[amsat-bb] WD9EWK - 2016 Field Day report (l-o-n-g)

Patrick STODDARD (WD9EWK/VA7EWK) amsat-bb at wd9ewk.net
Tue Jun 28 06:12:55 UTC 2016


This year's Field Day for WD9EWK was back to the mountains, in the Kaibab
National Forest about 25 miles (40km) west of Flagstaff, Arizona, in grid
DM45. This is where I had worked Field Day for a few years in a row until
2012, and really wanted to get back there after the past two Field Days
where I operated from the Phoenix area. I also had another ham who was
trying Field Day for the first time in almost 25 years of being licensed.
For both of us, our plans were almost vaporized as we were heading to our
site, and Murphy stuck around for the early part of the afternoon. We ended
up having a great time, despite the early setbacks.

The ham who accompanied me to the mountains is a long-time ham and coworker
of mine, Mark N7UJI. He has mostly been on VHF/UHF bands, and until a year
or two ago didn't even own an HF rig. Since then, Mark has equipped himself
with some nice gear. Mark still has a Technician license, which limited his
Field Day activities, but he wanted to try his portable station which was
similar to what I took north for HF and 6m: Yaesu FT-897D, Buddipole
portable dipole. Of course, I had other radios with me for the satellites:
Kenwood TH-D72A, Icom IC-2730A, two FT-817NDs, Wouxun KG-UV9D, and an
SDR receiver with a couple of Windows 10 tablets. Our plan was simple - set
up separate stations, then work whatever we could without going crazy.

On our way to the Field Day site, we received calls from our office. A power
cut shut everything down at the office, and we had to stop in Flagstaff to
join a phone call to discuss how to react to the power outage. This ended
hopes of having time before the 1800 UTC start of Field Day to set up our
stations, but that didn't stop us. After this and another phone call in the
next hour, we were able to get to the place I had been talking about for
Field Day over the past few weeks...

The site I went to was the Garland Prairie Vista Picnic Ground, along the
US-66 between the cities of Flagstaff and Williams in the Kaibab National
Forest. The operative word here is "was". All signage for the picnic area
removed, the picnic tables were gone, no restrooms, not even the concrete
sidewalk leading to the former site of the restrooms. Other than the gravel
driveway through the former picnic area, there was nothing left of its
state. Mark and I had our own folding chairs and tables, so we found some
trees and set up our stations for HF and 6m under them. We arrived at 1800
UTC, and Mark set up his HF/6m station as I prepared for a shallow ISS pass
about 20 minutes later.

The ISS pass was a shallow pass, with maximum elevation of 10 degrees across
the northern sky. With a hill immediately north of me, I had no luck even
hearing my own packets being retransmitted by the ISS. No QSOs logged, but
there were more - and better - ISS passes later in the afternoon.

As Mark and I set up our HF stations, Murphy paid me a visit. The internal
battery packs in my FT-897D both had problems. After 10 to 15 minutes, one
of the two packs dropped from its nominal 13.2V down to 9V. Something went
wrong with that pack, and soon I discovered a similar problem with the other
pack. I used my jumpstart battery pack that normally powers my satellite
station for the HF/6m gear. Mark's FT-897D packs did not have problems, but
the lack of decent propagation on 10m and 6m meant he didn't do much
operating with his own call. Mark found a club in Prescott, 40 miles (60km)
south of us in Prescott, on 10m SSB for his first HF QSO in the almost 25
years he has had his ham license. I also worked Mark on 10m and 6m SSB, to
give him a couple of other QSOs for his log - and mine. We could have made
QSOs on 2m, 222 MHz, and 70cm, but didn't do that. Mark was happy to play
around with his radio, and watch me work stations. Mark would pay closer
attention to what I was doing, anytime I went to work satellites.

Not knowing if AO-7 would survive the expected onslaught of high power from
so many stations during Field Day, I looked to a western FO-29 pass around
2135 UTC for my first Field Day satellite QSO. This was also a shallow pass,
with a maximum elevation of 8 degrees. I could hear myself through the
satellite using my two FT-817NDs and Elk, but made no QSOs. Again, with
watching me, I was unsuccessful on a satellite pass. I explained the use of
the two radios for full-duplex operation, how I tracked the satellite using
an app on my mobile phone, and how I twisted the antenna so its polarity
in line with the FO-29 downlink.

After the FO-29 pass, there was an SO-50 pass coming up from the south,
to the northeast. This was another shallow pass, up to a maximum elevation
13 degrees. With my IC-2730A 2m/70cm FM mobile radio and Elk, and the power
output set to LOW (5W), I tried to get through. I may have heard myself
but heard a lot of other stations on that pass. With the next satellite
over an hour away, I started to make a few HF QSOs, and saw a bunch of
on various satellites that should be better for me and my QRP station
An ISS pass at 2312 UTC was the turning point, where Murphy went away...

The 2312 UTC ISS pass, with a maximum elevation of 37 degrees, was a good
pass for me. With the pass going clockwise from the northwest to southeast,
it would cover most of the continental USA and Canada. With my TH-D72A and
Elk, I started watching the HT's screen for stations I could call and make
QSOs with. I changed my APRS position beacon to show "CQ FD" followed by
my Field Day station classification, state, and grid locator. That worked
well, as VE5AA in Saskatchewan sent me an APRS message with their Field
Day exchange. I was able to complete the exchange with VE5AA, and this was
my first Field Day satellite QSO for 2016. I tried for other QSOs, and was
successful making exchanges via APRS messages with two other stations -
KK6QMS in southern California, followed by K7RDG in southern Arizona.
K7RDG, the Cochise Amateur Radio Association club station, was operated by
Fernando NP4JV on the ISS pass. Fernando tweeted later in the day that the
K7RDG-WD9EWK ISS packet QSO got K7RDG its first Field Day satellite QSO. I
also saw another Arizona club station on that pass, WK7B, but was not able
to get that station in the log. Not yet, at least...

About 10 minutes after the ISS went by, there was an SO-50 pass that
favored the west coast. Back to the IC-2730A and Elk I went, the radio set
at 5W, and this time a successful satellite QSO using the microphone
instead of just using packet. I made a quick QSO early in the pass with
W6KA in southern California, the Pasadena Radio Club's station, operated
by Tom WA0POD. I heard myself through SO-50 at other points later in the
pass, but I logged no other QSOs.

I went back to HF, made a couple of 20m SSB QSOs, and decided to focus on
just satellite passes over the next hour or so before Mark and I packed up
for the day. At 0035 UTC, NO-84 passed by from the northwest to the south,
up to a maximum elevation of 56 degrees. I started sending my position
beacon, basically calling CQ on the pass. Exactly one other station showed
up on this pass - WK7B. WK7B was the Thunderbird Amateur Radio Club's Field
Day station, located northeast of Flagstaff and 26 miles (almost 42km) east
of me. The Thunderbird Amateur Radio Club is a Phoenix-area club, and they -
like me - prefer to do Field Day in the mountains of northern Arizona. :-)
Rick K7TEJ was at the keyboard for the packet activity from WK7B. Rick and
I, along with Fernando NP4JV, had been practicing how to make quick packet
QSOs on ISS and NO-84 passes over the previous week or so, and it paid off.
Even with the weaker downlink from NO-84 compared to the ISS, it was easy
for us to complete the Field Day exchange. Unfortunately for both Rick and
me, nobody else showed up on the pass.

A few minutes after NO-84 went away, there was one more ISS pass for me to
try at 0049 UTC. I worked two stations on that pass - KG6BFD in southern
California, and Jack KC7MG in central Arizona - but neither of these
sent me a Field Day exchange. I had sent my "1B AZ" Field Day exchange plus
my grid locator DM45. I saw a few other stations from California and Nevada
on the pass, but wasn't able to make any other QSOs. This was the last of
my Field Day packet QSOs, and two more passes were coming up in the
UTC hour.

A few minutes after 0100 UTC came a very high LilacSat-2 pass. I saw that
satellite had been active on earlier passes, so I took a chance and set up
it. I was not disappointed. For this pass, instead of using the IC-2730A I
used on the earlier SO-50 passes, I went with my Wouxun KG-UV9D and the Elk.
This meant I was only working half-duplex, but the joke between Mark and me
was "Chinese radio, for a Chinese satellite". LilacSat-2 rose to a maximum
elevation of 63 degrees, and I almost thought this was something other than
Field Day.

As the satellite rose from the south, I quickly made a contact with Glenn
AA5PK in west Texas. I had seen Glenn on one of the earlier ISS passes, but
missed getting a QSO with him then. This was the LilacSat-2 QSO that will go
toward my Field Day score, but it wasn't my last contact. I worked 5 other
stations, most of whom were operated by hams I know - W6KA operated by Tom
WA0POD, Fernando NP4JV in Tucson after leaving the K7RDG Field Day station,
Jack KC7MG in central Arizona (again, no Field Day exchange with KC7MG, but
still nice to make the QSO), and Frank K6FW in California.

The LilacSat-2 pass, being a very orderly pass, allowed me to explain to my
audience - OK, it was an audience of one, Mark N7UJI - some things about
satellite operating. For example, how I was working LilacSat-2 half-duplex,
compared to using full-duplex on the FO-29 and SO-50 passes earlier. I made
QSOs, but explained how working full-duplex meant I didn't have to rely on
anyone else to answer me before knowing that my signals were making it
through the satellite. I also demonstrated how antenna polarity matters for
satellite operating, simply by twisting my Elk antenna to make the downlink
signal sound weaker, before twisting it so the signal sounded better again.

Along with answering Mark's questions about satellite operating, Mark was
paying attention to the QSOs I made. He heard how most were calling me by
name, and I knew their names. Mark asked me "Do you know all these people?"
A little later, another question: "Why don't you save yourself some time
and ask, 'Is there anyone I don't know on?'" I had to laugh at this one,
knowing that this was a small part of the wider community of amateur radio
operators, and many of us who work satellites do know each other and cross
paths at different events.

By this point in the late afternoon/early evening, around 0130 UTC (6.30pm
local time), sunlight was starting to go away. Clouds, along with the trees
around the picnic area, meant it would be dark here before sunset. I wanted
to show Mark one more satellite pass, and have a shot at additional QSOs to
wrap up my 2016 Field Day. XW-2F was coming by to the west, up to a maximum
elevation of 32 degrees. A nice pass. I used an FT-817ND as my transmit
radio, and the receive side of my station was an SDRplay SDR receiver with
HDSDR running on an 8-inch Windows 10 tablet. Both were connected through
a diplexer to my Elk log periodic. I plugged in a speaker, so Mark could
hear what I heard from the SDRplay and tablet. I explained how the SDR
receiver worked compared to a "normal" radio, where I could receive more
than a single frequency, and in this case see the entire transponder
downlink on the tablet's screen. Many of you here have read about my SDR
exploits on this list and in other forums, and Mark liked what he saw. As
with the earlier FO-29 and SO-50 passes, I worked XW-2F full-duplex.

Once the satellite came up from the south, I made a quick QSO with Frank
K6FW in California. After this QSO, it seemed like the center of the XW-2F
transponder sounded like FO-29 on many passes - a few stations were
competing for the center of the transponder. I tried to make a couple of
other QSOs, but with so many stations in the small transponder, and at one
point having to deal with someone sending CW over my SSB signals, I made
no other QSOs. After the unsuccessful passes earlier in the day, I was
finally able to show Mark some examples of amateur satellite operating -
different modes (SSB, FM, packet), different radios or combinations of
radios, and a fair amount of "what to do" and "what not to do" for
satellite operating.

After XW-2F went away, Mark and I packed up our stations, and drove to
Flagstaff for dinner. After that, the 2-hour drive home. Even with only 3
QSOs in his log, Mark had fun. I had as much fun talking radio and being
able to successfully demonstrate satellite operating for Mark, along with
making some QSOs for my own log.

I have updated my log, and uploaded all of my Field Day QSOs to Logbook of
the World, but haven't started to put together my entries for Field Day. I
logged a total of 21 Field Day satellite QSOs, and 3 other QSOs that only
involved exchanges of grid locators. All done with only 5W transmit power,
to stay within the Field Day QRP power class. By satellite...

ISS:        three Field Day packet QSOs on 2312 UTC pass, two non-Field Day
            packet QSOs on 0048 UTC pass. Station: TH-D72A/Elk

NO-84:      one Field Day packet QSO on 0035 UTC pass. Station: TH-D72A/Elk

SO-50:      one Field Day FM QSO on 2334 UTC pass. Station: IC-2730A/Elk

LilacSat-2: one Field Day FM QSO on 0111 UTC pass, 4 other non-scoring Field
            Day QSOs and one non-Field Day FM QSO. Station: KG-UV9D/Elk

XW-2F:      one Field Day QSO on 0134 UTC pass. Station: FT-817ND/SDRplay/

Seeing how well I did on the ISS and NO-84, it is unfortunate AMSAT limits
the use of the orbiting digipeaters to a single QSO per satellite under its
Field Day rules. I don't disagree with the "one QSO per FM satellite" rule,
but question its application to the orbiting digipeaters. It seems like if
we are wanting to encourage more than just FM satellite operation during
Field Day, working packet would be one way to do that. Especially with that
NO-84 pass where only two of us were around to make QSOs.

That's it for now. Field Day is always fun, even when I worked last year's
Field Day from a balcony at my office, as I had a project to work on during
that weekend. It has been more fun over the past 10 years since I first
worked satellites during a Field Day back in 2006. I know I won't set any
records, but I was able to achieve my goals for this year - more packet
QSOs than the two I made during last year's Field Day, using SDR for at
least some of my Field Day satellite activity, and demonstrating satellite
operating for another ham.


Twitter: @WD9EWK

More information about the AMSAT-BB mailing list