ARRL

ARRL Letter

 

The ARRL Letter

Volume 19, Number 4
January 28, 2000

IN THIS EDITION:

+Available on ARRL Audio News

ARRL TO SEEK PARTIAL RECONSIDERATION OF RESTRUCTURING R&O

The ARRL will seek partial reconsideration on two points in the Amateur Radio license restructuring plan announced by the FCC December 30. Both points involve the way the plan deals with Technician-class licensees. The new FCC rules go into effect April 15.

The League will ask the FCC to continue to maintain records that indicate whether a Technician licensee has passed a Morse code exam to earn Novice/Tech Plus HF privileges. Under the current system, the license class of Technicians is designated by a "T" in the FCC's amateur database, and of Tech Plus licensees by a "P." Under the FCC's restructuring plan, Technician and Tech Plus licensees will all be known simply as "Technician." The ARRL asserts the change will eliminate any easy way to tell which licensees have passed the Morse code exam and which have not.

"We're going to try to persuade the FCC that it made a drastic error in deciding to change all those Ps back to Ts in the database," said ARRL Executive Vice President David Sumner, K1ZZ.

The FCC has said that it would be up to Technician licensees, if asked, to prove that they have successfully passed the 5 WPM code test. The ARRL plans to ask the FCC to stipulate that any amateur who provides proof of having passed an FCC-recognized Morse code exam prior to April 15 would be entitled to receive credit for the Morse code exam element when applying for future upgrades. The FCC has indicated to the ARRL that after April 15, code credit for Technician applicants passing the 5 WPM test would not survive beyond the 365-day term of a Certificate of Successful Completion of Examination--or CSCE.

Under both the present and new rules, anyone who held a Technician license before February 14, 1991, has permanent credit for the Morse code element, but others do not.

The ARRL Board of Directors approved a motion to file the Petition for Partial Reconsideration at its January 22 meeting in Memphis.

FLAMES CLAIM HAM RADIO OUTLET'S ANAHEIM STORE

[Photo courtesy of Janet Margelli, KL7MF]

Ham Radio Outlet's Anaheim, California, store was destroyed by fire early Sunday, January 23. The fire--said to be of suspicious origin--apparently first broke out in a dental office at the south end of the strip mall that housed the HRO store on North Euclid Avenue. After spreading into an attic area, the flames raged through the rest of the business center, engulfing the HRO store, the dental office, and two other businesses. Two other shops were damaged.

The Anaheim HRO store's manager, Janet Margelli, KL7MF, said she was alerted to the fire by the store's alarm company. She arrived just in time to see flames engulf her store. "Talk about feeling helpless and hopeless--you just watch it burn," she told the ARRL. Margelli said the store and its contents were a total loss.

The cause of the fire has not been determined, but arson investigators were said to be focusing on the burned-out remains of the dental office where the fire is thought to have originated. Fire investigators also are trying to determine why a car parked in an alley several hundred feet away caught fire and exploded, since it did not appear that the fire in the strip mall caused the car fire.

More than 80 firefighters were called out to battle the four-alarm blaze, and it took them the better part of two hours to bring it under control. Margelli said flames were shooting 200 feet into the air as she arrived on the scene. No injuries were reported. Damage was estimated at $1.5 million.

Operations at the HRO Anaheim store--including telephone and fax--are being handled temporarily by the company's Burbank store a couple of hours away, using staffers from both stores. Margelli is coordinating the opening of an all-new store in an undamaged store area in the same business center.

The only item recovered from inside the HRO store was a plastic owl decoy that now has become the store's new mascot. The owl decoys--sold to scare birds away from towers and beams--had been suspended from a display tower in the store. After the fire, Margelli said, one decoy--"Smokey," as it's now being called--was found a bit worse for the wear atop a pile of ash and charcoal in the center of the display. Margelli said Smokey will get his own display case in the new store.

HRO operates a dozen stores across the US, including five stores in California. Margelli said she hopes to have the new Anaheim location open for business within two or three weeks.

AMATEUR RADIO SATELLITE PACKAGES ROCKET INTO SPACE

The Air Force Minotaur launcher on the pad at Vandenburg. [Orbital]

An Air Force Minotaur rocket lifted off right on schedule January 26 from the new California Commercial Spaceport at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Three Amateur Radio satellite packages were aboard. Two of the satellites already have been deployed and are said to be working. A third amateur picosat package will be deployed over the weekend.

The primary payload is the US Air Force Academy's Falconsat. JAWSAT--Joint Air Force-Weber State University Satellite--served as a bus for several deployable payloads and the Plasma Experiment Satellite Test experiment--PEST. The telemetry stream from JAWSAT, including data from PEST, will be transmitted on Amateur Radio frequencies. Amateur Radio operators have been invited to contribute to the program by recording the downlinked data. Data from PEST will require using either a G3RUH modem or a GMSK modem. Data rates should be as high as 38.4 kb/s. Data will be transmitted on 437.175 MHz or 2403.2 MHz. NASA says it will publish instructions for sending in data so the PEST team can use it.

Deployable payloads aboard JAWSAT are Stanford University's Orbiting Picosat Automatic Launcher--or OPAL; Arizona State University's ASUSat, and the Air Force Research Lab's Optical Calibration Sphere.

"It was a spectacular sight, since the sky was clear and the visibility almost unlimited," said Eric Lemmon, WB6FLY. "I was able to view the first two burns without binoculars, and it was an impressive sight!

Hank Heidt, N4AFL, of the StenSat team said today that both JAWSAT and ASUSat appear to be working perfectly at this time, with telemetry indicating that all systems are reporting nominal performance. StenSat, which is a satellite within another satellite--OPAL--is set to be put into space this weekend, Heidt said.

ARRL staffer Steve Ford, WB8IMY, says he was able to watch the Webcast of the launch at home. Unlike the seemingly languid shuttle launches, Ford says, the rocket "went screaming skyward immediately and was lost to sight within less than a minute."

ASUSat and JAWSAT have Amateur Radio capability, but the tiny, eight-ounce StenSat is strictly a ham satellite--designed by hams, for hams. It was developed by a group of amateur enthusiasts in the Washington, DC, area as part of Stanford University's OPAL project.

StenSat will operate as a single-channel Mode J FM voice repeater. The uplink frequency will be 145.84 MHz; the downlink will be 436.625 MHz. StenSat will periodically transmit 1200 baud AX.25 for telemetry. Additionally, amateur radio operators will be able to "ping" the satellite by transmitting a six-digit DTMF command to the receiver uplink. More information on StenSat is available at http://users.erols.com/hheidt/.

ASUSat will contain amateur packet hardware and a 2-meter/70-cm FM voice repeater. ASUSat1 is an ASU NASA Space Grant project and Arizona State University's first student-designed satellite. Information on ASUSat is available at http://nasa.asu.edu/asusat/.

PHASE 3D GETS ITS FIRST TASTE OF FLIGHT

After a circuitous land and air journey, AMSAT's Phase 3D satellite now is at the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The next-generation Amateur Radio satellite is expected to be launched from Kourou later this year. Meanwhile, it will be stored there while it awaits the next-available Ariane 5 launch that all hope will put it successfully into Earth orbit.

After obtaining the necessary governmental shipping clearances and being trucked from the Phase 3D Integration Lab in Orlando, Florida, to Atlanta, Georgia, Phase 3D took off in the cargo hold of an Air France 767 January 17. To get to the launch site--near the equator on the Atlantic Coast of South America--Phase 3D first stopped over briefly in Paris. From there, it was airlifted successfully to French Guiana's capital city, Cayenne, then transported overland to Kourou.

Phase 3D Operations Manager Peter Guelzow, DB2OS, says the tab for the trip ran about $20,000. The reason for the roundabout trek from Orlando to Kourou, he explained, was the lack of direct flights to French Guiana by planes large enough to accommodate the P3D payloads.

AMSAT News Service reported this week that Phase 3D will be stored in its container, housed in an air-conditioned integration building at the launch complex until launch preparations commence.

P3D model This model of the Phase 3D satellite is available as a kit on full color on glossy card stock for a donation to AMSAT-NA. The completed model measures 11.5 inches across the solar panel "wings." Visit the AMSAT Web site for information on how to get one. [AMSAT-NA]

A launch contract accepting Phase 3D as a payload for the first suitable Ariane 5 launch vehicle was signed last October. Phase 3D is expected to be among the first secondary payloads to hitchhike aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. There's no word on a specific date for P3D to go into space. Given the success of the last Ariane 5 launch, Guelzow says the chances are "pretty good" for an early launch opportunity, but he has ruled out any chance of a launch aboard Ariane 505 in mid-March. "Arianespace is doing its best to accommodate us soon after AR505 [Ariane 505]," Guelzow said in a posting on the AMSAT-NA Web site (http://www.amsat.org/). "Waiting is all what we can do now."

LEAGUE OFFICER ELECTIONS SET MUSICAL CHAIRS IN MOTION

Officer elections at the January ARRL Board of Directors meeting generated a ripple effect of vacancies within the ARRL hierarchy. The elevation of West Gulf Director Jim Haynie, W5JBP, to the League presidency set off a game of musical chairs that saw Vice Director Coy Day, N5OK, accede to the director's slot, creating a vacancy in the West Gulf Vice Director's chair. Haynie has appointed Dr David A. Woolweaver, K5RAV, of Harlingen, Texas, to be the new Vice Director. Dr Woolweaver is a periodontist in private practice.

Haynie filled vice directors' openings in the Atlantic and Roanoke divisions from within the section manager ranks. In the Atlantic Division, Director Kay Craigie, WT3P, was elected a Vice President, and Vice Director Bernie Fuller, N3EFN, moved up to Director. Western Pennsylvania SM Bill Edgar, N3LLR, has been appointed as the new Atlantic Vice Director. In the Roanoke Division, Director John Kanode, N4MM, was elected a Vice President, and his second-in-command, Dennis Bodson, W4PWF, moved into the top slot. South Carolina SM Leslie Shattuck Sr, K4NK, has been tapped to replace Bodson as Roanoke Vice Director.

Replacing Edgar as Western Pennsylvania SM will be John V. Rodgers, N3MSE, of Butler. In South Carolina, Patricia Hensley, N4ROS, of Richburg will succeed Shattuck.

It's been a good month for Edgar. A Tech Plus licensee, Edgar recently passed all of the written elements he'll need to upgrade to Amateur Extra when the new FCC licensing rules go into effect April 15.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico will get a new section manager as a result of a resignation. ARRL Field and Educational Services Manager Rosalie White, WA1STO, has appointed Victor Madera, KP4PQ, to replace Raul Escobar, KP4ZZ as Puerto Rico's SM. Escobar stepped down for personal reasons.

ARES ACTIVATES AS WINTER TAKES A BITE OUT OF DIXIE

Power line crews struggle to keep up with lines downed by ice accumulation. [Photo courtesy of Andy Funk, KB7UV. Copyright 2000 FOX5 Atlanta, WAGA. Used by Permission.]

Normally a relative stranger to Georgia, Ol' Man Winter turned up unexpectedly January 23 in the form of an ice storm that affected the northern third of the state. Georgia SEC Tom Rogers, KR4OL, says forecasters did not anticipate the freeze line coming as far south. The weather emergency caught some ARES members off-guard as well and showed him that amateurs in the region need to be better-prepared for the unexpected.

The Georgia ice storm left some 340,000 homes and businesses without power, and tens of thousands still were without power at week's end. But The Peach State was not the only one affected by unusually harsh winter weather. Thousands of others in the Southeast were left without power and snowbound to boot. The winter storm cause widespread school and business closings and dumped upwards of two feet of snow on North Carolina, paralyzing traffic and stranding travelers. Parts of South Carolina, the Virginias, and Tennessee saw snow as well.

Rogers says that as power lines, telephone lines, and trees came crashing down in Georgia, out went the call for help. ARES teams in several Georgia counties were pressed into service, and Georgia's Emergency Management Agency sought ARES assistance as well. The Georgia ARES Net met on HF and continued to monitor the situation, Rogers said.

The exercise revealed what Rogers called "some very important lessons." For starters, the ice storm not only presented a very serious problem for public utilities but for amateur stations as well. Many stations lost their HF antennas due to icing, handicapping ARES' ability to coordinate between the ARES HF net and local areas, Rogers said. He recommended ARES members keep a spare, emergency HF antenna on hand for situations like this. Rogers says HF was not the only mode hampered by the icing. Several repeaters also were crippled by the ice, he said, and VHF coverage in many areas of the ice storm was lost.

Rogers pointed out that in winter conditions, things taken for granted can and do fail. "Create a plan for backup and exercise it," he suggested. "Winter icing creates conditions for amateur radio we can overcome if we plan ahead."

The surprise nature of the ice storm gave rise to another "lesson learned," Rogers said. "Don't assume you are going to have time to prepare your station before an event happens," he said. "Prepare now! Do not take the threat of winter weather to your station lightly."

Rogers said the assistance of each and every station is valuable to the ARES program and is sorely missed when stations are unable to be on hand. With the possibility of more freezing weather in Georgia this weekend--just in time for the Super Bowl in Atlanta--Rogers recommended that ARES members take time to review their station capabilities and ARES response plans.--Tom Rogers, KR4OL

SOLAR UPDATE

Sun watcher Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: The predicted geomagnetic storm for the weekend of January 22-23 turned up a day late and with some lower numbers. Instead of peaking with a planetary A index of 35 on January 22, the big number was 25 on Sunday, January 23. Conditions settled back toward normal on Tuesday and Wednesday, and solar flux as well as sunspot numbers declined as well.

Average solar flux for the reporting week, which runs Thursday through Wednesday, was down over 50 points to 148.6 compared to the previous week. Average sunspot numbers were down over 90 points to 135.6.

For this weekend expect more active geomagnetic conditions, beginning January 28. Predicted planetary A index for Friday through Sunday is 25, 25 and 18, and the expected solar flux for those days is 130, 130 and 125. Solar flux is expected to continue low through the first of February, then rise above 130 by February 3, above 160 by February 6, above 190 by February 9, and peak near 205 around February 11 or 12. Following this, solar flux is expected to bottom out again for the short term around 135 from February 23-28. For most of February, expect quiet geomagnetic conditions, except for unsettled conditions around February 1, 7, and 25-27, and active conditions around February 23-24.

Sunspot numbers for January 20 through 26 were 119, 144, 126, 135, 133, 141 and 151, with a mean of 135.6. The 10.7-cm flux was 170.7, 159.3, 150.6, 140.5, 140.7, 137.4 and 140.7, with a mean of 148.6. The estimated planetary A indices were 12, 3, 19, 25, 17, 7 and 7, with a mean of 12.9.

In Brief:

  • This weekend on the radio: The CQ WW 160-Meter DX Contest (CW), the REF French Contest (CW), the UBA Contest (SSB), the YL International QSO Party (CW), and the Kansas QSO Party are the weekend of January 28-30. See January QST, page 100, for details. Just ahead: The North American Sprint, the Minnesota, Delaware, Vermont and New Hampshire QSO parties, the FYBO Winter QRP Field Day, the Ten Ten International Net Winter Phone QSO Party, the YL-OM Contest (CW), the Spring Classic Radio Exchange, and the Mexico RTTY International Contest are the weekend of February 5-7. See February QST, page 96, for more information.

  • Clarification: An In Brief item, "Pending restructuring sparks bumper crop, confusion at VE session" in last weekís edition of The ARRL Letter apparently added to the confusion for some readers. To clarify: Some current Tech Plus holders can, indeed, claim an upgrade to General class come April 15, 2000. These are individuals who hold or held a Technician license prior to March 21, 1987, and can provide documentary proof. This is the only case where a licensee can claim an upgrade without additional testing. The upgrade is not automatic; you must apply through a VE session.--thanks to Bill Turner, WB4ALM, and others

  • Don't target Riley with restructuring comments: If you've got a comment, complaint or question about the recently announced FCC Amateur Radio restructuring, FCC Special Counsel for Amateur Radio Enforcement Riley Hollingsworth asks that you don't include him as a target or recipient. His FCC department, the Enforcement Bureau, was not involved with developing the restructuring Report and Order released December 30, and he said it would not be proper for him to address specific questions or comments on the issue. Hollingsworth says he's been getting a lot of comments on the restructuring issue, but he says that because the R&O came out of the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, it's impolitic for him to comment. Hollingsworth says his amateur enforcement initiative will continue essentially as it has since late 1998.

  • HQ restructuring e-mail: ARRL Headquarters personnel have received thousands of e-mails (in addition to telephone calls and snail mail) with questions or comments on restructuring. The ARRL-VEC department alone has received nearly 1600 messages since the FCC announced the restructuring program December 30, 1999. If you have e-mailed HQ with a question or comment that has not been acknowledged and/or answered, please be patient. Staff members are working their way through the backlog in the order messages were received. To ensure e-mail goes to the most appropriate department at Headquarters, questions about the new FCC rules should be directed to John Hennessee, N1KB, jhennessee@arrl.org, in the ARRL Regulatory Information Branch; questions about amateur examinations should be directed to the ARRL-VEC at vec@arrl.org; questions about the availability of ARRL license study materials should be directed to pubsales@arrl.org. Members should direct questions or comments concerning ARRL policies and positions to their ARRL division directors. Contact information for ARRL directors is on page 10 of any issue of QST.

  • Mini-bios on QRZ.com: QRZ.com says it now has more than 14,000 mini-biographies of Amateur Radio operators on-line along with its call sign database, with dozens of new listings arriving daily. QRZ.com says it is now possible to instantly search through the entire collection of biographies to find other hams with similar interests, backgrounds or other hobbies. Any combination of keywords may be searched. Check it out at http://www.qrz.com/biosearch.html --QRZ.com/Fred Lloyd, AA7BQ

  • Motorola researching methanol batteries: According to a Reuters report, Motorola researchers and scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are working on a new mini-battery for wireless devices. The fuel cell, which uses methanol as the power source, reportedly will last 10 times longer than batteries used today. But, consumers will have to wait for at least three years to see them in stores. The battery will be packaged in a see-through tube, so users can check their battery supply at any given time. The cost of the methanol batteries should be in line with current power supplies, Motorola says.--Reuters

  • Ohio Section Manager appoints new SEC: Ohio Section Manager Joe Phillips, K8QOE, has appointed Larry Rain, WD8IHP, of Mansfield, as Section Emergency Coordinator, effective immediately. Rain, the Sixth District EC, succeeds Larry Solak, WD8MPV, of Mantua, who has served as SEC for the past 15 years. Phillips credited Solak with putting together a strong district emergency coordinator structure and with putting in place all the tools to continue and strengthen Ohio's ARES program.--DeForest Amateur Radio Club newsletter

  • W1AW now QRV on Hellschreiber: W1AW made its first-ever Hellschreiber QSO January 19 with Raffaele, IK4PKQ. W1AW was running 50 W from an ICOM IC-756 transceiver. IK4PKQ was 559; W1AW was 569 on the other end of the circuit. W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, used the IZ8BLY software. Hellschreiber will be among the modes available for use by visitors to W1AW.

 

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