Housatonic Amateur Radio Club Balloon Test “Highly Successful”

Members of the Housatonic Amateur Radio Club, Stratford CT, Dr. J. Pallis, KC1MHU, Gary Moyher, WE1M, and Larry Reed, AB1JC, along with University of Bridgeport and University of New Haven faculty and graduate students met at the University of Bridgeport’s Marina Park on September 22, 2023. There they put together the components of a balloon they will launch in Texas next month during the annular solar eclipse as part of NASA and Connecticut Space Grant Consortium’s 2023/2024 Solar Eclipse STEM projects. Here they tested the equipment with a tethered balloon full of helium.

It is estimated the balloon reached several hundred feet, which was sufficient to test the balloon, ground station, and the connections to University of Montana. The students practiced on the actual hardware they will use next month. All worked well, all was recovered and data was captured. This was a highly successful test. Students, university faculty and club members will fly to Texas next month to launch this payload during the annular solar eclipse and again fly to Texas in April, 2024, to launch another payload for the full Solar Eclipse.

HABGab and StratoScience Balloon Launch, Natick MA, July 2023

Seth Kendall, KC1PZY, writes on July 22, 2023 at 6:27 AM:

HABGab 2023 is officially on for today.  We will be launching from:

Tantasqua Vocational Regional High School

319 Brookfield Rd, Fiskdale, MA 01518

Frequencies, tracking information, updated countdown, etc:

We will be starting on site set up at 9am.  Launch scheduled for 1pm.  We’d love to see you there or hear you on the air!

HABGab banner
From ema.arrl.org:
Seth Kendall, KC1PZY, writes:
Enjoy making rare contacts and participating in experimental projects?  The New England Weather Balloon Society, in partnership with the Sci-Tech Amateur Radio Society, is launching a special event high altitude balloon (HAB) repeater this July in Eastern Massachusetts. 
We would like to welcome all amateur radio operators in New England to participate in this experimental flight by calling into the repeater as it flies over 30 km high.  We will be issuing QSL cards to all confirmed contacts.
This flight will also be transmitting live video from the payload on 1.2 GHz, and live streaming to YouTube from our ground station at New England Sci-Tech.

Also traveling onboard will be a number of student projects by members of the StratoScience Lab class at New England Sci-Tech and BFCCPS school in Franklin, MA.

Please be aware that the date of the event is highly dependent on weather and readiness, so make sure to regularly check the HABGab Launch Page for up to date information about the date and instructions for making contact: https://nescitech.org/habgab.


Maine Mesh Network Communication Update #4

Maine iconMaine ASM Cory Golob, KU1U, writes:

Mesh Network Communication Update 4
Monday June 5, 2023

Bill NG1P went to Blackstrap Mountain in Falmouth on Thursday June 1, 2023 to get the site online. The Switch and Point-to-Point dish were installed. The dish is pointing at Brunswick, however, they are not optimized at the moment. The connection will be improved when the smaller
lightweight dish for Brunswick comes in.

The key task is making sure we do not have to visit sites more than once (to keep costs down). We do not have permission to install panel antennas at the moment, only an agreement in place is to install one antenna. Waiting for approval on panel antennas.

The Falmouth Site is operational and shows up on the Mesh dashboard, however, signal strength will be low until equipment comes in for Brunswick.

Lightweight Dishes are expected to arrive at the end of June. The Rocket Radios are not due to arrive until September.

The next step will be to start making a path from Brunswick to either Litchfield or Wales, depending on which site makes it easier to approve getting equipment installed. Talks are being held to use the Litchfield site.

The green light has been given to build the connection between Dixmont to Dedham.

Bill NG1P has submitted an invoice for the tower work done on Blackstrap in Falmouth and is pending payment from MARF. There is a major concern about the tower costs. When quotes were obtained it was $100 per hour once the climber arrived on scene plus travel costs, but the travel cost on the initial bill showed the $100 per hour as part of travel time. The grant will not be sustainable for the project at this rate. If anyone knows of insured climbers that can keep the costs more in line with what was quoted, please contact me.

We are also seeking assistance from people who can help out going to tower sites and assist with installation and also those who are interested in helping with the programming of equipment. Please let me know if you are interested, or know somebody, who may be interested in these duties. This should not be a one person job and it would be nice to see the community pitch in to offer technical assistance.

Respectfully Submitted,
Cory Golob

N1HAC: “Tracking Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances Using AM Broadcast Signals” at Dayton Hamvention, May 19, 2023

David McGaw, N1HAC
David McGaw, N1HAC (photo courtesy Dartmouth College)

HamSCI will be playing a major role at the 2023 Dayton Hamvention to be held in Xenia, Ohio May 19-21, 2023 at the Greene County Fairgrounds.  Booth talks, social hours and demonstrations will be given by ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), HamSCI and YOTA (Youth on the Air).  

Among the HamSCI booth talks at Hamvention, David McGaw, N1HAC, Canaan, New Hampshire, will present “Tracking Traveling Ionospheric Disturbances Using AM Broadcast Signals.”

A physicist and electronics engineer, David McGaw has been connected with the Dartmouth Department of Physics and Astronomy since taking courses when he was a student at Hanover High School.  McGaw is involved in designing and building scientific instruments for the study of the Earth’s ionosphere, aurora and radiation belts. He holds an Amateur Extra class license and is a member of the Twin State Radio Club.

Test of High-Altitude Balloon Repeater, Natick MA, May 7, 2023

New England Sci-Tech logoFrom ema.arrl.org:

    Seth Kendall, KC1PZY, writes on the New England Sci-Tech mailing list:

We plan to hoist up our payloads as high as we can over [New England Sci-Tech] this Sunday (May 7th) at 1pm.  The payload will be running the full repeater setup and live video transmission for flight.

We’d like to invite anyone who might have line of sight with NEST to try calling in once we start the event to test the functioning and propagation.  Keep in mind, the repeater uses low power HTs with homemade Slim Jim antennas, so do not expect the level of performance achieved by the real NEST repeater.  It is also expected to get significantly better signal up in free space during the flight than it will on the ground.

We are putting out a call to see if anyone has a long, sturdy gopher pole or extendable mast that could be temporarily mounted on the roof and hold 5 lbs. up vertically without bending.

To participate, here is what you need to do:

  1. Set up your UHF/VHF radio to these frequencies:
    1. Uplink (your transmit): 446.05 MHz
    2. Downlink (your receive): 146.55 MHz
  2. Use the best dual band antenna you’ve got, or two single band antennas with duplexer.  Antenna height will help a lot.
  3. Write down your distance from NEST and include it in the exchange.
  4. We’ll try to have someone calling CQ as W1STR during the test and writing down contacts and distances.
  5. If you’d like to come join us at NEST during the event to help with setup and operation, come join us around noon.  We’ll either be in the makerspace or on the roof.  We can order some food as well.

We are also looking for a volunteer to try receiving the video signal from some place with direct line of sight that is further than right down the street.  Ideally 1-5 miles away (not expecting the kind of propagation we’ll get up in free space).

  1. If you’d like to volunteer, let me know. 
  2. You’ll need a laptop with Windows.
  3. You’ll need to come into NEST either on Saturday or Sunday so I can give you the receive antenna we are testing, the receiver hardware, and help you set up your computer to input and view the video feed.
  4. You’ll need to find a place with direct line of sight (that’s the hard part).

K1EHZ: “A Coupled-Resonator HF Antenna” Featured in April, 2023 QST

Kudos to Jay Taft, K1EHZ, for his article, “A Coupled-Resonator HF Antenna” which appears in the April, 2023 QST. Jay also has antenna designs published in The ARRL Antenna Book. 

Jay is an Amateur Extra class licensee. He earned his first license in 1958 at the age of 14, and his first job was servicing marine HF radios along the Connecticut coast. Jay has a bachelors degree in biology, as well as a Master’s and PhD degree in biological oceanography.  The Bedford, New Hampshire resident operates Winlink global email gateways and is a member of ARRL, New Hampshire ARES, the Merrimack Valley ARA and the Granite State ARA. 


[Note: On March 10th, Jay Taft, K1EHZ, along with John Stanley, K4ERO,  gave a presentation to the Granite State ARA on Comparing Coil Form Materials.  This presentation is related to his recent April 2023 QST article titled “A Coupled-Resonator HF Antenna”. You can find the video of the presentation on the GSARA YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF-OyD3eH-k]

HamSCI 6th Annual Workshop, March 17-18, 2023, Scranton PA

HamSCI Workshop 2023 screenshot

Come join HamSCI at its sixth annual hybrid in-person and virtual workshop March 17-18, 2023 at The University of Scranton. The primary objective of the HamSCI workshop is to bring together the amateur radio community and professional scientists. The theme of the 2023 HamSCI Workshop is Forging Amateur-Professional Bonds.

This workshop will also serve as a team meeting for the HamSCI Personal Space Weather Station project, a NSF-funded project to develop a citizen science instrument for studying space weather from your backyard. The PSWS is led by the University of Scranton, and includes participation from TAPRCase Western Reserve University/W8EDU, the University of Alabama, the New Jersey Institute of Technology CSTRMIT Haystack ObservatoryDartmouth College, and the amateur radio community at large.

The 2023 HamSCI workshop is organized by The University of Scranton with generous financial support provided by the United States National Science Foundation and ARDC. HamSCI is an officially recognized NASA Citizen Science project. [More]

Meriden (CT) ARC Balloon Projects In Progress

From the Meriden ARC March 2023 newsletter “Key Klix:”

The [Meriden Amateur Radio Club] currently has two balloon projects in the works. On Saturday, 25 February, John, KB1MFU tested his balloon to see if it would meet specifications. The balloons were supposed to inflate to 3 feet in diameter which would hold a specific amount of helium allowing him to calculate the amount of lift it would have.

For the test, John used nitrogen gas to save on the more expensive helium. He set up the test in one of the garage bays at the firehouse and began to slowly inflate the balloon. The homebrew inflation nozzle that he made fit perfectly into the balloon allowing the gas tank to be connected. The Balloon filled to 1 foot in diameter then on to 2 feet. At about 2 1/2 feet the balloon burst. Not good for a 3 foot rated balloon.

Undaunted, John said that he would get replacement balloons, probably rated 3 1/2 to 4 foot diameter. Another test is in the works. They like to say that failure is not an option but having this test balloon fail now is better than having it fail on launch day. Without testing, failure is always an option.

Once the balloon itself passes the test, other components will be tested as well. Carry on, John. You have no where to go but up! Ted KC1DOY

Microwave Ham Radio (3-33 cm): This Century’s New “Shortwave Radio”

contributed by Nancy Austin, KC1NEK, Newport County (RI) Radio Club

Examples of short 12 cm microwave antennas: a Yagi and an omni-directional vertical

How short is short???

Last century, the HF bands from 10 meters to 200 meters were considered “shortwave radio.”  Paul Fredette, K1YBE, is on a mission to pitch the Super High Frequency (SHF) microwave ham bands (3 cm to 33 cm) as this century’s new “shortwave radio”, ripe for experimentation.  So, how short is the new short? A football fan offered the comparison that 10 meters is roughly 10 yards, or the length of the first down line on a football field. And for comparison, 3 cm is roughly 1 inch, or the width of the white stripe on a football. To get a sense of relative antenna size, I just looked out the window at my HF antenna zigzagging for 100+ feet across my backyard, and compared that to the microwave antennas pictured above for scale, showing inches on a ruler. The new short is a different magnitude of short, with opportunities and new challenges for the ham to tackle.

To promote STEM learning and workforce development opportunities around this shift, Rhode Island’s Paul, K1YBE, is enthusiastically promoting the notion of an Amateur Radio Training Experiment Network (ARTEN) that uses mesh networking educational projects to make this accessible to a broad audience. The “new” shortwave bands from 3 cm/10 GHz to 30 cm/1 GHz can be a catalyst as we reach out to invite in a new generation of hams. ARRL-affiliated club microwave experiments underway include the Newport County Radio Club’s pilot mesh networking project placing carbon dioxide sensors in a local farm, with the collected data set available to schools. Examples of welcome community outreach include holding our radio hands-on building/experimenting workshops at a local maker-space, FabNewport, during their after-school programming. Kids stop by our table, curious and full of questions. In this way, STEM learning is not bolted on but part of the ongoing mentoring and experiential learning that defines the ham community and helps home-grown innovators flourish.

The ARRL mission includes encouraging “radio experimentation and, through its members, advances radio technology and education.” As Wikipedia reminds us: “Throughout its history, amateur radio enthusiasts have made significant contributions to science, engineering, industry, and social services. Research by amateur radio operators has founded new industries, built economies, empowered nations, and saved lives in times of emergency.” More than a century ago, the pivotal Radio Act of 1912 assigned licensed amateurs to the shortwaves under 200 meters. In 2023 it’s remarkable to look back and forge ahead in the frontier of microwave “shortwave” bands open to hams, from 3 centimeters to 33 centimeters. What’s possible?  

Paul Fredette, K1YBE, will be speaking on ARTEN – New England Mesh Networking at Microwave Update 2023 on Saturday April 16th. This is an international conference focused on amateur radio on the microwave bands. Meanwhile, Paul, K1YBE, will be presenting a talk on ARTEN at the Newport County Radio Club’s upcoming monthly meeting; this talk will be posted to YouTube shortly after. If you are curious to learn more or would like Paul to speak to your club, please reach out to him directly at Paul Fredette, K1YBE, k1ybe@yahoo.com.  

Curious to learn more about microwave experimenting at the Newport County (RI) Radio Club?
Newport County Radio Club Experimental Microwave Group (August 31, 2022)
https://nediv.arrl.org/2022/08/31/newport-county-radio-club-experimental-microwave-gro up-meets/
ARTEN – VNA Assembly (January 10, 2023) edited clip, You-Tube [5min] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ma2FKaBZ3k
Ham Radio is a Gateway to Technology (February 17, 2023)

Screenshot from upcoming ARTEN talk by K1YBE
Screenshot from an upcoming talk, ARTEN – New England Mesh Networking, by Paul Fredette K1YBE at the Amateur Radio on the Microwave Bands Conference near Hartford, April 15-16, 2023 


“Ham Radio is a Gateway to Technology”

Contributed by Nancy Austin, KC1NEK, Newport County Radio Club:

VNA photo

As a curious 13-year old, Chris Lirakis joined the ARRL and now a half-century later is a Quantum Two Systems Engineer for IBM and ham operator, Chris AA9AL. I had the chance to interview Dr. Lirakis recently when the Newport County (RI) Radio Club (NCRC) gathered at local maker space FabNewport. Our team goal that night was to build the 6-GHz Vector Network Analyzer (VNA) the NCRC was able to purchase because of a successful club grant award from the ARRL Foundation. NCRC project leads are Paul Fredette, K1YBE, and Rob White, KB1ZZU. As we waited to start, I was curious what had made Dr. Lirakis, a busy physicist, prioritize being here tonight? What did he feel was most important to convey to other people about why this new VNA really was a game changer? With no hesitation, he shared these perspectives:

“Everyone knows that an antenna has an SWR, but what does that really mean? Physically? Well, an antenna is just a tuned circuit, and a VNA is an unparalleled tool for predictive diagnostics. With the recent introduction of the affordable ($35-50) 1-GHz Nano-VNA in our lifetime, anyone can now easily experiment with various antenna parameters and with the help of visualization software instantly see how this one parameter change would impact the antenna’s performance. Indeed, a 2021 conference paper* on Post-Pandemic learning disruption called out the Nano-VNA for transforming how any student could now get comfortable understanding what a Nano-VNA could do, at their own learning pace. Low risk; high fun. And yes, you too can come to love Smith Charts.”

VNA - Smith Chart

But the Nano-VNA will only get you so far in the microwave bands. Above 1 GHz, wavelengths are under one foot, and everything matters in the effort to control spurious emissions. Here is where the 6-GHz VNA from Mini-Circuits [UVNA-63] comes in to expand the learning opportunities opened up by the entry-level Nano-VNA. There remains the need for a high-quality reference VNA to calibrate against. But at what price-point? In Dr. Lirakis’s Quantum lab at IBM, there is a VNA costing a half-million dollars. The research lab at a nearby university has such a calibration VNA costing about $100,000. It is astonishing to see the democratization of affordable tech tools like this 6-GHz VNA drop from $10K just a few years ago to now, $3500. Suddenly, a radio club (and not only a research lab) can make this investment. Now, club members can get started with Nano-VNAs and have the calibration potential of the more expensive club resource to learn from and compare results with. It opens significant possibilities for 21st century hams to experiment learning antenna design.

As we turned to work on building the new 6-GHz VNA with Team NCRC, I asked Chris, AA9AL, if he had any final message he wanted me to convey. That was easy. Dr. Lirakis always tells anyone who asks: “Ham radio is a gateway to technology.” Still walking the talk after 50 years as an ARRL member.


Dr. Chris Lirakis AA9AL
Dr. Chris Lirakis AA9AL before the Newport County Radio Club
recent 6-GHz VNA build night at FabNewport, Newport, RI


*Derickson, D., & Jin, X., & Bland, C. C. (2021, April), The NanoVNA Vector Network Analyzer: This New Open-Source Electronic Test and Measurement Device Will Change Both Remote and In-Person Educational Delivery of Circuits, Electronics, Radio Frequency and Communication Laboratory Course Delivery Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Pacific Southwest Conference – “Pushing Past Pandemic Pedagogy: Learning from Disruption”, Virtual. https://peer.asee.org/38253