Sunday, 25 June 2017

2 Hours and 2 QSO's on 3cm

It was a very windy dry afternoon on Remenham Hill (IO91NM) near Henley-On-Thames, which made dish pointing particularly interesting! I took 10GHz and 24GHz and wanted to try a slightly different site avoiding the lay-by on the A4130 which has high hedges.  I parked near a bridleway/footpath and walked along it into a field until I found a gate that gave clear views. 

After setting up, I quickly found M0HNA/P (Barry G4SJH and Dave G1EHF) on Walbury Hill (IO91GI at 45km) on 2m talkback and their signals on 3cm were very strong. Really pleased to finally work the "Coombe Gibberlets" team on 10GHz after several failed attempts.

We tried on 24GHz but nothing was heard either end. I'm still eagerly waiting my first QSO on that band! I intend to meet Dave and test with his gear at close quarters one evening.

G1DFL/P at Remenham Hill on 24GHz and 10GHz

Next in the log was Neil G4LDR (IO91EC at 70Km) near Salisbury.  I also tried with Noel G8GTZ/P, Stu G0LGS/P and Graham G8HAJ but all attempts failed.  Pleased to get out again on the bands, and add a couple more QSO's to my GHz log!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Record 6 contacts on 10GHz!

The first UKuG 10GHz Cumulative took place at the end of May, and I decided to return to Lacey Green IO91OQ, high up on the Chiltern Ridge.  This time I was joined by my twin Brother Rob G1TYY, and we met up with Carl M0ICR a friend from the Drowned Rats Radio Club.

Carl and Rob set-up a 4m station for the third RSGB 70MHz Cumulative using my FT817ND,  25W Spectrum Transverter into Carl’s Moxon. Between 3pm and 5pm local time they had fun completing 38 QSO including IO64, IO70,74, 75, IO80-4, IO90-94, JO01, 02, and JO22, working G, GW, GI, GM and PA. 

On 10GHz I set-up the 60cm offset dish on the tripod and for the first time mounted the dish horizontally, so that I didn’t have to optimise the elevation, so one less variable to worry about. It seemed to work much better in that configuration. I’ve not yet managed to re-house and add the LNA and RF amp, so the DB6NT G2 was barefoot with approx 150mW to 200mW out, driven from my trusty FT290R Mk1.  For 2m talkback I used a Trio TR-9000 with a 100W Amplifier into an HB9CV.

10GHz /P at Lacey Green

After setting up, I switched on the 2m Microwave talkback 144.175MHz and the band was worryingly quiet! KST was busy with UK folks trying to work stations in Northern France. First in the log was Martyn G3ZME/P on Brown Clee at 164km (which was my ODX) followed by Stewart G0LGS/P on Cleeve Hill (IO91XW at 96km), both very strong signals.

Mike G6TRM/P (JO01QD at 161km) who I have tried to contact previously on both 10Ghz and 24GHz, was out near Dover and he called me on my phone to try and set-up a QSO.  For the first time ever I heard his beacon to the South East distorted with an auroral-like tone due to RS enhancement and scatter. We quickly completed a QSO which made my afternoon as we have tried several times before from other sites without success. Its all about the location! 

The QSO with Mike was tailgated by Graham G8HAJ (JO01JR at 119km) near Maldon in Essex, the first time someone has called me on 10GHz and he was also a very strong signal but hugely distorted. Graham’s signal was only readable when beaming South East towards Dover, no signal was heard on the direct path.

I also made contact with Noel G8GTZ/P who was at Hannington (IO91JH at 50km) and Matt 2E0MDJ/P who was co-sited with Stewart on Cleeve Hill before packing-up.

3cm Contacts in all directions from Lacey Green!

It was a great couple of hours on 10GHz with a record 6 Contacts completed. ODX was G3ZME/P on Brown Clee IO82QL at 164km. Great to work two stations in JO01 including my first complete QSO with Mike G6TRM/P. Lacey Green seems to be a good GHz site in most directions. The Wx was great, warm sunny with a blue sky and some really interesting rainscatter propagation.  I’m looking forward to returning to Lacey Green later in the year.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

First Outing on 24GHz!

Mike G0MJW has kindly lent me his spare 24GHz (1.2cm) system to test. I've been wanting to find out about the propagation and experiment on the millimetre or EHF (Extremely High Frequency) bands for awhile. I'm super interested in seeing how this part of the radio spectrum performs compared to 10GHz (3cm).

Mike's kit is a Nortel ODU modified from 23GHz which provides a complete "24GHz in a box". An internal relay uses positive volts up the the coax to switch to TX, and 1W at 432MHz generates 0.25W at 24,048MHz. The FT790R Mk1 is an ideal driver radio for this unit. The Nortel power supply requirements are between -36V and -48V, so a DC/DC Converter was used powered from a separate 12V leisure battery source.

On Sunday it was the first UKuG 24GHz/47GHz/76GHz Cumulative and I was eager to see if it all worked! Mike had warned me that the unit had been stored for the past 10 years and there was a frequency offset of +/- 150kc.  So my plan was to test the RX first and then try and find someone local to boldly attempt a QSO with.  Like all of my Microwave endeavours I was prepared for complete failure and hardship.  That way anything positive is a pleasant surprise!

I need to spend some time working out how to fix the unit to a mast.  But for now a small white plastic patio table was utilised to provide a flat surface on top of my surveyors tripod. This seemed to provide a useful workable solution!

First stop was Knowl Hill IO91OQ about a 10 minute drive from my home QTH. I decided to visit a site north of the A4 which is higher than an alternative site just to the south.  The location is accessed from a footpath and presents a SE to S facing hill. I quickly set-up in a field of sheep. The first objective was to try and find the Reigate beacon GB3SEE (62km to the SE) to test the RX and to find the frequency offset. The transverter RX seemed to be working as there was a healthy increase in noise, and on TX a reassuring clunk of the relay! However, after significant sweeping of the band up and down, and pointing the dish to where the beacon should have exactly been on a direct path, nothing was received? This was disappointing but you have to be thick skinned for all this microwave lark, see my other blog posts about 10GHz!  Whilst onsite Mike G6TRM/P in JO01QD (162km to the SE) near Dover phoned me. We tried to complete a QSO over what would have been a very marginal heavily obstructed path,  but nothing was heard.  We are yet to make the path go on 10GHz, so 24GHz was somewhat optimistic!  However, its always worth a try.

24GHz from Knowl Hill, looking SE

The 2M Microwave talkback frequency 144.175MHz was busy with chatter. With just the FT-817ND and a 2m/70cm Whip antenna Keith GW3TKH/P on Blorenge (IO81LS) and Roger G8CUB/P with NeilG4LDR/P on Hackpen (IO91CL) were all loud. Martyn G3ZME/P on Brown Clee (IO82QL) was also heard looking for QSO's. So I decided to drive the 35 minutes to Christmas Common (IO91MP) about 850ft ASL on the Chiltern Ridge. After a quick "CQ Microwave Contest" on 2M I found Neil G4LDR/P who was still on Hackpen (60km to the W). We tried a couple of times on 24GHz but with no success. The Wx was hot and sunny (with no obvious humidity problems) and the views at both locations were amazing, which made up for the lack of QSO's!

24GHz from Christmas Common, looking NW

It was great to get back out again /P. I plan to drive down to Reigate and park up next to the GB3SEE 24,048.9600MHz beacon to work out the exact frequency offset of the Nortel unit - before the next EHF UKuG Cumulatives in June, September and October.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

First 3cm QSO in 2017

It was a clear dry evening last night at 8.30pm in the March SHF UKAC and I set-up both 13cm and 3cm dishes on the tripod at Remenham Hill, my normal /P perch in IO91NM. This is a roadside layby just north of Wargrave, with clear views of the horizon in all directions.  Quickly I worked G4BRK and G4LDR on 13cm SSB.  But 3cm remained very quiet.

For the first time from this QTH I managed to find the GB3SEE Reigate Beacon on 10368.850MHz. It was weaker in strength than from some of the other sites I use nearby, Remenham Hill must be obstructed to the SE.  It was good news finding the beacon, it meant that I could work out the approximate offset of my transverter, which was calculated to be about 22.3KHz high of the dial frequency on the FT-290R.

With my frequency better defined, I tried again on ON4KST with Neil G4LDR in Salisbury and we managed to work each other on 3cm. Neil's signal was very distorted by rain scatter from a set of rain clouds that were between us, moving my way from the SW and W!  Rain scatter produces a profound doppler shift with signals moving up and down in frequency and on SSB this sounds almost auroral. The rain clouds last night were moving quickly towards me and the scattering effect meant that it was difficult to resolve Neil's signal, but we managed to complete a 3cm QSO with RS helping. My first 3cm QSO in 2017.

At about 10pm the rain arrived overhead and I got absolutely soaked!  I did manage to hear M0GHZ and G4BAO on 3cm before packing away, but my 150mW was too QRP for them to hear me. Fortunately no water got into the transverter boxes and everything is back in the shack drying out, ready for another outing in next months event!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Half a QSO on 3cm, and not many more on 13cm!

It was a very windy, cold and miserable evening for the February SHF UKAC, and my first /P outing in 2017. I decided to venture out to what is becoming my go-to 23cm /P site at Remenham Hill IO91NM (51.537096, -0.854341), just one small QRA square north of my home QTH in Wargrave IO91NL.

The advantage of this site is that its extremely easy to get, it’s just 10 minutes drive from my house with good access, roadside parking and level ground.  The downsides are that its a very noisy site with lots of cars whistling by at speed, and very open to the public.  A couple of times I’ve had cars park up alongside me, and some strange curious visitors wander about which is not ideal!  Its on top of a small hill about 99m ASL (nearly twice the height of my home QTH which is just 57m) with clear views on the horizon in all directions. The lay-is beside the busy A4130 between Henley-on-Thames and Maidenhead.

Set-up was quick, despite a strong gusting wind and the tripod was guyed with the 1m grid dish for 13cm mounted at about 2m off the grass verge. On 13cm (2320MHz) I use a DB6NT G2 Transverter which produces about 0.8W into a TP-Link 1M grid dish TL-ANT2424B Wi-Fi aerial. This works amazingly well its a 1:1 VSWR match and provides 24dBi gain, so about 200W ERP.  First in the log was Neil G4BRK in Garford near Abingdon IO91HP at an easy 38km distant. Soon after I worked Neil G4LDR IO91EC near Salisbury at 70km for my only other QSO and ODX. I heard M0GHZ (IO81) and G8OHM (IO92) on 13cm, but they could not hear my QRP, I need more power at the masthead.

The 3cm dish was proving to be difficult to mount on the tripod and I had a problem with the fixing. Unusually I could not find the GB3SEE beacon in Reigate on 3cm which is always worrying as it means I don't then have a reference for the frequency offset which is usually about 19KHz high.  It was now getting very windy and at this point I decided it was safer to be holding the dish by hand than have it fly off the tripod! I tried with G4LDR on 10GHz it was super difficult to keep a steady beam heading, but he was much stronger on 3cm than on 13cm. Neil could detect me but could not read my signal.  There was distortion due to the bad weather conditions and no doubt signal scattering as the path is highly obstructed.  My random dish alignment probably didn't help!  I was using the FT-290R, barefoot DB6NT G2 transverter with 0.15W output into a 60cm offset dish, so about 150W ERP. At least this site holds useful potential for other SHF UKAC outings and future QSO attempts.

If the Wx is better and I can make some station improvements on 13cm and 3cm (re-boxing both transverter systems to add various sequenced RF amplifiers and LNA's) I hope to return to this location again in a months time for the March SHF UKAC with more power and a better chance of success.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A Happy Hour at Lacey Green!

Today I spent a happy hour at the roadside lay-by at Lacey Green, IO91OQ for the penultimate UkuG 10GHz contest. Lacey Green is a high spot on the Chiltern Ridge (774ft, 235m ASL) with fantastic views to the West and North.  The Wx had not been great with lots of rain earlier in the day, but I managed to dodge the precipitation by venturing out late in the afternoon. 

Conditions seemed to be average with no rain scatter enhancement.  With just the DB6NT G2's circa 150-200mW and the 60cm offset dish, I completed 4 QSO’s which is a record number for me - usually its just 1 or 2!  Today proved to be my busiest 10GHz session so far in the the SHF UKAC’s and UKuG contests, a really pleasing result. 

On arrival after a quick CQ on the Microwave Talkback frequency of 144.175MHz, using just the FT-290R Mk1 with 2.5W and its telescopic whip, the first in the log on 3cm was G3ZME/P. Martyn was operating with the Telford Group up on Brown Clee in Shropshire IO82QL (1,770ft, 440m ASL) at a distance of 154km.  This QSO beat my previous ODX of 147km (when I last worked Martyn from IO91MP Christmas Common) and means I’ve finally worked beyond the magic 150km wall!

After another CQ on 2m and a bit of meeping on ON4KST chat, the next 2 QSO’s were quickly arranged with the father and son team of Stewart G0LGS/P and Matt 2E0MDJ/P who were on Cleeve Hill in Gloucestershire IO81XW, the highest point of the Cotswolds (1,083ft, 330m ASL) at a distance of 91km.  Both were amazingly strong signals on 144MHz and 10368MHz.

I then tried several times with M0HNA/P the Combe Gibberlets team (Brian G4SJH and David G1EHF) on Walbury Hill near Hungerford (974ft, 297m).  We worked each other fine on 2m SSB at 60km, and although I could detect a very weak signal on 3cm we were unable to complete a QSO.  The SW is not a great direction from the Lacey Green site and the path to IO91GI is very obstructed with several other hills in the way. We have tried lots of times in UKuG contests from various locations and I’m sure we will make a QSO one day soon.  For sure it will not be for want of trying!

Last in the log was Noel G8GTZ/P located just south of the M3 at Basingstoke which was arranged by mobile phone.  Noel was at the same location I tried in IO91KF when I worked him at Hannington in the May SHF UKAC contest.  It was a very pleasant surprise to work Noel at 56km, as it involved pointing the dish just West of South - again not a great take-off direction from Lacey Green.  For this outing I had the SoundLab 4m Gear4Music tripod which I use in the UKAC's with me.  I managed to elevate the dish so that it was about 2m above the ground clearing a nearby hedge, which seemed to do the trick!  

Before packing up I contacted Gordon G3WJG in Chorleywood to see if he could hear my 3cm NBFM signal. After pointing the dish across the road and just South of East, we tried several times but without luck.  Gordon could not find my signal due to a number or variables, including frequency.  We will try again another time.

Overall this was a very enjoyable UKuG contest and I plan to revisit Lacey Green again for either the October or November SHF UKAC’s with 3cm and also 13cm kit.

A record 4 QSO's in 1 hour on 10GHz. Busy!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Sunday Afternoon on Streatley Hill

For the 2nd 10GHz UKuG Cumulative contest on Sunday 26th June, I decided to try a new site at Streatley Hill.  This location is called Lough Down accessed via the Lardon Chase car park.  NT-owned, this hill is just to the west of the 'Goring Gap', where the River Thames cuts through the Chiltern Ridge.

Looking at the HeyWhatsThat path profiler, on paper it looked like a good spot to try and reach Noel G8GTZ/P at Hannigton (IO91JH) and maybe the Combe Gibberlets group M0HNA/P on Walbury Hill (IO91GI).

The challenge with finding a decent spot on the Chiltern Ridge is that wherever you go there are nearly always lots of trees and hedges obstructing views.  Unfortunately this was the case at this site.  The takeoff was great S to SE and the GB3SEE beacon (IO91VG) in Reigate was soon found at good strength on 10368.850MHz at 70km, but SW and W were blocked.

After a quick 'CQ Microwave Contest' call on the 2M talk-back frequency of 144.175MHz, Noel was easily worked on 3cm at 24km.  I find 2M talk-back to be absolutely essential on 3cm /P, and I could hear Noel chatting to M0HNA/P and also trying to work Brian G4NNS in Andover.  I tried with M0HNA/P on 3cm and I could just hear their dots, but they could not hear me.

The mobile data signal was unusually good, and I logged into ON4KST chat and tried to work Stewart G0LGS/P on Brown Clee, but the path W was also blocked.

I had more problems with the pan tilt head on the tripod (a more robust mechanical solution is needed), the 2M amplifier did not seem to be working that well (despite testing prior to going out) and I need to make a small repair to my 2M HB9CV.

After about an hour or so onsite it started to rain so I packed-up! This site had a long walk in and out, and with lots of heavy kit that wasn't great.  Being a NT site there were tonnes of Muggles inquiring about what I was doing - which I don't mind explaining - but typically folks were walking by asking questions just as a QSO was trying to be completed!

Pleased to get another 3cm QSO, but I wont be going back to Streatley Hill.  I will continue my hunt for useful microwave sites in IO91, but there does not seem to be that many really useful ones within a one hour drive of my home QTH in Wargrave!