will go to the park around the block and run my KX3 on internal batteries, I also have "battery packs" which consists of 8 AA batteries in a container that allows me to just plug it in the power jack on the KX3. At the park I will most likely use my Buddistick Antenna. 

4 State QRP Second Sunday Sprint. This is a monthly contest that is sponsored by the 4 State QRP and takes place on the Second Sunday of each month from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Exchange: RST, SPC (State/prov./Country), 4SQRP Membership Number.  So for me that would be:
59, Oklahoma, #10810
My station will be the same as the one for the Oklahoma QSO Party, which is my standard QTH station.
Check back and see how I performed, or crashed.

07 March 2018

A Little Bit of CW on Mars

Way back on 06 Aug 2012 NASA's Curiosity Rover landed on the planet Mars to begin its mission to find the faction of Drunken Eskimo Leprechauns from Swaziland that put the face on Mars:
However they messed up on the landing and instantly declared the Curiosity was there to explore Mars. We have to believe it right? When has the US Government ever tried to cover up the truth and give us lies? (The answer boys and girls is JFK Assassination, World Trade Center Bombing, Ruby Ridge, Waco, OKC Bombing, 9/11, Clinton Administration, Hillary Clinton, March of Dimes)

Ok back to the real world for a bit. 

Anyway JPL built Curiosity to carry out a six month mission exploring Mars. Since Sojourner in 1997, JPL has built up a pretty good reputation of sending rovers to Mars. So far all of them that they have sent has lasted for several years beyond the planned life expectancy. if JPL did not build high quality then Mark Waltney would never have been able to hack Pathfinder and Sojourner to communicate with Earth to assist in his rescue. 
When Curiosity landed, it was sporting a little bit of bling on its wheels. 
It had square holes cut into its wheels to form the letters JPL in Morse Code on the soil of Mars. This was a pretty cool idea (stolen from Waltney because after he blew up Pathfinder, he used rocks to spell out messages in CW) where the guys at JPL could look at the rovers tracks. If the letters JPL was in the sand, then all is well. If not the the rover was most likely stuck and was spinning its tires. This was some much needed information because do you realize how expensive it would be to call AAA to send a tow truck to Mars to get your rover out of the ditch?  

21 February 2018

Antenna Farm Part I

Well I decided to make a possible improvement on my antenna set up. Since early last Summer I have been using an homebrew end fed antenna. The feed point was 20 feet up on my chain link top rail mast. The end point was northeast of the feed point and was 32 feet off the ground in a branch of a pecan tree. The length of the antenna was fifty feet. It is a pretty good antenna and my KX3 was able to tune it 6-80 meters. 

I used the endfed in this video with me talking to my friend 150 miles away on 80 meters.
Well as good as the end fed is, it is not resonate on any of the bands I use. Since I only operate at QRP power levels, I want something more efficient. So here is my long term goal. I am going to build a three band fan dipole. For now it will be cut for 80, 40 and 20 meters.  Then I will build a homebrew cobweb antenna for 20, 17, 15, 12, 10, 6. Once I build the cobweb it will take the 20 meter part from the fan dipole and replace it with one for 30 meters and the 20 meter part will be installed on the cobweb. Then at some point I would like to make a vertical for 20 and 17 since they are my favorite bands. I got started the day before yesterday and made the 20 meter dipole. This is the start of the fan dipole and the feed point is 32 feet high and the end points run north to south. It is in inverted V configuration.  
Yesterday morning I looked out back and noticed that it was on the ground. So I went outside and found out that the end of the rope that attaches to the fence to hold the antenna up cam undone and allowed the antenna to fall, so nothing broken. I did not have time to put it back up because I had a doctors appointment. Then while I was at the doctor, a winter storm moved in.  After I got home from the doctor, I went out and tried to pull the antenna back up, but the rope was frozen to the branch that it was over, so no luck there. We have ice storms coming in all day today and tomorrow so it will be a few days before I can get back on the air.