Monday, August 23, 2010

First weekend of the 2010 ARRL 10GHz Cumulative Contest

It's that time of year again, this weekend I started off up in New Hampshire on top of Mt. Kearsarge in FN43bj. I was joined by W1FKF, W1EX and N1ZZN (who was there to climb the peak). We got into the park a little early, and were up top and setup by 9:15. The WA1VVH 10GHz beacon was on and VERY loud on Saturday, which was very helpful. We could hear the Mt. Greylock beacon, but it wasn't very loud (I think it's lower power).

We had a great day, I broke my previous records of 22q's with a grand total of 27 for Saturday. My best DX was down to WA2FGK in FN21, who was there, but very weak.

Sunday W1FKF, W1EX and I met up at the Westborough water tank at FN42fg. The weather forecast was for heavy rain, so we knew it wasn't going to be a long operation. I got there a little early and got the liason system up and running. There weren't many people on 2m, which wasn't a good sign. W1FKF and W1EX showed up shortly afterwards and the three of us had our systems up and running within 5-10 minutes. We managed to work about 6-7 stations, the best DX was K2KIB at Highpoint New Jersey, in FN21. That was actually impressive since all three of us were looking through a tree and a bus!

Shortly afterwards the rain started, we made the last 2-3 contacts then called it quits around 9:30. When I got home I brought the 10GHz rig into the house and decided I might try doing some rain scatter. There was a lul in the rain, so I set up on the back porch which faces N-NW. Once the LO was somewhat stable I tuned around and didn't hear the VVH Beacon. I added about 15 degrees of elevation, and boom! There it was! I was hearing WA1VVH/B very strong, about S5 on rainscatter. I could hear it in about a 15 degree arc on the azimuth and about 20-30 degrees in elevation.

I went into the house and tried to get the guys up on Kearsarge to run with me, but they were in a heavy rain period and decided to wait a little while. About 20-30 minutes later we tried sending to each other, but never managed to complete. When I went back to the beacon, it had almost disappeared.

I then downloaded the rainscatter program by K0SM, and learned how to use it. I could see the storm in Eastern New York state that was causing the scatter, it was in the same 15 degree arc that I was hearing the beacon on.

I never ended up working anyone, but it was a good lesson in learning how rain scatter works. I'm more equipped to take advantage of it next time it happens....

The next weekend of the contest I'll be down on the Cape for at least 1 day, and I might spend some time down in CT and RI along the coast line.

Perseids a bust for me...

The peak of the Perseids meteor shower was back on 8/12 and 8/13. I ended up not really having the time to work anybody and from my location wasn't really hearing many burns at all. I monitor the WA1ZMS 2m beacon on 144.285 and can frequently hear pings, but I wasn't hearing any more than the normal amount during the meteor shower. Also, my station is still in the state of dis-repair. My main 2m Antenna is a real POS, and needs to be replace badly. The 6m Antenna is OK, but it's only 3 elements. Both antennas are slated to be replaced this fall, and as it turns out, I found the exact 2m antenna I wanted for sale used locally. Now I just need the 6m antenna and a new rotor.

The other issue that I've wanted to fix is RF power. On 2m I've been using an external 170w power amp, that puts out more like 130w peak (It's old and tired). On 6m I have 100w from the FT-847, but on both bands I run at 50% power since the WSJT protocols run at 100% duty cycle. So, that puts me at 65w on 2m, and 50w on 6m, not really Ideal power levels for meteor scatter.

The good news is that I have lots of power available for 6m! I bought a used 1Kw tube amp a number of years back that's been sitting Idle in the basement. I don't plan on running anywhere near 1Kw, but I think I could run 250w full duty cycle with no problems. That should be more than enough power to get the job done. The real issue I face right now is getting the amplifier integrated into the system. When you start having to worry about switching relays and sequencing, it gets more complicated.

For 2m, I recently picked up a 350w amp from a friend and have been working to get that integrated as well. I built a new sequencer from a kit and completed the enclosure last night. I just need to work out the relay wiring and I'll be all set.

Of course, both amplifiers will require lots of power to run, and at the moment, I only have a single 15 amp circuit in my office, so I have more things to work out.

So, work continues on improving the meteor scatter station, I should be ready for the next shower, at least on one band....