lørdag den 2. marts 2019

Receiving Es'Hail-2 aka QO-100 geostationary satellite

Es'Hail-2 geostationary satellite (credit: Es'hailSat)

The main purpose of the new geostationary satellite Es'Hail-2 is to provide television services to the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to commercial services, Es'hail 2 includes two linear transponders for amateur radio; one with a bandwidth of 250 kHz and another one with 8 MHz. The uplink for both transponders is 2.4 GHz; and downlink is on 10.45 GHz.

Es'Hail-2 is called QO-100 in the radio amateur world (i.e. Qatar Oscar 100). Service for radio amateurs was opened on 14-February-2019. The linear narrow-band transponder has been busy since then. Two beacons indicate the upper and lower limit of the passband.
Es'Hail-2 Narrowband Linear transponder:
  •  2400.050 -  2400.300 MHz Uplink
  • 10489.550 - 10489.800 MHz Downlink

Es'hail-2 footprint.

The footprint of Es'Hail-2 covers half of the world. That huge pattern offers new opportunities for many hams: DX can now be worked without erecting big HF-antennas. A satellite dish on the balcony is all you need.

My RX set-up is shown below. It is simple and cheap while still providing a taste of satellite DX. The Win 10 computer runs SDR#

Receive chain at OZ1BXM

The satellite dish is Triax TD78 (offset, 70 cm wide, 78 cm high). The LNB is Maximum ST-11 (single port) with PLL and 25 MHz crystal oscillator.

Offset dish with LNB.

Bias T for 12 V DC.

RTL-SDR dongle V.3

The narrow-band transponder can be monitored via this web-SDR: https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

73 from OZ1BXM Lars
Webpage: oz1bxm.dk

lørdag den 5. januar 2019

uBITX 10 W SSB-transceiver for 10-80 m

I've just acquired an uBITX. It is a 10 W SSB-transceiver operating from 10 meters down to 80 meters. The uBITX is made in India. The transceiver is not a kit - it is delivered as two assembled PCBs, an LCD-display, and wires.

The main board is the transceiver module and the smaller PCB contains the VFO. The user's task is to mount the circuit boards into an enclosure and fit terminals and controls.

The uBITX block diagram.

The block diagram above shows the RX-part which is a superheterodyn receiver with two IF stages at 45 MHz and 12 MHz. The TX-part is the same concept, but the transmit signal flows "backwards".

Main board and two digital PCBs mounted vertically. 

The main circuit board measures 15 cm x 14 cm and contains most of the components. There are no adjustments to make as they are set at the factory.

The VFO comprises an Arduino Nano and a programable oscillator Si5351. The oscillator frequencies are set with an encoder, and the operating frequency is displayed on an LCD. The factory delivered display is a 2 x 16 LCD; however, a larger color touch display can be added.

I found a cabinet at amateurradiokits.in. It has all holes punched and makes the transceiver look "factory made".

Support group for uBITX: groups.io/g/BITX20
Facebook group for uBITX: fb.com/groups/uBITX/

Vy 73 from OZ1BXM Lars
Homepage: oz1bxm.dk

onsdag den 21. november 2018

A "small pistol" preparing for the CQ WW CW contest

The CQ WW CW contest runs the last full weekend of November. This event is probably the world's biggest CW contest. As I am a "small pistol" (QRP station with one operator) I choose to participate in the category "Single Operator QRP Assisted". Assisted means that spotting networks are allowed. The main purpose of my participation is working new countries.

My client for the spotting network is Bandmaster by Afreet Software (VE3NEA, Alex). There is one particular reason for choosing this client: the Needed List. This is where you can specify the countries you need, and only those will be shown. You avoid spots of countries already worked.

Bandmaster's Needed List
Another important piece of software is Ham CAP by Afreet Software. Ham CAP provides real-time info on propagation from your QTH to any country in the world. In the screen-dump below, the propagation from OZ to XE (Mexico) is considered. The red line is MUF, and the optimum QSO time on each band is indicated by a yellow rectangle. The current time is shown by a white vertical line. 

The graph below tells me that 18 MHz is open right now, but it will close shortly, and I have to move down to 14 MHz. By moving the cursor within the window I can tell, that 14 MHz is going to close at 18:00 UTC. I highly appreciate this kind of information!

This graph shows propagation between OZ and XE.
My logging software is CQ WW DX Contest Log by Affirmatec Inc. (N3FJP). This logging program is easy to operate and it does what I want. Different macros control the transmission via my Winkeyer Lite usb.

Vy 73 de OZ1BXM Lars

lørdag den 27. oktober 2018

The Bluetooth radio in BBC micro:bit

The BBC Micro:bit has caught my attention. Last month, I described a morse trainer with the micro:bit. Since then I've played with the integrated radio (a micro:bit term), which is a
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transceiver. It can connect two or more micro:bits via Bluetooth. You can connect a micro:bit to a smartphone if the right app is installed. You can even create software on the smartphone and download it into the micro:bit via Bluetooth!

The BBC micro:bit (component side). 
Picture credit: microbit.org

The following project shows a morse transceiver. It can send dots and dashes to one or several micro:bits. Each micro:bit runs the same software.

Here is the coding in the Blocks Editor:

Function of button A and button B.

The radio channel is set to 10 when the program starts. If the user clicks the A button, 0 is transmitted and will sound as a dot on the receiving micro:bit. If button B is pressed, a 1 is sent and it sounds as a dash in the receiving end.

Function of the receiver.
When the micro:bit receives a number, it is decoded in the "on radio received" block. If a 0 was received, a dot will sound using "play tone for 200 ms". If  a 1 was received, a dash will sound using "play tone for 600 ms".

The morse transceiver is demonstrated in this video (Danish language):

73 from OZ1BXM Lars Petersen
Homepage: oz1bxm.dk

søndag den 30. september 2018

Morsetrainer with BBC micro:bit

My grandchild Noah showed me his new BBC micro:bit. It is a tiny microcomputer which is being distributed free to school children aged 10-11 years. The purpose is to introduce the pupils to coding. The micro:bit computer is small, about half size of a credit card.

The tiny micro:bit computer (rear view).
I decided to create "something" for pupils in relation to ham radio. I ended up with a morsetrainer. It shows characters (letters, numbers) on the microbit display and plays them loud in morse code, one letter at a time. The pupil decides the pace of new letters coming via button pressure. Another button press repeats the letter.

Micro:bit displays "A" (front view).
The morsetrainer's circuit diagram is shown below. The speakerboard is an accessory. A pair of computer speakers can do the same. The different units are connected using short cables with crocodile-clips.
Circuit diagram of the morsetrainer.
Sending morse code requires a morse key. My idea was to build one, rather than buying one. Building a morse key can be exciting for pupils. They produce something useful with their own hands! The key shown below is made from wood, a plastic ruler, a knob, and some screws, bolts, and wires.

Homemade morse key.
If you want to download the Python source code and the hexfile, download this ZIP-file.
If you want to view a video (in Danish), click this link.
If you want to download a PDF description (in Danish), go to this page.

73 from OZ1BXM Lars Petersen

lørdag den 18. august 2018

DSLWP-B satellite signals received today

😊 I've finally received JT4G signals from the Moon-orbiting satellite Longjiang-2 alias DSLWP-B alias LO-94. I am so happy for this event! 😊

When is the signal available?
BG2BHC announces date and time for the DSLWP-B transmissions. He does it via his Twitter account as you can see in the screen-dump below.

Tweet from BG2BHC.
Frequencies. There are two different frequencies used by DSLWP-B: 435.400 MHz and 436.400 MHz. To receive on 435.400 MHz, I set my Yaesu FT-847 dial to 435.401.500 MHz. The lowest JT4G tone was 600 Hz when I used this dial setting.

Antenna and preamp
I decided to deploy my 18 element 70 cm LFA yagi antenna. The boom length is 4.30 meter, and the claimed gain is 18.0 dBi. My preamp is Extra-70 from HA8ET. The premap went into oscillation earlier. However, the preamp performed normally when I fitted a different type of balun!

18 element LFA yagi for 70  cm.
The antenna follows the Moon as it traverses the sky. Antenna elevation is performed by a Kenpro KR-550 rotator. There is automatic antenna control by PstRotator.

Azimuth and elevation
The timeslot for reception of DSLWP-B this Saturday was 2 hours. The slot is from 18:30 to 20:30 local time. There were other timeslots mentioned by BG2BHC in his tweet, but the Moon was below the horizon in Denmark during these times. The antenna direction is shown in the table below. AOS = Acquisition of Signal. LOS = Loss of Signal. AZ = azimuth (horizontal direction). EL = elevation (vertical direction).
AOS and LOS for DSLWP-B as seen from Denmark (Aug 18, 2018)
JT4G decoding

The WSJT 10 waterfall.
The DSLWR-B downlink contains telemetry sent with GMSK. Every 10 minutes there is an JT4G transmission to identify the spacecraft by its callsign BJ1SN. The JT4G protocol has 4 tones spaced 315 Hz. All tones are clearly visible in the WSJT 10.0 waterfall (see screen above).

The call BJ1SN decoded by WSJT 10.
I decoded the callsign BJ1SN 7 times. The signal strength was -12 dB maximum, and -16 dB minimum.

73 from OZ1BXM Lars

søndag den 29. juli 2018

Several attempts receiving DSLWP satellite signals

The Chinese satellite LongJiang2 (also called DSLWP-B) orbits the Moon since May 25, 2018. The satellite's weight is 47 kg. The 2 watt signal from the satellite is transmitted in the 70 cm amateur radio band (435.400 MHz or 436.400 MHz). I've decided to listen for the new sat.
DSLWP Lunar Satellite.
Several receiving attempts and why they failed
My first receiving attempt was 4 weeks ago. My yagi antenna and preamp was ready for reception. Power to the preamp was fed via the coax cable. However, the preamp oscillated, and S9 noise was generated. No JT4G signals received.

The second attempt was 2 weeks ago without the preamp, and no antenna elevation. The Moon was high in the sky, about 40 degrees. No signals detected. I have to aim the antenna directly at the Moon!

My third attempt was done this morning. The antenna was controlled in azimuth and elevation, and this time the preamp was fed via an external power supply. But preamp oscillation continued; lots of noise, no signals.

I am not giving up. I will continue listening for the lunar satellite DSLWP. Next time, my antenna will be equipped with azimuth and elevation rotators, and NO preamp!

DSLWP links
Main page in Chinese and English:

Project description with links (AMSAT-UK):

Schedule for DSLWR-B activation:
Follow the Twitter account of BG2BHC

Vy 73 de OZ1BXM
Homepage: oz1bxm.dk
Twitter: @oz1bxm