Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Voices from space, whispers on 80

It was one of those crystal clear evenings when the stars shone like jewels from a black sky. N2YO's satellite tracking site showed that the Space Shuttle would pass over at about 9.20pm at magnitude -2.0 - brighter than Jupiter - so my wife and I went out in the garden to watch it. Olga spotted it first, rising over the roof of the neighbour's bungalow.

I had the VX-8E tuned to 145.825 to see what APRS I could catch, but nothing was heard, so I flipped down a channel to 145.800 and heard an astronaut's voice, clear as a bell. We only heard one side of the conversation, but it was still quite something to watch the space station go over and know that the person talking about why he had wanted to become an astronaut was actually in that bright, moving star, up there.

Meanwhile, up in the shack, my FT-817 was doing some WSPR testing on 80m using my Wonder Loop magnetic loop antenna. To get it to tune 80m I connected an 820pF silver mica capacitor across the loop / variable capacitor terminals. The tuning was nice and sharp, and although the SWR did not seem to be particularly low it only raised one bar on the FT-817 meter.

There were not many people on 80m WSPR but I was consistently received by LA2XPA, while I received G7JVN several times. For comparison I replaced the Wonder Loop by the ATX Walkabout and received two more spots from LA2XPA at similar signal strength. I also put out a number of CQs using 5W of PSK31 but got no replies. I wasn't even spotted on the PSK Propagation Reporter site.

I didn't really expect the small Wonder Loop to work very well on this band. However, earlier in the day I had stumbled across a site I hadn't seen before showing a small diameter magnetic loop with plug-in tuning modules covering 160m to 6m, so I was interested to see how far I could extend the Wonder Loop's coverage.
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