Tag Archives: Field Operating

QSLs from Nat’l Wildlife Refuge Week

We received two QSL cards in the mail from when we ran our special event station for National Wildlife Refuge Week.  We operated our special event on October 11, in the field by the Tennessee River, to celebrate the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.  Part of the Refuge extents in to the Arsenal and the NASA Marshall Center.

KA5VZG in Tennessee, in particular, wrote to thank us for activating Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.  He showed us on his card that he is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Refuge Manager.

Our other card came from N1INI in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.  His card shows a photo of the Cape Naddick Lighthouse in Maine.

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Here are some more QSL cards we received for the special event, through eQSL.  N1INI sent us a different photo in this set.

N1INI 20151011 NN4SA 20m SSB NWR MA

N1DRS 20151011 NN4SA 20m SSB NWR MA WM0L 20151011 NN4SA 20m SSB NWR NE KF5KJN 20151011 NN4SA 40m SSB NWR LA

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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National Wildlife Refuge Week Special Event, Sunday October 11, 2015 – Update

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NN4SA will operate a special event station to celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week.

Date: Sunday October 11, 2015
Start Time: 1400 UTC (0900 CDT). End Time: afternoon local (CDT).
Location: Easter Posey #2 Recreation Area, Shields Road, Redstone Arsenal / NASA MSFC.

Easter Posey Recreation Area #2 pavilion

Easter Posey Recreation Area #2 pavilion. [Photo: KB5EZ]

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 to this special event, we will operate as a portable station at the Easter Posey #2 Recreation Area. This is at the southwest corner of the Arsenal, by the Tennessee River, and also is by the wildlife area boundary. In case of rain, we will operate from our club station.

We will have a primary 100 W HF station active throughout the event. We may also operate a CW QRP 5 W HF station, to participate in the QRP-ARCI Fall QSO Party.

The National Wildlife Refuge Week event continues through the next Saturday.  However at this time we plan to just operate on Sunday October 11.

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.

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.

Michael KG4OZK

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.]

2015 Field Day Update – Starts Saturday (tomorrow) June 27

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Update for our 2015 Field Day:

Our Field Day plans are on track to proceed! 

Although, as of this writing at 4 PM Friday 6/26, we are forecast for rain tonight through tomorrow morning, the local weather is expected to become drier and cooler with the passage of a cold front by 1 PM CDT Saturday, the start of on-air operation.  The weather is expected to remain good through Sunday.

Dates: Saturday June 27 and Sunday June 28, 2015

Times: Set up 9 AM Saturday. On-air operations begin at 1 pm Saturday and end 1 pm Sunday.

Location:  NASA picnic grounds pavilion on Tiros Street, just east of Building 4755.  To get there from Rideout Rd. take Martin Rd. west, pass the red light at Gemini Ave and turn north on Tiros Street.

We plan to operate class 1A (single transmitter) using batteries charged by solar panels.  

The primary antenna will be a 102 ft. dipole fed by ladder line.

Phone (SSB) will be the primary mode but we may do some digital and CW as well.

There may be a cookout if sufficient folks show up.  Coffee will be provided for Sunday morning.  And we will have water.

Operations will be relaxed and just for fun so drop by to check it out or get on the air.  There are picnic tables but bring a chair if you want to sit a spell.  Bring some bug spray if you want to stay late.  Bring other comforts and something to eat if you wish.  

In case of forecast bad weather prior to start of the event, we may change our location to the club station on Centaur St. and operate class 1E or 1F.  

As for the latest space weather, HF propagation conditions degraded earlier this week but may improve.  With the many Field Day stations out there though, we should still have many contacts.

Come on out and enjoy the respite from the heat and geomagnetic storms.

ARRL Official Field Day website:   http://www.arrl.org/field-day

Posted by Gary WA2JQZ and Rob KB5EZ

2015 Field Day: June 27-28

ARRL Field Day June 27 – 28, 2015
ARRL Field Day [ “http://www.arrl.org/field-day]

NN4SA will again be participating in Field Day. We plan to operate from the NASA Picnic area on Tiros Streeet as a Class 1A station with solar-charged batteries. Set-up starts on Saturday 9 AM. Ops from 1 PM Saturday to 1 PM Sunday. Our back-up location will be at the club, at Building 4622. Come by to operate with us or just visit. This is a major event for our club each year.

[ Posted by N4MSN & WA2JQZ, June 18, 2015. ]

Portable operations around MSFC in February

I’ve been doing portable HF operations for several years now.  I’ve mostly done contesting with the station setup in the back of my SUV with a mobile-mounted hamstick or end fed antenna in a tree.  But I’ve also done a SOTA activation (http://www.sota.org.uk/) and a QRP to the Field (http://www.zianet.com/qrp/).   Like fishing, all of these are an excuse to get out into the outdoors and do something relaxing.  You may not catch much in either activity but with portable HF you’ll at least enjoy dipping the hook in the ionosphere while admiring the scenery.  I have to admit that I don’t always go QRP (sorry, NM4T) especially in the contests but do occasionally operate that way.  You can always setup on your patio and look for a ragchew partner but it is nice to have a goal or framework for your operations.  Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR http://radar-america.blogspot.com/) has been gaining popularity as such a goal while doing portable HF ops and that is what we did around MSFC on a beautiful, mild, winter day in early February.  Craig/NM4T did a really nice writeup in the April QRP Quarterly (http://www.qrparci.org/) but Gary asked if I would provide a summary for the club blogsite so here it is.

The idea behind RaDAR is to setup, make some contacts, and move to do it all again.  The details are at the RaDAR website.  We decided to try at least 3 locations around MSFC, mostly with photogenic, rocket-themed backgrounds.  Craig and I began the day with a portable station outside the club station (not so photogenic).  I was running JT65 on a modified Ten Tec Rebel Open Source QRP rig to my new AlexLoop.  Craig was running SSB on his Elecraft KX3 and 2 different End-Fedz antennas he quickly erected on nice tripod-mounted, guyed, extension poles.  I tried his tri-band End-Fedz and it worked great.  A remarkable fact is that we had the rigs on the same tiny portable table and they didn’t interfere a bit.  I knew the KX3 had a fantastic receiver but the humble little Rebel did great too.  A max of 5 – 10w out helped in this respect.  I powered the Rebel from a used UPS battery and Craig was using a very cool Goal Zero Yeti-400 power pack with solar panels.  With the nice sunshine that day he had plenty of power supply capacity.  We were joined by Mike/KG4OZK and Malcolm/K4MLP.  Both got some mic time on the sweet KX3 and participated the rest of the day making contacts and answering questions from a few passers-by.  Mike hung his J-pole and got on the air with 2m FM.

We then moved our operation to the MSFC rocket park.  Rather than string antennas on the Saturn I we decided to use our AlexLoops which deploy really fast and work amazingly well.  After a few QSOs there we moved to the “rocket engine park” in front of the Propulsion Research Center and went with Rebel, KX3, and 2 AlexLoops once again.

The practical use of this kind of operation is that you demonstrate that your “go kit” is complete and your equipment is working in case you are called on to provide emergency communications.  After trying various antennas and power supplies you get a good feel for the balance of what works best and what is easiest to deploy.  With the modern radios and portable computers digital modes with their communications efficiencies are a great way to make some Qs with low power and compromise antennas.  All this operating fun while enjoying the great outdoors, nice weather, and good fellowship make an unbeatable combination.

Rob KB5EZ

NM4T and his 10-20-40m EndFedz support

KB5EZ's JT65 station

KG4OZK ready for some VHF action on a J-pole

K4MLP and NM4T with the KX3 and AlexLoop

NM4T working JT65 surrounded by a Saturn V engine and Shuttle solid rocket booster