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Sunday, December 9, 2018

First Audio From Mars

How long will it be before NASA starts getting critical comments on the audio quality, along with very confident statements about how to change the audio settings on the menu?  Well, at least they have "presence."

The Elser Mathes Cup awaits a winner!   

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Beautiful Launch! Watch the Video

Today's SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of Farhan's Exseed Satellite was really spectacular. Congratulations Farhan!  Really inspirational stuff. 

Now we wait to hear the bird.   If I have loaded the orbital information correctly, I should have my first chance this evening.   I have my antenna positioned.  

Sunday, December 2, 2018

DON'T BUILD IT! Sage Advice from Pete N6QW: Why You Should NOT Build an SSB Transceiver

Image result for "Pete Juliano"

Be sure to read the comments.  Especially my comment. And Pete's response.

Launch Delay -- they will try again tomorrow

Launch Day! Godspeed Exseed! 1:31 pm Eastern time. Video links here.

Farhan posted this message and the above video to Facebook today (I have the video cued up to around the 5 minute point): 

We are all set for the launch of ExseedSat... There are two tiny switches at the bottom of the satellite that keep the satellite switched off while it stays in it's container. Once the satellite is ejected, the switches are released and the satellite wakes up. 
There are 36 satellites on this launch, some belong to close friends in the satellite fraternity. We wait for all the satellites to drift out and after 45 minutes, the antennas are depolyed and we will start beeping signals home.
Here is a test of that process. You can skip to the fifth minute to watch the antenna depoly .

I really like the tape measure antenna.  This recalls the earliest OSCAR satellites.  And let's not forget that OSCAR 1 also launched from Vandenberg.  So there a lot of good tradition flying with Farhan's bird. 

Press reports indicate a launch time of 1:31 pm Eastern time today.   I think you can watch it live through the video window below.  Or try this link: 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Totally Absurd -- Farhan Being Questioned in a Police Station

I walked into the shack this morning hoping to read good news about the InSight landing and the impending launch of Farhan's satellite, but instead I found this message from Farhan in a police station.   This is really absurd and disheartening.   Someone (not Farhan!) altered the Indian flag and put it into an image of Farhan's CubeSat.  So with 24 hours to go before the launch, our friend Farhan finds himself in a police station. 

Stay strong Farhan!  You have a lot of support around the world.  

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Falcon 9 Cubesat Launch Now Set for Wednesday

It looks like the Falcon 9 with Farhan's CubeSat is not scheduled to launch this Wednesday between 1030 and 1100 West Coast time.  Above you can see a similar launch.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Friday, November 23, 2018

The Max Valier Satellite Flies Over, Sending CW

I understand the launch of Farhan's CubeSat has been delayed a few days.  That's the way it works in the rocket launch biz --patience is required.  In the meantime, I've been practicing with my receive system.  Today at 1000 local the Max Valier satellite flew to my west.  It rose 78 degrees above my horizon to the W NW.  I left my three element quad pointed in that direction and waited for the satellite (which had been launched from India) to fly through its pattern.  

The CW beacon was quite strong, very visible and audible through my RTL-SDR dongle and HD-SDR software.  You can see it and hear it in the video above.  There is something quite charming about this very personal Morse message coming down from orbit and then passing through all that digital technology.   

More info on the satellite: 

"Max Valier Sat" is an amateur satellite built in cooperation by:
  • "Max Valier" High School in Bolzano/Bozen (Italy)
  • OHB System AG from Bremen (Germany)
  • Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics from Garching (Germany)
Its main payload is an X-Ray telescope devised and made by MPE. Data generated by this detector will be transmitted, together with housekeeping data, over an amateur radio link with frequency 145.860 MHz.
A second payload is an amateur radio beacon transmitting a message in Continuous Wave. The beacon's frequency is 145.960 MHz
"Max Valier Satellite" was launched by the Indian Rocket PSLV-C38 on June 23, 2017 at 9:29 am IST (05:59 am CET) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre.
More tech details: 
Regarding the CW beacon: 

Beacon by Holger Eckardt DF2FQ:

  • Transmit frequency is 145,960 MHz (IARU and ITU coordinated).
  • Modulation is CW:
    • Duration of one dot is 114 ms.
    • Duration of one dash is 342 ms.
    • Interval between words is 1881 ms.
    • Interval between repetitions of the message is 6000 ms.
  • The beacon transmits Max Valier Sat's call sign and a greeting message.
  • Transmitting power is 500 mW.

And who was Max Valier?  Quite an interesting fellow: 
Max Valier in his Rocket Car in 1930

Saturday, November 17, 2018

From BITX to SpaceX: Falcon 9 To Launch Farhan's Cubesat on Monday (video)

  1. SpaceX will live-stream the launch as well on their YouTube stream. Also - this will be the first SpaceX booster to fly three times, and the first to launch from all three SpaceX pads.
Special thanks to Dave Bamford for the BITX to SpaceX line! 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Launch Date Approaches for Farhan's Satellite

It looks like the launch date might have been moved up from 24 November to 19 November. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

W7ZOI: Direct Conversion Receivers -- Some Amateur Radio History

Farhan and Pete WB9FLW alerted me to this wonderful article by Wes Hayward, W7ZOI.  I guess my interest in DC receivers must have been noticed by the Google algorithm because I am bombarded by ads extolling the virtues of "Zero IF."   Hey Google -- I'm already a believer!  I was converted by W7ZOI's 1968 article in QST. And my belief in the technique has been greatly reinforced by his November 2018 50th anniversary article. 

There is so much good stuff in Wes's look-back piece.  The travails of trying to write for QST are presented very well.   And we learn that none-other-than Doug DeMaw himself is responsible for the use of the word "presence" in describing amateur radio audio.  

This article has inspired me to take a new look at the DC receiver I built last winter.  Mine needs some work. I think it is kind of deaf.   It could probably benefit from a diode ring  detector.   But it already has presence.

Thanks Wes.  And thanks to Farhan and Pete for the heads up. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

Getting Ready for Farhan's Satellite (videos)

I've been getting ready for the November 24 launch of the CubeSat that Farhan and his friends in India built.  I started out with my trusty Drake 2-B and a Hamtronics 2-to-10 downconverter, but I quickly switched to an RTL-SDR dongle and HD-SDR software.   My 3 element quad antenna is visible in the first video.   So far, I am using the Armstrong method to turn the antenna. 

In that first video I keep saying that I am waiting for AO-71.   In fact is was AO-73, the "FunCube" from the UK.   I think it is similar in power and antenna configuration to Farhan's satellite, so I think we are almost ready for launch.

(Any ideas on what that mysterious pulsating sig in the satellite passband signal is in the first video?)     

Monday, November 5, 2018

Pete N6QW Rejuvenates the Atlas Twins with an Arduino and an Si5351

Pete Juliano N6QW has turned his attention to the Atlas Twins, a nice single conversion multiband rig. Pete has used an Arduino/Si5351 to replace the analog oscillators in the old Atlas.  This improves stability and allows for USB/LSB operation.  

Pete very graciously kept the old analog circuitry in the rig, allowing the Atlas to be returned to its pristine analog state at some time in the future. Pete also made some very kind comments about the surprising stability of the original  analog oscillator circuitry.  

Check out Pete' site for more details:

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Oliver Heaviside

Image result for Oliver Heaviside
In the last SolderSmoke podcast we took a look at some of the giants of radio.   Here is one fellow we missed:  Oliver Heaviside.  Hackaday has an interesting profile of him:

Like many of the giants we looked at, Oliver definitely had his problems, and didn't end well.  But he deserves a lot of respect and credit for his many innovations and discoveries.   I didn't know that he is the one responsible for those 88 mH coils in my junk box.  

Saturday, October 27, 2018

SolderSmoke Podcast #207 -- 15 mtrs, 60 mtrs, Giants of Radio, Cubesats, Pete's rigs, SDR MAILBAG

SolderSmoke Podcast #207 is available:

-- Giants of Radio
-- Pete on 15 Meters
-- Bill on 60 Meters with the uBITX
-- Pete's Sudden and Heath Filter Transceivers
-- Cubesats to orbit!  To the moon!  And to Mars! 
-- Bill rebuilds his 2 meter "Ray-Gun" Quad (for Farhan's Cubesat)
-- Homebrewing Variable caps and stockpiling NP0
-- My "by ear" Minimal Discernible Signal Technique
-- Thoughts on Direct Sampling SDR and the Radio Art
-- A request for feedback from GQRP
-- G4WIF reports G3ROO on UK TV with spysets
-- VU3XVR builds FB rig from EMRFD
-- M0KOV Charter member of the 3 Scratch-built BITX club
--KD4PBJ's PTO Turtle DC Receiver
-- AB1OP builds Pete's LBS receiver and gives us a new acronym: SITB
-- KD4EBM -- Thanks for the scanner Bob!   
-- A possible sponsor from California... 

-- Pete's dream neighborhood...

Friday, October 26, 2018

Homebrewing Your Own Variable Capacitors

It is people like Jeremy Cook who will save us from total domination by DDS and PLL "oscillators" and their whimpy little "rotary encoders."   

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

uBITXs Doing Very Well on 60 Meters -- with Boris and Natasha

Last Saturday something told me to get on 60 meters.  TRGHS.  So I stepped out to the carport and tuned the doublet to 5.3 Mhz -- and I'm really glad I did.  There was a lot of activity on the band, all very friendly.  Channels 1 and 2 seem to be especially popular watering holes.  

Channel 3 might be getting a bit more digital use, but a very interesting group called the "Moose and Squirrel Net" meets there at noon (east coast time) on Saturday on SSB phone.  This group is kind of a spill-over from the Old Military Radio Net that meets early on Saturday morning on 3895 kHz  AM.  Because many of the old military radios can't tune on half kHz increments, the "Moose and Squirrel" group used channel 3 which is the only U.S. 60 meter channel on a whole integer kHz frequency (5357.0 kHz).  Moose and Squirrel takes it name from the old Boris and Natasha Cold War cartoons that many of us watched as kids.  Natasha Fatale and Boris Badinov.  Cold War era military radios, get it?  Good stuff.  Many of the guys on the M&S net commented on how nice the uBITX sounded.   I was running it through my .1kW CCI EB63A amplifier. 

One of my nicest contacts was with Joe WA2EJT.  He told me that he too has a uBITX.  He said he bought the rig in part because of he liked the fact that Farhan was giving the work on the toroids to some ladies in Hyderabad who normally do sewing.   Joe said he liked the look of the uBITX board so much that he decided to put his  board on top of the chassis instead of inside it.  That is exactly what I had done with  my first BITX 40 module.   See the pictures of Joe's rig. 

Three cheers for the uBITX! 

Boris natasha fearless.jpg
Boris, Natasha and "Fearless Leader" 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Ian Keyser G3ROO on UK TV with his Spy Set Rigs (video)

Me at the keyof one of Ian's spy sets -- ten years ago?
Check out this nice UK TV report on Ian G3ROO and his spy set radios:

And here is Tony Fishpool's report on their excellent adventure at Friedricshaffen Hamfest 2018.

Here are some of the SolderSmoke blog posts on the activities of Ian and the Dover Constructors Club.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Radio Doctor of Montreal

So much radio wisdom in the words of the Radio Doctor of Montreal. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Pete's New Transceiver with Heathkit Filter and WSPR (Video)

Another beautiful rig from Pete. Inspiration for the winter building season.  More info on his blog:

We hope to discuss this and other projects in the next SolderSmoke podcast, hopefully next Saturday. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

M0HYT's Through-Hole (No Surface Mount) uBITX

That's the spirit! I like how Peter M0HYT took the uBITX schematic and built his own, his way.  When you build the rig yourself, if problems arise (spurs, harmonics getting past filters) you are in a much better position to fix the problem. I'm afraid that sometimes those buying an already-assembled board just feel aggrieved if the purchased item is not fully within specs.     

M0HYT posted this to the BITX20 group (this past summer): 

I have just built a uBITX with standard components (no SMD's) from scratch on a PCB I designed - it works well.  I have now designed another PCB which incorporates the Arduino NANO and the the Si5351 shield and I'm just waiting for the PCB's to arrive and then I will start assembling.  I made some changes to the circuit to allow for a dynamic microphone and the use of screened TOKO cols for the 30MHz lowpass filter, I also changed the coupling arrangement to the 45MHz filter.

I have attached a picture of the original PCB and a PDF of the new layout incorporating the Arduino and Si5351

Maybe one day I will play with SMT but for now standard components are still easily available !
73's - Peter M0HYT

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Falcon 9 Launch, Landing and Sat Deployment Video

Very cool video from Space X.  I like how they have the time-line along the bottom and the telemetry in the upper right.  This is the first time they brought a first stage back to Vandenberg AFB.  I hope we get to watch the launch of the Indian Cube-Sat in November. 

Monday, October 8, 2018



Ram did a beautiful job on this 40 meter rig.    You can read about this project here:

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Stockpiling Parts for Analog Oscillator STABILITY

Doug DeMaw taught us that a key contributor to analog oscillator stability is the use of NP0 capacitors.  As part of my effort to maintain the ability to produce analog, discrete component, coal-and-cap, chip-free oscillators, I recently went out onto the internet in search of an assortment of NP0 capacitors.  Nightfire Electronics had just what I needed.  I took their assortment and put it in a parts box for easy access.  

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Radio Astronomy Knack!

This video has so much of the kind of stuff that interests us:  roadkill antennas.  3D printers.  Arduinos.  Raspberry Pi, And of course, RADIO ASTRONOMY.   

And the Thought Emporium guys have a lot of other great project videos on their YouTube site:

I feel myself being pulled back into SPACE.  First there was Farhan's new satellite, now this.  Last weekend I finished a 3 element quad for 146 MHz.   In a fit of nostalgia I used the same copper tube elements that I used to communicate with the MIR space station from the Dominican Republic in 1995. They have good JuJu.  And Mojo.   TRGHS.  More on this later. Tune UP!  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Back to Mr. Carlson's Lab

I like the Vedolyzer in the wooden box. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Triple Scratch-Built BITX Club -- Do you qualify for membership?

OK, so how many of you guys can join Steve M0KOV and me in the Triple Scratch-Built BITX Club?  


Below are my three Bitx builds.

1st build.  
Closely follows Farhan's original 20m design but I soon changed the VFO for an arduino/ad9850.  It was a fast, get me on the air build, it worked, but not well.
The output amp was built on a separate board as part of its exorcism. 

2nd build. 
This was to be my two band Hill Topper, we don't have mountains in Yorkshire. Built with separate stages slotting into the eddystone box to save space and to help with shielding. The receiver worked very nicely, the output kept blowing irf510's. I later found that they were a hopeless batch. Very hard to work on.

3rd build. Big is beautiful. Arduino/si5351 straight into the modulator and into the mini-circuit mixer through a driver as discussed. Norton feedback RF preamp and a ne5532/lm386 AF amp. At the moment it's on 80m but it did start on 40m. It's still a work in progress and I will have to sort that soldering iron band change.

73  Steve M0KOV

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Freethink YouTube Channel

Lots of really nice, inspirational videos here:

Farhan's Satellite

Latest news:

The launch is set for November 24, 2018 from California.  It will be in a polar orbit.  The beacon will be on 145.90 MHz.   Farhan says an RTL-SDR Dongle should do the trick.  I plan on building several receive systems and an appropriate antenna.

I don't think Farhan's group is connected to this group, but this short video does a nice job of explaining the potential of CubeSats.

Hi my friend's information to all about a man's " A DREAM COME'S TRUE " in " VU " LAND with his hard work & to the whole team.. we can say ......FANTASTIC ..... no other words to express from my side but i ENVY on their hard work's.. hi hi .de vu3yfd,prasad
IARU Amateur Satellite Frequency Coordination
List of Sats formally submitted
ExseedSat Updated: 10 Aug 2018 Responsible
Operator Ashar Farhan VU2ESE
Supporting Organisation Exseed Space Innovations Pvt Ltd
Contact Person
Headline Details: The ExseedSat is a 1U cubesat that will provide a multifunction UHF/VHF NBFM amateur communication satellite. It will have various configurable modes, including: • UHF to VHF, single channel, narrow band FM transponder with CTCSS, 67 Hz squelch • Power output selectable between 1 watt and 0.5 watt • Digipeat feature with APRS on UHF uplink nd VHF downlink • Melody mode : It will play a simple melody of a few notes on special occasions or events. This will interest students outreach. • We expect this satellite to have a life of two years, depending upon how long the battery lasts and when the satellite de-orbits naturally. Planning a SpaceX launch from Vandenberg in October 2018 **The request has now been updated to include only a U/V transponder/digipeater** **The following frequencies have been coordinated: 145.900 MHz for repeater and digipeater downlink and for telemetry and 435.340 MHz for repeater and digipeater uplink**
Application Date: 19 Jul 2018 Freq coordination completed on 10 Aug 2018
Read The Hindu story at…/odisha-man-t…/article24963338.ece
Gurudatta Panda VU3GDP
Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE
Tnx cu agn de vu3yfd,prasad

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Pete's New Sudden Transceiver

Check it out!  Note the Juli-yellow front panel color.   Featuring FT-8 and WSPR capability.  Go Pete!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Nightfire Electronics

Some interesting items in their catalog.  I ordered their NP0 capacitor kit.   I have to stock up in order to avoid being forced into the digital oscillator morass.

They also have crystals for the ham frequencies.  

Please tell them that SolderSmoke sent you. 

WB8VGE on QSO Today -- QRP, HB, Boatanchors, Drift, Solar Power


Eric 4Z1UG has a really good interview with Mike Bryce, WB8VGE. 

Listen here:

I've been a big fan of Mike's for many years. I've talked to him on the air a couple of times.  I liked his QRP column in 73 magazine.  I share his enthusiasm for Boatanchor rigs.  He is a fellow member of the QRP Hall of Fame (who, like Pete and me, at times seems to be pushing the QRO envelope).  I like his approach to solar power. He too has been bothered by appliance ops who complain that his boatanchor rigs are 150 hertz "too low."  

His attitude toward contesting is similar to mine -- I may be more opposed than he is.  I think contesting encourages a kind of harshness and competitiveness that runs contrary to the spirit of the Radio Amateur's code. 

I got a chuckle about Mike's claim that he almost Worked All States in RECEIVED Official Observer reports. And that he at one point owned THIRTY  104s.  

Mike's observations on the dumbing down of ham radio and on the social (psychological?) problems of 75 meters ("net starting in 5 minutes!"  "QRP not allowed on 75") are sadly on the mark. 

Mike's hint about using a white-out pen to spruce up the front panel of an old Drake radio adds a new household/office material to our rig-fixing arsenal. 

Eric's comment on the Lafayette Catalog resonated with me.  I used to read it too. 

I hope Mike decides to get on the air more frequently.  Just avoid 75 meters and 7.200 MHz Mike. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

KD4PBJ's PTO "Turtle" Receiver


Here’s my newest creation. 
It’s a PTO tuned receiver for 40 meters and uses the WA6OTP PTO circuit I built a couple years back. I believe I had sent you a picture of it then. I bought the tuning assembly from him which is the aluminum bracket, acrylic tube fitted with Pem nut, and brass screw.  The circuit uses a J310 as oscillator transistor and several bipolar transistors for amplification and buffering. 

This feeds a ADE-1 mixer, mounted on a little breakout board I bought from RfBay. 
Years ago I had good luck building the Rock Bending Receiver from the ARRL handbook, so I took the audio chain from it and incorporated it. It uses a TL072 and a LM 386. 
As of now I haven’t needed any kind of front end filter, but am working on a 40 meter bandpass filter from Hans Summers that I will put on the input just in case it’s ever needed. 
I had been looking for an easy enclosure and found this in one of the break rooms at work. An empty Christmas nut tin. 
The PTO screw goes in and out like a turtle sticking its head out of the shell, plus my 13 year old son Alex’s favorite animal is a turtle. So it goes. 


Monday, September 10, 2018

N2CQR Wins a Contest AGAIN!

Pete N6QW suggested I do a blog post on this.  

This past weekend I dusted off my old scratch-built, all-analog, no-chips BITX20. (THREE CHEERS FOR FARHAN AND HIS BITX DESIGN!)   I hooked it up to my trusty CCI .1KW (note decimal point) amplifier and my new 135 foot store-bought doublet.  This all happened just as the Worked All Europe  DX contest was kicking off, with lots of activity on 20.   TRGHS.  I was in.  My contest operating style was in the category of "relaxed-casual-noncompetitive." I took a lot of breaks.  In fact there were more breaks than non-breaks. You have to pace yourself in the contest world.  

My results: 


P3X might not count because, you see, Cyprus is considered to be in ASIA.  Really? 

Anyway, I 'm assuming that I am the winner in the homebrew, discrete component , all-analog transceiver category.  Woo Hoo!  

The contest rig is pictured above.  Before you point to the glowing numerals and cry foul, realize that the little Altoids box between the two speakers holds a San Jian frequency counter that was deliberately kept OUTSIDE the BITX box.  So it is more of an outboard accessory.  I can run the BITX 20 without the digital assist -- I have an old fashioned non-digital dial pointer to indicate frequency.  The "Low - High" switch you see switches the VFO from the low portion of the 20 meter phone band to the higher part of the band.   The box below the BITX 20 holds the uBITX. 

Seriously though, I was quite pleased with the performance of the doublet.   

Sunday, September 9, 2018

EF Johnson's 50th Anniversary Speech. Very nice radio history

Thanks to W0VLZ for this wonderful 13 minute recording of Edgar F Johnson's 50th Anniversary speech.  There is a lot of great radio history in this speech.  Highly recommended. 

Just click here to listen:

EF Johnson's hometown bio:

Monday, September 3, 2018

Ralph AB1OP -- A New Receiver (with Mojo) and A New Acronym (with Attitude)

Bill and Pete,

😀 Completed the wiring the LBS Part I (pics attached)
I've said wiring completed but, it's not really done. lt will need some peakin' & tweakin' and I already have made design changes to the power board. 

My Summer Project took ALL Summer, had the usual excuses with Summer activities, family obligations,  interruptions and days of just plain goldbricking. 

At last all the LBS Part I boards were laid out, etched, populated, soldered and installed.  As a novice Toroid winder it took a  while to get the toroids done. (I had to do THREE DBM Transformers to get two  to match.)

Some features of note: 
1. Extensive use of the recycle bin for front / rear panels and feet. (Tin can and bottle caps) Go Green!
2. Extra Mojo was induced with using the 10K pot Farhan supplied with my first Bitx40 Kit that I did not use, (I replaced it because I could not find knobs for 4mm shafts back then)  
3. Junk box speaker (8 Ohm - 0.5 W) from a cheap radio alarm clock my Mom threw away after it stopped working.
4. Use of the RG405 coax for interstage RF connections. (No Murphy's Whiskers)

😞 My tale of woe. Apparently after connecting the LBS Part I stages together I put the AD9850 module back in it's socket upside down --- then applied power,  Awaiting the replacement. HIHI

😜 SITB or Stick-It-To-Bezos.  Again this month my Ham stuff budget was blown on an Amazon order (replacement AD9850 modules being not cheap anymore). I started at the soldersmoke blog web page search bar so there should be a little something heading to your North Virginia QTH from Jeff.


Sunday, September 2, 2018


SolderSmoke Podcast #206 is now available:

-- SolderSmoke resumes after a busy summer.

-- We did a portion of #206 via Skype at the GQRP Convention.  Thanks to Steve G0FUW for setting this up.  A portion of our participation appears at the end of the podcast. 

-- Pete's SDR Rig and his new involvement with WSPR and FT-8

-- The allure of SDR and the pitfalls of complexity. 

-- Bill's 135 foot Doublet, 75 AM, 60 USB and 30 Meter CW. 

-- Plans to change the IF of Bill's HRO dial receiver. 

-- Thinking (again) about sold stateing the HW-101. 

--  Hans Summers, QCX and QSX rigs.  


Ralph builds Pete's LBS receiver.  FB!  
Designer: Douglas Bowman | Dimodifikasi oleh Abdul Munir Original Posting Rounders 3 Column