Sunday, December 10, 2017

One MORE Good Night on EME

Well, the degradation was -1.8 to -1.9 dB last night and I thought I would like to see how that affected my EME activities.  It did seem to have an effect but did not stop me from making 16 EME QSO's between 0510 and 1130 GMT.  That meant I did not get INTO bed until just after 7 a.m.  I need for the moon to be good during my daytime once in awhile so that the DX has to stay up all night!

Below you can see a screenshot of my log covering last night and a couple of days before.  The Green Highlight on G8BCG indicates that I sent him a paper QSL.  Click on any image to see it larger.

I looked for TF3T a couple of times while he was calling CQ but I saw nothing.  I did copy LU7FA quite well and called him several times but all I got was a single "QRZ" from him.  That would complete my Worked All Continents (WAC) by giving me South America so I'll keep watching for him.

During most of the night, a lot of the stations I worked or tried to work would say they were copying me but I did not copy them.  Or, the reports I got were several dB better than those I gave by as much as 12 dB.  This one-way propagation can be frustrating for sure.  Like when I ran with SINGLE yagi station OK1TEH for more than 1/2 hour and I copied him FOUR times as strong as -22 dB:

JT65B 093600 1 -27 dB 3.2 s -194 Hz 3 W Freq 1076 Hz > W8TN OK1TEH JO70
094800  0  -27  3.2 -205  2 *      W8TN OK1TEH JO70          0  10
JT65B 095000 2 -22 dB 3.2 s -206 Hz 10 W Freq 1064 Hz > W8TN OK1TEH JO70
100000  2  -27  3.3 -215  4 *      W8TN OK1TEH JO70          0  10

But, he got zippo from me.  He said he was seeing my trace but did not get it to decode. He told me he had trouble with "city noise" at low elevations.

At times I did feel like I was rare DX with all the traces I could see from stations answering my CQ's:

Even with the higher degradation, it turned out to be a productive night on the moon in terms of making Initials and Grids but no new DXCC's happened.  Last night I raised my EME totals by 16 more QSO's, 16 more Initials, and 10 New Grids to:

116 EME QSO's, 111 Initials, 95 Grids, 21 States, & 31 DXCC's

Amazingly I have averaged 2.9 QSO's per Day since I got on the moon 40 days ago!  Before I got operational, I would have bet big money that would not be possible.  Heck, I didn't even know there were as many stations active on 2-M EME as there seem to be.  I keep expecting to "work out" all those who want to work me but right now, this is so much FUN!

At MR (MoonRise) tonight the DGR (Degradation) is 3.0 dB and continues to rise for the next week.  It doesn't look reasonable again until Christmas.  So, I guess it's time to get caught up on other things for the next two weeks. How will I stand it by not being able to make more EME QSO's?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Another GREAT Night on the Moon!

For about a month I have been trying to work a station in England (G4TRA) who is running a single 11-element yagi and 400-watts.  Now that's what I call a Pretty SMALL station for EME.  Still, he has had a good deal of success.  On 2-M he has achieved WAC, and worked 62 countries and 473 Grid Squares since 2014, using a 30 year old TS790E and that little 11 element antenna.  NOT TOO BAD!  That just shows what you can do with perseverance.  With that small antenna and no elevation provision, he is limited to working at his Moonrise (MR) and Moonset (MS.)

Over the last month I have run schedules with him about 3 times and have watched to see if I could copy him while he was running with several others.  On November 10th I copied a full CQ from him and tried to answer but we did not complete although he copied me quite well.  So, I looked at the Sked Maker part of the MoonSked program and determined that this morning, Thursday, December 7, from 0930 to 1110 GMT looked like a very good chance for us to work.  Degradation was shown to be only 0.7 dB and the Maximum Non-Reciprocity (MNR) between the two of us moved from 2 dB down to 0 dB.  That made me think we could possibly work under those conditions.  So I told G4TRA that I would be looking for him at that time.

Once my moon came up last night, I got on the air to see how the conditions were.  First I saw YO3DDZ calling CQ and worked him easily for a New DXCC.  I also made contact with ES3RF for another New DXCC (which has already been confirmed on LoTW.)  Then, I ran two or three different times with F5AQX and he copied me fine but I never got a peep from him.  He copied me as good as -17 dB and I could not even see a trace from him.  Finally, when his Ground Gain kicked in, we made the QSO.  That's another New DXCC for me for a total of THREE New DXCC's last night.  Also, yesterday morning I had gotten up a little early to run a schedule with VK5APN and worked him for a New DXCC as well.  That's FOUR New DXCC's in one day!

That success pumped me up and I kept operating until the point where I realized there was no use in my going to bed if I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. EST (0930 GMT) to run the schedule with G4TRA.  As it turned out, I stayed up for a total of 23 hours to continue playing with the Moon.

During the night (not counting the 3 QSO's I made on Friday morning) I completed 17 EME QSO's.   Among those QSO's I worked DL1VPL who was running a SINGLE 12-L yagi and 750-watts, G8BCG who was running a SINGLE 12-L LFA Yagi and a kW, and I DID complete with G4TRA and his SINGLE 11-L yagi and 400-watts.  That contact with G4TRA is certainly the SMALLEST station I have worked via EME.  All together, that makes THREE Single Yagi stations I worked last night!  It looks like the calculations in MoonSked are pretty accurate when planning for working EME.

 Below is a list of the 17 stations I worked last night.  Click on any image to see it larger.


That evening (Thursday) I did not plan to stay up all night again [grin!] but I had seen that HSØZIL from Thailand had been on the moon before I turned on the station Wednesday night.  I saw that he was supposed to come back the next night and I figured I would watch what happened with the pileup I expected to occur.  Just before my moon came up, HSØZIL announced that he was calling CQ on 144.120 MHz.  I tuned to that frequency and looked up what MoonSked had to say about conditions between him and me.  It said there was a Maximum Non-Reciprocity (MNR) of 9 dB between us which is a LOT.  Add to that I saw that he was running 2x9-element yagis horizontally polarized.  That pretty much (to my mind) said there was not a chance I could see him.

Well, imagine my TOTAL SURPRISE when just before my moon elevation reached 1° (that's ONE DEGREE above the horizon!) that I copied: 

025800  2  -26  2.5 -409  3 *      CQ HS0ZIL OK16            0  10

Say WHAT?  Because I just KNEW that I had no hope of hearing him, I had not even turned on the amp.  I about broke a fingernail snapping on the amp and waiting for the DC supply to power up.  I started calling him about 20 seconds too late so I didn't figure anything would happen.  His next transmission I did not decode anything but I still called him the following minute.  
Then, I nearly fell out of my chair when he came back to me!  My moon elevation was just 0.72° at that time!  Since the moon is about 1/2 a degree wide, this means the moon had just barely cleared the horizon for me.  AND, at that heading, I'm shooting directly through the trees behind my house!!

030200  1  -25  2.5 -415  2 #      W8TN HS0ZIL OK16    OOO   0  10

The QSO proceeded in straight sequences and in just FOUR minutes, I had snagged a New DXCC and THAILAND at THAT!  I'm shaking just typing this.  Below is the screen shot of the QSO:

Finally, just to put the icing on the cake, I woke up early on Friday morning for a bathroom visit, checked the Chat Page, saw G4PLZ calling CQ and managed to easily work him for another New Initial.  Then, I got a report from a VERY small station, GM4VVX, who had copied me when I was working G4PLZ.   We decided to run and very quickly I copied calls and his grid.  Two periods later I copied the "RO" and I started sending "RRR."  But, I never decoded anything again even though I saw the very faintest of traces where the "73" should be in the waterfall.  I kept sending the "RRR" as once GM4VVX received that, it would complete the QSO even if no "73" were sent or received.  I never saw anything from him on the Chat Page so I continued sending "RRR" until his moonset.  I sent GM4VVX an email and got his response a few hours later that his Internet had failed due to heavy snow showers and frost at his QTH.  He did indeed receive the "RRR" and sent me the "73" so the QSO was complete.  Clive, GM4VVX, now becomes my smallest station I have ever worked as he runs 400-watts into a SINGLE long spaced 10-element yagi with a SSB2000 masthead pre-amp and no elevation!  WOW!  Simply amazing to me that I can work stations that small under good conditions.

This activity over the last 2 days has brought my 2-M EME numbers up to 100 EME QSO's, 95 Initials, 85 Grids, 21 States, & 31 DXCC's in just 37 days on-the-moon.  This has turned out to be so much more fun than I ever really imagined it would be that I just can't stand it!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The EME QSL Cards have ARRIVED!

I felt that I needed to create a special QSL card for my EME contacts.  In the past I have used Gennady, UX5UO, with great results so I sent him an email with my idea for a QSL and he cleaned it up nicely and emailed me a proof in just over FOUR HOURS!  WOWZER!

I made the PayPal payment the next day and TODAY, a mere 22 DAYS later, the Postman brought me a package with 1,000 exquisite QSL's direct from the Ukraine!  What service!

You can see the Front of the QSL on the left.  The "Diamond Ring" photo was taken by me on August 21, 2017, in Sweetwater, TN, during the Total Solar Eclipse.  I felt it would make a nice EME QSL so I put that photo on the QSL along with the photo of my antennas.

You can see the rear of the QSL on the right.  The blank space at the upper right is where I will computer print the QSO information.

Click on any of the photos to see a larger image.

You can visit Gennady's web site by clicking on this link "UX5UO Print".  I am not connected with his company in any way but am definitely a VERY satisfied customer.

Now to start printing QSL's and get them in the mail.  As of today (6-December-2017) I have completed 80 EME QSO's with 75 Initials, 69 Grids, 21 States,and 27 DXCC's.  All of that in the last 36 days!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Can You Spell - PILEUP? And, on EME no less!!!

Well, it sure is nice to have an Elevation Rotor that is not frozen.  I left the heat tape running all night and had not one single issue with the Elevation Rotor.  On November 12, 2017, the outside temperature was 38°F at 8 a.m. so probably not a really good test since it did not get below freezing but I'm happy it worked.

I got on the moon about 2 a.m. local time and did not see a lot of activity.  I saw UA4LCF calling CQ and I answered him.  We had an easy QSO.  Then, I3MEK on the Chat Page asked to run with me.  After I worked him, IK7EZN called and it soon became a "love fest" on my frequency!  I soon found out that many, many stations could hear me off the moon.  I received the following on the chat page from S52LM:

12Nov 10:23 W8TN Clark, you have now 8 callers ====== {S52LM/4X28XP/KW Milos xx JN65tx}

WHOOO, HOOOOO!  An actual bonafide pileup!  On the left is my log of the TWENTY-FOUR (24) stations I  worked today!!!

Check out the 0900 hour - NINE QSO's in one hour!  Now THAT is some serious RATE on EME!

When I started this project I figured that I would be able to make an "occasional" QSO off the moon with my little 2-antenna setup but NEVER - NEVER - NEVER did I think it would be like this!

And, today, I set a new record for completing a QSO with a VERY weak station.

I decoded Calls + OOO from K1DG at -31 dB -
   Nov. 10, 2017, DGR=0.8 dB - 135100  0  -31  2.2 -285  3 #      W8TN K1DG FN43      OOO   0  10

This system truly is out-performing what I had expected it would do!

New DXCC Countries worked today are:

Republic of South Africa
Balearic Islands

My STANDINGS on EME over the last 12 days are:

72 QSO’s
68 Initials
62 Grid's
25 DXCC’s

You know in the movie "Jaws" where Roy Scheider, who played Brody in the movie, says, "You're gonna need a bigger boat!" ??  Well, it seems that now applies to me in that "I'm gonna need MORE EME QSL's!"  22 of those 72 QSO's have already been confirmed on LoTW giving me 12 countries confirmed on 2-M already!

The EME Antennas Can Really HEAR!

Steve, G4TRA, emailed me on November 9, 2017, and asked to run a schedule with me on EME the next morning.  He runs a single 11-element Tonna antenna plus 400-watts.  I felt that was WAY too small a station for me to be able to work but agreed to run with him.  Amazingly, during one of his Ground Gain lobes, I did indeed copy him when his elevation was just under 11°:

120200  2  -26  2.5 -310  3 *      CQ G4TRA IO81             0 9

He was able to copy me on 10 different sequences (I run twice his power and more than twice his antenna.)  However, we were never able to complete the QSO.  We agreed to try again the next day.

Before my schedule with G4TRA, I made a nice QSO with GM6JNJ in Scotland (by answering his CQ) for a New Country and later I made QSO's with the following:

K2ZJ    New York
K1DG    Maine
W5ADD   Louisiana

All those were New States for me.  So, all in all, a very productive morning.  Maybe the second biggest surprise (after copying the single antenna station) was that I copied full calls and "OOO" report from K1DG at a signal level of -31 dB.  That is a record for me on weakest signal copied.  I have copied calls or CQ's at -29 dB before but this is my lowest.  Of course, "Shorthand" reports of RO, RRR and 73 have been copied several times at -31 dB but never full calls plus report.

135100  0  -31  2.2 -285  3 #      W8TN K1DG FN43      OOO   0 10

At 10:30 a.m. local time there were several JA stations on the moon but I could not copy any of them.  They did not seem to be copied by many other U.S. stations either so there must have been some one-way propagation at that time.

The next morning I had plans to run again with G4TRA about 7:50 a.m.  Plus, I received an email from SuperStation I2FAK who wants to run with me also.  But, back to the "Good News, Bad News" mantra!  I got up at 1:30 a.m. and when I turned on everything, I found the elevation rotor would not turn!  BUMMER!  It was 25°F (-4°C) outside and I guess the rotor just did not have enough torque to break itself free.  Maybe the grease on the gears had gotten stiff.  So, I had to cancel both schedules.  Eventually when the outside temperature reached 41°F (+5°C) the rotor worked just fine.

I picked up a 6-foot water pipe heat tape at Home Depot to wrap around the Elevation Rotor to try and keep it warm enough to rotate.  Back at the house I managed to fight through all my boo-boos:

Climbed the tower and dropped the AC Extension Cord
Dropped one glove
  (Evelyn came out and taped them to a cable for me to pull up.)
Dropped the electrical tape
  (I had to climb down and retrieve it.)
Came down the tower again but forgot to tape the extension cord where it goes around the azimuth rotor.
  (I had to make one more trip up the tower.)
Dropped my water bottle - TWICE!

FINALLY, I now have a 6-foot heat tape wrapped around the elevation rotor.  You can see a photo of the Elevation Rotor wrapped with the Heat Tape on the right.  Click on that photo to see a larger image.  Of course, there will not be a night where the temperature falls lower than 33° for at least the next 8 days.  I will have to wait awhile to see if this works.

UPDATE:  The rotor worked just fine that night!

ARRL EME Contest Results

BOY, OH, BOY - This EME Contest was a LOT of FUNNNNNN!

I was not trying for a score in the contest, I just wanted to work folks off the moon and this contest is a good time to do that.  Over the first two nights that I was operational on the moon, I made a total of 10 QSO's which I felt was pretty neat.  Well, in the ARRL EME Contest, I bettered that number by a good bit.  I made a total of 16 QSO's the first night!  And, EIGHTEEN the second! WHEEEEEE!

Several times I heard Roger, KD8BZY, who is quite close to me, working stations with his single 12-element yagi and I know he worked some that I didn't and I might have worked some that he didn't.  I'll bet if we pooled our individual QSO's we'd really have a list.

For the most part, everything worked as it should.  I found an issue or two that I'll need to look at but overall, things just purred along like a well-oiled machine. 

By 7:20 a.m. I only had 8° of moon left and not much that I coule hear to work so I decided to hit the sack for some Z-Z-Z-Z-Z's.  It is interesting to note that some of the stations I heard in the first weekend of the ARRL EME Context last month when I could only receive,  I was not able to copy them this night when I knew they were on the moon.  This EME stuff is not as easy as you might think [grin].

Anyway, on the left is a log of the completed QSO's I made last night.  The K9MRI station I had worked previously but all the others are New Ones.  Click on the image to get a larger view.

You know, I can't come up with a big enough adjective to describe my elation at being back on-the-moon.  In some respects it is just MIND-BLOWING!

I worked SEVEN stations via EME my first night on the moon.  THREE more the second night.  SIXTEEN the third night and EIGHTEEN on the third night!  I've only  been on-the-moon for 4 nights and I have made 44 EME QSO'sI never thought I could do this well.

Of those 44 QSO's, 42 were what is called "Initials."  The first time a contact is made with a new station, this is known as an "Initial" on EME. Sometimes stations change callsigns or move.  If a station moves his location into another grid or square then they can be counted as separate "Initials."  However if a station changes his callsign (for instance G6ZTU became GØRUZ), this does not count as a new initial.

The second night was again - "Good News" and "Bad News."  Early in the evening I tried calling CQ (for 1 hour and 10 minutes) with my antennas headed directly into the trees behind the house.  I was answered and made a QSO with YL2GD, RK3FG, and RX1AS.  This is HUGE to know that I can beam east and make QSO's off the moon!  In fact, my first QSO was made with the moon at an elevation of only 4.7° (although the station I worked, HB9Q, was a Super Station running a 45' dish antenna!

The first "Bad News" was that for 4 hours (from 0130-0530 GMT) I could not buy a QSO!  I could see on the Chat page that Roger, KD8BZY, was making contacts during that period.  I am going to assume that Roger has his antenna vertically polarized and I was locked out of working stations because the majority of the signals were coming in on that polarization.  I called many stations but had no response.  Later in the evening I spent an hour calling WO7R in Arizona with no luck.  At one time he did come back to me but could never get my report.  He had one of the strongest signals I copied on the band but he had problems with his "horizontal" receiving and just could not work a lot of stations.  I saw Roger trying for him many times but don't think he worked him either.  I also called K6MYC with a Big-Time signal but he could not hear me.

This difference in polarization can be huge.  If your antennas are not in the same polarization as the signal coming in from the moon, you either get a very weak signal or no signal at all.  I ran with PAØJMV for awhile and he commented on the Chat page:

05Nov 04:50   W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark ur sigs -19 solid here.... ====== {PA0JMV Joop xx JO21pm}
05Nov 04:58   W8TN Clark, u have local QRM on this freq?  audio copy u ====== {PA0JMV Joop xx JO21pm}

For him to receive me at -19 dB means he has a GREAT signal from me.  For him to actually HEAR my signal in his speaker is HUGE.  But, at that time, I had zero traces from him.  Nothing, Nada, Zip, Zero, Zilch, . . . you get it - a blank screen.  I think he felt since I was a "newbie" that I had something wrong with the receive side of my system.  However, while running with him, I copied a CQ from an Argentine station and was called by (and worked) K5LA in Texas while running with PAØJMV.  Sort of like an HF pileup!

I think PAØJMV realized we had one-way propagation at that point.  However, no too much later we ran again and in short order completed the QSO. 

I called CQ again for about an hour and worked: W2DBL (the guy who just finished working 1,000 initials), ON4KHG and N1DPM.  I'm very pleased with how the CQ'ing thing was working for me.

On the right is my log from the Second Night of the EME Contest. Click on any image to see a larger view.

My first night on the moon, Paul, W2HRO said:

02Nov 04:33 Clark - you'll have 100 QSO B4 the end of the year.  Good station and ur a good OP - GL ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
Since there are only two months left in the year, I did not think Paul was going to be right on that call.  However, with 44 QSO's in my first FOUR nights, he just might be right.  And, I'll need ALL that experience to have a shot at working 3YØZ, Bouvet Island, via EME.

Then I saw one of the stations I worked on the second night of the ARRL EME Contest posted the following on the Moon-Bounce reflector:
Last night  I worked my 1000 Initial after 8 years with a modest 4x9 setup and 1KW.  I am very happy , my wife thinks I am nuts.

Thanks for all the fun.

WOW!  That's 1,000 DIFFERENT EME stationsSuper COOL!

Of my 44 QSO's, I now can report the following "stats":

38 Grids
15 Fields
20 DXCC entities

And, here is my list of DXCC's worked:

DXCC Countries Worked via EME

DL8II    Federal Republic of Germany
EB5EEO   Spain
EA8DBM   Canary Islands
G4CDN    England
HB9Q     Switzerland
IK4ADE   Italy
JHØBBE   Japan
NH6Y     Hawaii
KL7UW    Alaska
LY2IJ    Lithuania
LZ1KU    Bulgaria
OK1UGA   Czech Republic
ON4KHG   Belgium
PA5Y     Netherlands
S52LM    Slovenia
SM4GGC   Sweden
UA3PTW   European Russia
UX5UL    Ukraine
YL2GD    Latvia
12 of those 44 contacts have already been confirmed via LoTW and I have picked up SIX new entities confirmed on 2-M !  WHEEE!

All in all, I'm Super pleased with how this has gone.  I know that the first 20 countries come pretty easily but, at lest it is a start and I can just build on that.  But first, I need to get back on a "Sleep at Night" schedule instead of "Stay Up All Night and Sleep in the Day."

The DX Continues to Come Via the Moon IF Everything Works Right

November 3, 2017, turned out to be another "good news - bad news" day.  The first "good news" is that I had been really worried about my ability to work to the East through the trees behind my house.  Well, at Moonrise (MR) tonight I pointed my antennas to 85° Azimuth and 0° Elevation.  When the moon was just at 86° Azimuth and 2.5° Elevation, I copied a CQ from YU7AA:

220900  0  -26  2.5  110 30 *      CQ YU7AA JN95             0  10

Boy, oh boy did this look good for being able to work stations THROUGH the trees.  I called YU7AA several times though and had no response.  But, on the Chat page, F8DGY asked if he could run with me as he was copying me.

Well, we ran for a bit with no luck.  Then another F8 station asked to run - no luck.  Then a DL - no luck.  Then my friend, N1NK from RI, and, you guessed it - no luck.  Later I ran with S56P - no luck.  I was beginning to thing that copying YU7AA was a fluke and maybe I could NOT work through the trees.

This inability to copy anyone after YU7AA went on for about 3 hours.  Finally, I when I was running with S56P (with no luck), I got a phone call from a high school friend in FL.  I stopped running with S56P and while talking to my friend, I was leaning back in my chair and I saw the elevation readout said 0° instead of 26° and the azimuth rotor was at 90° instead of about 125°.  WHAT?

It turns out that my "automatic" rotor turning software had failed. It was "thinking" that the rotors were turning but they had not moved since Moonrise.  Well, CRAP ON A CRACKER!

Once I rebooted the computer and started everything up from scratch, I found that I could not get any drive out of the K3S.  The short of that story is that during the reboot, M/S Windows graciously changed the device numbers of my USB Audio device for the K3S.  More CRAP! This time it was the M/S flavor!

Anyway, once I corrected these two bumbles, I managed an excellent QSO with LZ1KU in Bulgaria and DL8II in Germany.  WHEEE!  Back in the game!

Right after that, I saw IK4ADE was calling CQ and I copied him at -24 dB - - - - So, you can add one more New One to my score for tonight for THREE New Ones!  That makes my Digital EME QSO's now 10 in just two nights.  Would have had more if not for the bumbles!  It is simply amazing how little DX you can work if your antennas are NOT pointed at the moon!

That brings my country total up to SIX.  I can't wait to see what happens with the EME contest to see just what I can do on Digital EME.

Re: [WVDXA] WHOPPEE!!! It's STILL Alive!!

No sooner than I finished my first two EME QSO's and took a breather to let my heart rate come back into normal range, than I saw NH6Y in Hawaii calling CQ.  In short order, he was QSO No. 3 in the LOG!  You can see the screenshot of our QSO on the right.  Click on it for a larger image.

02Nov 03:36 Clark, Thanks for the qso, best was at 0327 (-26) Aloha ====== {NH6Y/4X9H/1K Tom HI BL10ts}
02Nov 03:37 033600  3  -29       211  2   73                                ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 03:37 NH6Y, Tom. THANK YOU for my 3rd ever Digital EME QSO. UR Best -21. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 03:39 That's great.  I'll send you a card. ====== {NH6Y/4X9H/1K Tom HI BL10ts}
Heck, I was all set to go lay down but who can sleep when the band is open?  One more DXCC country logged.  WHOPPEE!!

When I was working NH6Y, K8DIO running two 17-element yagis copied me at -23 dB off the moon.  I am running just two 13-element yagis so that's pretty good I think!  Small station to small station.

02Nov 03:48 2 yagi to 2 yagi   144.117  111  0 -1 -1  2.4   0  3 -23 033100  NH6Y W8TN EM98 ====== {K8DIO/2X17/K Lloyd OH EN91gh}
Next Ken, W8KEN, in Ohio wanted to run.  This made my Digital EME QSO No. 4.

02Nov 03:47 W8TN Clark, Could we try .112 ??? ====== {W8KEN/2XP22A/1K Ken OH EN91im}
02Nov 03:48 W8KEN, Ken.  RR. You go first? ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 03:57 W8KEN, Ken. Sri, I got confused in what to send as I got you on tropo at times. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 03:57 W8KEN, Ken. Finally saw the DT and knew it was EME so changed my message. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 03:58 W8KEN, Ken. You are only my 4th Digital EME QSO so I'm pretty "green." ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 03:59 W8TN Clark, Tnx Initial #114, Best -25, I had to separate your EME from Tropo also, GL,73 Ken ====== {W8KEN/2XP22A/1K Ken OH EN91im}
Whuups, then another Ohio station wanted to run and just posted on the Chat page that he was calling me.  This was the guy who already reported copying me when I worked Hawaii.   He became my Digital EME QSO No. 5.
02Nov 03:59 W8TN Clark, calling ====== {K8DIO/2X17/K Lloyd OH EN91gh}
02Nov 04:02 K8DIO, Lloyd.  Listening. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 04:12 K8DIO, Lloyd.  TNX for my No. 5 Digital EME QSO. UR Best -28. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 04:12 W8TN, tnx Clark.  Your best -24  73 and have fun. ;-) ====== {K8DIO/2X17/K Lloyd OH EN91gh}
Then, Paul, W2HRO, who I failed to complete with earlier, showed up for another go at it and he became my Digital EME QSO No. 6.
02Nov 04:23 W8TN Clark - ready for a try? ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
02Nov 04:25 W2HRO, Paul.  Sure. You call it. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 04:25 .118 - HRO - 1st ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
02Nov 04:26 W2HRO, Paul.  RR. Running. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 04:26 RRR ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
02Nov 04:31 W2HRO, Paul.  Well, now wasn't that easy?  UR Best -24.  My 6th digital EME QSO. TNX! ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 04:32 W8TN Clark - tnx fer quick qso - welcome back to EME - tnx fer initial - ur b-20 - nice sigs - 73 & GN ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
02Nov 04:33 Clark - you'll have 100 QSO B4 the end of the year.  Good station and ur a good OP - GL ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
02Nov 04:36 W2HRO, Paul. TNX for the compliment. It's been a long road to get here but this is FUN! ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}

That was a nice compliment from Paul.  Cool!

It's now almost 2:20 a.m. and activity has slowed down a bit.  There are still 44 users signed into the Chat page but there have been no posts for the last 12 minutes.  So, maybe I should lay down for a couple of hours and then see if I can work someone in Asia before sunrise. 

Here is my first night's score (so far [grin]):

No. 1 - PA5Y - Netherlands - 4x8element Horizontal & Vertical
No. 2 - K9MRI - Indiana - 8x28 XP yagis
No. 3 - NH6Y - Hawaii - 4x9element Horizontal
No. 4 - W8KEN - Ohio - 2x22 XP yagis
No. 5 - K8DIO - Ohio - 2x17element
No. 6 - W2HRO - New Jersey - 2x18 XP yagis
No. 7 - W7GJ - Montana - 16x17elements

HEY, I just saw another WV station show up on the Chat Page.  Paul, WB8TFV, from Martinsburg.   I knew him years ago in Parkersburg.  He runs 2x10element H&V antennas and is trying to work NH6Y but can't seem to do it.  I'm copying NH6Y at -23 dB.  Good news.  They changed to a different frequency and made the QSO.  WB8TFV told NH6Y his best copy on the Hawaiian station was -27 dB and mine was -23 so I think my station is doing OK.  But with Paul's ability to switch polarity, he just worked NTØV in ND and I haven't heard a single peep from him all night.

I guess I didn't get my body laid down.  But, W8KEN has already uploaded our QSO to LoTW and it is confirmed.  YIPPEE!

Still, it ain't over.  The moon is down to 16-degrees and I just worked Lance, W7GJ, who was calling CQ.  This was my Digital EME QSO No. 7.
02Nov 08:16 W7GJ, Lance.  TNX for Digital EME QSO No. 7. ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
02Nov 08:17 W8TN TNX Clark - best was -14 dB hr ====== {W7GJ/16X17/1500 Lance MT DN27ub}
OK, it's 5:30 a.m. and I've still not been to bed.  Oh, well.  I've been watching everyone working DX7EME in the Phillipines but I am not able to copy them yet.  My moon is down to 3° elevation so time is running out.  I ran a schedule with ZL2MQ for about 22 minutes but no joy.  I copied him calling me one time:
071100  0  -28  2.3   30  3 #      W8TN ZL2MQ RF80     O ?   0   1
OK, that's all folks.  It's been a FUN night.   YAWN . . . . .  Wonder if I'll be able to sleep after all this excitement???


This post was for activities that took place on November 1, 2017:

A little over 7 months ago on March 22nd my Grandsons, Owen & Grant, came and dug the hole for my EME tower.  Since then there have been MANY ups and downs on the MoonBounce project.  Success has always been followed (or preceded) by failure.  Still, my motto has always been, "Never Give Up, Never Surrender."

On October 31, 2017, I successfully replaced the relay which self-destructed a couple of days before and the station was then essentially ready to go.  Today I ironed out a few bugs and felt that once the moon came up, I would be ready to give it a go.

I signed on to the WSJT EME - 1 chat page about 2120 GMT on November 1, 2017.  Without me ever sending a post, I soon saw the following appear:

01Nov 21:38 W8TN pse listen for me 144.136 first ====== {PA5Y/4X8HV Conrad xx JO21vo}
WHAAAAAT?  Well I'm guessing that Conrad, PA5Y, looked at the list of the more than 100 stations who were signed on to that page and saw my call.  Then, just out of the blue, he sent the above message.  I had not previously had any communications with him to the best of my knowledge.  But, I'm sure he saw me posting questions or comments in the last couple of weeks.  What a hoot to have someone who did not even know that I was now able to make EME QSO's ask me to listen for him.

So, I grabbed a quick dinner and saw that my computer (MAP65 program) had copied PA7Y calling CQ on 144.136 MHz so I went to that frequency and soon copied him calling CQ in the WSJT 10.0 program.  I tried to answer him but mistakenly had the software set to call CQ!  I recognized my mistake after about a minute but by then the Chat Page posted this:
01Nov 23:10 W8TN CQ is -16, please stick around really want to work you ====== {PA5Y/4X8HV Conrad xx JO21vo}
01Nov 23:21 W8TN JT65B 230900 4 -16 dB 2.5 s 162 Hz 2 W Freq 1433 Hz   CQ W8TN EM98 ====== {PA5Y/4X8ELEJXXX Conrad xx JO21vo}
It turned out that he had someone else answer his CQ and I watched him work that guy.  Then I saw:
01Nov 23:14 W8TN call you now ====== {PA5Y/4X8HV Conrad xx JO21vo}
At that point it was GAME ON!!!  The screenshot on the right was taken about an hour and a half after the QSO so only the text in the center applies to that QSO.

Here is the pertinent part of that decode:

231400  5  -22  2.5  156  3 *      W8TN PA5Y JO21            0  10
231600  9  -26       154  1   RO                                  
231800 10  -25       152  3   73        

WOWZER!  My FIRST Digital EME QSO Ever! 

Here is the exchange on the Chat Page:
01Nov 23:20 W8TN tnx Clark excellent signals tonight, shame I have to work tomorrow :-) ====== {PA5Y/4X8HV Conrad xx JO21vo}
01Nov 23:21 W8TN JT65B 230900 4 -16 dB 2.5 s 162 Hz 2 W Freq 1433 Hz   CQ W8TN EM98 ====== {PA5Y/4X8ELEJXXX Conrad xx JO21vo}
01Nov 23:23 PA5Y, Conrad - WOOO, HOOO. My first digital EME QSO!!  THANK YOU! ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
01Nov 23:23 231400  5  -22  2.5  156  3 *      W8TN PA5Y JO21            0  10  ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}
01Nov 23:23 W8TN Clark really oh thats awesome! ====== {PA5Y/4X8ELEJXXX Conrad xx JO21vo}

I took a little 3 minute 47 second video of the last part of the contact.  Even with the video displayed full-screen, it's a little hard to see the above details.  But, you can hear me make my exclamations!

After that QSO, I called CQ for about 12 minutes and K9MRI answered me.  We had a good QSO but I lost the screenshot of the exchange.  Still, that was my 2nd QSO.
01Nov 23:48 Clark, W8TN, great signal -15, tnx and gl on moon ====== {K9MRI Joe IN EN70iu}

Later I was told on the Chat page that W2HRO copied me:
01Nov 23:57 W8TN Clark - I see ur CQ every period ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
02Nov 00:28 0027 -21  2.4 1562 #* CQ W8TN EM98   ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}
02Nov 00:32 0031 -22  2.4 1557 #* CQ W8TN EM98  ====== {W2HRO/2X28XP/1K Paul NJ FN20ll}

And, I copied him one time:
02Nov 00:36 000000  1  -28  2.6  315  3 *      W8TN W2HRO FN20           0   8  ====== {W8TN/2X13H/KW Clark WV EM98al}

But we never made a QSO.  Also, DL5OCD copied me but I never saw a thing from him.
02Nov 00:25 0023 -21  2.8 1378 #* CQ W8TN EM98 ====== {DL5OCD/10WL/400 Michael xx JO42xg}
02Nov 00:33 W8TN Clark: rrr, stable -20 to -25 on V-POL here ====== {DL5OCD/10WL/400 Michael xx JO42xg}

A little later my friend, Jim in RI asked me to call CQ.  He found me easily but his TX was not working so we did not try for a QSO.
02Nov 00:59 W8TN - 136, coming in H and -23 ====== {N1NK/2XP18/750W Jim RI FN41kn}
02Nov 01:00 W8TN - good copy here.  EME, not tropo.  my TX not operating.  dang. ====== {N1NK/2XP18/750W Jim RI FN41kn}
02Nov 01:01 W8TN - copy with both MAP and WSJT ====== {N1NK/2XP18/750W Jim RI FN41kn}

Now one of the really good things to come out of tonight's work is that ALL of the above QSO's and SWL reports of my signal came with my antennas pointing INTO the trees to the east of my house.  I was really afraid that they would cause me a ton of grief.  But, it seems that I CAN work stations in that direction!  YIPPEE!

The next couple of days are good EME conditions (the degradation was 2.3 dB this evening) and this weekend is the EME contest so I'll definitely be running up the electric bill with my solid-state kW amp.  I moved the power output up to a little over 800-watts and it seems to just purr along.  Sometimes the fan kick up to a higher speed but I see no issues at this point.  I did call CQ for over an hour so that should have caused something to fail if it was going to fail.

I wish I had a way to tell if I should give it up for tonight or stay up until MoonSet (MS) at 5:30 a.m. or if I should get up about 4 a.m. to look for Asian stations.  Decisions, decisions, decisions!!!  Whatever I decide, it will be difficult to get to sleep tonight for sure!

I think I'll leave the software running and if I get up for a bathroom visit, I may just turn on the computer monitors and see what's happening!!!

HEY, DX7EME (a DX'pedition to the Phillipines) has just become operational.  I will have a window to try for them beginning at 4:00 a.m. so maybe I DO need to get up to visit the facilities [grin].

Right now I have just upped my DXCC score on 2-M to a whole TWO countries!  So, IT's ALLLL GOOOD!

Relay Replacement - Moving On

The destruction of the CX-600NL relay was a bit of a setback.  The way I had the station configured, it would not work the way I wanted it to without this relay.  Luckily, a few weeks ago while going through some of my junk box treasures, I found a Brand-New Transco relay still in the plastic.  This will work just fine - well, maybe . . . It turns out that the CX-600NL relay was a 12-volt relay and the Transco was a 28-volt relay.  Hummmm!

After thinking on several ideas that I could use to make this work, it suddenly occurred to me that the T/R relay up on the tower is a 28-volt relay and I have 28-volts available in the DEMI TR Sequencer.  All I had to do was to open the sequencer and connect a jumper from the output jack (NO1) for the T/R Relay to the unused (NO2) jack.  Simple!  Then I just had to install a 1N4003 diode across the relay coil and solder an RCA cable to the relay and run it to the NO2 jack.  DONE!  I now had a replacement for the CX-600NL.  You can see the new relay in the photo on the right.  Click on it for a larger image.

The junk box is a wonderful thing!  Never throw anything away because as soon as you do, you will find you need it.  Of course, it can be pretty difficult to find something that you "KNOW" you have but you can't remember where in the heck you put it.  Just part of gettin' older.  Hey, maybe this is part of that "Use It, or Lose It" theory on your mental ability.  Uh, Huh!

I have been really busy with this EME project and have been running behind on updating this Blog.  The relay replacement was done on October 31, 2017, but I am just now blogging about it.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Even More "Good News - Bad News"

Well, I just couldn't let it go.  I had to see what I could do to resolve my issue tonight without waiting to call Elecraft tomorrow.  I read the manual - no help.  I searched Google and eBay for an N-Male to N-Female 3 dB, 10-watt (or more) attenuator but nothing in my price range was available except from China and that won't get here by next weekend's contest.

However, the ever-faithful Mr. Google, did give me a hint.  I found there is a menu setting in the K3S (CONFIG: XV1 PWR) which sets the maximum K3S power output for the current transverter band.  I checked that menu item and mine was set as CONFIG: XV1 PWR = L1.50 (which is the highest level) so I turned it down to the bare minimum which was L .01 and then looked at the K3S PWR control.  Instead of the previous minimum of 0.1 mW it was now 0.01 mW.  WOW, did I just find a way to lower the power even further out of the K3S?   WHUMP - Yes he did!

I turned the amp back on, set the WSJT-X software to Echo mode, and lo and behold, I no longer had 800-watts out of the amp?  At that level "0.01 mW" and with an Audio Line Input of "1" there was no measurable power out.  I played with the Line level ending up at "10" and I brought the XV1 PWR level up to 0.02 mW and got 200-watts out.  A further increase to 0.03 mW and I now had 400-watts output.  I can work with this!!!

I'm pumped now!  Bring me the moon tomorrow and I'll try echo testing for real!  WHEEE - this will make it MUCH easier for me to get some good sleep tonight instead of worrying about this problem.

But, every time I find a solution or make a step forward, Mr. Murphy pulls me back.  In disconnecting the 1/2-inch Heliax feedline connected to the CX600-NL relay from the Bird 43 wattmeter in order to connect it to the amplifier input, I must have flexed that cable a little too much and WHAM! - the NEW $112.50 CX600-NL relay self-destructed.  This would NOT have happened if that blasted RG142 cable had had the N-connectors installed properly!


That happened before I was able to test my successful adjustments above and I had to rely on a double-female "N" barrel connector to replace the relay.  I "might" be able to put the N-connector back on the relay if I can find a small enough Allen wrench but at this point, I'm just happy to have the power output of the K3S low enough to work with while continuing to pursue this project.

Now I really am going to bed and try to get rid of this shoulder cramping obviously brought on by all this stress!

WHUUPS! Two Steps Forward and One Step Backward

OK, today was the day to get the amplifier running.  I finished wiring the 3 kW 48 VDC power supply and connected it to the 220 VAC in the shack and to the W6PQL amplifier.   After double and triple checking everything (and removing the PTT cable from the amp just to make sure I did not accidentally put it into transmit) I decided it was time to swallow a few times and hit the AC ON button.  The "pucker factor" was fairly high at this point [grin].

Well, for a couple of seconds nothing happened and I was sure I had made a big mistake.  Then I heard a relay click, fans started running in the 3 kW power supply and the amp displayed 52 VDC on the PA Voltage meter.  WHEW!!!  Time to remember to breathe now!

I relaxed for a bit and let the system just coast along.  The air coming out of the back of the 3 kW power supply began to warm a little so I might need to think about relocating that power supply.  The output of the air is blocked a little and if I am going to be running long schedules, I will need plenty of cooling.

The next step was to key the radio and see if the amp moved into Transmit.  I put the K3S on 2-M, DATA A mode, dialed the PWR control all the way to the left where it was reading -10.0dB (0.10 mW), and I stepped on the footswitch.  WHUUPS - BANG!!

There was a noise, some relay clicks and the amp displayed a red LED indicating "Load Fail."  I had been expecting nothing at all to happen except the sound of the Sequencer relays and the "Transmit" LED on the amp to come on.  BOY, was I surprised.

 After letting my heart return to a normal rhythm, I turned OFF the amp and began looking at the K3S.  Without the amp inline, when I step on the footswitch, the RF meter on the K3S jumps way up scale, not often but sometimes even to full scale.  That could explain the "Load Fail" indication on the amp by there being WAY too much drive power.  I had previously changed the input attenuator on the amp so that I could drive it with a maximum of 2-1/2 watts instead of 10-watts.  If the K3S put out a spike when it began transmitting, that may have driven the amp too far and the protection circuit shut it down.  I do also recall seeing the Forward and Reflected power indicators on the amp jump upscale briefly before the amp shut down.  I really had no plans to "test" that protection circuit but it's good to know that it is working perfectly ! ! !

I tried adjusting the drive on the K3S with a single tone on the input.  As I turned the PWR control, the RF meter would indicate full scale as I was turning it then, when I stopped turning it, the RF meter would stay at a specific level.  It almost acted like the PWR control was dirty.

I saw where there was some discussion about this online.  The comments seemed to indicate that it might be a Power Supply issue.  So, I checked the built-in meter of the K3S and it indicates a Supply Voltage of 13.6 VDC in Receive and 13.3 VDC in Transmit (PWR control at minimum.)  This is pretty much normal.

On a hunch, I increased the TX Delay in the K3S configuration from 8 ms to 14 ms and that seemed to stop the full-scale power readings when the footswitch was pressed.  At the same time I returned the input attenuator on the amp to the maximum amount of attenuation so that I could input more power without an issue.

I powered on the amp again, pressed the footswitch, and YAY!, it did NOT give me a fault!  Just the "Transmit" LED lit up.  I then put WSJT-X in Echo mode and set the PTT method to VOX so it would NOT key the transmitter by itself.  The program would be going into Echo mode transmit but until I pressed the Footswitch, the radio would not transmit.  This worked and I had about 800 watts out very briefly.  I let up on the footswitch and reduced the Audio Drive Line Input to the K3S from 17 to 2.  This time no power out was noted.  I brought it slowly up and at a level of 5 noticed that there was a spike in the Power output and a sound in the K3S speaker when it went into transmit. 

Except for the spike, there was 10 amps of PA Current being drawn by the amp but no power out shown when there was a tone being supplied except for an initial spike of 800-watts!  Without the tone, there was just 2 amps of PA Current which was probably just the bias level with no RF input.  This test was done with the footswitch putting the K3S into continuous transmit and the WSJT-X Echo mode supplying the tone for a cycle of 3 seconds ON and 3 seconds OFF.  The "spike" I observed here was not from the K3S going into transmit, it was from the tone being applied which caused the K3S to generate RF that then seemed to be "choked" down to the level of -10.0 dB (0.010 mW).

The next test I tried was just sending CW.  Without the amp on, the K3S still seemed to have a bit of a "spike" when just sending the letter "E" but sending my callsign, the RF meter only indicated 1 bar.  I set the keyer speed to 40 wpm, turned on the amp and sent a single "E" and the Forward Power indicated 800-watts out.  This was with the K3S PWR level at minimum.  I then sent my callsign and it continuously keyed at 800-watts out.  Bad news is that I was hearing RFI from one set of computer speakers - that will need to be taken care of.  But, the good news (what little there is) was that there was NO Reflected Power indicated.  Looks like Charlie, N8RR, and his famous SARK Analyzer helped me get the antennas tuned nicely!

My last step was to check the power output of the K3S on 2-M.  I pulled out a Bird Model 43 wattmeter and looked through my slugs to find what I had which would measure close to 2-M.  I had a 5W slug that covered 400-1000MHz which was close.  Using a Narda 40-watt termination that was good to 12.4 GHz, that 5W slug measured 2.8 watts output with the PWR control set to minimum.  With the K3S PWR control at -4.0 dB (0.43 mW) the slug was reading full-scale or 5-watts.  Next I used a 25W slug good for 50-125 MHz.  At the minimum PWR setting on the K3S this slug measured 4.5-watts and reached 8.5-watts with the PWR control at maximum of 1.8 dB (1.50 mW.)  That pretty much tells me that at the very lowest PWR out setting of the K3S, it is putting out enough power to drive the W6PQL amplifier to 800-watts output even with the attenuator connected.   Maybe I need a larger attenuator to be able to have more control of the drive level to the amplifier.

At this point, I'm out of ideas and ready to go "chill out" a bit.  Looks like I need to call Elecraft tomorrow afternoon and see what they can tell me.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Continuing Progress on the 2-M EME Project

On Friday, with the good weather, I thought I should go ahead and fix the Inclinometer installation.  You may recall that I had to compensate in the Rotor Driver program for the Inclinometer reading being off by a negative 5°.  The problem with that was that the system would not rotate below an "indicated" 0° which occurred when the antennas were actually 5° above the horizon.  What was needed was for me to climb the tower and rotate the antennas until they were horizontal, then move the Inclinometer to where it read 0°.  With the help of my lovely wife, Evelyn, that is exactly what I did.  Once I had the Inclinometer showing 0° when the antennas were actually pointing at the horizon, I then had to re-calibrate the EA4TX ARS-USB controller so that the Inclinometer tracks correctly all the way from 0° to 90° (straight up.)  Once that was done, I rotated the antennas to 90° and went outside to check - Yep, they were pointed straight up!  YAY!

I then removed the "compensation" in the Rotor Driver program so whatever the Inclinometer said was what the program took as correct.  Over the next few hours, I let the system AutoTrack and I kept visually checking the antennas and the elevation now tracked perfectly!  I still have the 7° "compensation" factor on the Azimuth readout but that is not a problem.  Not much else got done Friday evening because that "tower climb" set my back off and it was difficult to just sit in a chair.  It's a good deal better today but still hurts.

Today I thought I would finish off some more of the little bits of the project that were still hanging.  The first thing I tackled was to wire up the CX-600NL relay that switches the Elecraft K3S between the RX (receive) line and the TX (transmit) line to the W6PQL solid-state amp.  I first soldered a 1N4003 diode across the coil of the relay.  This is done because an inductor (the relay coil) cannot change it's current instantly so the flyback diode provides a path for the current when the coil is switched off. Otherwise, a voltage spike will occur that may cause arcing on switch contacts or possibly destroy switching transistors.  I then wired a shielded cable with an RCA connector on the other end to the relay coil.  This cable will plug into the "TR" connector on the DEMI Sequencer so that 12 VDC is supplied to the CX-600NL relay for switching it as necessary from TX to RX.  Being honest with you all, the first time I soldered this cable I had too much tension on the center conductor and the heat of the soldering iron melted the center conductor right through the insulation.  That could have resulted in a short at a later time so I cut it off, removed the soldered ends and did it again being more careful this time.  But, I wasn't careful enough with my finger as I managed to lay it "briefly" on the soldering pen and got a slight burn for my lack of caution!

Not having an elegant method of mounting this relay, I just installed a screw-eye in the back of the equipment shelf and used a Ty-Rap to secure the relay to it.  Again, I was less than careful and my first placement of the Ty-Rap interfered with the relay's motion so I cut it off and picked a better location the next time.  The photo on the right should be horizontal but Blogger insists on putting it vertical.  What can you do?

Another "self-inflicted" problem occurred when sometime later I tried to turn on the Kenwood PS-430 power supply for the Elecraft K3S.  It would not come on.  I pulled it out and checked the fuse which was good.  Luckily at that point (before beginning more extensive tests) I noticed that the power cable for the PS-430 had come loose and fallen behind the operating table!  I guess I did that while messing with the installation of the CX-600NL relay above.  Oh, well.  At least that was not hard to fix.

I had used an ohmmeter to find which of the relay ports was NO (Normally Open) and which was NC (Normally Closed) and I marked them with my label maker.  Next I connected the cable that runs from the Common port of the relay to the Elecraft K3S and checked the continuity of the center pin of the BNC connector on the radio end of the cable to the center pin of the N-connector on the NC contact of the relay.  All was good.  At that point, after cycling the relay several times from the Sequencer and checking that the contacts switched correctly, I connected the cables to the NO and NC ports and mounted the relay.  Just before connecting the other ends of the cables, I ran a final continuity check and the cable that connects to the NC port on the relay (and goes to the Driver Input of the amplifier) showed it was open.  I removed the cable from the relay to the amplifier and checked the continuity of the center pins and it was good.  But, when I put the cable back on the relay and checked it again, it was open.  I disconnected the cable and in looking closely at the connectors, I noticed the center pins on both ends were recessed much further than they should have been.

I measured the tip of the center pin as being 6/64" recessed from the reference plane of the connector!  Most of the N-connectors I looked at have that tip of the pin either even with or just ever so slightly below the reference plane.  The depth of the shoulder of the pin was 18/64" (0.28125 inches) from the reference plane.  That depth should be between 0.210 to 0.230 inches.  That meant these pins were, between 0.05125 to 0.07125 inches SHORT.  In the picture above you can see that the tip of the center pin is well below the reference plane.  This meant that because the center pins were so far back in the connector, they simply were not making contact with the center pin of the female connector. 

I tried to avoid problems like this in my project by purchasing NEW cables.  This cable was purchased January 18, 2016 as an N Male to N Male Cable 36 Inch Length Using RG142 Coax for $13.50 plus $3.35 shipping.  I guess I'll try to contact the eBay seller who sold me this for either a replacement or a refund.  In the short-term, I found a 1m N-to-N piece of 1/2-inch Heliax that I can use in the meantime.

It turns out that my checking of each step of this project has turned out to be a good thing.  I don't know how long it would have taken me to track down this problem if I had not been checking everything one step at a time. 

I have nearly finished wiring the 3 kW power supply for the W6PQL amp needing only to put the 220 VAC connector on the end of the cable.  Once that is done, I can hook it up to the 220 line and see if it will produce 48 VDC.  At that point, I'm ready to slap some RF to the amp and see if I can blow something up!

On the photo at the right you can see I have run the Red and Black cables from the output pins of the power supply through a toroid to hopefully cut down on any RFI from the power supply.  The Green, White and Blue cables at the top are the 220 VAC input cables.  The Blue cable runs through a switch on the front of the amp that switches the power supply on and off and provides protection from high inrush current that is common to switching supplies.

I also labeled and connected the PTT cable from the DEMI Sequencer to the W6PQL amplifier.  That is one other part of this project that has taken a bit extra time.  I have tried to document everything I have done on this project so that if need be, I will not have to re-invent the wheel if I need to trouble-shoot any future problems.  Also, I have tried to be meticulous in labeling all cables so that if anything becomes disconnected or needs to be checked, it will be obvious where that cable goes.  Plus, if I should need to disassemble and move the station in the future, it will be a snap to put it all back together.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Big Day on the 2-M EME Project

Wheeeeee!  Big-Time progress was made today.  I did some minor work on the antennas by covering the driven element screws with Coax-Seal, putting some Silica Gel packets in the T/R Relay - LNA box to keep down the condensation, taping some of the control lines together, and making a small re-alignment of the rearward boom.  

The next step was to see how far off my rotor indicators were from where they should be.  I had a good visual on the moon so I had Evelyn use the Rain Proof Hoist Crane Pendant to move the antennas as I stood out in the yard to visually align them with the moon.  Once we had the moon square in the sights of the antennas, I went inside and looked at where the MoonSked program said the moon really was in Azimuth and Elevation from my QTH, and compared that to what the rotors indicated on the EA4TX ARS-USB rotor controller.  I then repeated that same operation four more times over the next hour or two.  As it turned out, my Azimuth reading was consistently 7° greater than what it should be and my Elevation reading was 5° less than what it should be.  Here is what the antennas looked like when we had the pointing "nailed."  Note that in the photo below you can see the moon lined up with the left-hand antenna. (Click on any photo to see a larger image.)

Now here is where things got GOOD!  I have a "driver" program that interfaces between MoonSked and the EA4TX ARS-USB unit and in looking at it, there is a "Setup" button.  When I opened the setup screen, there were two adjustments to "compensate" the readings between the two.  I inserted a +7° in the Azimuth box and -5° in Elevation box and told the driver program to "AutoTrack" the moon.  It adjusted the rotors to exactly where they "should" be pointing and I ran out in the yard to see that BINGO! - the antennas were indeed pointed right at the Lunar Orb!  WHEEEEE!  This is HUGE for my project to have the antennas actually pointing at the moon consistently and the AutoTrack feature working to keep them pointed there regardless of whether or not I can see the moon!

After that, I began running WSJT 10.0 as well as the MAP65 program while the AutoTrack kept my antennas pointed at the moon.  After about an hour, I saw on the WSJT EME - 1 chat page that K9MRI was calling CQ on 144.149 MHz.  I put my K3S on that frequency and WHAM! - the WSJT 10.0 program copied his CQ!  At 2309 GMT I copied his first CQ and then at 2313 I copied him with the best signal strength of -18 dB:

231300  6  -18  2.9 -283  3 *      CQ K9MRI EN70             1  10

K9MRI is running 8-M2 XP28 Yagi's and 1 kW.  So, he has a pretty big signal.  However, it is interesting to note that at 2300 GMT, the Degradation is 5.8 dB so not the best of conditions.  That probably explains why I was not able to copy the two or three 2-yagi stations that K9MRI worked over the next hour or so.  Still, I'm totally PUMPED that my receive is doing as well as it is.

But, I noticed that while I could copy K9MRI just fine on WSJT 10.0, I had zero copy on MAP65.  I began looking to see what could be causing that program to not receive and realized that when I had selected the Audio Source (which was for the FUNcub Dongle Pro+ SDR Thumb Drive) I had chosen the DirectX audio stream.  There was also an MME audio stream so I selected that instead and a few minutes later, MAP65 copied K9MRI - SUCCESS!

Now as I sat at the computer, I could see both WSJT 10.0 and MAP65 copying the signals off the moon.  This is AWESOME!!!  One reason I was trying to get the MAP65 program running is that it basically works like CW Skimmer in that it listens to 60 kHz of the 2-M band all at once and copies EVERY station it hears.  It prints out the messages that those stations are sending along with the frequency they are transmitting on, the audio frequency offset and the signal strength!  Since I was only able to copy one station tonight, here on the right is the "Messages" window of MAP65 showing the signals I actually copied!

The color code gives the most recent messages in Red, older ones in Yellow and the oldest in Gray.  All I need now is to have a little better conditions so I can hear more stations to see just how valuable this MAP65 program will be to me.

I can't wait for conditions to get better.  And, I am really, really close to being able to transmit.  I have the TX feedline connected, the wiring of the amplifier power supply is nearly complete, and there is not too much I still need to do to finish off this project.  If nothing gets in my way, it should just be a few days until I can echo test.

NEWS FLASH!!!  -  As I was typing this, the screen I was typing on was covering the MAP65 screen.  I just took a look and WOW, I had copied another station off the moon:

149 -151 0 0110 2.6 -26 # CQ K5LA DM61 0 23 0

I actually copied two CQ's from K5LA and this was the strongest one.  K5LA runs four 9-element yagis and is located in El Paso, TX.

Finally, on the left is a shot of the antenna array.  You can see the feedlines from the back of each antenna connecting to the power divider, which then connects to the T/R Relay - LNA box on the rearward boom, and inside that PVC box is the T/R Relay and the LNA (preamp.)

Lots of work has gone into this setup and it's about time for it to pay off!  Right now the moon is down to under 14° Elevation so it's time to shut things down and hit the sack.  I took a look out the front door and the moon is beautifully hanging over Hurricane.  Maybe I'll keep the station listening for a little longer just in case a VK, ZL or JA shows up [grin].

P.S.  A ZL did indeed show up on the Chat page but my noise had jumped up to S-9 so there was no chance for me to copy him.   Another time - I will!