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

Merrimack Valley Amateur Radio Association (NH) Off to a Great Start!

Merrimack Valley ARA logoThe Merrimack Valley Amateur Radio Association (call sign N1MVA) was formed in August 2022 by eight NH ARES members. ARES is a program, not an entity that could own equipment or fundraise. Our goal is to establish the MVARA as an organization that may own equipment and fundraise to support the emergency communication mission. The MVARA is a registered NH nonprofit corporation and a federal 501(c)3 charitable organization, and is registered with Amazon Smile. The MVARA has been accepted as an ARRL affiliated club. Current membership is 22 with 91% being ARRL members.

Our current focus is collaborating with the New England Digital Emergency Communications Network to interconnect DMR sites with microwave radio links. The microwave links backup internet connections when the internet is disrupted, thereby making the DMR system more resilient for routine and emergency communication. Presence on the towers also extends our microwave network. The first installation is a link between the Crotched Mt DMR site, which lost internet when the provider discontinued service to the area, and the South Uncanoonuc DMR site which has a pre-existing 5GHz link to the internet at the Bow, NH DMR site. DMR traffic flow can be evaluated from the repeater to the new Part 97 AREDN 5GHz link, then to the pre-existing Part 15 Ubiquiti link, and finally to the internet. The link has been operational since early October with only one occasionally recurring issue that can be corrected remotely. Its cause remains to be identified, part of our learning curve.

The main activity planned for next year is writing a proposal to ARDC for funding to expand the microwave backbone among DMR repeater sites within the context of the New England Division mesh network project. The backbone and network services would provide opportunities for other licensed operators who may wish to use the microwave network for various amateur radio purposes.

Node Kit Components & Parts ListThere is a possibility of developing a STEM module about microwave IP networking. Lessons could be introduced with familiar microwave radios – cell phones and computer wifi – followed by modern battery technology, microwave and IP basics, and culminated by setting up a local microwave connection. Portable battery-powered microwave node kits – designed under Part 15 compliance for unlicensed use in school classrooms or Part 97 compliance for amateur radio use – are easily assembled with off-the-shelf components and deployed for demonstration and instruction. Kits can also be used as portable nodes for emergency and event communications.

Components for a portable microwave network node kit are shown in the table and photo. Total cost is about $500 plus shipping, including a Windows Mini PC. The Mini PC can be used to control an HF or a VHF radio remotely over the network for NBEMS, Winlink and popular weak signal modes. A Raspberry Pi could be substituted for the Mini PC if there is no need for Windows software, decreasing cost proportionally. 

Photo showing a prototype node kit with optional Raspberry Pi DMR hotspot.Battery charger, 12v converters and cables are stowed underneath.
Photo showing a prototype node kit with optional Raspberry Pi DMR hotspot.
Battery charger, 12v converters and cables are stowed underneath.



K1YUB to Present at 40th Annual AMSAT Space Symposium, October 21-22, 2022

From ema.arrl.org:

Paul Graveline, K1YUB, of Andover, MA, will present at the 40th Annual AMSAT Space Symposium in Bloomington, Minnesota, on October 21-22, 2022. Paul will present in a session on the CubeSat Simulator.

The symposium will feature:

* Space Symposium with Amateur Satellite Presentations
* Operating Techniques, News, & Plans from the Amateur Satellite World
* Board of Directors Meeting open to AMSAT members
* Opportunities to Meet Board Members and Officers
* AMSAT Annual General Membership Meeting
* Auction, Annual Banquet, Keynote Speaker and Door Prizes !!

The Crowne Plaza Suites, 3 Appletree Square, Bloomington, MN, is centrally located between the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, Mall of America, Minneapolis Zoo, and Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park. Crown Plaza Suites provides a complimentary scheduled shuttle to and from the airport.

Additional information about the 2022 AMSAT Symposium can be found at https://www.amsat.org.

KM1P Featured in ARRL Letter Article about OMOTENASHI

Boston amateur and AMSAT member Joe Fitzgerald, KM1P, is mentioned in the September 8, 2022 issue of The ARRL Letter. He describes a tool called JPL Horizons, an online solar system data and computation service that provides access to key solar system data for solar system objects such as asteroids, planetary satellites, planets, the Sun, and select spacecraft:

From The ARRL Letter:

When NASA’s Artemis I rocket launches for its mission to the moon this month, you’ll be able to track it using 70-centimeter beacons known as Outstanding MOon exploration TEchnologies demonstrated by NAno Semi-Hard Impactors (OMOTENASHIs).

Omotenashi is Japanese for welcome or hospitality, and it describes the 70-centimeter beacons as small spacecraft and semi-hard landers of the 6U CubeSat format which will demonstrate low-cost technology to land and explore the lunar surface. OMOTENASHI will be one of 10 CubeSats to be carried with the Artemis I mission.

Brian Wilkins, KO4AQF, says that with the Artemis Real-time Orbit Website (AROW), anyone with internet access can pinpoint where Orion is and track its distance from the Earth, its distance from the moon, the mission duration, and more. AROW is available on NASA’s website and Twitter account. AROW visualizes data collected by sensors on Orion that are sent to the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center in Houston during its flight. It will provide periodic real-time data beginning about 1 minute after liftoff through the separation of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, approximately 2 hours into flight.

Once Orion is flying on its own, AROW will provide constant real-time information. On the web, users can follow AROW to see where Orion is in relation to the Earth and the moon, and follow Orion’s path during the mission. Users can view key mission milestones and characteristics on the moon, including information about landing sites from the Apollo program. Also available for download will be an ephemeris, which provides trajectory data from the flight.

AROW will also provide a set of Orion’s state vectors — data that describes precisely where Orion is in space and how it moves — for inclusion in these tweets once Orion is flying on its own. These vectors can be used for data lovers, artists, and creatives to make their own tracking app, data visualization, or anything else they envision. For more information, read https://www.nasa.gov/feature/track-nasa-s-artemis-i-mission-in-real-time/.

AMSAT member Joe Fitzgerald, KM1P, adds a second online tool, called Horizons. The JPL Horizons online solar system data and computation service provides access to key solar system data and flexible production of highly accurate locations for solar system objects such as asteroids, planetary satellites, planets, the Sun, and select spacecraft. Horizons is provided by the Solar System Dynamics Group of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Fitzgerald says to use “OMOTENASHI” as the Target Body. You can find information and the online app at https://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/horizons.

Thanks to Brian Wilkins, KO4AQF; Joe Fitzgerald, KM1P; NASA; JPL Horizons, and AMSAT.

Newport County Radio Club Experimental Microwave Group Meets

The experimental microwave group of the Newport County (RI) Radio Club (NCRC) gathered to test their AREDN mesh network radios before a site test on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay.  Two local island women (and club members) recently studied and passed their Technician license specifically to pioneer resilient radio communication on their small island. The NCRC has been experimenting with AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network) since 2015, over distances of up to three miles. Today’s gathering was testing the equipment at a local park on 2397 MHz, a super high frequency ham channel below the 2.4GHz WiFi band.

Participants included Paul Fredette, K1YBE; Rob White, KB1ZZU; Mike Cullen, K1NPT; Keith Henry, KC1LPV; and Nancy Austin, KC1NEK. 

Cubes in Space/New England Sci-Tech NASA Balloon Launch, August 16, 2022

Cubes in Space NASA balloon launch pixTo our Cubes in Space Students and Friends of New England Sci-Tech:

NASA Balloon Launch attempt will be TOMORROW morning – Tuesday, 16 August 2022, from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in New Mexico.

TWO TEAMS of NESciTech students have Cubes-in-Space projects on board to fly.

Video of inflation should begin around 5-5:30 AM EDT (-4GMT).

Launch attempt between 7-9 AM EDT (-4GMT).

NASA says: “Tomorrow we have a VERY small window before monsoonal moisture and winds move in after late morning. Next attempt COULD be Friday if models are correct in predicting a small window of opportunity. It’s going to get rainy and windy in southwest Texas and New Mexico.”

For live location and coordinates: https://towerfts.csbf.nasa.gov/Maps/ConvGPS721NT.htm.

For live stream video: https://video.ibm.com/channel/nasa-csbf-ldsd

Our other two teams’ projects have already flown on the sounding rocket successfully launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in June. Congratulations to those teams!

Don’t forget – NESciTech students will be doing a “Space Chat” with the astronauts at the BIG E state fair in September. We have room for two more students to join our contact with the International Space Station. Call me ASAP to participate. INFO FLYER HERE: https://nescitech.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Poster-for-ARISS-RADIO.pdf

Best regards,

Bob Phinney, K5TEC, President

New England Sci-Tech Inc.
16 Tech Circle
Natick MA 01760