October 20th Meeting Cancelled

Due to access issues the meeting planned for the 20th October 2017 has been cancelled, the next meeting will be the 3rd November 2017 during which a Full Exam will be taking place, so please be aware and considerate – sorry for the inconvenience

GB1GDS – JOTA 2017

South Kesteven ARS will again be operating from the Foston Scout Hut, Foston, Grantham for the Scouting JOTA (Jamboree on the Air) on Saturday 21st October 2017

Second place in Club of the Year (Small Clubs)

South Kesteven ARS went one better than last year and were awarded second place in Club of the Year (Small Clubs) for there endeavours in 2016

The certificate and prize voucher were presented on 30th September 2017 at the National Hamfest.

South Kesteven ARS receiving the award (credit RSGB)

Pictured from left to right are Richard (M0IGM), Adam (M6OLT), Stewart (M0SDM), Noah, Iván (M6HET), Jeff Stanton (from Water & Stanton sponsors), Konrad (M0KVF), Nick Henwood (RSGB President), Darren (M0PYU) and Mick (G7TGL)

Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Open Day

Fire Engines

September 10th 2017 saw the Lincolnshire Fire & Rescue Open Day at Grantham Fire Station Harlaxton Road.

The North Lincolnshire RAYNET team, organised by Jim Wheeldon M0JHW assisted by providing marshalling and collected donations towards the Fire Fighters charity.

Jim also put on a modest special event station GB0LFR and invited members of SKARS to come along to operate the station and assist on the day.

radio operator
SKARS Chairman Andrew (M0NRD) operating GB0LFR

Walk For Parkinson’s – Operators needed

Walking for Parkinson's logo

Just a reminder that Jim Wheeldon M0JHW and the North Lincolnshire RAYNET are looking for volunteers to provide RAYNET communication at marshalling points during the Walk For Parkinson’s taking part at Burghley House on 1st October 2017.

Visit the North Lincs RAYNET page for contact details Contact Jim via email

Details of the charity walk can be found on the Parkinson’s website
The Walk For Parkinson’s event at Burghley House

Members of SKARS have assisted for the last couple of years

View from marshall point
At one of the marshalling points in 2016

Amateur Radio can save lives

Nowadays the use of mobile phones for communication is second nature and in the case of an emergency many would turn to their phone for assistance. However there are still many areas with poor or non-existent coverage so summoning help is problematic.

Amateur radio can be useful for emergency communications because it does not depend on any infrastructure and has a far greater range than a mobile signal.

Recently the use of amateur helped rescue a girl who was having an epileptic seizure while camping in a remote part of Exmoor.

Mike Everett M6MGE was monitoring a repeater on the Mendip hills and despite being over 60 miles away in Bristol heard a distress call from a fellow amateur operator. He was able to contact and relay messages to emergency services and was able to direct paramedics to the area. The other operator was one of the camping party and had radio equipment in his car so was able to call for help.

The 12-year-old girl was taken to hospital and has since fully recovered.

Daily Mirror report

BBC News report

Mike has also been interviewed on TV and Radio and is a credit to the hobby, showing that even with modest equipment and using the low power afforded by his foundation licence he could still make a difference and save a life.

The provision of emergency communications is one of the fastest growing areas of amateur radio around the world.  There are many occasions in times of natural disaster when amateur radio provides communication such as earthquakes, hurricanes and flooding. Including the recent Hurricane Harvey http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/why-amateur-radio-operators-are-watching-hurricane-harvey-180964632/

In the UK we are lucky in that we don’t have many disasters on the same scale, but events such as the recent floods, storm surges and other major incidents occur and the amateur radio community can still be called on to assist with communication when mobile networks fail or are overloaded. This is coordinated in the most part by the RAYNET organisation. For more information visit http://rsgb.org/main/operating/emergency-communications/

If you want to be prepared for what could happen or want to assist then get an amateur licence and some modest equipment – contact SKARS for more information.

Radio and the International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) has been orbiting the earth since 1998 and while primarily a science research project it also has on board amateur radio equipment supplied by the ARISS (Amateur Radio on International Space Station) project. Most of the astronauts and cosmonauts are licence amateur radio operators and use the equipment to talk to licensed operators on Earth.

The majority of contacts are pre-arranged and are often with schools where children get to ask questions to one of the crew, but occasionally if operations allow some free time the crew can get to talk to a normal operator has happened to Adrian Lane (2E0SDR) from Gloucestershire back in 2015 (as reported on the BBC and the AMSAT website)

On the evening of August 8  2017 an ARISS contact was arranged as part of the International Youngsters on the Air (YOTA 2017) event, hosted by the RSGB. The ISS flew over the UK during the evening and while there technical difficulties with the first attempt a later pass allowed an excellent contact with the youngsters.

The downlink transmission from the ISS during these contacts can be heard by anyone using very basic equipment listening on 145.800MHz FM who is within range of the space station. There is also an amateur TV station broadcasting around 2GHz which can also be received but requires more specialised equipment.

SKARS Chairman Andrew (M0NRD) was monitoring from his shack during the pass and streamed it live on Facebook. The video was also uploaded to YouTube, showing the reception of the downlink while watching the slightly delayed streamed video from YOTA2017. To see a full recording of the live video stream visit here

In addition to the school contacts there are often broadcasts of Slow Scan SSTV images from the space station. At the end of July to commemorate 20 years of ARISS contacts the ISS was beaming down a series of 12 images as it circled the Earth over a whole weekend. The idea was for people to try to receive all 12, Andrew did manage it and wrote about it on his own blog

Here is one of images commemorating an early ARISS contacts

It is very easy to decode the images with free software and the signal can even be received with a £10 SDR receiver plugged into a computer, one of Andrew’s videos shows the reception of some images using an SDR taken from the ISS looking down to Earth that were broadcast back in 2013.

That is not all, there is also an APRS beacon on the ISS where operators can send a message up, it is received and then rebroadcast by the ISS and received by others in another country and can be done using a £30 handheld and a computer.

The ISS is a multinational project but a large part of it is operated and supplied by Russia and unlike the USA they use more ‘low tech’ radio equipment. The Soyuz spacecraft when docking and leaving the ISS and the Spacesuits communications used by the Russians during EVAs (spacewalks) transmit using normal FM on VHF frequencies again easily received on Earth. In this video you can see Andrew again receiving the downlink directly while watching the NASA-TV feed of the recent docking of Soyuz MS-05

Another of Andrew’s videos shows a £10 SDR device receiving the Spacesuit transmissions during EVA-33 back in 2013

As well as the ISS there are a lot of amateur radio satellites (often launched from the ISS) which operators can use to make contacts through and receive an decode telemetry.

Anyone interested in trying space communications and wants to keep abreast of new technologies and experiments with amateur radio then look no further than SKARS so come along to a meeting.

Members active on new FT8 Datamode

At the meeting on August 4th MX0SKR was on the air. Adam (M6OLT) put up a fibreglass pole and G5RV antenna and using Andrew’s (M0NRD) Yaesu FT-857D a modest laptop with a simple homemade datamode interface members were given the opportunity to try out the new FT8 datamode as well as operate SSB.

Band conditions were yet again poor for voice contacts so it was a clear demonstration of the effectiveness of datamodes with weak signals in noisy conditions. So much so that many members have been investigating the FT8 and other modes available and experimenting with low power levels.

The map below (from PSKReporter) shows where MX0SKR was received during the short time we operated.map of FT8 contacts by MX0SKR

Darren, Richard, Adam and others have all been spotted on the bands and recently licensed Steve (M6TTZ) has been using his QRP Yaesu FT-817ND with a less than ideal setup due to requirements for unobtrusive, stealthy antenna but has made contacts far and wide.

The software demonstrated was the new beta release of WSJT-X (version 1.8.0-rc1) which as well as supporting the JT65, JT9 and WSPR includes the new FT8 mode, featuring a faster turnaround.

FT8 is slightly less sensitive but contacts are 4 times faster than JT65 or JT9. An auto-sequencing feature offers the option to respond automatically to the first decoded reply to your CQ and auto complete the contact. The beta WSJT-X also offers a new mode for accurate frequency calibration of your radio, improved CAT radio control, and enhanced JT65.

While CW (Morse code) may be the original datamode (something many of use are looking to master) the fusion of radio and computers and the ability to extract signals from deep within the noise are maintaining the relevance of amateur radio and experimentation.

Even the US Navy are reinvestigating the use of datamodes over HF for communication should their satellite systems ever fail http://www.doncio.navy.mil/Chips/ArticleDetails.aspx?ID=9288

Anyone interested in keeping abreast of new technologies and experiments with amateur radio then look no further than SKARS so come along to a meeting.