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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
January 23, 2020
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
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Barry Shelley, N1VXY, is ARRL Interim CEO

At its January 17 - 18 meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors did not elect Howard Michel, WB2ITX, as the ARRL Chief Executive Officer.

As of January 20, Barry Shelley, N1VXY, became interim CEO. Mr. Shelley was ARRL's Chief Financial Officer for 28 years and CEO during 2018 before his retirement.

The Board has created a search committee to select the next CEO. More details on this and other matters that took place at the Board meeting will be released shortly.

ARES Volunteers Establish "Plan B" Communication Network in Puerto Rico

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) volunteers in Puerto Rico continued over the weekend to report for daily duty at an American Red Cross (ARC) distribution center in Mayagüez and at ARC Headquarters in San Juan. The two sites are ready to provide a "Plan B" communication backbone in the event the seismic situation worsens. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck southwestern Puerto Rico on January 7, fast on the heels of a magnitude 5.8 tremor the day before, damaging homes in Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Yauco, and Guánica. ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, told ARRL this week that the situation is relatively "calm and quiet" for now and starting on January 22, volunteers began monitoring from their homes or vehicles, permitting most, including Resto himself, to get back to their jobs and homes.

ARES volunteers had been deployed to an ARC distribution center in Yauco, but that part of the operation was shifted to Mayagüez over the weekend, because it was considered safer there. An ARRL-provided VHF/UHF radio and antenna have been set up at the Mayagüez facility. Resto said a second operating position is being added at the San Juan ARC Headquarters site.

Resto said Red Cross officials know that they can rely on amateur radio, if the situation calls for it, but for now commercial communications are fully operational, although aftershocks from the January 7 quake persist. "In case the situation escalates, the ARES team will immediately mobilize at the ARC sites and establish communication (VHF/UHF or HF) as required," Resto said.

The ARRL Ham Aid program provided this antenna, installed in Mayagüez. [Oscar Resto, KP4RF, photo]

Last week, the Red Cross had requested assistance from the ARES volunteers as well as volunteers from the CB radio and GMRS communities, to identify undeclared refugee camps and to report on close or damaged roadways and bridges. Resto said the ARES volunteers "did a marvelous job" that earned praise from Red Cross officials.

Resto said about two dozen volunteers have made themselves available in the Mayagüez area. In the event they're needed, Resto said, he has seven or eight HF radios and 15 VHF/UHF transceivers left over from the Hurricane Maria emergency response. He said the HF equipment has been safely stowed for use in case of another major earthquake, when they might be needed.

He was expecting additional antennas and feed lines provided through ARRL's Ham Aid program to show up this week.

Massachusetts Club Offers Support to Arecibo Observatory Following Earthquakes

Although not in the hardest-hit earthquake zone, Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory nonetheless has been affected by the recent spate of earthquakes and aftershocks. The landmark Arecibo radio telescope and ionospheric radar facility was a victim of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Members of the Nashoba Valley Amateur Radio Club (NVARC) have stepped up to assist in support and recovery efforts for the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope and ionospheric radar facility. NVARC members Phil Erickson, W1PJE; Rod Hersh, WA1TAC, and Jim Wilber, AB1WQ, participated in daily scheduled radio contacts with Arecibo's lead telescope operator and spectrum manager, Angel Vazquez, WP3R. Other NVARC members volunteered to serve as back-up stations.

"All AO staff members are safe, and our technical teams have completed preliminary visual analysis of the primary structure and have found no immediate damage/issues, however a more detailed inspection needs to be completed once the aftershocks subside," said Francisco Córdova, Arecibo Observatory's director, at the University of Central Florida.

Site operations were suspended and access was limited to essential personnel, according to the latest information available from the Arecibo Observatory website.

Over several days, when commercial power and water were not available near Arecibo, club members inquired about potential assistance. Although conditions are slowly improving on the northern portion of the island where the observatory is located, Vazquez noted that thousands of people displaced from their homes in the hard-hit southern part of the island had to camp outside, due to extensive structural damage and ongoing aftershocks.

NVARC members were also able to provide messages of support from MIT's Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts, and from program officers at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Geospace Facilities Division in Washington, DC. NSF funds the observation programs and scientific research at Arecibo Observatory. NVARC said the radio contacts would continue as the recovery proceeds.

New Book from ARRL: Amateur Radio Contesting for Beginners

Contesting is one of the most exciting aspects of amateur radio -- and for some, it's their primary ham radio activity. Amateur Radio Contesting for Beginners by contesting veteran Doug Grant, K1DG, offers practical information and ideas that will help you get started in contesting -- "radiosport" -- or to build your skills, if you're already active.

Contesting tests station capability and operator skill, and it really is a sport, with a typical objective of contacting as many stations and multipliers -- ARRL Sections, states, grids, or DXCC entities, for example -- within the contest period.

"Doug Grant has written the ideal guide for anyone interested in contesting," said QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY.

Grant's book explains what equipment you need, typical contest formats, details of some more popular events, operating techniques, how to submit an entry, and how to improve your scores. No matter how modest your station or experience, you can compete too!

Just ahead is Winter Field Day, January 25 - 26. See the ARRL Contest Calendar for information on other events.

Amateur Radio Contesting for Beginners is available from the ARRL Store or your ARRL Dealer. (ARRL Item no. 1243, ISBN: 978-1-62595-124-3, $27.95 retail, special ARRL Member Price $24.95). Call 860-594-0355 or, toll-free in the US, 888-277-5289. It's also available as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle.

For more information about ARRL-sponsored contests, including rules and results, and to view the contest photo gallery, visit the ARRL Contests page.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: No sunspots appeared over the January 16 - 22 reporting week. On January 22, reported the consecutive period of spotless days is 11, but all recent sunspots have had Cycle 25 polarity.

The average daily solar flux dipped from 72.5 to 71.2. The average daily planetary A index went from 5.6 to 4.1, and the middle latitude A index dropped from 3.7 to 3.

Predicted solar flux is 72 on January 23 - February 5; 71 on February 6 - 20; 72 on February 21 - March 3; 71 on March 4, and 70 on March 5 - 7.

Predicted planetary A index is 5 on January 23 - 31; 10 on February 1 - 5; 5 on February 6 - 27; 10 on February 28 - March 3, and 5 on March 4 - 7.

When there are no sunspots, 160 meters seems to improve, probably because of lower associated geomagnetic activity. The CW portion of the CQ World Wide 160-Meter Contest takes place this weekend.

Sunspot numbers for January 16 - 22 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 71.8, 70.1, 71.3, 71.8, 71.2, 70.5, and 71.9, with a mean of 71.2. Estimated planetary A indices were 5, 3, 4, 3, 2, 6, and 6, with a mean of 4.1. Middle latitude A index was 4, 2, 3, 2, 2, 4, and 4, with a mean of 3.

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 23 -- NAQCC CW Sprint

  • January 24 - 26 -- CQ 160-Meter Contest (CW)

  • January 25 - 26 -- REF Contest (CW)

  • January 25 - 26 -- BARTG RTTY Sprint

  • January 25 - 26 -- UBA DX Contest, SSB

  • January 25 - 26 -- Winter Field Day (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 27 -- QCX Challenge (CW)

  • January 29 -- UKEICC 80-Meter Contest (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.

IARU Region 1 Youngsters On The Air Summer Camp 2020 Will Be in Croatia

The 10th annual Youngsters On The Air (YOTA) camp will be held this summer in Karlovac, Croatia -- not far from the capital city of Zagreb -- International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Region 1 Youth Working Group Chair Lisa Leenders, PA2LS, has announced. The Croatian Amateur Radio Association -- Croatia's IARU member-society -- will serve as host of the August 8 - 15 event. Participation is aimed at young radio amateurs living in IARU Region 1 (Europe, Africa, and the Middle East).

"In this YOTA Camp we will be continuing with our train-the-trainer (TTT) program, which will be the main theme of the week," Leenders said. "Participants will be working on the future of amateur radio and will be involved in workshops where they gain skills to start similar amateur radio youth events when they are back home. With this, we are aiming to create a snowball effect, so there will be more and more YOTA events all over the world. This also allows other youngsters and newcomers to enjoy amateur radio."

Leenders said camp participants will also be able to enjoy getting on the air, as well as building electronic kits.

Each IARU member-society in Region 1 is invited to sponsor teams of up to four camp participants. Team members will be age 15 to 25 and not have attended a previous YOTA camp. Overall participation is limited to 80 campers.

The inaugural Youth On The Air Camp in the Americas will take place this June 21 - 26 at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township, Ohio. For more information, email Camp Director Neil Rapp, WB9VPG, or call 812-327-0749.

AMSAT: GOLF-TEE Initiative Meets Major Milestone

AMSAT reports that an array of GOLF-TEE (Greater Orbit Larger Footprint - Technology Evaluation Environment) satellite prototype boards transmitted telemetry for the first time on January 14.

"The boards are laid out on a bench as a 'flat-sat,' with interconnecting wires, bench power supplies, and a dummy load on the transmitter," AMSAT said. The interconnected boards include an early radiation-tolerant internal housekeeping unit (IHU, i.e., computer) prototype; a control interface prototype, and a set of spare boards from HuskySat-1 that act as prototypes for the legacy IHU and legacy VHF/UHF RF components.

"Now that the development team has reached this point, it has RF to use as a basis for developing a GOLF-TEE decoder for FoxTelem, the ground telemetry receiver software," AMSAT said. "Thousands of hours of work by many AMSAT volunteers have gone into the hardware and software that got GOLF-TEE this far, with much work yet to be done before flight units are ready."

GOLF-TEE is designed as a low-Earth orbit testbed for technologies necessary for successful CubeSat missions to a wide variety of orbits, including medium- and high-Earth orbits. "Higher is clearly better when it comes to amateur radio satellites," AMSAT says on its website explanation of the GOLF program. "The larger footprint, which brings more DX opportunities and more good passes per day, also provides for a longer orbital lifetime, and slower motion across the sky. This results in longer pass durations and easier tracking." Higher orbits introduce a new set of engineering challenges, AMSAT concedes, including higher power and antennas with greater gain.

"GOLF is designed to continue the growth of AMSAT's CubeSat abilities, incorporating new systems such as software-defined radios and deployable solar panels into a 3U spaceframe." AMSAT explained. "GOLF will also continue AMSAT's educational partnership outreach that takes advantage of the synergies that amateur radio satellites and education have to offer the public."

AMSAT has invited donations to further the project. It's also seeking additional volunteers. -- Thanks to AMSAT News Service

ITU Development Sector Publication Highlights Amateur Radio's Role in Emergency Communication

Amateur radio is featured in the publication ITU Guidelines for national emergency telecommunication plans, published by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Development Sector (ITU-D). The publication notes that radio amateurs have supported communication in emergency situations on a voluntary basis since the dawn of radio.

"They are experts in radio communications and have the equipment, skills, and necessary frequencies allocated by ITU to deploy networks in emergency events quickly and efficiently," the publication says. ITU-D said amateur radio support offers "great coverage due to the large number of amateur radio stations available;" training programs and exercises that have been developed for emergency communication; "qualified temporary volunteers who provide skills and experience essential for emergency telecommunications;" problem-solving skills for working with "often very limited resources," and the ability to work with alternative power sources.

Past ARRL President and IARU Secretary Rod Stafford, W6ROD, represents the International Amateur Radio Union at ITU-D meetings. -- Thanks to Southgate Amateur Radio News; IARU

ARISS Opens Window for ISS Ham Radio Contact Proposals on February 1

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is once again seeking formal and informal education institutions and organizations -- individually or working together -- interested in hosting an amateur radio contact with an International Space Station (ISS) crew member. A window to accept proposals will open on February 1 for contacts that would be scheduled between January and June 2021. The majority of ARISS contacts involve schools and educational institutions. ARISS is looking for organizations able to attract a large number of participants that can integrate the contact opportunity into a well-developed education plan.

"ARISS contacts afford education audiences the opportunity to learn firsthand from astronauts what it is like to live and work in space and to learn about space research conducted on the ISS," ARISS said in announcing the proposal period. "Students will also have an opportunity to learn about satellite communication, wireless technology, and radio science."

Proposal information and documents are available on the ARISS website. Two identical ARISS introductory webinars have been set for January 23 at 9 PM EST (0200 UTC on January 24) and for January 27 at 6 PM EST (2300 UTC). Registration is required.

Contacts with ISS crew members run approximately 10 minutes in length and allow students to interact with the astronauts through a question-and-answer session. ARISS contacts are voice-only amateur radio communication opportunities. Schools and organizations typically work with a local amateur radio club to assist in handling the technical aspects of carrying out a successful contact with the ISS.

Astronaut Reid Wiseman, KF5LKT, on the air at NA1SS on board the ISS in 2014. [NASA, photo]

ARISS stresses that because of the nature of human spaceflight and the complexity of scheduling activities aboard the ISS, schools and organizations must be flexible in accommodating changes in radio contact dates and times.

"Amateur radio organizations around the world with the support of NASA and space agencies in Russia, Canada, Japan, and Europe present educational organizations with this opportunity," ARISS said. "The ham radio organizations' volunteer efforts provide the equipment and operational support to enable communication between crew on the ISS and students around the world using amateur radio."

Proposal information and more details are available on the ARISS website. Contact ARISS with any questions.

In Brief...

The ARRL Events app is available to use with Apple iOS and Android devices. A web-browser version, optimized for most browsers and other types of mobile devices, is also available. ARRL Events will be featured at Orlando HamCation 2020, February 7 - 9, which has been sanctioned as the 2020 ARRL Northern Florida Section Convention.

The Perseverance DX Group VP8PJ DXpedition to South Orkney has received permission from the National Science Foundation to land and camp on the Antarctic island. Receipt of the Antarctic Conservation Act Permit culminates a months-long approval process involving several governmental agencies. VP8PJ is expected to commence operation on February 20 and continue until March 5. The DXpedition's equipment container arrived by sea in Punta Arenas, Chile, on January 13, and the MV Braveheart will transport the operating team and the gear from there to the South Orkneys and back. Set-up on the island is expected to take 2 days. Contact the DXpedition for more information.

The Lagunaria DX Group is planning a "large-scale DXpedition" to Timor-Leste (4W) in the October/November 2020 timeframe. "We currently have one team member in Timor-Leste negotiating with different ministries, companies, and accommodation facilities," said team member Chris Janssen, DL1MGB. "Right now, we have positive feedback from all. We even already have a confirmed reservation for two close-by lodges to have enough space to host up to 10 stations." Janssen said the team will consist of 18 operators and will participate seriously in both CQ World Wide DX contests this fall. Additional details will be available soon on the DXpedition website. Timor-Leste is the 67th most-wanted DXCC entity, according to Club Log. -- Thanks to The Daily DX

A team of German DXers will operate as HU1DL from the Central American country of El Salvador, starting in late January and continuing until February 13. "Everything is well prepared. We are ready!" said an announcement from Rolf Thieme, DL7VEE. The team will be transporting its own equipment, which will include Elecraft K3 transceivers and full-power amplifiers. Three stations will be on the air around the clock on CW, SSB, RTTY, and FT8, with a focus on the lower bands. Thieme said HU1DL will operate mostly in FT8 fox/hound mode. HU1DL plans to be active on 60 meters, CW, and FT8. -- Thanks to The Daily DX

Spanish radio amateurs may exchange their current longer-format call signs for permanent 2 × 1 call signs, and some familiar Spanish call signs are likely to be changing. Salva Moreno, EA5BB, told ARRL that hams in Spain who decided to make the change are now awaiting the official license documents, so they can use their new call signs on the air. Moreno's new call sign will be EA5U. To be eligible, applicants must have held a license issued by Spanish authorities without any sanctions and have at least 15 years of experience in "international amateur radio."

The 17th International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) High Speed Telegraphy (HST) World Championship will take place August 20 - 24 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Europe's HST Cup and Balkan HST Championships will take place May 8 - 12 in Elbasan, Albania. Although not an IARU-recognized event, this international competition is widely accepted by the HST community as an opportunity for top competitors to check their form before the world championship, for teams to test new candidates for a national team, and for those unable to participate at the World Championship to still enjoy top-level competition. -- Thanks to IARU Region 1

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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.

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