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Space Station QSO A Success

[12-03-09]
On the morning of Wednesday, December 2, The club's W7SP call was used to contact astronaut Jeffrey Williams, KD5TVQ, aboard the International Space Station, from Midvalley Elementary School in the Salt Lake Valley. The contact went nearly perfectly with strong signals both directions for about nine minutes. About 20 students were able to ask questions in that time.

A web video of the event can be found at csd-technology-tuesdays.wikispaces.com/Midvalley-ISS-Event
or
www.ustream.tv/recorded/2693694.

The Deseret News has a slide-show with audio at www.deseretnews.com/photo/slideshow/8004/Elementary-kids-talk-live-to-astronaut.html. The page includes a link to the related article.

Carla Burningham, KC7HON, who is the Principal at Midvalley Elementary School, along with Dave Bettinson, KE7LMH, had worked for nearly two years to arrange the event. They worked with local hams, particularly Randy Kohlwey, WI7P, to put together a plan that was acceptable to the ARISS (“Amateur Radio Aboard the International Space Station”) administrators. Word finally came in October that Midvalley was officially scheduled during the first week of December. There was still a chance that other astronaut duties would preempt the contact, but all went well. Carla says,

“I can truly say that the feeling I received from this experience has got to be the highlight of my 29-year career! More than that, I expect that this experience will begin, if not change, the direction of the thinking and actions of many young minds!”

For those interested in following the school contact program, the most up-to-date information can be downloaded at http://www.amsat.org/amsat/ariss/news/arissnews.rtf. It is updated each Wednesday UTC (which is Tuesday evening in North America).

The December 2 edition included the following list which was the basis for many of the students' questions:

Proposed questions for Midvalley Elementary:

  1. What inspired you to be an astronaut, and did Neil Armstrong have anything to do with it?
  2. How do you decide which experiments to take into space, and which is the most important one onboard ISS?
  3. Which parts on the International Space Station need repairs the most?
  4. What is an average day like on the International Space Station?
  5. What is the most important thing you brought with you to the International Space Station?
  6. Were you scared to go aboard the International Space Station? If so, what did you think might happen?
  7. How many years of schooling does it take to become an astronaut?
  8. What do you do to get ready for a spacewalk, and how long does it take?
  9. How do you stay healthy in space?
  10. How do you get cold, warm, or hot water up there to take showers?
  11. How do you know what is going on in your hometown, do you get the news?
  12. What is it like to work with different people on the International Space Station?
  13. What kind of foods do you eat, and how is it different than normal food on earth?
  14. How do you get to the International Space Station and back to earth?
  15. Does it get crowded on the International Space Station with all of the people and equipment?
  16. What does your spacesuit do for you, and what would happen without it?
  17. How do you sleep on the International Space Station?
  18. What kind of games do you play, and how do you play them?
  19. How old is the International Space Station and how long will it be in use?
  20. Do you have any animals on the International Space Station? If so, what are they?

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Time for Nominations

[11-21-09]
It's that time of year when we need to be thinking about officers for the coming year. Many have found it enjoyable to serve as officers, and we hope more will be inclined to give it a try.

As per the bylaws, at the November meeting the nominating committee presented a slate of nominees who had agreed to run for the various offices. They are:

President: Linda Reeder, N7HVF
Executive Vice-President:  *Andrew Madsen, AC7CF
Vice-President:*Brett Sutherland, N7KG
Secretary:*Dick Keddington, KD7TDZ
Treasurer:*Chuck Johnson, WA7JOS
Program Chairperson:Gene Deal, KF7BSF
Program Chairperson:Gary Wong, AB1IP
Microvolt Editor:*Gordon Smith, K7HFV
Assistant Editor:*Rick Asper, AC7RA
*Incumbent

No nominations were offered from the floor. However, that's by no means the final word. Nominations from the floor will be accepted again at the December election meeting. There is still a chance to volunteer or to convince a likely candidate to run.

Here are brief descriptions of what the officers do:

President: Presides at club meetings and board meetings.
Makes sure all the other jobs get done.
Executive Vice-President:   Substitutes for the President if unavailable.
Makes sure Field Day and Steak-Fry have leadership.
Vice-President: Substitutes for the President if both the President and the Executive Vice-President are unavailable.
Chairs the bylaws commmittee.
Secretary: Accepts dues.
Maintains membership and payment records.
Treasurer: Maintains the club bank accounts.
Pays bills.
Program Chairpersons: Arrange programs for club meetings and special events.
Microvolt Editor: Edits and composes the newsletter.
Assistant Editor: Mails the newsletter.
Meets post office requirements for reports and records.

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2009 Field Day Results are In

[11-22-09]
The results of the 2009 Field Day contest sponsored by ARRL are now available. (Check www.arrl.org/contests/results/ and in the December issue of QST.) There were 23 entries from the Utah Section, a higher number than in recent years.

Entries are in various classes running different amounts of power and different numbers of transmitters. It's not too surprising that a group running four transmitters makes more contacts than one running a single transmitter. A reasonably objective way of comparing entries in different classes is by percentile within each entry class. (Percentile is the percentage of total entries in the class having lower scores than the entry being rated. For example, UARC came in with an 84.1 meaning that 84.1 percent of the 441 stations that entered the 2A class had lower scores than UARC did.)

The Utah DX Association was the unquestioned winner coming in second of 130 4A entries for a 98.5 percentile. UARC's 84.1 put it in third place in the state. The Manti Contest Club (likely under the leadership of Dr. Bob Armstrong, N7XJ) did very well with a battery-powered QRP CW operation, coming in third in raw score.

Below is the full tabulation in order of percentile:

2009 Utah Field Day Scores

Call Class Score QSOs Po-
sition
of Per-
centile
2008
Per-
centile
Club Name
Portable Stations
K7UM 4A 14,080 4624 2 130 98.5 99.0 Utah DX Assn
W7UT 2A 6670 2216 44 441 90.0 Mesa Mauraders
W7SP 2A 5014 1343 70 441 84.1 81.9 Utah ARC
NC7X 1AB 7040 619 3 16 81.2 77.8 Manti CC
AC7JW 1B1 694 147 20 64 68.8 66.0 (Jason Reber, Woods Cross)
K7DAV 3A 3302 841 102 305 66.6 92.1 Davis County ARC
N7ARE 1B1B 1251 153 50 113 55.8 61.1 (Gary Zabriskie, Santa Clara)
W7DHH 1A 1000 450 98 152 55.1 Skyline ARC
W7IVM 4A 2508 620 68 130 47.7 21.1 Bridgerland ARC
W7BAR 2A 1584 231 274 441 37.9 0.45 Borderline ARC
W7SU 2A 1470 610 289 441 34.5 31.7 Ogden ARC
W7DRC 3A 1718 393 207 305 32.1 56.8 Dixie ARC
K7NS 2B2B 950 60 7 8 12.5 (Nyle Steiner, Provo)
KC7CSW 2A 842 158 395 441 10.4 Salt Lake Peaks ARC
Home and Fixed Stations
N7GTE 1E 1290 619 67 280 76.1 (Bob Craven, Bountiful)
K7NAL 1E 738 284 124 280 55.7 67.8 (Scotty Deffendol, Marion)
N7HIT 1D 130 40 240 371 35.3 (John Drabik, Draper)
K7UB 4F 1894 539 12 16 25.0 58.1 Golden Spike ARC
K7DLX 3D 466 165 5 6 16.7 (Richard Wayman, St. George)
K7BBR 1D 74 6 311 371 16.2 (Brandon Rasmussen, Woods Cross)
KC7PVD 1E 186 18 246 280 12.1  2.5 (David Haag, Tooele)
KB0LQJ 1D 60 30 331 371 10.8 (Jon Rusho, SLC)
WI7J 3E 560 92 18 18 0.0 32.6 (James Cowley, LaVerkin)

Key to Entry Classes

Starting number   The number that begins each class is the number of simultaneous transmitters on the air. For example, UARC's 2A class indicates there was a maximum of two transmitters on the air at any given time.
 
First Letter The letter that follows the starting number tells the type of operation:

A: A club or group portable with three or more operators
B: A non-club group portable station using one or two operators
C: A mobile station
D:   A home station using commercial power
E: A home station using emergency power
F: A station at an Emergency Operating Center (EOC)

 
Second number A "1" or "2" following the letter indicates the number of operators. Class B entries are subdivided in this way.
 
Final “B” A “B” following the number of operators or the class letter indicates an operation powered entirely by batteries and running no more than five watts transmitter output power.
 
Example: Class 1B2B means a single-transmitter portable operation with two operators using only batteries for power and running five watts or less.

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Scott's Hill Repeater On the Air

[10-21-09]
The new Scott's Hill repeater on 146.62 MHz is on the air and is now linked to the venerable '62 on Farnsworth Peak. If you've been active in UARC for a bit over a decade, you may remember when the “synchronous repeater project” was first proposed. Well, it's finally on the air.

Over a decade ago, Bruce Bergen, KI7OM, wondered about an apparently abandoned building on the Scott's Hill site, a few miles northwest of the Brighton ski resort. After a long process of negotiations with the Forest Service and even intervention by a Congressman, Bruce was able to procure a lease agreement for UARC to use the building.

Partly as a result of discussions during the famous “Wednesday Night Hikes,” the plan was hatched to use the Scott's site to house a new '62 repeater to run synchronously with the existing '62 on Farnsworth Peak. Coverage of the two would overlap. The two repeaters would be linked together in such a way that they appeared to be a single repeater with coverage containing all the coverage areas of both repeaters. This kind of system has been known for many years in the Land Mobile Service, but we had not heard of its use by amateurs.

Over the next several years, the plan went through several starts, stops, and redesigns. In recent months the project was resurrected using a simpler technical scheme than the one originally planned. There are basically two problems that must be solved to create a “synchronous” pair of repeaters. First, the transmitters at both sites must receive the same audio, and it must be that of receiver getting the best signal. Second, the two transmitters must be close enough to each other in frequency that they will not create a heterodyne in areas where both can be heard.

The first problem is solved by bringing the receiver audio from the Scott's site to Farnsworth on a 70-cm link. A custom “voter” unit at Farnsworth selects which of the two signals — the one from Scott's or the one from the local '02 receiver — has the best signal. That audio is then fed locally to the Farnsworth transmitter and simultanously to Scott's using another 70-cm link going the other direction.

The original plan to solve the second problem, matching transmitter frequencies, was to generate both frequencies from the same standard and distribute it over a 902-MHz link. Thanks to the availability of very precise oven-controlled oscillators at affordable prices, it is now possible simply to use these oscillators at both sites, eliminating the need to communicate frequency information.

The necessary equipment was built and software written over the latter part of the past summer. It was a race against the weather to try to get everything ready before snow closed easy access to the two sites. On Saturday, October 10, the Scott's repeater was installed and put into operation for the first time. For the first week it ran as a simple stand-alone repeater. Then on Friday, October 16, the necessary equipment for voting and linking was installed at the Farnsworth site along with a new receiving antenna, and the fully linked system was put into operation for the first time.

The installation party (KA7OEI, K7ALA, and K7HFV) left the site late Friday night congratulating themselves on a job well done, only to wake up Saturday morning and find that the system had some serious problems with audio quality and some anomalies in the voting process, i.e. choosing the best received signal between the two sites.

Clint, KA7OEI, and the author, Gordon, K7HFV, returned to the site Saturday afternoon and identified at least a half-dozen problems involving audio levels, unexpected interaction between units, voting parameters, and performance of the 30-year old '02 receiver.

After a Sunday trip to restore a now refurbished receiver and re-check levels, the whole system was put back on the air. The final job necessary was a 1 A.M. trip to the Scott's site to tighten the receiver squelch, which had developed a propensity for fits of random opening due to an unknown cause.

The system is now fully functional and extends the '62 coverage into areas east of the Wasatch Mountains. Stations in Park City, Coalville, Heber, Midway, and even Evanston, Wyoming, have successfully used the system to work stations along the Wasatch Front. There are a number of enhancements and fine-tuning adjustments planned (mostly for next season), but the system is quite usable and members are encouraged to try it out.

Thanks to everyone who helped with this sizable project. Bruce Bergen, KI7OM, originated the idea and coordinated numerous work parties to get the building in usable condition including power service, antenna supports, ground systems, new roof, and door security. Bruce also built the 420-MHz cavities required for the links between sites and all the antennas used at the Scott's site.

Clint Turner, KA7OEI, particularly should be recognized for constructing, testing, and debugging virtually all the custom electronics required as well as writing the software for several embedded microprocessors. Accomplishing this task between July and October was an amazing feat.

Many others pitched in mounting gear in rack panels, building the mechanical parts, and helping with installation at both sites. They include Brett Sutherland, N7KG; Don Rawlins, N7YUQ; John Lloyd, K7JL; John Hardy, K7ALA; and Bryan Mogensen, W7CBM. Thanks to all (including the ones I have inevitably forgotten to include).

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Web Site Gets New Look

[11-21-09]
You've probably noticed a new look to the UARC web site. The new design was created by Gary Wong, AB1IP, who won our web design contest last spring. UARC President John Hardy, K7ALA, recently applied the new design to all the most commonly accessed pages. Thanks to Gary and John!

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