Saturday, June 27, 2009

K6KPH Field Day Schedule

The amateur radio Field Day has begun in the United States. This contest lights up the bands every summer as special contest stations take to the great outdoors with emergency power.

This contest has a way of making its own ionosphere. There have been some legendary nights where 20 meters stayed usable the whole time. Also, I'm sitting here with a QSL card from a New York station that our club worked on 50.100 MHz at 1700 UTC while set up on a mountain outside Los Angeles. Now THAT is DX!

K6KPH's role in all this is to broadcast the annual Field Day Message from the American Radio Relay League, which puts on this contest. Stations submitting a copy of this message get additional points. K6KPH, with its large antennas formerly used for commercial maritime radio, is well equipped for this.

The station may also be making contest QSOs on several bands, though I haven't heard it yet.

Here's the schedule from Richard Dillman:

Once again this year K6KPH, the amateur station of the Maritime Radio Historical Society, will transmit the ARRL Field Day Bulletin (June 27-28) as the west coast outlet for this message. K6KPH will be probably available on its normal frequencies outside the times shown below. For full Field Day information see:

http://www.arrl.org/contests/announcements/fd/

KSM Operations will continue as usual.

K6KPH Field Day Bulletin Schedule -

CW: 3581.5, 7047.5, 14047.5, 18097.5 21067.5
RTTY, AMTOR-FEC: 7095.0 14095.0

Saturday CW: 1430 UTC
Sunday CW: 0030 & 1430 UTC

Saturday teleprinter: 1330 UTC
Sunday teleprinter: 1630 UTC


The "normal" K6KPH frequencies are on or around 3550, 7050, 14050 and 21050 kHz.

Friday, June 26, 2009

WebSDR Back To Original Config

The multiband WebSDR setup at the University of Twente, Netherlands, has returned to its original coverage of 80, 40, and 20 meter band segments. The board used to create the other configuration was needed for other projects, and it was also starting to function badly.

Radioreference.com Is NOT Gone For A Year

Confusion stemmed from the change to the new look. Someone erroneously stated on June 21 that the site would be down until the afternoon of MARCH 21. (They meant June.)

It's up and running.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Myers Case Brings More Bad PR for Short Wave Radio

Last week (June 18), the Washington Times ran a somewhat oversimplified and overwrought story regarding the role of HF radio in the recent arrest of a Cuban spy couple.

Anyone with any sophistication in this matter knows they're in for a rough ride when they see the headline:

EXCLUSIVE: Cuban spies' shortwave radios go undetected
Low-tech transmissions no big deal for U.S. intelligence


This, of course, is simply nonsense. The US FBI and possible other agencies have carefully monitored Cuban "numbers" for years. If they haven't made a big deal, it's because the US intelligence community is not in the habit of treating its national security operations as just another reality show. You'll never see "Spooks," where (between lengthy commercial breaks) we see people recording funny voices and Morse code from Cuba.

The story goes rapidly downhill from there:

"While some countries have moved to computer-based communications [for clandestine operations], Havana still largely relies on shortwave broadcasts," Mr. Simmons said.

The International Amateur Radio Union said there are more than 700,000 amateur radio operators in the United States.


"Simmons," of course, is Chris Simmons, a recently retired US counter-intelligence agent specializing in Cuban espionage. He knows his stuff, and everybody quotes him. And, indeed, the IARU may be right on the US ham count. So what? Is the reader supposed to connect these two and assume that hams are all smuggling information out of the country? How many hams even transmit on HF? (I haven't in years, due to urban interference and antenna issues.)

While we do have evidence of an M08a schedule from inside the US, its time and frequency would not support propagation back to Cuba. I've always thought it might be a relay to someone who can only listen in the dead of night and with the simplest equipment. What we do know, thanks to Mr. Simmons, is that Cuba probably has a lot more deep-cover recruits in the US than one would expect from such a small nation.

It gets better:

Though shortwave operators are required to have licenses to transmit in the United States, many do not, said one shortwave user, adding that used equipment is readily sold online.


This, again, may even be true, but there's no evidence whatsoever that the Meyers couple, or any of the others, actually transmitted messages back to Cuba. Well, we know that Meyers made dead drops in shopping carts and switched to Internet cafes. Nowhere in any reports of any of these cases does anyone ever mention transmitting.

There's more at the link. Especially humorous is the photo of their idea for a "covert short wave receiver." We are supposed to tremble and quake at the image of this nasty spy device, but I can't stop laughing. As part of their punishment, maybe we should make the Meyers actually try to copy V2 on this thing!

For some REAL information on the Meyers spy bust, check out Larry Van Horn's Shortwave Central blog. He has excerpts from the actual publicly filed criminal charges. Once again, key evidence consists of duplicates of known Cuban "numbers" transmissions found in the suspects' possession.

Doesn't look to me as if secret covert insidious spook nasty short wave is ignored by US intelligence.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bye LRO/LCROSS

By now, everyone's probably aware that we're on the way back to the moon. Launch was at 5:32.1, or a whole 1/10 second late. If you can find the replay of the earth disappearing below the vehicle, it's pretty cool.

LRO/LCROSS Weather Is Green

Launch poll is currently in progress for coming out of the planned hold in three minutes, for a 5:32 EDT launch.

LRO/LCROSS Is Holding

The Atlas launch vehicle has gone into a planned hold at t-4 minutes. This is a built in 20-minute hold, but the count cannot resume unless weather improves. When and if they do resume, things will happen fast.

Launch opportunities are at 5:12, 5:22, and 5:32 EDT.

LRO/LCROSS Count Continues (For Now)

The second ETR launch attempt in two days is at T-1 hour, 30 minutes and counting. Tanking has commenced in the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle. Unfortunately this is Florida in the summer, and thunderstorms threaten to delay the count. Atlas cannot launch if there is lightning within 10 miles of the pad, which is at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

This vehicle is a moon launch. LRO is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, aimed at scouting sites for future manned landings. LCROSS stands for Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, a specific mission which involves hitting the moon with the Centaur vehicle.

The Guam and Diego Garcia tracking stations have been activated. They will help with spacecraft comms once the vehicle is above the Clarke belt and its geosynchronous NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

STS-127 Launch Scrubbed (Again)

Due to a gaseous hydrogen leak in the same place as last time, NASA has just scrubbed the STS-127 launch. The next launch opportunity is no earlier than July 11.

STS-127 Still On Schedule

Due to thunderstorms, STS-127 tanking began almost three hours late, but the count remains on schedule for the 0940 UTC launch. Range activities should be audible on HF at some point this evening (US time).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

STS-127 Count On Schedule

At time of writing, the count was at -8 hours, 14 minutes. Of course, this does not include several built-in holds.

Tanking begins around 0015 UTC tonight (Tuesday in the US). NASA TV will be live.

Launch is still scheduled for 0940 UTC (5:40 AM Eastern Daylight Time). Weather still shows an 80% per cent chance of allowing launch.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Recent SDR Hits

Latest catches i've made from the WebSDR in the Netherlands. Their 8-band version was still up as of yesterday.

44.2 RTTY? 50?/85 06/05/09 2021
46.0 ? Like 68.6 06/05/09 2017
54.0 ? Slow multi-tone 06/05/09 2016
68.0 ? 150-Hz shift stream 06/05/09 2000
68.6 ? Multi-tone stream 06/05/09 2000
147.3 DDH47, Deutsche Wetterdienst, ID & WX, Hamburg, 50/85, in GG, good cpy. 06/02/09 2114
298.5 MSK Unknown, no decode 06/14/09 2019
302.0 MSK DGPS, 426 (Gilze Rijen, Netherlands) 200 baud 06/14/09
303.5 MSK DGPS, 763 (Zeven, Germany) 100 baud 06/14/09 2030
311.0 CW ID: "LMA" (NDB, Germany, 51° 22' 15.00" N 006° 23' 42.00" E) 06/14/09 2043
311.1 CW "W" Unknown beacon, weak, seen on Speclab 06/14/09 2050
312.0 MSK DGPS, 640 (Oostende, Belgium) 100 baud 06/14/09 1949
312.5 MSK DGPS, 425 (Hoek van Holland, Netherlands) 200 baud 06/14/09 1953
313.5 MSK Unknown, no decode 06/14/09 2001
323.0 CW "ONC" NDB, Charleroi, Belgium 06/14/09 2104
324.0 CW "DP" and long dahs 06/14/09 2100
335.0 CW Unk dasher 06/14/09 2011
411.5 MCW "BET" Very loud NDB, Rheine Bentlage (Air Base?), Germany 06/04/09 2121
406.5 MCW "BOT" loud NDB, Bottrop, Germany 06/14/09 2014
490.0 Unid, sounds like Sitor or fast Baudot, 170 Hz shift, probably European NAVTEX, no decode. 06/01/09 1755
518.0 Unid, Sitor-B NAVTEX in EE, got "ZCZC," 100/170. 06/11/09 2255

10051.0 USB NY Volmet. 05/30/09 2118
10075.0 HFDL Squitters. 06/05/09 1953
10088.0 HFDL Squitters. 05/31/09 2251
10100.8 RTTY DDK9, Deutsche Wetterdienst WX, Hamburg, 50/450 06/02/09 2100
10130.0 RTTY Unk 75/850 encr 06/11/09 2324
10137.4 CW IK3NWX/BEACON 06/05/09 1900
10148.39 Packet TXUV63 de DC2WH-9 via RELAY 06/05/09 1910
10149.5 Packet (10147.3) 30m APRS gateway HB9MM-4 via TRACE3-3 06/13/09 2332

NASA Sets Wednesday for Next STS-127 Attempt

Following a weekend of meetings, NASA has resolved the scheduling issues for use of the Eastern Test Range. This means that STS-127's next target launch time is 5:40 a.m. EDT (0940 UTC) on Wednesday, June 17.

The range became available with the rescheduling of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS. Their new launch target, aboard the same Atlas V booster, is the very next day. There are three launch opportunities from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Thursday, June 18: 5:12 p.m., 5:22 p.m. and 5:32 p.m. (2112, 2122, and 2132 UTC).

Sounds like a busy 36 hours for communications on the Eastern Test Range.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

STS-127 Postponed At Least 4 Days

According to NASA, the time required to inspect the hydrogen line, effect repair, and pick a new launch target will delay launch for at least 96 hours.

This is the same hydrogen system that gave trouble on an earlier flight. It conducts gaseous H2 boil-off to a flare where it can be burned safely.

STS-127 Launch Scrubbed!

NASA has scrubbed Saturday's Space Shuttle launch after a leak was found in a gaseous hydrogen return line during tanking. The decision to postpone was made at 12:26 AM EDT (0426 UTC). There is no new launch target time yet.

Friday, June 12, 2009

STS-127 Weather Still Looks Good

Launch is still scheduled for 7:17 AM tomorrow (1117 UTC). The Rotating Service Structure has been moved back. Tanking starts this evening.

Check the usual frequencies for downrange traffic such as Booster Recovery Vessels. This launch's early morning time means better propagation on the lower frequencies they usually use.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Latest Cuban Spy Bust Spotlights V2 and M8

Once again, well-placed US government workers (in this case, retired) have been arrested on espionage charges.

Following an FBI sting, agents arrested Walter Kendall Myers, a former State Department analyst with a top-secret clearance, and his wife. They allegedly passed documents and intelligence to their Cuban handlers for something like 30 years.

FBI's 3-year investigation produced alleged evidence that they had received instructions from short wave voice and Morse code broadcasts, and made document drops in shopping carts. When surveillance cameras in markets improved, they switched to encrypted e-mail from Internet cafes.

Past testimony has given ample evidence that the mysterious V2, M8, and SK01 numbers broadcasts are indeed aimed at low-level, deep-cover spies operating in the US. Given the sloppy engineering of these, it's a wonder anyone gets their messages at all, but they apparently do just that.

Don't Forget DTV Transition On Friday

Friday, June 12 is the day most US high-power TV stations turn off their analog signals and broadcast exclusively in digital.

I would imagine that anyone who can understand this blog is already technically sophisticated (OK, geeky) enough to know this, but I thought I'd pass it along anyway.

Friday promises to be an interesting day from an engineering standpoint. There is no sudden, dramatic event where all analog channels go dark at once.

Stations are changing over in 6-hour windows. There is considerable engineering required, since in most cases the existing UHF digital simulcast will be moved to the former analog frequency, or to an altogether new one. VHF channels 2 through 6 are being vacated, so many large network affiliates in big markets will broadcast on UHF after the change.

In many cases, there is a loss in coverage due to the frequency changes or other technical factors. This is shown on the FCC's list as a "2% loss." Actually, it's a >=2% loss.

Spectrum freed up after the change will be reallocated to public safety and probably some kind of mobile data communication for consumers.

The acting FCC chair is in Los Angeles today for a media event aimed at generating publicity that might be seen by the estimated 4% of households in that market which still haven't done anything to get ready for the change.

A complete schedule of all US DTV cutovers is available from the FCC in an Excel spreadsheet. It's pretty interesting.

STS-127 Countdown Starts Wednesday Morning

The launch of the next space shuttle mission is still tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 13, at 7:17 AM Eastern Daylight Time (1117 UTC). There is the usual 10 minute launch window. While the weather has been bad in Florida for several weeks now, there's an 80% chance it will be favorable on Saturday.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

BREAKING NEWS II: Tentative US Navy/ Marine Corps MARS Cutbacks

The following message was transmitted to all stations in mid-May from Chief, Navy/ Marine Corps MARS. It's written in typically opaque military bureaucratese, with references to various DoD directives. As far as I can tell, it describes orders (not yet implemented) to pretty much eliminate Navy and Marine Corps participation. There would still be a Navy/ Marine Corps MARS, but not as we currently know it.

My reading of all this is that the Navy is negotiating, so far unsuccessfully, to get out of new budgetary funding requirements concerning MARS. I seem to perceive all this as a high-stakes bargaining chip. Others closer to the situation seem to agree.

It'll be interesting to watch all this play out. Here's the message, reformatted for blog readability but otherwise unedited:

DE NNN0ASA 040
R 162200Z MAY 2009
FM CHNAVMARCORMARS WILLIAMSBURG VA
TO ALNAVMARCORMARS
INFO ZEN/CHIEF ARMY MARS FT HUACHUCA AZ
ZEN/CHIEF AIR FORCE MARS SCOTT AFB IL

BT

UNCLAS

SUBJ: CHNAVMARCORMARS BCST 03-09

A. DOD DIRECTIVE 4650.2 DTD 26 JAN 1998
B. DOD INSTRUCTION 4650.02 (PROPOSED) NOTAL

1. COMMANDER, NAVAL NETWORK WARFARE COMMAND (NNWC) HAS DECIDED TO 'SUNSET' THE MARS MISSION WITHIN NAVY AS OF 30 SEP 2009. NNWC HAS REQUESTED ALL MILITARY BILLETS AND MY CIVILIAN POSITION BE DELETED AND UNFUNDED AFTER THAT DATE. OPNAV HAS NOT YET APPROVED THIS REQUEST.

2. ALL THREE MARS SERVICES HAVE OPERATED UNDER THE MANDATE OF REF A, WHICH IS STILL VALID. REF B IS A PROPOSED UPDATE TO REF A AND IS IN THE PROCESS OF BEING COORDINATED BETWEEN DOD AND THE THREE SERVICES. REF B INCREASES THE SERVICES REQUIREMENT TO SUPPORT THE MARS PROGRAMS WITHIN THEIR SERVICE. ARMY AND AIR FORCE HAVE AGREED TO THE CHANGES BUT NAVY (OPNAV) HAS ASKED TO BE LET OUT OF THIS REQUIREMENT. THIS NEGOTIATION IS STILL IN PROCESS AND WE DO NOT KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE RESOLVED.

3. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF NNWC DECISION TO 'SUNSET' THE MARS MISSION, I AM FORCED TO INITIATE ACTION TO CLOSE DOWN NAVY-MARINE CORPS OPERATIONS AND FACILITIES BY 30 SEP 2009. ACCORDINGLY:

A. AREA DIRECTORS WILL TRANSFER ALL MEMBERSHIP RECORDS TO HQ NLT THAN 31 JUL 2009. WHEN RECORDS HAVE BEEN TRANSFERRED, STATE DIRECTORS WILL SEND ALL MEMBERSHIP RELATED MATTERS DIRECTLY TO CHNAVMARCORMARS VICE THE AREA DIRECTOR.

B. AREA DIRECTORS WILL CLOSE DOWN THEIR OFFICES AND TURN IN ALL EQUIPMENT TO DRMO NOT LATER THAN 30 SEP 2009.

C. NONE OF THE EQUIPMENT AT THE AREA DIRECTORS STATIONS WILL BE ALLOWED TO BE TRANSFERRED TO ANY MEMBERS. THE EQUIPMENT MAY BE TRANSFERRED TO OTHER OFFICIAL NAVY ORGANIZATIONS (LIKE MWR OR SPECIAL SERVICES) TO HELP EQUIP OR START UP MILITARY RECREATION STATIONS. THESE TRANSFERS WILL BE APPROVED BY HQ ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS.

4. IF NAVY'S REQUEST TO BE DELETED FROM REF B IS NOT APPROVED, THERE WILL BE A NAVY-MARINE CORPS MARS PROGRAM BUT IT WILL NOT HAVE AREA DIRECTORS (THEY WILL HAVE BEEN TRANSFERRED). ALL MEMBERSHIP CORRESPONDENCE WILL BE HANDLED BETWEEN THE STATE DIRECTOR AND CHIEF, NAVMARCORMARS DIRECTLY. AREA DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND AREA STAFF POSITIONS WILL BE RETAINED TO COORDINATE FREQUENCY MATTERS, TRAINING, ETC.. ALL OPERATIONAL MATTERS WILL BE HANDLED BY STATE AND REGION DIRECTORS.

5. I WILL INFORM YOU AS SOON AS I FIND OUT THE FINAL RESOLUTION OF NAVY'S REQUEST TO 'SUNSET' NAVY-MARINE CORPS MARS.

BT
NNNN

Monday, June 01, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: SkySweeper Decoder Program Is Discontinued!

This terse announcement was posted on Saturday to the SkySweeper mailing list:

Hello All,

All sales, marketing and development of SkySweeper Std, SkySweeper Plus and SkySweeper Pro will be discontinued from 1st of June 2009.

SkySweep Technologies LTD is now fully concentrating on the SkySweep Messenger product family and some other professional systems development.

SkySweeper support continues as it is until 1.1.2011.

The latest versions and manuals can be downloaded here:
http://www.skysweep.com/index-6.html

We would like to send our warmest thanks to all the SkySweeper users!

Mikko Huttunen

General Manager
SkySweep Technologies


Given the time difference between here and Finland, where the program was produced, June 1 has already come. SkySweeper is no more.

SkySweep Messenger is a commercial-grade messaging suite based on STANAG 4285, 4539, and 5066. It is also capable of the American MIL-STD-110A/B and MIL-STD-141 (more commonly known in the hobby as "ALE"). It has the usual e-mail and Internet connectivity. It is aimed at government users and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

SkySweeper was intended for either the more geeky hams or the hard core digital utility fans (in other words, us). It was a good deal for the price. It contained a great number of highly modular sub-programs, some working better than others, which could be combined in endless ways at the will at the user. More money got you more modules, not better code.

Dedicated, more specialized programs could often produce more accurate decodes of a few modes at a time, but with the loss of this modularity. SkySweeper allowed the user to string together decoders, analyzers, filters, processors, and transmitters into truly mind boggling series and parallel configurations. One could spend years experimenting with all this.

Best of all, Mikko was always available on the mailing list to answer newbie questions, gripes, and bug reports.

Mac users are lucky to still have Chris Smolinski's excellent MultiMode package. On the PC side, however, the departure of SkySweeper leaves a real gap in the market. There are still MixW and MultiPSK, both excellent multimode packages, but obviously aimed more at hams. On the high end, we still have the professional multi-mode products by HOKA, Wavecom, et al, but these are rightfully priced well beyond the means of most hobbyists.

I'm hoping that I'll still be able to move SkySweeper to new computers, because I'll be using it for a long time to come.