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SARL Today HF Update with ZS4BS Focus on VHF/UHF/Microwave Contest News with Geoff ZS6C SARL Forum current topics Commercial Hamads
South African COVID-19 Corona Virus Resource Portal: www.sacoronavirus.co.za

SARL TODAY! 

The Office at the NARC is closed during the Lock Down period. Kelley is working from home and you can contact her on admin@sarl.org.za and/or 011 675-2393.


SARL ON-THE-AIR BULLETINS AND AMATEUR RADIO TODAY PROGRAMME 5 July 2020

SARLNEWS in English with Rory Norton ZS2BL   here  

SARLNUUS in Afrikaans met Jan Kramer ZS6JRK   luister/laai hier af

AMATEUR RADIO TODAY,  SARL's weekly actuality programme about Amateur Radio and technology hosted by  Hans van de Groenendaal ZS6AKV  Download/listen  here 

In the programme 5 July 2020  SW Radiogram - AM broadcasts with a very fast foward twist. 

Sundays at 08:00 UTC on repeaters around South Africa including 145,750  and 145,725 MHZ in Pretoria. On HF 7 082 kHz by ZS5LP

Amateur Radio Today on 80 metres on Mondays - On Mondays Amateur RadioToday is transmitted at 19:30 local time on 3 620 kHz by Andy Cairns ZS6ADY.

Reception reports are invited. Please send your report to artoday@sarl.org.za. Please give details of the signal strength antenna and location.

Text bulletins from 1 March 2020 can be found at https://sarlnewsbulletin.wordpress.com/


ICASA extends grace period for amateur radio licence renewal - Following discussions ICASA has informed the SARL that no amateur radio licenses expired on 30 June 2020. The grace period has been extended by several weeks to allow payment.

ICASA still operate the old system in parallel with the new online system which is still in its Beta testing phase.

AMATEUR RADIO LICENCE RENEWAL – ICASA still operate the old system in parallel with the new online system.

Legacy System

If you licence was issued on the old system, you will receive an invoice. ICASA informed the SARL that the invoice will be mailed during the next few weeks. However with the huge postal backlog caused by the lockdown you may not receive it for some time.

You may pay it with out the invoice as follows:

2020/21 Amateur Radio License fee

1 year licence –  R 154.00.

2 year licence –  R 294.00

3 year licence –  R 422.00

4 year licence -  R 537.00

5 year licence – R 642.00

Radio Amateurs are reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure their license is up to date. If for some reason no invoice is received, check that ICASA has been informed of any address changes. 

Avoid the inconvenience of having to renew each year, opt for a multi-year licence. Simply, when renewing pay the appropriate amount. On the EFT state 5 Year licence and your callsign. Also send an e-mail to specrev@icasa.org.za and dkuhrau@icasa.org.za with a copy of the EFT payment. The correct account for your ICASA Licence Fee is NEDBANK Account number: 14 62 00 29 27, Branch Code: 146245 - Corporate Client Services – Pretoria and in the reference field type in your licence number and call sign. 

ICASA Licence Fees - DO NOT pay the ICASA licence fee into the SARL bank account, all moneys wrongfully paid into the SARL account will be refunded less the bank charges associated with these transactions.  

ONLINE SYSTEM

"The ICASA license  renewal phase is very important for the new online system to work and for the protection of call signs issued to radio amateurs. The Authority extended the renewal date to 30 June 2020 and this is the process that they are busy with. The fact that a payment was made earlier in the year does not mean that the licence is renewed", Dewald Kuhrau told the SARL

The new online system puts control over the licence in the licensee`s hands. All amendments and/or renewals are done online by the licensee. For those radio amateurs who applied for their licences online the process is extremely easy. If you are not yet registered on the system then you need to register, create your legal entity, and then press the renewal button on the manage page. The system will then prompt you to indicate for how many years the licence must be renewed, and an invoice will be rendered after submission. Thereafter you can pay online through your manage portal or upload the proof of payment if payment is made through another method. Renewal for the following year will then be an easy exercise.

If this process is not followed, radio amateurs not only stand a chance to get the licence cancelled but more importantly lose their call signs. These call signs will then be available and assigned to other radio amateur which can cause much unhappiness.

To access the portal, go to https://online.icasa.org.za/

It is important to note that the above process is only for licences that were already issued on the new online system. Any licence issued on the Authority`s old legacy system should still be renewed by payment of the prescribed licence fees only.

ICASA indicated that it will start with the process to transfer the existing licences to the online system during the next year where after all renewals will be done on this system. Please note that any amendment to your licence such as change of call sign or change of address should from now on be done on the online system through a legacy amendment application and the licence will be transferred immediately to the new system.

Please do not call the SARL or any of the SARL officials as they cannot assist you.  They do not have access to your ICASA account. The system is identity driven. If you are experiencing any problems, send an email to dkuhrau@icasa.org.za.


The July 2020 Radio ZS is available for download. 


 

 

ZS6 - ZS1 Meteor Scatter contact - On Friday morning Dick ZS6BUN and Tom ZS1TA made a 2m contact using meteor scatter from random meteors. Dick was using 800 W into a 2m 12 element Yagi, 15m above ground level and Tom was using 75 W into a 6 over 6 Skeleton Slot Yagi at 7m above ground level.The contact took 20 minutes to complete. Dick says “20 minutes to complete using random meteors on 2m is not bad at all.  Having said all this in Europe such a QSO would be relatively commonplace with the theoretical maximum distance possible at about 2400km or roughly double what we did this morning."

 

What is Meteor Scatter? There are literally millions of meteors which are small particle of space debris that enters the earth’s atmosphere every day. As these particles move through the Mesosphere which is the third layer of the atmosphere at approximately 50 – 60 km above the surface of the earth they burn up because of the friction caused in this layer and leave behind an ionising trail. You often see these meteors, or shooting stars burning up in the night sky. The ionised trail has the ability to reflect radio signals. Click here for more


 

Survey. Dick Coates, ZS6BUN has posted a new topic on the Forum titled " Age, Licence and Operating Habits” which includes a survey of operating habits. This survey is input to a forthcoming presentation or Radio ZS article. 


The IARU has developed a paper addressing increasing noise from digital devices. International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) specialists Tore Worren, LA9QL, and Martin Sach, G8KDF, submitted the paper to the International Special Committee on Radio Interference (CISPR) concerning the increasing impact of multiple digital devices on noise levels in the radio spectrum. The paper was considered at the CISPR Steering Committee in late May, and it was adopted for circulation to the CISPR National Committee for comment as a Committee Draft, with a view toward its becoming a CISPR Report. "IARU hopes that the result of this will be amendments to the way in which standards are developed to recognize the need to properly consider the cumulative impact of multiple devices," said IARU Region 1 President Don Beattie, G3BJ, in an IARU news brief. -- Thanks to IARU Region 1


YOTA online – livestreams of session #1 

 

To listen to the first session which was live on YouTube on 28 May with close to 90 participates from most parts of the wordl, Follow the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzSsYo_nkgQ&t=575s 

WHAT is YOTA online? The Youth Working Group within the IARU Region 1 created a newly developed program called “YOTA online”. In these monthly gatherings we will try to bring the YOTA feeling towards the online community and spread the word that there is youth in ham radio. A YOTA team consisting of active youngsters will present different topics, while answering questions from the community. There will also be a section where different recent YOTA event hosts will be able to present the highlights, while also giving participants the opportunity to share stories. This will be followed by a Q&A session with the group presenting. At the end of the event we will also do a prize raffle amongst all participants.

WHY? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic all planned YOTA events until September 2020 had unfortunately been cancelled or postponed. This included, for example, the Summer Camps in IARU Regions 1, 2 and 3, as well as Subregional Camps, Youth Contest Programs, and our presence at the HAMRADIO 2020 in Friedrichshafen. Taking this into account and the fact that lots of youngsters want to join YOTA activities each year gave us the idea to create an interactive format to gather youngsters online on a regular basis.


New Satellite Book now available - The new ARRL Amateur radio satellites for beginners is now available in South Africa. With the opening of e-commerce, Postnet is operating again and books can be sent to your nearest Postnet. You can make contacts through amateur radio satellites, and even with the International Space Station, using equipment you probably own right now! All it takes is the right information, which you will find in Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners by Steve Ford

There are dozens of spacecraft in orbit just waiting for your signals, and more are being launched every year. This book is your guide to a whole new world of operating enjoyment.

Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners will introduce you to new experiences that you may have thought were out of your reach. Start reading and discover how easy it can be! To order the book visit www.amateurradio.org.za. 115 pages plus index.


The 1820 British Settlers. The ZS1820S call sign celebrates the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the 1820 British Settlers in the Eastern Cape area of South Africa.

The call sign will be active during 2020 on various bands and modes. QSL is via the bureau to ZS2EC, also via LoTW, ClubLog and QRZ.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1820_Settlers


Due date for the Renewal of Radio Frequency Spectrum Licences extended https://www.icasa.org.za/news/2020/due-date-for-the-renewal-of-radio-frequency-spectrum-licences-extended


Monitor VHF beacons and contribute to science- Monitoring beacons is an excellent way to determine how  VHF propagation conditions change over a period of time. While in the planning stage the SARL beacon group have not yet progressed to an automated beacon monitoring and reporting system.  “We are not quite there yet with the beacon reporting Bot on Telegram”, Focus on VHF and above presenter, Brian Jacobs said. “In the meantime you can assist us by listening for the beacons and sending your reports to vhfnews@sarl.org.za. 

The beacons that the group  is interested in are:

ZS6JON on 144.440 MHz

ZS4AFV on 144.415 MHz

ZS0BET on 144.425 MHz 

Please record the following information: Beacon heard, your callsign, your grid location, local time and the signal report and local weather information available. This will help us to get a better idea of the propagation.


Official QO-100 International Emergency Frequency - In order to coordinate potential emergency communications during the actual or any other crisis, the following frequency will be assigned as international emergency frequency on QO-100 NB Transponder: 

Downlink: 10489.860 MHz

Uplink:       2400.360 MHz

SSB channel: max. 2.7kHz bandwidth . All users on QO-100 are encouraged to monitor this frequency, but keep it clear for emergency traffic!


 2020/21 Amateur Radio License fee increase

On Wednesday 5 February, ICASA informed the SARL that in accordance with the CPI document published by Stats SA on 22 January 2020, the average CPI for 2019 is 4.1% which will be the percentage increase of ICASA fees. Please note that these fees will only be implemented from 1 April 2020 and all licences issued in the remainder of the 2019/2020 licence year will be required to pay the pro rata fee calculated on the old fees. The radio frequency spectrum fees will therefore increase to the following:

Minimum fee or 1 year licence –  R 154.00.

The multi-year licences will increase as follows:

2 year licence –  R 294.00

3 year licence –  R 422.00

4 year licence -  R 537.00

5 year licence – R 642.00

Radio Amateurs are reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure their license is up to date. If for some reason no invoice is received, check that ICASA has been informed of any address changes. 

Avoid the hassles of having to renew each year, opt for a multi-year licence. Simply, when renewing pay the appropriate amount. On the EFT state 5 Year licence and your callsign. Also send an e-mail to specrev@icasa.org.za and dkuhrau@icasa.org.za with a copy of the EFT payment. The correct account for your ICASA Licence Fee is NEDBANK Account number: 14 62 00 29 27, Branch Code: 146245 - Corporate Client Services – Pretoria and in the reference field type in your licence number and call sign. 

ICASA Licence Fees - DO NOT pay the ICASA licence fee into the SARL bank account, all moneys wrongfully paid into the SARL account will be refunded less the bank charges associated with these transactions.  


 AMSAT SA  NEW SPACE SYMOSIUM DATE - The annual AMSAT SA Space symposium   date has changed to Saturday 11 July 2020.  While the call for papers is ongoing till the end of February, AMSAT SA is pleased to announce that Burns Fisher WB1FJ, of AMSAT NA will delivery two papers  at the symposium:  Fox-in-a-box,  Fox telemetry reception using an inexpensive Raspberry Pi and a J-pole antenna including a discussion on the  optimal positioning for a J-pole antenna for satellite reception and an overview of what is in orbit currently and expected in the near future and their features. 

Prospective authors are invited to  propose other  papers by submitting a brief synopsis to admin@amsatsa.org.za before 28 February 2020.


Report interference and unauthorised use of amateur frequencies - If your transmission or repeater is interfered with by an unlicensed person (s), note as much detail as possible and report the case for investigation to the ICASA  regional office in your area. By policing the amateur bands and reporting transgressions by non-licensed persons we protect the future of the amateur radio spectrum. Send a copy of your email to artoday@sarl.org.za   to allow   the SARL to monitor how wide-spread the problem is.  For a  list of  ICASA Regional managers and contact details visit http://www.sarl.org.za/public/licences/licences.asp  or click here.


Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology - The SARL hosted a very sucessful synposium on 12 April 2019 in Stellenbosch.  It was attended by over 60 delegates. The symposium was supported by contributions from  RF Design, Comtest, F'Sati, Giga Technology and AMSAT SA. The powerpoint presentations are available for download here. Download while still available .


Guidelines for a non SARL member to use the SA-QSL system- Phone Kelley at NARC (011 675 2393) and check that your correct information is on the database – license number and e-mail address are important.

Click on SA-QSL system link (on the left-hand side of the web page) and then click on “Need to Register”. Follow the instructions on the screen. Your username and password will be e-mailed to you which you can use to logon in future.

SARL and not yet SARL Members are requested to check their Electronic QSLs on a regular basis.


2020 Advertising in Radio ZS and the SARL Web site

Radio ZS and the SARL web welcomes advertising. It is a source of information for readers. Send your advertisement for the League website to Hans, ZS6AKV at artoday@sarl.org.za and for Radio ZS to Dennis, ZS4BS at radiozs@sarl.org.za

Advertising Rates (effective 1 January 2020)

Display (cameo) on home page and Radio ZS Strip advertisement (10 cm by 2 columns) - R600 pm - R3 000 for 6 months - R5 000 per annum

Commercial Hamad on home page - R100 pm - R400 for 6 months - R900 per annum

Terms and conditions

All contract advertisements content may be changed monthly on 5 working day notice

The rates are based on the complete supply of material in Jpeg unless otherwise negotiated. For artwork additional charges may apply as agreed. A design service is available at R400 per advertisement.

The content of the advertisements must comply with regulations and norms acceptable in South Africa

All advertisements are playable in advance by EFT to SA Radio League, ABSA, account no 4071 588 849 branch code 632 005

All correspondence and material must be sent to admin@sarl.org.za with a copy to artoday@sarl.org.za


HF Update with Dennis, ZS4BS - 4 July 2020 

Switzerland, HB. Special event station HB15SOTA is active until 8 May 2021 to mark the 15th anniversary of SOTA activities in Switzerland. QSL via operators' instructions.

Liechtenstein, HB0. Loick, HB9HBY and Greg, HB9TWU will be active as HB0/HB9HBY and HB0/HB9TWU from Liechtenstein between 24 and 26 July (but look for a special call sign to be used on 25 July). They plan to operate SSB, CW and FT8 on 80-6 metres. QSL both calls via EB7DX.

Croatia, 9A. 9A164T is the special callsign for members of the Radio Klub Novi Bokanjac (9A1ZDR) to commemorate the birth of Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856). QSL via the bureau and eQSL.

Poland, SP. Special event call sign SN87LOT is active between 1 - 31 July to commemorate the 87th anniversary of the ill-fated flight of Lithuanian pilots Steponas Darius and Stasys Girenas. On 15 July 1933 they attempted a nonstop flight from New York City, United States to Kaunas, Lithuania in a small airplane named "Lituanica." After successfully crossing the Atlantic Ocean, they crashed on 17 July when they were only 650 km short of their final destination. QSL via SP1PMY.

Antarctica. Alexander, RX3ABI is active as RI1ANM from Mirny Base, IOTA AN-016, until early 2021 while on work assignment.  Activity is in his spare time on 40 and 20 meters using FT8. QSL to home call.

The FT8 Digital Mode Club. Look out for OD5FTDMC, 9K8FTDMC, A60FTDMC, A91FTDMC, HZ8FTDMC, SU8FTDMC, ZL65FTDMC and other stations with the suffix FTDMC until 31 July to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the FT8 Digital Mode Club. QSL via operators' instructions.

Japan, JA. Special event station 8N1ABIKO is active until the end of 2020 in celebration of the founding of Abiko-City, IOTA AS-007.  QSL via bureau.

Corsica, TK. Max, DL8UW is active as TK4VQO from Olmeto and expects to be here for the next few years. Activity is on 160 to 6 metres using CW and SSB.  QSL direct to home call.

Germany, DL. Mike, DG5LAC will be active as DG5LAC/p from Hooge Island (EU-042) between 24 and 28 July. He will operate SSB and FT8. QSL via Club Log's OQRS, or via DG5LAC.

Ogasawara Islands, JD1_oga. Takashi, JH1FFW will be active from the Ogasawara Islands (AS-031) between 15 and 19 July. He will operate SSB and FT8 on 40 - 6 metres. QSL via LoTW, eQSL, or the bureau to home call.

Greenland, OX. Bo, OZ1DJJ will be active again in his spare time as OX3LX from Aasiaat Island (NA-134) between 7 and 30 July. He will be active on 40 - 4 m. QSL via Club Log's OQRS, LoTW, or via OZ0J.

Australia, VK. Andy, VK5MAV plans to be active as VK5MAV/p from IOTA Group OC-228 on 25 and 26 July. He expects to operate CW on 20, 15 and 10 metres. QSL via Club Log's OQRS. 


Get your weekly copy of HF Happenings at www.sarl.org.za/hf_happenings.asp 

Daily frequency predications: https://spaceweather.sansa.org.za/products-and-services/frequency-predictions/daily-frequencies Bloemfontein - Cape Town; Cape Town – Durban; Cape Town – NVIS; Cape Town – Pretoria; Durban – Pretoria; Pietersburg – Pretoria; Pretoria - NVIS

7 day frequency predications https://spaceweather.sansa.org.za/products-and-services/frequency-predictions/public-service-information Hermanus – Antarctica; Durban - Cape Town; Port Elizabeth – Pretoria; Pretoria – Auckland; Pretoria - Cape Town; Pretoria – Durban; Pretoria – Frankfurt; Pretoria - New Delhi; Pretoria - New York; Pretoria - San Francisco 

Southern African Fauna and Flora https://zsfaunaandflora.wordpress.com/

Contacts with stations on the African continent count towards the SARL’s All Africa Award www.sarl.org.za/public/awards/awards.asp

Worldwide List of HF Beacons https://iaruhfbeacons.wordpress.com/ 


VHF+ UHF+ MICROWAVE NEWS - FOCUS ON VHF with ZS6YZ 21 JUNE 2020 

VHF, UHF and Microwave Record Table the latest table of records is available from the VHF SA Record page. Click here to get a copy. Compiled and updated by Paul, ZS6NK - Send your record claim to zssixnk@gmail.com


Focus on VHF and Above 5 July 2020

 Audio version

On Monday evening Ken ZS6KN reported hearing the ZS0BET beacon at his QTH at grid KG44bj, a distance of 292 km. Ken heard it again at 11:00 on Tuesday morning. Ken is a little north of my QTH further away from the Magaliesberg. Ken reported that while the signal was low it was perfectly readable. So far if I recall correctly, this is the furtherest to the north that this beacon has been reported. Thanks for that report Ken.

 

The ZS0BET beacon in Bethlehem at grid KG41ds puts out 25 W  into two 8 element Yagi antenna pointing East and North. The frequency is 144.425 MHz. This beacon has already been reported being heard far and wide and from some unexpected locations.

 

The ZS1TWO beacon’s antenna is pointing in the direction of Divisions 4 and 6. The beacon at grid JF96fb puts out 20 W into a 5 element Yagi on the frequency of 144.435 MHz.

 

Please listen out for these beacons. It will be very interesting to know where these beacons are heard. And, when you hear these beacons with a good signal level you can be sure that the possibility for good long distance VHF comms is also possible.

 

Be sure to let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of those long distance QSO’s that you make including beacon reports.

 

Those of us that attempt to build our own homebrew equipment, interfaces or whatever will know that it becomes quite interesting when we are faced with the challenge that we cannot find conventional components any more and we are forced to consider using surface mount components. Yes, it is daunting and for many of us so scary that we rather not attempt the project.

Surface mount devices come in various sizes, but with the right tools it is not that difficult to work with them.

 

There is a good article in the latest edition of the Surrey Amateur Radio Club magazine on solder reflow by Kevin McQuiggin VE7ZD/KN7Q. There is of course plenty of other interesting articles in their magazine as well. You can find the magazine at https://ve7sar.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-july-august-2020-communicator.html

 

By now most of you will have heard about the HAMNET 2020 Blackout exercise that will take place over the weekend of 29-30 August 2020. This exercise will use both HF and VHF and each team will have a HF and VHF sub team. The exercise will also require us to make extensive use of digital modes. Most of us are quite familiar with digital modes over HF. Those same digital modes work very well on VHF as well and we have already done some extensive testing using JS8Call on VHF, getting some decent distances without any atmospheric conditions that enhances VHF communications.

 

While it is a HAMNET exercise, there only needs to be one HAMNET member in a team who will also be the team leader.

 

Here is a great opportunity to test out your go box on digital modes on VHF as well.

 

If you do not already have a computer set up for your digital modes, why not put together a low cost Raspberry Pi solution.  It is definitely not difficult to set up. Go and look at look at the Youtube Channel of Jason KM4ACK. He has a really simple recipe to set up a Raspberry PI with everything that you need to be able to run digital modes in the field.

 

I have been following Jason’s channel for a while and I have already completed two installs on both a Raspberry Pi 3B and a Pi 4. The current version of Jason’s installation recipe is so simple that all you need to do is run a script, provide some basic information and select which programs you would like to install. The script does everything for you. There is some configuration that is needed, but Jason takes you through that as well in one of his videos. It is that simple.

 

Add to this a 10 inch touch screen LCD display and you are fully sorted with a portable controller for your station. Alternatively you can use a laptop and VNC to connect to your Pi via it’s own hotspot if you are not connected to an external network.

 

I’m currently sorting out a 12V to 5V step down supply to run the Pi from the 12 V radio batteries as well.

 

What interesting project you are busy with? Share it with us at  vhfnews@sarl.org.za..

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above 28 June 2020

 Audio version

Last week we reported on the great Meteor Scatter contact Dick ZS6BUN and Tom ZS1TA made.

 

Well they surely do not let the grass grow under their feet. They were at it again on Sunday morning 21 June 2020 and this time Pieter V51PJ also got on the air and tried to make some contacts. This time the meteorites did not play along, but perseverance pays off and Dick and Pieter managed to get a contact in the log.

 

ZS6BUN_V 51PJ Contact_In_Progress.jpeg

 

It looks like it was Troposcatter. Well done guys. It shows what can be done. 

On the other side of the Atlantic Marcos PY1MHZ from Brazil also made a good long distance VHF contact of 1461km. Here is a short video clip that Marcos sent. Well done guys.

 

 PY1MHZ_PT9VR_Contact.mp4

From this it can be seen that long distance VHF and above contacts are possible. It just takes a lot more work to get the contact and of course you need to squeeze every dB that you can out of your system, by using good antennas and coaxial cables to minimise your losses.

The guys that attended previous VHF workshops will fully understand how important this is as both Dick ZS6BUN and Pine ZS6OB have given presentations on these topics.

There is also a lot of work going on to try and bridge the Atlantic and Garry ZD7GWM is on the air quite regularly as well on FT8 trying to make contact with South Africa, Namibia and Brazil. Keep trying guys it will happen.

Have you made any great contacts on the VHF and above bands? Tell us about it at vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

There is another beacon that can be monitored by the guys inland. Mike ZS1TAF posted on WhatApp that the ZS1TWO beacon’s antenna has been  turned in the direction of Divisions 4 and 6. The beacon puts out 20 W into a 5 element Yagi on the frequency of 144.435 MHz.

 

ZS1TWO_Antenna.jpeg

 

Why not listen out for the beacon. You never know when you will pick it up and then you too can make that great long distance 2m contact

 

Inland on Saturday morning the 46 Group  were playing with digital modes and looking at the WhatsApp messages back and forth the guys had a wonderful time playing with SSTV and the other digital modes. 

The members of the VHF Work Group met on Thursday evening and we had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Bo Hansen OZ2M about beacons and the route that they followed in Denmark to next generation beacons that are currently deployed at the world's oldest beacon OZ7IGY in grid JO55WM. There are beacons on all the bands from 28 MHz to 24 GHz.

There are also at least 22 Next Generation Beacons across Europe. 

A Next Generation Beacon generates a signal in three modes, Digital using PI4 mode, CW and a carrier allowing for accurate frequency checking as they are running GPS disciplined oscillators. We came away with lots to think about. More information about Next Generation Beacons can be found at http://www.rudius.net/oz2m/ngnb/index.htm

 

If you play around with SDR devices or have one of the newer SDR based radios, you will most definitely have heard about the terms I and Q. What is it and how does it work? 

Jan van Gils PE0SAT has made available an explanation of the I/Q (In-phase and Quadrature) components of a signal that are used in Software Defined Radios (SDR). This is a very interesting explanation to read if you want to find out more about how your SDR device works and how the I and Q outputs are used. You can find the information at  https://www.pe0sat.vgnet.nl/sdr/iq-data-explained/

 Let us know what interesting project you or your group are busy with at vhfnews@sarl.org.za. 

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


Focus on VHF and Above 21 June 2020

 Audio version  

This week we report on another exceptional contact, this time between Gauteng and the Western Cape on 2m.

 

On Friday morning Dick ZS6BUN and Tom ZS1TA made a 2m contact using meteor scatter from random meteors. Dick was using 800 W into a 2m  12 element Yagi, 15m above ground level and Tom was using 75 W into a 6 over 6 Skeleton Slot Yagi at 7m above ground level.

 

ZS6BUN_ZS1TA_MSK_Contact.jpeg

 

The contact took 20 minutes to complete. Dick says “20 mins to complete using random meteors on 2m is not bad at all.  Having said all this in Europe such a QSO would be relatively commonplace with the theoretical maximum distance possible at about 2400km or roughly double what we did this morning.” 

Dick sent me some photos of his antenna set up and his shack on the farm near Nigel as well as a photo of Tom’s 2m Skeleton Slot antenna.

 

 

ZS6BUN Shack 

 

ZS1TA Antenna

 

What is Meteor Scatter? 

There are literally millions of meteors which are small particle of space debris that enters the earth’s atmosphere every day. As these particles move through the Mesosphere which is the third layer of the atmosphere at approximately 50 – 60 km above the surface of the earth they burn up because of the friction caused in this layer and leave behind an ionising trail. You often see these meteors, or shooting stars  burning up in the night sky. The ionised trail has the ability to reflect radio signals. 

If you go to the internet and look at https://www.meteorscan.com/meteor-live.html you will see live images of meteor bursts detected by a high powered VHF radar that detects the Doppler shift created by the fast moving meteor. The Doppler shift is translated into audio and can be heard as a ping.

 

Meteor Burst 

They are normally short lived, and that is the reason why it sometimes take a while to complete a QSO on MSK144. 

Meteor Scatter communications is another of the weak signal VHF propagation modes and MSK144 which is one of the modes in the WSJT-X software suite is used for Meteor scatter. 

Well done Dick and Tom. Great contact. You guys are truly magicians. 

Have you made any great contacts on the VHF and above bands? Tell us about it at vhfnews@sarl.org.za

 

This following item is not directly VHF related, but indulge me and you will see where I’m going.

On Friday evening while doing the final preparation of my HF station to participate in the June 2020 Eclipse Festival of Frequency Measurement initiative of HamSCI, I watched a video on Youtube about The Ionosphere, Shortwave Radio, and Propagation. The presentation was done by Dr. Philip J. Erickson, W1PJE, who is an assistant director and head of the Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences group at Haystack Observatory, operated by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Dr Erickson mentioned that what is actually known about propagation of radio signals is very little and that they are continually discovering new things and that data that is collected by radio amateurs making use of the Reverse Beacon Network, WSPR beacon networks and PSKReporter is of great value to the scientific community. 

I thought to myself that this is so true and I recall while giving RAE classes, I always mentioned that RF propagation was magic. I used the term “Magic” because there are so many factors influencing radio communications that we do not fully understand and that we still need to discover. There is no other way to describe it other than the magic that takes place when we transmit that radio signal into the atmosphere. 

This holds true for all RF propagation, no matter what band or frequency. We know so little and there is so much still to be learnt. 

We, radio amateurs participate in a fantastic hobby and there is so much that we can contribute, not only to the hobby, but to the scientific community out there as well with our modest amateur radio stations. 

The HamSCI community is led by Scientists who are radio amateurs like you and I and realise the contribution that we can provide to the scientific community. For more information go to https://www.hamsci.org/. 

This is my first active participation in an experiment where radio amateurs from across the globe are collecting data and I’m very excited to be able to participate.

 participant_map.png

 

Let us know what interesting project you or your group are busy with at vhfnews@sarl.org.za. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.

 

 

Focus on VHF and Above 14 June 2020

Audio version

This week we report on two great contacts. The first one made by Chris Pretorius ZS1FC from Jacobsbaai on the 4th of June. Chris managed to make the first 2m FT8 contact with Garry Mercury ZD7GWM on St Helena Island. Chris says “There was exceptional Tropoducting but we could not establish a contact on phone 145.500 FM and I contacted Garry on WhatsApp to arrange with him to try and make a contact on FT8 on 144.174 USB-DATA. We could immediately decode each others signals and confirmed the contact. We made about 4 or 5 confirmed contacts over a period of time.”

 

ZS1FC_ZD7GWM_FT8.jpeg

 

Garry ZD7GWM used a Yaesu FT-857D with 41 W into a X500 antenna and Chris used his ICOM IC-7100 with 50 W into a Diamond 10 element Yagi. Both used WSJT-X version 2.2. The distance was 3034 km.

 

ZS1FC_ZD7GWM_Distance.jpeg

 

Well done Chris and Garry for the first FT8 contact between South Africa and St Helena Island. 

And from the exceptional contact along the West Coast, we move to Cape Town where Tom ZS1TA again made a great contact via AO-7. You will recall that this is a 46 year old satellite that has come to life again after the short on the batteries disappeared and the solar panels managed to power the satellite again. 

Tom says “Trying to complete a QSO with Roberto CX4CJ has been A CAT AND MOUSE EXPERIENCE ON A ROLLER COASTER RIDE! 

For several weeks we have been trying both on AO-7 and RS-44 but to date with only varying degrees of success. Sometimes satellite conditions may not have been of the best or the QRM was just too high and even on one occasion we were both calling but on different parts of the pass band. Often hearing each other but never enough at the same time to complete a full contact. 

On Tuesday, 9 June at 17:05 UTC,  however all the previous efforts culminated in our successful contact via AO-7 between Cape Town and Montevideo. JF95fx to GF15xd with a distance of 6660 km. 

In an attempt to overcome the extreme electrical interference I was using a DSP audio filter with my headphones. Although the audio through the filter sounded weird as if through water it did help and assisted in completing the contact.” 

Here is a short clip of the contact sent to Tom by Diego LW2DAF who was listening on the side. 

_ZS1TACX4CJ_AO7_Contact.mp4 

Here is a short clip of the unfiltered audio of the contact where you can clearly hear the QRM that Tom needs to compete with. 

AO_7_9June

Tom, you are truly a master at making these contacts through all that QRM.

Your perseverance certainly paid off. 

Have you made any great contacts on the VHF and above bands? Tell us about it at vhfnews@sarl.org.za

 My projects are currently at a standstill as there is other activity around the home that takes precedence over the hobby at the moment. 

Let us know what interesting project you or your group are busy with at vhfnews@sarl.org.za. 

  

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


Focus on VHF and Above 7 June 2020

_1901.mp3

  AUDIO VERSION

It is sad to hear that the key of Peter Tottle ZS2ABF has gone silent. Peter used to have a regular sked up the East Coast with Dave ZS5DJ on a Monday evening on 144.300 MHz and provided feedback on the SARL VHF and UHF Forum. We also included his reports here in Focus on VHF. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends. 

I have mentioned previously that the VHF Work Group is planning a second beacon in the Northern Karoo following on from the successful deployment of the ZS0BET beacon in Bethlehem. 

We are still hunting for a suitable site in the Northern Karoo. Charl ZS3K, who lives and works in the Northern Karoo is looking out for sites while travelling around the Northern Karoo for work. In the meantime we are looking at what type of beacon we want to deploy. 

The ZS0BET beacon is a CW beacon with a second hand commercial Icom FM radio that was modified to be controlled by a simple keyer controlled by an ATTiny microprocessor. 

One of the objectives that goes with the deployment of the beacons is to be able to automatically monitor and report the reception of the beacon. I have found that due to the location of my QTH that I cannot receive the Bethlehem beacon at all. Looking at the path profile between the beacon and my QTH it is pretty clear why I have no chance of hearing the beacon. 

Path_Profile_Bethlehem_Pretoria_North.jpg

 

Danie, ZR6AGB who lives on the South side of the last blip on the chart which is the Magaliesberg can still just receive the beacon, but also too weak to decode via any software. 

Cor ZS6CR from Secunda, who can receive the beacon much better took up the challenge and did numerous tests using various software packages to automatically decode the beacon. Cor found that while the beacon can comfortably be heard and decoded by ear, the software needed a much stronger signal before it could decode the beacon. Out of the software that was tested CWSkimmer worked the best. 

In the absence of a reporting system we have been requesting that reports be sent to us at vhfnews@sarl.org.za. 

At this stage we are certain that the Karoo beacon will not be a standard CW beacon and although we have not yet made the final decision we are looking in the direction of a Next Generation Beacon which is a beacon that will make use of Machine Generated Messages that will be able to be decoded by software. 

Nigel ZS6RN, has also been assisting with the search for hardware and software options and I am pretty certain that by the end of this month we will be able to have a proposal on the table regarding the way forward with the Karoo Beacon, leaving a suitable site as the only challenge. 

While viewing a video link that Nigel ZS6RN sent me I came across some very interesting videos of presentations from past RSGB conventions that would be of interest to VHF and above enthusiasts. Some of the videos are protected and are only accessible to RSGB members, but there are plenty that are free to view. 

Here is a list of some of the videos that I found. 

PI4 the Digital mode for Beacons and why is it a success by Bo Hansen OZ2M. Bo is also on the project team for OZ7IGY, the world’s oldest beacon and one of the architects of Next Generation Beacons. This presentation is the one that Nigel ZS6RN brought to my attention and resulted in me finding the other interesting videos. 

Arduino, GPS, RF and Si5351A for radio amateurs by Bo Hansen, OZ2M.

Troposcatter on the VHF bands by Palle Hansen, OZ1RH 

Sporadic E revisited by Jim Bacon, G3YLA 

Combined mode propagation on 144MHz enables ultra DX contacts by

Tim Fern, G4LOH 

VHF/UHF DX – the game of decibels by Ian White, GM3SEK 

Transmit/receive switching times and why they matter by Chris Tran, GM3WOJ. This is important especially if you are using pre-amplifiers and amplifiers. 

VHF baluns – fact and fancy by Ian White, GM3SEK. There is also another video by Ian titled Clean up your shack which is well worth watching and provides information on how you can reduce the noise experienced in your shack. 

These are just a few of the many that are available on the RSGB website on the link https://rsgb.org/main/publications-archives/video/rsgb-convention-lectures/

 I am now trying to view at least one video every evening when things go quiet around the house and it is amazing the knowledge that you can gain. 

Do you have a beacon on any of the VHF and above bands? 

We would like to request that all beacon owners send updated details of their beacons to Phillip ZS6PVT at zs6pvt@gmail.com. Phillip is the SARL Councillor responsible for Repeater Co-ordination and VHF/UHF Band Planning. 

There are two VHF beacons here on the Highveld that we need reception reports on. If you hear either of the following beacons, send us an email with the beacon heard, your callsign, your grid location, local time and the signal report to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

ZS6JON on 144.440 MHz in Talrton

ZS0BET on 144.425 MHz in Bethlehem 

The Bethlehem beacon’s second antenna is currently pointing in the direction of Durban. We are looking for reports from KZN as well. 

Let us know what interesting project you or your group are busy with at vhfnews@sarl.org.za.


 

 

 

Audio verson 31 May 2020
Download/Listen here  

 

 Focus on VHF and Above 31 May 2020 

There is no doubt that this hobby of ours is the greatest scientific hobby on earth. There is so much to do and experience. The possibilities are endless. Two recent activities reminded me of this again. 

Tom Ambrose ZS1TA, from Cape Town has recently reported AO-7 contacts. Why is this remarkable? There are plenty of satellites up there! 

Well, the satellite was launched on 15 November 1974 which is 46 years ago. Technology has progressed dramatically since then. The satellite went silent due to a faulty battery in 1981. That was 7 years after launch which was a good life for a satellite designed to be operational for 3 years. In 2002, 21 years since it went silent, one of the shorted batteries became open circuit and the spacecraft was able to operate off it’s solar panels again. It can operate while in sunlight so its operation is intermittent, but it is still being reported almost daily since January 2020. 

Tom writes this about his contact with LW2DAF on 4 May 2020 “Tracking and operating the Radio Amateur satellites is a fascinating facet of the wide hobby of Amateur Radio and the daily variations are interesting to observe but there is always some excitement to be had with the “birds”.

Today a forty year old satellite in the form of AO-7 produced a stunning contact.

At 17:20 UTC a contact was completed between LW2DAF, Diego in Buenos Aires ( GF05rk ) and  ZS1TA, Tom in Cape Town ( JF95fx ). Spanning a distance of 4329 miles ( 6927 km ) across the South Atlantic with both stations aiming at only 2 to 3 degrees on the horizon.

Both stations had been watching the orbit predictions for several weeks and the suitable opportunities only occurred occasionally with both stations seeing the AO-7 satellite at the same time. Electrical noise particularly in Cape Town hampered the efforts with only small snatches being heard from time to time.

Today however the noise levels were low and a perfect contact was possible with full call signs and reports being exchanged.” 

Here is the recording of this contact. 

Tom made another contact via AO-7 with LW2DAF at 17:11 UTC on 23 May 2020. 

Video WhatsApp Video  view here 

Remember this is 46 year old technology? 

The 6m band is known as the “Magic Band” and a number of years ago a number of amateurs that I know used to regularly have their 6m antennas pointing North listening out for the TV stations that used to broadcast on the 6m bands as an indication that the band was open and then they would work 6m continuously until it closed again. 

Typically the band is most active in the summer months, being December and January in the Southern Hemisphere and if one looks at the reporting tools like PSKReporter you will see much 6m activity across Europe at the moment. 

The 6m band is one of those in between bands where there are a number of possible propagation modes. 

Today, 99.99% of the time most amateurs will ignore the 6m band, which although it is a VHF frequency, almost every modern HF radio can do 6m FM and SSB, so you don’t need any specialised VHF radio equipment. 

Don’t be fooled into thinking that this band is dead or is only usable in the summer months. 

On 17 May 2020 Danie ZR6AGB decoded a 6m FT8 contact from S79VU, from the Seychelles. Danie tried to make contact, but was not successful. 

 

Dick ZS6BUN also reported receiving a decode from Tom ZS1TA last weekend and regularly makes Meteor Scatter contacts with Andre ZS2ACP in Port Elizabeth using JT6M and last weekend had a MSK144 contact with Andrew, ZS2PA from Uitenhage. 

Yes, making these types of contacts are not easy. You are not just going to switch on your radio, press the button and make a contact. Making these contacts requires a good deal of skill, dedication and yes, some luck as well. You will get lucky if you are consistently on the air and put out that call. 

This is what makes our hobby so special. This is the magic of amateur radio, contacts are always possible. Everything we know about propagation are predictions. That is all it is, predictions. It is up to us to make it happen. 

Do you have a beacon on any of the VHF and above bands? 

We would like to request that all beacon owners send updated details of their beacons to Phillip ZS6PVT at zs6pvt@gmail.com. Phillip is the SARL Councillor responsible for Repeater Co-ordination and VHF/UHF Band Planning. 

There are two VHF beacons here on the Highveld that we need reception reports on. If you hear either of the following beacons, send us an email with the beacon heard, your callsign, your grid location, local time and the signal report to vhfnews@sarl.org.za 

ZS6JON on 144.440 MHz

ZS0BET on 144.425 MHz 

The Bethlehem beacon’s second antenna is currently pointing in the direction of Durban. We are looking for reports from KZN as well. 

It looks like for a large number of us playtime is almost over and we will be returning to the salt mines. 

Let us know what interesting project you or your group are busy with at vhfnews@sarl.org.za.

 

 

 


MORSE CODE NEWS WITH ZS6MWS 

Setup of a CW paddle

Rick, WW1ME, writes in regard to the conventional setup of a CW paddle: "The right-hand lever is the 'dah' if you are right-handed. For lefties, it is just the opposite. Most keyers/radios will let you change the keyer 'sense' for RH or LH. I recall back in the day, too, that all MFJ keyers were wired for the wrong sense, so when you plugged in your paddle, it was set for a lefty. If you used that paddle with other devices, that could be a real issue. Otherwise, you'd have to swap the wires." Another temporary means of sending with a paddle that is opposite of what you're used to is to turn it around and reach over the paddle for the levers. Awkward, but the technique works for a limited amount of sending.

CW Contest Trainer

Ray, G4FON, has written a program entitled CW Contest Trainer and has made it available on his website http://www.g4fon.net/. His program supports a number of contests, including CQ WPX, CQ WW, IOTA, ARRL Field Day, ARRL Sweepstakes, CW Ops CWT, NAQCC, and SKCC. The free version on his website is limited in operation but can be upgraded for a fee.

Four CW Contacts per Day Certificates

The ZS-CW group have started a new initiative to get more people active on CW on all bands, this will get you a certificate at the end of the year. Make four CW contacts per day and qualify for the following certificates: 200 to 250 days - Bronze certificate, 250 to 300 days - Silver Certificate and 300 plus days - Gold Certificate. Send proof of your contacts by Excel log submission to Mike, ZS6MSW (zs6msw@gmail.com) or Andy, ZS6ADY (andyzs6ady@vodamail.co.za).

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What is Amateur Radio ? 

Tell me more  about Amateur Radio

Radio Amateurs, or "Hams" use two-way radio communication to make contact with other radio amateurs all over the world. They are even able to use satellites and on occasion speak with astronauts. Radio Hams can do this from home or while mobile in cars, boats or on foot.

Radio Hams have a full range or communication modes at their disposal. These include plain voice, Morse code, numerous digital computer modes and even graphical modes like television. As a licensed amateur radio operator you will be able to join in experiments using all these modes.

A
mateur radio can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female, even the most severely disabled can make friends around the world from their own home. This hobby knows no boundaries.


Random Photo from the Call book.


 Danie JJ Terblanche, ZR6AGB


     



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The entry level for the WAZS award is 100 different call signs. The programme has recently been expanded to include higher level endorsements, such as WAZS-200, WAZS-300, etc. Endorsements may also be obtained for specific modes, eg: CW, SSB, etc.
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lboat034a.gif (1979 bytes)SA Maritime Net

The South African Maritime Mobile Net provides weather reports and maintains contact with sailing vessels from around the coast and high seas.
The net operates 7 days a week.

There are two regular schedule times as follows:

  • 06:30 UTC and 11:30 UTC on 14 316 kHz high seas net.
  • 06:35 UTC and 11:35 UTC on 7 120 kHz coastal net - the net lasts approximately 30 minutes .

 
   

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