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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
January 9, 2020
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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ARRL's New On the Air Magazine on its Way to Members

The premiere issue of ARRL's On the Air magazine has left the printer and is on its way to member subscribers. The magazine should be in mailboxes within the next 10 days.

On the Air is the newest ARRL member benefit to help new licensees and beginner-to-intermediate radio communicators navigate the world of amateur radio. Eligible US-based members can elect to receive On the Air or QST magazine in print when they join or when they renew their ARRL membership.

Delivered six times a year, the magazine will present articles and tips on selecting equipment, building projects, and getting involved in emergency communication. On the Air will also spotlight the experiences of those involved in public service communication and casual operating.

All members will be able to access digital editions of On the Air magazine. The first digital issue of On the Air will be available beginning January 14, supported by a new version of ARRL's digital magazine app. With one app, members will be able to access On the Air and QST.

Volunteer Monitor Program Coordinator Looks Forward to a Positive 2020

In a holiday season message to ARRL leadership and to members of the new ARRL Volunteer Monitor (VM) program, its coordinator, Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, expressed his gratitude to all involved for their contributions to getting the program off to a solid start in January.

"It will be a good year," Hollingsworth said. "We will have fun, you will enjoy it more than you probably think, and -- thanks to the talent and generosity of one of our VMs -- a computer program will make your reporting much easier (there will be no need for bi-monthly reports!)," he wrote. "This is our opportunity to help amateur radio last another hundred years and to pay forward this wonderful avocation that joyfully occupies our lives. This could be our legacy if we do it with all the energy and devotion that characterized the Official Observer (OO) program for decades."

Hollingsworth said the success of the OO program convinced the FCC to trust ARRL with the responsibilities now to be taken up by the Volunteer Monitor program. "Those of you who are former OOs have an extra reason to be proud, and amateur radio is grateful to you more than you will ever know," Hollingsworth concluded. "Thank you. It will be a privilege to work with you this new year."

Approved by the ARRL Board of Directors in 2018, the Volunteer Monitor program supplants the venerable OO program. The VM program represents a formal agreement between the FCC and ARRL in which volunteers trained and vetted by ARRL will monitor the airwaves and collect evidence that can be used to correct misconduct. The program also will recognize exemplary on-air operation, something not done during the OO program. Cases of flagrant violations will be referred to the FCC by ARRL for action in accordance with FCC guidelines.

The FCC proposed the new program in the wake of several FCC regional office closures and a reduction in field staff. It will give enforcement priority to cases developed by the Volunteer Monitor program without ARRL's having to refer cases through the FCC online complaint process.

ARRL CEO Challenges Members: "Dare to Imagine"

In his January 2020 QST "Second Century" editorial, ARRL CEO Howard Michel, WB2ITX, challenges members to imagine what ARRL and amateur radio will look like in 5 years and beyond and to dare to imagine change.

"Younger hams are not just younger versions of you or me," Michel writes. "They have grown up in a different world." He points out that 75% of non-members hold Technician licenses. "But more than license class, their interests are different. Their demographics are different. They are different, and they want different things," he said. His approach is to target specific interest groups, which he calls "verticals," that will allow ARRL to provide individual members what they want.

"We can try to mold the future generation of hams to our image, or we can embrace new hams for what they are," Michel asserted. "ARRL needs to do the latter."

In addition to initiatives such as the new On the Air magazine, debuting this month in print and digital editions, and the Lifelong Learning program to engage new licensees, Michel is proposing verticals focusing on radiosport, experimentation, and emergency communication. He's recommending a new family of "mini-magazines" to reach niche membership interests. "To jump start the mini-mag revolution," he said, "We will offer NCJ and QEX in digital form to everyone." ARRL also plans to hire a national club coordinator this year.

"Our focus will be on developing ways, and an infrastructure, that members can use to organize themselves in ways they want, to do things that they consider meaningful," Michel said.

He has invited members' comments.

So Now What? Podcast

In the final episode of So Now What? hosts Michelle Patnode, W3MVP, and Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, will speak with ARRL VEC Assistant Manager Amanda Grimaldi, N1NHL.

An archive of So Now What? episodes will remain on Blubrry and will be accessible via the podcast's web page. Users can still direct questions regarding the podcast via email.

Thank you to LDG Electronics for sponsoring the show and thanks to everyone for listening!

Strong Earthquake Shakes Puerto Rico; Generating Capacity Severely Compromised

ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, says small tremors continue on the island in the wake of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the southwestern part of the island on January 7. A magnitude 5.8 quake struck a day earlier. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) reported widespread power outages after generating plants automatically activated protective shutdown systems following the earthquake. But Resto told ARRL this week that considerable generating capacity was lost due to earthquake damage, and that it will take at least several days before replacement units can be brought back on line. Only about 20% of the island has electric power at this point, he estimated.

"We have a shortage of about 1,100 megawatts of power," Resto told ARRL. "We normally need about 2,000 megawatts for the island."

Resto cited the largely operational telecommunications network as the reason why no Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) activations have been necessary. "We have cell phones all over the island working," he said. Resto told ARRL that he's been working up a list of ready and resilient amateur radio volunteers who would be able to muster if needed to assist the American Red Cross, with which Puerto Rico ARES has a memorandum of understanding. "We are in continuous communication with the ARC in case we're needed."

Resto stressed that he wants to avoid situations where volunteers activate only to be told they're not needed.

The worst-impacted cities were Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Yauco, and Guánica. Resto said engineers have determined that 80% of the houses in the earthquake's impact zone are uninhabitable. Residents are sleeping outdoors, Resto said.

Puerto Rico Section Public Information Officer Angel Santana, WP3GW, told ARRL that VHF and UHF repeaters with emergency power have carried reports of power and water outages, the continuing aftershocks, and other information on an informal basis. Bottled water and canned food have been in high demand, he said. Santana said the PREMA Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been activated.

Resto earlier this week called the situation "scary, with houses, schools, and roads collapsing." At least one death has resulted from the earthquake. He said the earthquake disaster definitely was a setback for the US territory as it continues its long recovery from severe hurricane damage in 2017. But, he added, the restored telecommunications infrastructure is more robust, to minimize damage in future disasters.

Australian Bushfires Causing Major Telecommunication Outages, Hams on Duty

Wireless Institute of Australia (WIA) President Greg Kelly, VK2GPK, says the bushfires in Australia have caused significant disruption of telecommunication services in the states of Victoria and New South Wales. Radio amateurs are supporting relief operations and communication.

WICEN (Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network) in New South Wales reports it has been active assisting in a number of multi-agency activities during the bushfire emergency, in its role as a support squad of the NSW Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) operations center in Bega. WICEN teams in NSW and in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have sent a team to Bega to help re-establish radio communication services, disrupted by fire activity.

WICEN and other VRA squads continue to support the Rural Fire Service (RFS) at various Fire Control Centers and the Bushfire Information Line. Other WICEN members remain active with the RFS and the State Emergency Service.

Kelley has asked radio amateurs in International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 3 to monitor the emergency communications frequencies, per the IARU Region 3 band plan, whenever possible, as well as repeaters. "Amateurs seeking to establish emergency communication should use these EMCOMM frequencies in the first instance, or repeaters if available," he said in a statement posted on the IARU Region 3 website.

"Radio amateurs who are volunteers for [WICEN and other emergency communication organizations] should keep themselves updated," Kelley advised. "Emergency communication is one of the main reasons radio amateurs have access to RF spectrum. Please assist if and when you can."

The IARU Region 3 emergency "center of activity" frequencies are 3.600, 7.110, 14.300, 18.160, and 21.360 MHz. These are not net frequencies, but they are recommended as starting points for emergency traffic, and activity may extend 5 kHz above or below the designated center frequency.

South of NSW in the state of Victoria, WICEN VIC reports that the amateur repeater network is largely off the air, possibly due to a lack of power. "Some sites may have been directly affected by fire," WICEN VIC said on January 4. "It could be some weeks until the sites can be reached for inspection."

Radio Amateurs of Canada Announces a New Section

The number of Sections needed for a clean sweep in the ARRL November Sweepstakes (SS) will rise to 84 in 2020, with the addition of a new Prince Edward Island (PE) Section. Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) has announced that the new Section will become effective on April 1.

Prince Edward Island has been in the Maritimes (MAR) Section. RAC said its Prince Edward Island members have been working for some time to create a separate Section for RAC ARES activities there. The provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will remain in the Maritimes Section.

In addition to Field Day and Sweepstakes, the new Section in Canada will affect the ARRL 160-Meter Contest but not the ARRL 10-Meter Contest, which uses individual states/provinces for US and Canadian multipliers. The change will mean that logging software developers will have to update their software to include the PE Section as a valid exchange element for any affected operating events.

RAC also announced an adjustment in two of its Ontario Sections. Effective April 1, radio amateurs in the City of Hamilton and in the Regional Municipality of Niagara will shift to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Section from the Ontario South (ONS) Section.

China Telecoms Regulator Proposing to Delete Some Current Amateur Allocations

China's telecommunications regulator has proposed amending the Measures for the Administration of Amateur Radio Stations, and some amateur bands are in danger of being eliminated. Lide Zhang, BI8CKU, told ARRL that the proposal would prohibit amateur operation on the 2200-meter band as well as on 146 - 148 MHz, 1260 - 1300 MHz, 3400 - 3500 MHz, 5650 - 5725 MHz, and all bands above 10 GHz.

Radio communications engineer and Chinese Amateur Satellite Group (CAMSAT) CEO Alan Kung, BA1DU, told ARRL that government efforts to eliminate some amateur bands are nothing new, but proposals that have been aired for a while now are on the regulatory agency's schedule. Kung said he does not anticipate that all of the bands proposed will be taken away, but he conceded that the climate will "undoubtedly" become increasingly more dangerous for China's amateur radio community.

"The attempt to crowd out the amateur radio bands has a long history throughout the world," he said, "but it may never have become so urgent for the amateur radio community as it is today. We all understand that radio spectrum resources have become a bottleneck for further development." He said today's radio communication industry "is working hard to share spectrum resources."

Kung characterized spectrum as "the soil on which amateur radio depends."

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Sunspots appeared recently, all indicating that they belong to Cycle 25 due to their polarity, which is just the opposite from Cycle 24 spots. Sunspots appeared December 24 - 26, and what appeared to be a new Cycle 25 spot showed up on January 1. NOAA did not report it, but reported a sunspot number of 11 for January 1.

Predicted solar flux for the next 45 days is higher than in recent forecasts: 72 on January 2-9; 70 on January 10-11; 72 on January 12-25; 70 on January 26 - February 7, and 72 on February 8-15.

Predicted planetary A index is 5 on January 2-13; 12 on January 14-15; 5 on January 16-25; 8 on January 2-28; 5 on January 29 - February 9; 10 on February 10-11, and 5 on February 12-15.

Sunspot numbers for December 19-25 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 24, and 23, with a mean of 6.7. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 69.9, 70, 70.6, 71, 72.6, 72.7, and 72.1, with a mean of 71.3. Estimated planetary A indices were 13, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, and 4, with a mean of 5.4. The middle latitude A index was 12, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, and 3, with a mean of 4.1.

Sunspot numbers for December 26 - January 1 were 11, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 11, with a mean of 3.1. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 72.1, 72.4, 72.2, 72, 70.9, 70.5, and 71.8, with a mean of 71.7. Estimated planetary A indices were 5, 3, 2, 2, 3, 4, and 3, with a mean of 3.1. Middle latitude A index was 3, 2, 0, 0, 2, 4, and 3, with a mean of 2.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. Monthly charts offer propagation projections between the US and a dozen DX locations.

Share your reports and observations.

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • January 11 -- YB DX Contest (Phone)

  • January 11 -- Old New Year Contest (CW, phone)

  • January 11 - 12 -- UBA PSK63 Prefix Contest

  • January 11 - 12 -- SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (CW)

  • January 11 - 12 -- North American QSO Party, CW

  • January 12 -- NRAU-Baltic Contest, SSB, CW (separate events)

  • January 12 -- DARC 10-Meter Contest (CW, phone)

  • January 12 -- RSGB AFS Contest, Data

  • January 12 - 15 -- Classic Exchange (CW)

  • January 13 -- 4 States QRP Group Second Sunday Sprint (CW, phone)

  • January 16 -- NAQCC CW Sprint (CW)

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on amateur radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile email preferences.

ARISS Next-Generation Radio System Ready for Launch to Space Station

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) reports that its first Interoperable Radio System (IORS) flight unit -- serial number 1001 -- has been delivered to NASA's Johnson Space Center for launch in early March. The IORS represents the first major upgrade in ARISS equipment on the International Space Station since Amateur Radio gained a permanent presence onboard the ISS in 2000. In December, ARISS received approval from NASA Safety to launch the IORS on SpaceX CRS-20 and stow the radio system on the ISS for future installation.

"The IORS is a foundational element of the ARISS next-generation radio system and is an incredible engineering achievement by the ARISS hardware team," ARISS International President Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, said. "This first element delivery will support easier radio mode transitions and enable new, exciting capabilities for hams, students, and the general public."

The new system includes a higher-power radio, an enhanced voice repeater, and updated digital packet radio (APRS) and slow-scan television (SSTV) capabilities for both the US and Russian space station segments. The IORS consists of a custom-modified JVC Kenwood TM-D710GA transceiver, an AMSAT-developed multi-voltage power supply, and interconnecting cables.

The IORS set to launch in March will be installed in the ISS Columbus module; a second flight unit is expected to be launched later this year for installation in the Russian Service module. The ARISS hardware team will assemble four flight units -- and 10 IORS units in all -- to support onboard flight operations, training, operations planning, and hardware testing.

ARISS International President Frank Bauer, KA3HDO.

"Future upgrades and enhancements to the next-generation system are in various stages of design and development," Bauer said. "These include a repaired Ham Video system -- currently planned for launch in mid-to-late 2020, L-band (uplink) repeater, ground command operations capability, LimeSDR signal reception, a microwave 'Ham Communicator,' and Lunar Gateway prototype experiment."

Bauer said a lot of "heavy lifting" remains to prepare the IORS for operation on the space station. "ARISS has 92 engineering requirements and our operations Phase III safety review to complete," he explained. "The space agencies take a position of 'trust, but verify.' Thus, these engineering and safety 'verifications' all need to be closed out before the IORS can be unstowed and turned on. This will be the ARISS hardware team's focus over the next few months."

Bauer reminded that ARISS is almost entirely run by volunteers and encouraged donations for next-generation hardware developments, operations, education, and administrative functions.

CAMSAT Says CAS-6 Activation for Amateur Use Has Been Delayed

Chinese Amateur Satellite Group (CAMSAT) CEO Alan Kung, BA1DU, told ARRL this week that some problems with the precise attitude determination of the newly launched CAS-6 amateur radio satellite have delayed deployment of the antennas. The satellite was to have been put into service within 3 days.

"If the V/UHF antennas are deployed now, additional torque may affect determination of the satellite attitude," Kung said. "Engineers need to modify and upload the software, which will take some time." He said that taking into consideration the upcoming long Chinese New Year holiday, the test work is planned to be completed sometime in late February or early March. At that time, VHF/UHF antennas will be deployed, and the amateur radio payload will be available for use.

Kung points out that the satellite's CW beacon has been turned on, although the antenna has not yet been deployed. "If you have a 'big ear,' you may be able to receive weak signal leaked from an undeployed antenna on 145.910 MHz," he said. "A polyimide cover on the antenna chassis can help to leak some RF signal."

CAMSAT has provided CAS-6 Satellite Digital Telemetry Description and CW Telemetry Beacon Encoding Format documents. -- Thanks to Alan Kung, BA1DU

In Brief...

ARRL San Joaquin Valley Section Manager Dan Pruitt, AE6SX, of Fresno, California, died on December 27. He was 68 and had been hospitalized as a result of a fall. First licensed in 1965, Pruitt had served as SJV SM since 2009 and had begun a new 2-year term last year. Assistant SM John Litz, NZ6Q, has been appointed to succeed him. Pruitt had previously served as Fresno County Emergency Coordinator, and his focus has been on improving emergency communication in his region, working with the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), the National Traffic System, the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS), the American Red Cross, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), and the System for Administration, Training, and Educational Resources for NASA. He had also served as SJV Public Information Officer. Litz, an ARRL Life Member from Stockton, California, was first licensed in 1974. He is active in many facets of Amateur Radio, and has served as an Assistant Section Manager in San Joaquin Valley for the past year.

Tickets for three traditional dinners held in association with the 2020 Dayton Hamvention® in May are now available. The DX Dinner, the Top Band Dinner, and the Contest Dinner. Inductees to the CQ DX and CQ Contest Halls of Fame will be announced at the DX Dinner and Contest Dinner, respectively. Hall of Fame nominations are due by March 1. Read more.

ARRL West Central Florida Section Celebrating its 20th Anniversary this Year The ARRL West Central Florida Section is marking its 20th anniversary this year. The Section newsletter, the WCF Presser, includes information on celebratory activities. A K4WCF special event in January will activate all 10 of the Section's counties, with additional K4WCF special events later in the year. The West Central Florida Section website also has a new look for the 20th anniversary celebration, its first since January 2015. West Central Florida was ARRL's 71st Section. It includes Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties. Darrell Davis, KT4WX, is the West Central Florida Section Manager.

Wolf Hadel, DK2OM, stepped down at year's end as coordinator of the International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 Monitoring System (IARUMS). IARU Region 1 President Don Beattie, G3BJ, announced in December that, after many years of monitoring and tracking intruders on the amateur bands, Hadel has been awarded the IARU President's Diamond Award in recognition of his efforts. Hadel worked for the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC) monitoring system for more than 30 years and has coordinated IARUMS since 2005. IARUMS Region 1 Vice Coordinator Peter Jost, HB9CET, will take over as coordinator for the time being. Read more.

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Find conventions and hamfests in your area.

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The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

Much of the ARRL Letter content is also available in audio form in ARRL Audio News.

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