Tag Archives: Station Building

A Portable Satellite Station Part 3 – 2.0 Station Radio and Supporting Equipment

With the Antenna System for our 2.0 Portable Satellite Station complete, we turned our attention to assembling the Transceiver and supporting equipment. The equipment used for this part of the project includes:

The Icom IC-9100 provides 100W on 2M and 75W on 70 cm which is more than enough power for our application. It also has some nice satellite features such as support for synchronized VFO tracking between the 2M and 70 cm VFOs on the radio. This radio also uses a single USB connection to allow computer control of the radio and creation of a sound card interface on the host computer. A Heil Proset 7 will be used for operator audio to avoid feedback due to our audio coming back from the satellite. The Icom SP-23 speaker is included to allow observers to hear satellite contacts while they are in progress.

Satellite Station - Radio Management via MacDoppler
Radio Management via MacDoppler

The MacDoppler software provides automated control of the IC-9100 including mode selection and automatic correction of both VFOs for Doppler shift. These features greatly simplify the operation of the radio, especially when satellites with SSB/CW transponders are used.

The video above shows MacDoppler’s management of the IC-9100 Transceiver during a pass of AO-73. The constant adjustments of the VFOs take care of Doppler shift correction and ensure that our signal stays at a fixed position in the transponder passband of linear transponder satellites.

Satellite Station - Preamp Sequencers and Output Monitoring
Preamp Sequencers and Output Monitoring

M2 Antenna Systems S3 Sequencers are used to provide control of the Advanced Receiver Research low-noise preamps on our portable tower. One of the nice features of the Icom IC-9100 is that it can be configured to provide separate keying lines for the 2M and 70cm VFOs. This allows a preamp to remain enabled on the receive VFO while the other VFO is in transmit mode with its preamp shut down by the sequencer. This arrangement is very useful during tuning when one needs to hear your own signal coming back from a satellite. A custom-made cable assembly was made to interconnect the S3 Sequencers with the ACC socket on the IC-9100, the Weatherpack connector on the tower preamp control cable, and DC power.

We used the excellent WaveNode WN-2 Wattmeter again in our portable satellite setup. This is a modular output monitoring system which has a sensor for VHF/UHF use as well as voltage, signal quality, and other monitoring functions.

DC power for the setup is provided via a Powerwerx SS-30DV Power Supply and a RigRunner 4007U distribution unit. We use this power supply in all of our portable setups. It is light weight, provides plenty of power for a 100W station and accessories, and is quiet from an RF perspective.

Satellite Station - Equipment Packing and Protection
Equipment Packing and Protection

With the transceiver test of the station complete, we turned our attention to transporting the setup. Proper protection of the equipment during transport was provided via a large case from Pelican. We combined this with a roller bag and an inexpensive storage bin for documentation and accessories which are not very fragile. We also included our RigExpert antenna analyzer in the setup to make testing of the station during setup in a portable environment easier.

Satellite Station Packed and Ready for Transport
Station Packed and Ready for Transport

With all of the assembly and testing of the components of our 2.0 Portable Satellite Station complete, we packed up all the components. We used an inexpensive furniture dolly to allow us to roll the tower around to load and unload it.

We are ready to test our new station in a portable application. More on that in the final article in this series. Other articles in the series include:

You may also be interested in the satellite station at our home QTH. You can read more about that here.

Fred, AB1OC

Member Spotlight – Fred, AB1OC

What is your background?

I am a Purdue University graduate (MSEE) and I spent most of my working life at AT&T Bell Laboratories/Lucent where I worked on Wireless Systems, Broadband Access, Data Networking and VoIP products in a variety of engineering and business management roles. I also served as the Chief Technology Officer for a  mid-sized VoIP and Wireless company in Dallas, TX for about 7 years.

When did you become licensed and build your first station?

I have wanted to be involved in Amateur Radio since I was about 8 years old. Growing up in a rural area of Pennsylvania, I did not have anyone who could really help me to learn code and become licensed. School, work, and other things took up most of my attention until late in 2010 when I looked seriously at Amateur Radio again and decided to earn my license.

AB1OC/AB1QB Shack
AB1OC/AB1QB Shack

Anita, AB1QB and I built our home station in 2012. The project included a 100 ft tower which covers all of the bands from 160m through 70cm and a dedicated shack which is set up for multi-one contesting and DXing. We added a satellite ground station and equipment for EME late in 2012.

Our Mobile HF Station
Our Mobile HF Station

In 2015, we built our Mobile HF station. I enjoy working DX, running counties and doing special events like National Parks on the Air using Mobile HF. I am QRV on all bands from 160m through 10m in the mobile. We also have 2m/70cm FM setups in both of our vehicles.

What do you like to do most with Amateur Radio?

I really enjoy station and antenna building. I also enjoy Field Day, Contesting, Space Communications and Mobile HF.

Tuning the 6M Yagi
Tuning a 6M Yagi

I enjoy helping others to learn about and have fun with Amateur Radio. Finally, I am the NH State Manager for the Thirteen Colonies Special Event and I have a lot of fun every year operating during the Thirteen Colonies Special Event.

Presentation at the Dayton Contest Forum

I also enjoy speaking about Amateur Radio station building and related topics at Hamvention and club meetings. I have had the opportunity to speak on these topics on many occasions including at our and other clubs meetings, and at  Boxboro, Dayton and the ARRL 100th Anniversary Hamvention.

I write also write a Blog about Amateur Radio Station Building and related topics. This is a great way to encourage and help others to do Amateur Radio projects similar to the one that we have enjoyed.

Satellite Station Antennas
Satellite Station Antennas

Recent projects include portable HF and Satellite stations which we built to share at club events, license class, and GOTA opportunities. I am also working on learning CW.

AB1OC Operating In CW WPX SSB
AB1OC Operating In CQ WPX SSB

I have been fortunate to do a lot of operating in the 5 1/2 years since becoming licensed.

What are some of your most memorable experiences in connection with Amateur Radio?

Early in 2012, my company provided a trip to Bora Bora Island in French Polynesia. Anita suggested that we take a radio and portable antenna on the trip and do a holiday style DXpedition.

QSL Card from FO/AB1OC and FO/AB1QB from Bora Bora

We had almost no SSB phone experience prior to this trip. The response (and the pile-ups) were amazing on Bora Bora and I was able to earn a Worked All States from French Polynesia in just 5 days of operating from there. I came home totally hooked on running pile-ups and operating SSB phone in contests and during special events.

I was one of the W1AW/1 operators for the ARRL 100 Centennial Special event and had a ball operating during both periods when NH was on the air as W1AW/1.

My most memorable contact ever was working Japan for the first time on 75m SSB phone from my truck using Mobile HF.

75m SSB Contact to Japan via Mobile HF
75m SSB Contact to Japan via Mobile HF

All involved in this contact were very surprised that such a short antenna (I use a screwdriver antenna with a 4 ft rod and a cap hat) could be used to make such a contact.

Abby, KC1FFX earns her Extra Class License
Abby, KC1FFX earns her Extra Class License

The experiences that mean the most to me are those involving our work to bring young people and new Amateurs into our hobby. Being able to make a difference for people and aid them to learn means a great deal to me.

What do you like to do with the Club?

I really enjoy participating in and contributing to our Tech Night programs. It’s great to be in a position to learn about the many aspects of Amateur Radio and to help others to do the same. We have a tremendous knowledge base among our club members and our Tech Night program provides a way for us to share everyone’s knowledge and experience for the benefit of the entire club.

40m V-Beam 3
40m V-Beam at Field Day 2016

I also really enjoy our yearly Field Day. It ‘s a lot of fun to plan, build and operate a multi-multi station with as many transmitters and towers as we typically put up for our club’s Field Day operation.

Bishop-Guertin High School HAB Project Students
Bishop-Guertin High School HAB Project Students

Our club’s High Altitude Balloon Project has been a lot of fun. It was fun to be part of delivering the STEM classroom program associated with this project.

Teaching Amateur Radio Licence Classes

FInally, I really enjoy contributing to the license classes that our club offers. There is nothing that I find more rewarding than to help someone new into Amateur Radio or to help an Amateur earn a license upgrade so they can expand their participation in Amateur Radio.

Fred, AB1OC

2017 Field Day Prep – New Tower Test

We decided to put up a third tower as part of our 2017 Field Day operation. The new tower will support a tri-band yagi and wire antenna for use by our Digital and GOTA stations this year. Our Field Day plans call for this tower to be located on the middle-level soccer field at the Hollis-Brookline High School. To overcome terrain limitations, we decided that our new tower should be a 60 ft setup.

The project began with some mechanical design and planning for a new, heavy-duty Falling Derrick System. Mike K1WVO, Dave N1RF and I secured the necessary materials and hardware to make the new Falling Derrick System.

Tower Test - Equipment And Tools On Site
Equipment And Tools On Site

The team in the two pictures above met at our QTH this past weekend to transport all of the equipment for the new tower to the high school for a test setup.

Tower Test - Setting Up The Tilt Base
Setting Up The Tilt Base

The first step in the test was to locate the tower base in the center of our test area and ensure that it was level. Steel stakes were driven and retainers added to secure the base to the ground.

Tower Test - Building The Derrick
Building The Derrick

Next, we assembled the falling derrick and the first section of the tower to the base.

Tower Test - Assembling The Tower
Assembling The Tower

With the Derrick in place, we assembled the remaining sections of our 60 ft tower on the ground.

Tower Test - Driving Guy Anchors
Driving Guy Anchors

WIth the tower, Derrick and base together; we carefully located and drove the steel stakes for guying the tower, the derrick and for anchoring the pulleys associated with the falling derrick system. With this done, we made up and attached two levels of guys between the tower and the anchor stakes.

Tower Test - Completed Heavy Duty Derrick System Ready To Lift
Completed Heavy Duty Derrick System Ready To Lift

The tower is lifted by two wire cables which run between the derrick and the tower. We made these cables up to length during our test session. Multiple cables are used to ensure that the tower is fully supported during the lift.

Tower Test - Completed Derrick System - A View of the Tower
Completed Derrick System – A View of the Tower

Here’s another view of the tower and Derrick prior to the lift. We supported the tower on a ladder to make the initial lifting easier. The ladder will also be needed on Field Day to allow our tri-band yagi to be installed on the tower prior to standing it up.

Tower Test - Capstan Winch Used To Lift Tower
Capstan Winch Used To Lift Tower

There is a considerable amount of rope that needs to be pulled through several pulleys to lift the Tower/Derrick system. The pulleys provide mechanical advantage and slow the lift rate to a safe level. We used a heavy-duty gasoline powered capstan winch to pull the considerable length of rope required to lift our tower into the full upright position

Tower Test - Lifting The Tower
Lifting The Tower

With our crew fully briefed on the process and safety procedures, it was time to lift our tower. The picture above shows the lift in progress. Our setup ensures that no one needs to be in the tower’s fall zone during the lift.

Tower Test - The Tower Is Up!
The Tower Is Up!

Here’s a picture of the tower after it was up and fully guyed. Our new heavy-duty Derrick system worked very well and lifting the tower was completed smoothly and safely with very modest effort.

The Nashua Area Radio Club Tower Test Team
The Nashua Area Radio Club Tower Test Team

After a few pictures, we took the tower down and disassembled it. We had quite a few members turn out to help us with our new tower test. Thank you to everyone who pitched in to make our third tower project a success! We are looking forward to using it during Field Day 2017!

Notice: falling derrick tower systems can be dangerous if they are not engineered, built and used properly by a well-trained team. The tower system described here is unique and is not a standard falling derrick system. Significant steps and material choices were taken to ensure the safe use of the system described here to put up our tower Time was spent to train the team who used the Derrick system to use it correctly and safely. We do not recommend the system here to others as the engineering, materials, and training required for its safe construction and use may not be readily available.

Fred, AB1OC

Hashtags: #ARRLFD

Field Day IT Test – Stations, Network and Logging Computers

Dave Merchant K1DLM, our Field Day chairman, is bringing some 21st Century radio and computer technology to our Field Day setup this year. There are several aspects to this new component of our Field Day plans and the associated IT Test including –

  • Two Flex-6700 Software Defined Radios running over a network  for our new Digital and enhanced GOTA Stations
  • An on-site WiFi Network to enable using the N1MM+ Logger in network mode for sharing of log information, station activity, real-time scores, and messages
  • A central Score Board and Club Information Computer in our public information tent
2017 Field Day Site - Upper Field Layout
2017 Field Day Site – Upper Field Layout

We will again be holding our 2017 Field Day operation at the Hollis-Brookline High School in Hollis, NH. We are planning on using the upper baseball field area as our main operating location. We have decided to add a third tower this year and locate it on a soccer practice field which is situated several hundred feet away from our main operating area. All of our antennas and equipment will lie within the required 1000′ circle but the third tower would situate those operating at that location away from the rest of our group. Dave’s solution to this problem was to set up a network and operate two Software Defined Radios (SDRs) at the lower site remotely from our location on the upper field.

Dave has enlisted club member Piece Fortin, K1FOP to be our IT Chairman for Field Day this year. Pierce has been instrumental, along with Dave, in the planning and testing of all of this new technology. Pierce and Dave have a great deal of networking and IT experience and knowledge and we could not have put together what is described here without them.

Dave K1DLM, Pierce, Hamilton K1HMS, Mike Ryan K1WVO, Anita AB1QB, and I have gotten together multiple times to set up and test all of this new technology. I wanted to share some more about the equipment and the associated testing (which has been staged in the kitchen at our QTH – thank you, Anita!).

We began the testing process by setting up our 20m CW station.

IT Test - 20m CW Station Test
20m CW Station Test

This station uses an Elecraft K3S Transceiver, a K1EL WinKeyer and the N1MM+ Logger running on a Windows 10 Laptop PC. We used this station to get our basic N1MM+ setup including our Field Day CW keying macros right.

IT Test - 40m SSB Station Test
40m SSB Station Test

Next came our 40m SSB station. This setup uses an Icom IC-7300 Transceiver and allowed us to set up and test N1MM+ on the fly audio macro recording and playback. All three of our SSB stations will have on the fly recording and playback capability which will allow each of our SSB operators to record and use a custom set of audio macros.

IT Test - Digital Station Test
Digital Station Test

Next came our Digital Station. This station uses one of the two remote Flex-6700 SDRs.

IT Test - Remote Flex-6700 SDRs and Antenna Switch
Remote Flex-6700 SDRs and Antenna Switch

Dave, K1DLM put together a really nice package for the two Flex-6700 SDRs and associated equipment which will be located on the lower field. He used a rack system to mount the two SDRs, power supplies, a three-band Tri-plexor, a set of bandpass filters for 80m, 40m, 20m, 15m, and 10m and a 403A 8×2 networked antenna switch. This setup allows either of the two SDRs to share the tri-band yagi or the 40m and 80m Inverted-V antennas on the tower on the lower field and operate on any of the 5 available HF bands. Antenna and filter switching automatically track the frequencies of the two SDRs making the setup simple to use.

Digital Station Second Display - SmartSDR & More N1MM+
Digital Station Second Display – SmartSDR & More N1MM+

The Digital Station’s remote SDR will be operated using a SmartSDR client running on the Digital Station laptop PC. This station will have a second monitor to better accommodate all of the windows associated with it.

IT Test - Digital Station Main Display - N1MM+
Digital Station Main Display – N1MM+

The main display associated with the Digital Station will run decoders for all PSK and RTTY modes. The ability to decode multiple PSK signals simultaneously and multiple RTTY decoders are available. The Digital station also acts as the N1MM+ master station in our Field Day setup for all of the other stations which use N1MM+.

IT Test - Satellite Station Test
Satellite Station Test

Our Satellite Station 2.0 was also added to the test setup. It uses a MacBook Air laptop running MacDoppler to control the antenna rotators and the Icom IC-9100 Transceiver which are part of our Satellite Station. A Windows 10 Surface Pro computer is included which runs N1MM+ and provides logging and other network functionality for our Satellite Station.

IT Test - GOTA Station
GOTA Station Test

We also tested our GOTA station which uses the second Flex-6700 SDR and a FlexRadio Maestro to provide a more conventional “buttons and knobs” interface for our GOTA operators to use. This station will also have a laptop PC running N1MM+ for logging.

IT Test - Scoreboard Computer
Scoreboard Computer

We also build and tested a Scoreboard PC. This computer will be located in the Public Information tent at Field Day and will be connected to a large display. It will show our real-time score, QSOs being logged as they are made and other useful information about our Field Day operations. This computer will also continuously play videos from our Club Video Collection and will provide access to IP video cameras which monitor the tower and equipment on the lower field.

IT Test - Pierce, K1FOP and Hamilton, K1HMS Testing CW Stations
Pierce, K1FOP and Hamilton, K1HMS Testing CW Stations

Our networked N1MM+ test bed contained at least one station of each type (CW, SSB, Digital, Satellite, and GOTA) that will be part of our Field Day setup this year. The Station Masters for the additional CW and SSB stations came by to test their setups using the test bed.

IT Test - Field Day Networking System
Field Day Networking System

The networking system which Dave and Pierce built is central to all of the technology described here. All of the gear is mounted in a single rack which will be located on the upper field during Field Day. The setup includes a Firewall/DHCP server, a commercial grade outdoor WiFi access point, a 4G LTE modem for Internet access, an Ethernet Switch, and a UPS power supply.

IT Test - MoCA Data Link Cable
MoCA Data Link Cable

The upper and lower fields at our Field Day site are separated by several hundred feet. A thick line of trees between the two locations raised concerns about connecting the upper and lower sites using WiFi. Pierce came up with a great solution to this problem – we will be using MoCA Data Modems and RG6 Quad Shield 75 ohm Coax Cable to provide a 10 Mbps data link between the two sites. We tested the MoCA link using a much longer run of coax cable then we will need to use at Field Day and confirmed full 10 Mbps throughput.

N1MM+ Talk Window
N1MM+ Talk Window

Our networked N1MM+ setup will allow any station in our setup to send messages to everyone who is operating at Field Day. We can use this capability for important communications like “lunch is ready!” or “I need help from Pierce (our IT chairman) on the 40m SSB station”, or “The 6m band is wide open!”.

Our GOTA and Digital stations will be located together in the same tent and will provide our Field Day 2017 visitors to see and use 21st-century Amateur Radio technology to make contacts. We are expecting young people who participated in our club’s High-Altitude Balloon project and from other local schools where we have done Amateur Radio activities to attend. In additional to being a learning opportunity for all of us in the Nashua Area Radio Club, we hope that the state of the art technology that we are using will generate interest among our visitors.

Fred, AB1OC

Hashtags: #ARRLFD #N1FD