Category Archives: Activities

Field Day 2017 to be held at Werner von Braun Planetarium on Monte Sano

The Marshall Space Flight Center ARC, NN4SA, will be participating in field day on June 24th and 25th from the Werner von Braun Planetarium on Monte Sano.

Google Maps with location

 

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National Parks On The Air Oct. 22nd.

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NN4SA will be activating Little River Canyon National Preserve as part of ARRL’s National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) initiative. This event will occur on October 22 and begin at 10 AM. The day of activities will include NPOTA activation, much fellowship, good food, and lots of fun. We would like to invite you and your team to join us. All NN4SA operators will receive an event poster, and an “activator” certificate (signed by the president of the MSFC ARC). Mostly, we hope it’s a fun event. On top of that, we will be activating Little River Canyon National Preserve! How cool is that! So, please come have food and fun.

  • Set-up 6AM
  • Operations begin  when park opens @10AM, possibly earlier if we get everything set up and working before then.
  • Lunch (provided/burgers and dogs) will begin around noon
  • Operations until sunset, when the park closes all areas.

Click here for information on Little River Canyon information

National Wildlife Refuge Week Special Event, October 11, 2015

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This post is our update to our Special Events page. Photos by KB5EZ and NM4T. Text by WA2JQZ.

Operation Date: Sunday October 11, 2015
(National Wildlife Refuge Week was October 11 – 17, 2015.)
Time: 1400 – 1900 UTC (0900 – 1400 CDT).
Location: Easter Posey #2 Recreation Area, Shields Road, Redstone Arsenal / NASA MSFC.

NN4SA operated a special event station to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week. Parts of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal are in the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. Our club station Bldg. 4622 is located just a few hundred feet from the wildlife area boundary. To keep close in spirit, we set up and operated a portable station at the Easter Posey #2 Recreation Area. The recreation area is at the southwest corner of the Arsenal, by the Tennessee River, and also is near the wildlife area boundary.

The Wheeler Refuge was established in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a haven and breeding sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife. It is 35,000 acres of mixed habitat, located along the Tennessee River in north Alabama.

Wheeler NWR map with NN4SA

Map of the Wheeler NWR, with the locations of our field operation site for the Special Event, and the location of our fixed station at Bldg. 4622.

Easter Posey Recreation Area #2 pavilion

Easter Posey Recreation Area #2 pavilion

We were on SSB and RTTY with a primary 100 W HF station, on 15, 20 and 40 meters. We also operated a CW QRP 5 W HF station on 20 meters, to participate in the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party. Each radio used EndFedz wire antennas suspended from the trees. Although band conditions were poor, we made about 40 contacts, including 4 RTTY and 8 CW QRP. We also joined in the Arizona and Pennsylvania QSO Parties. A few contacts resulted in ragchews, on phone and CW. We made several DX contacts: to Italy, to Croatia, and to the Canary Islands. This was a relatively relaxed special event for us. We had hot apple cider at the start in the cool morning, and we made a lunch break with fresh grilled hot dogs and accompaniments. Our operators were KB5EZ, NM4T, WA2JQZ, and N4MSN.

 

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Another hot lunchtime.

Centered better than the last try.

Centered better than the last try.

Top to bottom centering

Top to bottom centering

Left to right centering.  Maybe 1/16" or 3/32" off center.

Left to right centering. Maybe 1/16″ or 3/32″ off center.

All bolts and nuts are torqued and awaiting beam and cable installation.

All bolts and nuts are torqued and awaiting beam and cable installation.

All rotors do not use the same mounting pattern.  This plate has obviously had numerous rotors on it.

All rotors do not use the same mounting pattern. This plate has obviously had numerous rotors on it.

Special Work-Play session: OCF Antenna Work & Meteor Scatter

We decided to have a special Work-Play Session this week Wednesday August 12, 2015, starting at 4:30 pm, to do some hands-on antenna work.

We plan to readjust the length of our 160 meter Off-Center-Fed antenna, in order to tune it better for 160 meters.  We have been using it as a multi-band antenna.  But now we have dedicated dipoles for many of the other bands we use: the 17 & 20 meter inverted vee, 30 meter dipole, 40 meter dipole, 80 meter dipole.  The inverted vee tunes OK on 10, 12, and 15 meters.  And the 40 meter dipole can be used on 15 meters.  The 160 meter OCF has been used for most of those other bands.  But it does not tune well on the CW portion of 160 meters.  Retuning the OCF will give us back that CW portion.  Plus this is also an opportunity to give our less experienced members some hands on practice working with antennas.

Following the antenna work, Rob KB5EZ will demonstrate how to do meteor scatter QSOs with our station.  We will operate on 6 meters, using our 5 element 6 meter yagi beam antenna.

If you have access to the Arsenal, come join us.

The tower base is “clean” and waiting.

It was a beautiful day at lunchtime when the clouds were shading the area and a breeze was blowing.  Unfortunately, little of either happened during removal of the concrete’s frame or supporting 2 x 4’s during lunchtime today.  The base is ready to have the tower attached at the pivot points during this afternoon’s “play session”.IMG_20150715_130844493

In addition we could build the gin pole inside and take benefit of the air conditioned climate.

Gin Pole

2015 Field Day Review

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This year we chose to really operate as a field station for Field Day. We used the NASA Picnic area on Tiros Street. This gave us the chance to get out, to test ourselves out, and operate under emergency conditions in a public area. We operated as a Class 1A station. We turned out to have an excellent operation!

The Set-Up

We operated from the NASA picnic area on Tiros Street, which has a roofed pavilion large enough to provide shelter during the average summer rain shower. The layout is shaped like an “L” with two wings, and we operated at the corner.

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NN4SA Field Day portable set-up at the NASA picnic pavilion on Tiros Street. Picnic tables were available, but we brought our own portable table and chairs.

The pavilion has some basic amenities: picnic tables, a concrete floor, rest rooms, and electric power, including ceiling lights. We could operate as an emergency station and still be comfortable.

We used the provided electricity to power our laptop computer and fan. But to operate our transceiver, we relied 100% on solar power!

45W solar electric panels,  brought by KB5EZ. These powered our transceiver 100%.

45W solar electric panels, brought by KB5EZ. These powered our transceiver 100%.

Rob KB5EZ brought his set of 45w solar electric panels and two deep cycle batteries. The batteries remained charged above 12V, and provided the electricity we needed to operate 100% with solar energy.

Deep Cycle batteries which powered our Yaesu FT-950 transceiver.

Deep Cycle batteries which powered our Yaesu FT-950 transceiver.

For an antenna, we used a 102 foot dipole G5RV antenna, fed by a ladder line. The ladder line in turn was connected to an MFJ antenna tuner. A home-made slingshot enabled us to loop the antenna support ropes over nearby tree branches.

Rob KB5EZ lowering a weight at the end of fishing line, after he looped the line over a tall tree branch with his home made sling shot.

Rob KB5EZ lowering a weight at the end of fishing line, after he looped the line over a tall tree branch with his home made sling shot.

Afterwards, the fishing line is attached to one of the antenna support cables, and the antenna itself is then lifted up. John N4CNY and Malcolm K4MLP prepare to raise the southeast end of the antenna.

Afterwards, the fishing line is attached to one of the antenna support cables, and the antenna itself is then lifted up. John N4CNY and Malcolm K4MLP prepare to raise the southeast end of the antenna.

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The ladder line feed was attached to the dipole and rolled out to the pavilion.  Broken insulators which keep the two lines of the ladder separated were repaired with electrical tape.

The ladder line feed was attached to the dipole and rolled out to the pavilion. Broken insulators were repaired with electrical tape.

Feeding the ladder line safely into the pavilion.

Feeding the ladder line safely into the pavilion. (L-R: Rob KB5EZ, John N4CNY, and Malcolm K4MLP.)

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The final step, setting up the radio.

The final step, setting up the antenna tuner and our 100W Yaesu FT-950 transceiver. Rob KB5EZ used an antenna analyzer to determine resonant tuner settings for different parts of the radio bands we would use. To test the results we made some SSB contacts on 15 and 20 meters, to as far away as California. (L-R: Rob KB5EZ, Malcolm K4MLP, Ghee WL7C, and John N4CNY.)

Rob KB5EZ made some test contacts before Field Day officially started.

Rob KB5EZ made some test contacts before Field Day officially started. [Photo WL7C]

Rob KB5EZ operating with Malcolm K4MLP.

Rob KB5EZ operating with Malcolm K4MLP. [Photo WL7C]

Operations

We turned out to have an excellent operation!

Although we had occasional scattered showers on Saturday, those were not a hindrance, and were infrequent. The cold front passage brought dry, cooler, and very comfortable conditions. Had the weather been muggy and wetter, we still would have persevered and operated — this is a practice emergency operation after all. And had the weather been very rainy, we would have reverted to our Plan B and operate from our radio club station as a Class 1F (as a back-up EOC). But we could not have asked for more favorable summer weather! Sunday was even better, without the rain.

We did experience some radio noise at the site. The higher the frequency, the more noticeable was the noise, up to about an S-3 level on 6 meters.  Yet the noise was minor and did not inhibit us.

On Saturday we started operating on 20 meters phone. We tried 15 meters, but the propagation seemed limited and we didn’t stay. Then we tried 40 meters, which we discovered was very relaxing. With the day-time propagation skip on 40 meters, many of our contacts were within the Southern U.S. Southerners tend to be very relaxed and friendly, and we ended up staying on 40 meters for awhile. We also had occasional contacts to the Mid-West and northeast U.S. (40 meters had the most of our phone contacts, with 44 QSOs.)

Here and there we switched to CW (on 10, 15, 20, and 40 meters) which gave us higher contact rates, and also enabled us to work weaker signals.

John N4CNY operating on phone with Rob KB5EZ logging.

John N4CNY operating phone with Rob KB5EZ logging.

John N4CNY and Rob KB5EZ.

John N4CNY and Rob KB5EZ.

Gary WA2JQZ operating 20 meter phone with Malcolm K4MLP mid afternoon Saturday. [Photo by WL7C

Gary WA2JQZ operating 20 meter phone with Malcolm K4MLP mid afternoon Saturday. [Photo by WL7C]

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ.

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ.

(R-L) Ghee WL7C and Rob KB5EZ

(R-L) Ghee WL7C and Rob KB5EZ

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ logging, and Gary WA2JQZ.

Ghee WL7C operating phone with Rob KB5EZ logging, and Gary WA2JQZ.

Ghee WL7C brought a BioLite, which can power small devices with small wood pieces.  It was invented by hikers.  Larger versions are now being used in the 3rd world. Ghee got a fire going, and recharged his cell phone.

Ghee WL7C brought a BioLite, which can power small devices with small wood pieces. It was invented by hikers. Larger versions are now being used in the third world. Ghee kindled a fire, and then recharged his cell phone from the heat energy.

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Michael KG4OZK operating 40 meter phone later in the afternoon. He also logged for the CW contacts.

Michael KG4OZK operating 40 meter phone later in the afternoon. He also logged  many of the CW contacts.

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Michael KG4OZK

Michael KG4OZK operating 40 m phone with Rob KB5EZ logging.

Michael KG4OZK operating 40 m phone with Rob KB5EZ logging as the sun lowered.

In the evening, Rob KB5EZ operated digital RTTY on 20 and 40 meters.

In the evening, as the sun set, Rob KB5EZ operated 20m RTTY.

In the evening, as the sun set, Rob KB5EZ operated 20m RTTY.

Rob KB5EZ got us an early start at 8 AM on Sunday, working SSB and digital PSK31. Gary WA2JQZ came by 9:30, and then operated 20 and 10 meter CW. When we were ready for a break, we discovered 6 meters was open. Rob and John N4CNY then worked 6 meter phone to the Mid-West. Gary then got in some 6 meter CW, with Michael KG4OZK logging.

Gary brought Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and muffins to keep us warmed up. And John brought a case of Cherry Dr. Pepper. Plus we had water.

Gary WA2JQZ operating 10 meter phone with John N4CNY logging. Gary also operated CW.

Gary WA2JQZ operating 10 meter phone with John N4CNY logging. Gary also operated CW. [Photo by KB5EZ]

After getting what we could on 6 meters, we switched to 10 meter phone, which we found was also open. We stayed with 10 meters for awhile, as we had a good contact rate with strong enough signals, and pileups were minimal.

Malcolm K4MLP and Michael KG4OZK worked our remaining contacts, on 40 meter phone.

Malcolm K4MLP operated 40 meter phone during the last hour of Field Day, with Michael KG4OZK logging.

Malcolm K4MLP operating 40 meter phone on Sunday, with Michael KG4OZK logging.

In Summary

We really had an excellent Field Day! Operating as a field station (Class 1A) turned out to be an excellent decision. Set up took an hour, and we were able to take down everything in 20 minutes — thanks to an effective set-up and good teamwork. The pavilion was a great place to operate from. Operation was straight forward and relaxed! The weather was excellent, with just occasional showers, and with a nice breeze. Late Saturday we did have some mosquitoes, but we can probably figure out how to keep them away for next time. The pine trees supported our G5RV, and we had a good spot for our solar panels, once the sun came out.

We were Ghee WL7C, John N4CNY, Rob KB5EZ (Lead), Gary WA2JQZ, Malcolm K4MLP, and Michael KG4OZK. We really all worked well together, as a group and in the many ways we paired for operating. We had diverse strengths and diverse experience levels. Everyone had time operating at the radio, regardless of the experience level. We all contributed, and we all learned from each other and from our whole experience.

We learned useful lessons that will help us deploy for emergency communications. That’s part of the point of Field Day, along of course with the fun! And probably the best part was the fellowship!

The total contact (QSO) count was: 89 SSB phone, 47 Morse Code CW, and 14 digital (Radio Teletype and PSK31 Phase Shift Keying). We contacted other amateur radio stations across the continental US, from California to Vermont and Florida, and in Puerto Rico. 51 contacts were on the 40 meter band, 49 on 20 meters, 22 on 15 meters, 19 on 10 meters, and 9 on 6 meters. We were fortunate to have good propagation on 10 and 6 meters on Sunday morning — that is not always the case.

Please plan to attend next year’s Field Day. You’ll enjoy it and learn something too!

[Posted by Gary WA2JQZ with Rob KB5EZ]

[Photos by Gary WA2JQZ, Rob KB5EZ, and Ghee WL7C, with some additional help from the rest of the team.]