*************** The ARRL Letter Vol. 19, No. 50 December 29, 2000 *************** IN THIS EDITION: * +AO-40 returns! * +Hams on ice in US Southwest * +New FCC system speeds license grants * +Colorado company to acquire Alpha/Power * +Wireless pioneer Al Gross, W8PAL, SK * Solar Update * IN BRIEF: This weekend on the radio Vintage transmitters on the air for Straight Key Night +Kid's Day is January 6 +New section managers take office January 1 Germany drops code speed to 5 WPM K6DUE to anchor Parade of Roses MARS celebrates 75 years of service Second and third ARISS contact schools named Slain Texas police officer was amateur Snowbound ham uses 2-meter H-T to call for help +Available on ARRL Audio News =========================================================== Best wishes for 2001 from everyone at ARRL Headquarters! =========================================================== ==>RESET RESTORES AO-40 TRANSMISSION Merry Christmas, AMSAT--AO-40 is back! Following a 12-day silence, AO-40 once again is transmitting telemetry. In response to an L-band command sent Christmas Day by command station ZL1AOX, AO-40 resumed transmitting on 2.4 GHz. Software was reloaded to permit telemetry transmissions on 2401.305 MHz. Some problems remain on the satellite, however. "Recovery of AO-40 continues, and some housekeeping tasks were performed by the command stations to improve and stabilize the situation," said Peter Guelzow, DB2OS, of the AO-40 team. Guelzow says new software routines were loaded successfully to restore the battery-charge regulator system and other housekeeping functions. "We will now start a detailed analysis of the situation," he said. Telemetry transmissions from AO-40 ceased December 13 while ground controllers were testing the onboard 400-Newton propulsion system following an initial orbital shift. Some observers feared the satellite had been irreparably damaged. Guelzow says ground stations now have regained control of the satellite. Ground controllers hope the telemetry might yield some clues about what went wrong aboard the satellite to make it stop transmitting. After onboard software watchdog routines failed to restart beacon transmissions automatically, a full reset command and an initialization block to switch on the S2 S-band transmitter were sent via L-band. Guelzow said telemetry revealed that some temperature sensors have failed and some current sensors indicated incorrect values, but solar sensors seemed to be working fine. The good news was that AO-40's power situation--in particular the battery voltages--looks nominal. Guelzow said additional software would be loaded in the next few days and the various uplinks checked out before any attempts are made to turn the 2-meter transmitter back on. "Clearly, we need more time to analyze and understand what has happened here," Guelzow said. He said that while there are no indications that the 2-meter beacon transmitter has failed, ground controllers don't want to risk losing communication again. "So for the next days the spacecraft will continue to be transmitting on S-Band only," he said. Phase 3D Project Leader Karl Meinzer, DJ4ZC said AO-40 command stations "will continue to follow a conservative philosophy" with a primary goal of not causing additional damage while retaining as much evidence as possible to analyze what made the beacon transmissions stop. On December 22, AMSAT proposed holding an inquiry into the incident that led to the loss of communication with AO-40. A letter from AMSAT-NA President Robin Haighton, VE3FRH, said "AMSAT believes that it is in the best interests of our organization to determine all the facts surrounding this incident and to make sure that a similar situation cannot happen again either on AO-40 or on a future satellite." ==>HAMS HELP CONTINUES IN ICE STORM EMERGENCY Ice storms this week have caused power and telephone outages and hazardous driving conditions in Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, and more bad weather was on the way. Amateur Radio Emergency Service nets have been activated on HF and on local repeaters to handle emergency traffic and to support public safety and relief agencies. Several deaths have been attributed to the severe weather. President Clinton has declared a state of emergency in Oklahoma and Arkansas. At week's end, hundreds of thousands still were without power, and many still had no telephone service--even cellular systems were out. Utility companies were saying it might be a week or longer before power could be restored. Hams also have been locating and assisting the many stranded motorists. South Texas Section Manager Ray Taylor, N5NAV, says an estimated 200 Texas hams have been pitching in. At one point, ARES members helped with communication after hospital telephones were knocked out; they also got a generator going after one hospital's emergency power system failed. Hams also have been supporting relief activities of the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Baptist Men's Kitchen as well as state police. The Red Cross has opened shelters to assist those stranded by the inclement weather or left without utilities. At Taylor's urging, the FCC asked the amateur community to cooperate in recognizing the existence of a voluntary communications emergency and to stay clear of 3870 to 3878 kHz to accommodate the Texas ARES Net. The Net has been on 7285 kHz during daylight hours. Taylor said he requested the voluntary declaration because the nighttime emergency and tactical traffic net frequency on 3873 kHz was being subjected to apparent intentional QRM. Taylor said Thursday that his latest concern was possible flooding in South Texas from runoff in the north and west. Hams were preparing to monitor levels on several rivers in that part of the state, he said. In Arkansas, Amateur Radio reportedly served as the only link between the state capital and DeQueen, a city in southwestern Arkansas that was particularly hard hit by the latest ice storm. The state suffered another ice storm in mid-December. Arkansas Section Manager Roger Gray, N5QS, says a TV report credited Amateur Radio with facilitating communication between Gov Mike Huckabee and the mayor of DeQueen. Residents in up to a dozen counties reportedly have lost power, telephone service and water. At week's end, the storm that affected the US Southwest was moving eastward and expected to join another system to create blizzard conditions in the Northeast. ==>NEW FCC SYSTEM MEANS QUICK LICENSE GRANTS The FCC's new system to handle batch-filed amateur applications from Volunteer Examiner Coordinators has cut processing time from hours to minutes. The FCC inaugurated the more rapid amateur license application processing system December 28--slightly ahead of its original schedule. "Way to go, FCC!" said an enthusiastic ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, after his office fed its first batch of license applications into the system. Jahnke says five dozen ARRL-VEC applications resulted in license grants about 52 minutes later. The W4VEC in North Carolina and Central America VEC also took advantage of the new system for the first time. Except for a two-hour window right after midnight each day, the speedy new system looks for VEC submissions each hour on the half hour. With FCC license grant processing now measured in terms of hours instead of days, the major factor now determining the time from exam to license grant is how quickly VE teams get their test results to their VECs. The FCC has been estimating a processing window of up to 90 minutes, depending on volume and arrival time. License grant results should be available immediately on the Universal Licensing System Web site, http://www.fcc.gov/wtb/uls, using the license search option. Applications processed by the FCC one day will appear in the public update ("zip") files the following morning. Public call sign servers on the Internet should be able to update within 24 hours after FCC action--rather than the 48 hours that's been typical. On-line filings from individuals, weekend filings and FCC-manually processed applications put into the hopper during weekdays at Gettysburg will continue to be handled as have been. These are batched for midnight processing, and weekend filings will not queue up until Monday midnight. ==>COLORADO COMPANY TO ACQUIRE ALPHA/POWER CrossLink Inc, a Boulder, Colorado, delivery tracking and telemetry company, is expected to acquire the assets of Amateur Radio amplifier manufacturer Alpha/Power Inc. An announcement from Alpha/Power Chairman and CEO Dick Ehrhorn, W0ID, said a buyout agreement would be completed by year's end. In September Alpha/Power, based in Longmont, Colorado, announced plans to cease engineering and manufacturing operations once its current run of Alpha 87A and 99 amplifiers was completed. Ehrhorn left open the possibility of selling Alpha/Power, provided the right buyer came along. Under the anticipated agreement, CrossLink (http://www.crosslinkinc.com/) will acquire all assets of, and rights to, the Alpha Amateur Radio product line. It's anticipated that production at the CrossLink facility will resume early in 2001. In a joint statement CrossLink President/CEO Gary Zarlengo, WA0KLP, and Chief Technical Officer Gordon Hardman, KE3D, said they were "very pleased to have the opportunity to continue bringing the world-renowned Alpha name and product line to the amateur radio community." CrossLink will continue to provide full factory warranty and post-warranty service for existing Alpha owners, Zarlengo and Hardman said. Ehrhorn, formerly W4ETO, founded Ehrhorn Technological Operations in 1970 and designed all the early Alpha linears. He sold ETO several years ago. In 1996, Ehrhorn and Dave Wilson, AA0RS/G3SZA, bought back the Alpha amplifier business from ETO. Alpha/Power purchased the RFConcepts line of VHF-UHF power amplifiers from Kantronics in late 1998. A nucleus of Alpha/Power personnel, including Business Vice President Scott Ehrhorn and Customer Service Manager Glenn Pladsen, AE0Q, will join CrossLink. Scott Ehrhorn will become Alpha Product Line Manager, while Pladsen will continue to handle Alpha customer service. According to Hardman, additional space and facilities available at CrossLink will allow ongoing Alpha production at previous rates or greater. Additional details, including the new Alpha address, telephone, fax and e-mail information, will be posted on the Alpha Web site (http://www.alpha-power-inc.com) as they become available. ==>PERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS PIONEER AL GROSS, W8PAL, SK The man who brought the world such indispensable wireless communications concepts and devices as the walkie-talkie, pager and cordless telephone has died. Al Gross, W8PAL, of Sun City, Arizona, passed away on December 21. He was 82. Gross obtained his Amateur Radio license in 1934 at the age of 16. His early interest in Amateur Radio helped set his career choice while he was still a teenager. Gross pioneered the development of devices that operated in the relatively unexplored VHF and UHF spectrum above 100 MHz. His first invention was a portable hand-held radio transmitter-receiver. Developed in 1938 while he was still in high school in Cleveland, he christened it the "walkie-talkie." The device caught the attention of the US Office of Strategic Services--the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. The OSS recruited Gross, and this led to the invention of a two-way air-to-ground communications system used by the military behind enemy lines during the World War II. The system allowed OSS agents to communicate with high-flying aircraft. After World War II, Gross set up Gross Electronics Inc to design and build various communications products, some of them under government contracts. He also launched Citizens Radio Corporation to design, develop and manufacture personal wireless devices. Cartoonist Chester Gould asked if he could use Gross' concept of a miniaturized two-way radio in his Dick Tracy comic strip. The result was the Dick Tracy two-way wrist radio. During the 1950s and 1960s, Gross secured several patents for various portable and cordless telephone devices. In September 1958 Gross Electronics received FCC type approval for mobile and hand-held transceivers for use on the new Class D 27-MHz Citizens Band. "If you have a cordless telephone or a cellular telephone or a walkie talkie or beeper, you've got one of my patents," Gross once said. He added that if his patents on those technologies hadn't run out in 1971, he'd have been a millionaire several times over. Over the years, Gross worked as a communications specialist for several large companies. Since 1990 and until his death, he was a senior engineer for Orbital Sciences Corporation. Gross received numerous awards and honors during his distinguished career, including the 1992 Fred B. Link Award from the Radio Club of America and the 1999 Edwin Howard Armstrong Achievement Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. As his IEEE biography put it: "It is clear that Mr. Gross was a true pioneer and helped lead the way to today's wireless personal communications revolution." Gross is survived by his wife, Ethel. A burial mass was held December 27 in Sun City.--thanks to The W5YI Report and the IEEE for this information ==>SOLAR UPDATE Propagation prognosticator Tad Cook, K7VVV, Seattle, Washington, reports: Average solar flux was down just a bit this week, declining by a little more than three points. Average sunspot numbers were off by more than 26 points since last week. The week has been quiet, with very stable conditions on every day except December 23, when unsettled conditions yielded planetary K indices of four and five and a planetary A index of 20. Higher latitude conditions were not much worse, with Alaska's College A index at 22. Mid-latitude A and K indices were quite stable. The current forecast calls for stable geomagnetic conditions until January 4-6, when they may become unsettled with planetary A indices of 12 to 15. The solar flux outlook for Friday through Tuesday is 185 for December 29-31, 175 for Monday and 170 for Tuesday. Solar flux is expected to bottom out near 140 around January 5, then reach the next peak around January 13-17. Happy New Year to all! Next week's bulletin will include some averaged solar numbers. Sunspot numbers for December 21 through 27 were 161, 164, 130, 155, 164, 189 and 171 with a mean of 162. The 10.7 cm flux was 194.5, 190, 190.9, 193, 187, 188.8 and 187.6, with a mean of 190.3. The estimated planetary A indices were 5, 7, 20, 5, 6, 4 and 7 with a mean of 7.7. __________________________________ ==>IN BRIEF: * This weekend on the radio: ARRL Straight Key Night, the RAC Winter Contest and the Stew Perry Topband Distance Challenge are the weekend of December 30-31. JUST AHEAD: The CCCC Millennium Contest,is January 1-2. The ARRL RTTY Roundup and the Japan International DX Contest (CW) are the weekend of January 5-7. See December QST, p 97, and January QST, page 99, for details. * Vintage transmitters on the air for Straight Key Night: The Maritime Radio Historical Society K6KPH will be on the air January 1 UTC for Straight Key Night from the historic KPH commercial station site. The station will transmit on 7050 kHz. Operation on 20 meters also is possible. K6KPH Chief Operator Dick Dillman, W6AWO, says the group will attempt to activate a 1950s-vintage RCA 303L on 14,028.6 kHz. Transmitters are located at the original RCA transmitting station at Bolinas, California. Operators will be at the RCA receiving station at Pt Reyes, keying the transmitters by a landline link.--Dick Dillman, W6AWO * Kid's Day is January 6: Kid's Day is intended to encourage young people--licensed or not--to enjoy Amateur Radio. As a "mentoring opportunity" for experienced amateurs, Kid's Day can give youngsters hands-on experience that might lead to an interest in Amateur Radio. The next Kid's Day is January 6, 2001, from 1800 to 2400 UTC. There's no limit on operating time. The suggested exchange is name, age, location and favorite color. Stations may work the same station again if an operator has changed. Call "CQ Kid's Day." Suggested frequencies are 28,350 to 28,400; 21,380 to 21,400; and 14,270 to 14300 kHz plus 2-meter repeater frequencies (with permission from your area repeater sponsor). Observe third-party traffic restrictions when making DX QSOs. Logs and comments may be posted to firstname.lastname@example.org and reviewed at http://www.contesting.com/kids/. All participants are eligible to receive a colorful certificate. Send a 9x12 SASE to Boring Amateur Radio Club, PO Box 1357, Boring, OR 97009. For more information, visit the Kid's Day Web site, http://www.jzap.com/k7rat/. * New section managers take office January 1: New ARRL section managers take office January 1 in several sections. In Eastern Pennsylvania, Eric Olena, WB3FPL, takes over for veteran SM Al Breiner, W3TI, who steps down December 31 after many years as an ARRL field organization volunteer. In Eastern Massachusetts, Phil Temples, K9HI, recently was elected to succeed Joel Magid, WU1F, who did not seek another term. In West Texas, Clay Emert, K5TRW, takes over the reins from Charles Royall, WB5T, who is stepping down due to health problems. In North Dakota, Kent Olson, KA0LDG, replaces Roger "Bill" Kurtti, WC0M, who is moving out of the section. Incumbent section managers in Missouri, Nebraska, New York City-Long Island, Northern New York, South Carolina, Southern New Jersey, West Central Florida, and Western Pennsylvania recently were elected without opposition for two-year terms that begin January 1.--Rosalie White, K1STO * Germany drops code speed to 5 WPM: Germany has approved a change in its Amateur Radio rules that lowers from 12 WPM to 5 WPM the Morse code text speed required for HF operation. The Second Order for the Change of Amateur Radio Regulations was issued December 13, 2000, by the Federal Minister for Economics and Technology.--IARU * K6DUE to anchor Parade of Roses: For the 16th consecutive year, former NBC correspondent and producer Roy Neal will anchor the New Year's Day "international" Tournament of Roses Parade telecast. (The international telecast is available north of the border on CBC and on C-band G4R transponder 24, 6.8 audio subcarrier.) Neal's history with the Rose parade goes back to the 1950s, when he produced the parade coverage for NBC--which telecast it back then in glorious black and white. In the late 1960s, Neal co-anchored the parade for NBC with Betty White. An active amateur, Neal has served as chairman of the Space Amateur Radio EXperiment Working Group and remains involved in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station--or ARISS--program that schedules chats via ham radio between ISS crew members and schoolchildren and helps to administer Amateur Radio activity on the ISS.--ShopTalk via Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF * MARS celebrates 75 years of service: What's believed to be the largest MARS net on record took place November 24 when 527 Military Affiliate Radio System members from 47 states, Puerto Rico and Guam checked into the MARS net to celebrate its 75th anniversary of service to the US Armed Forces. Five veterans of the original Army Amateur Radio System were on hand for the occasion, including Marvin Bernstein, W2PAT/AFA1DA--age 85 and first licensed in 1932. Founded in 1925 the AARS became the Military Amateur Radio System in 1948 and was later renamed the Military Affiliate Radio System. For more information, visit the Army MARS Web Site, http://www.asc.army.mil/mars/ . * Second and third ARISS contact schools named: Schools in Virginia and New York will be the second and third schools to attempt Amateur Radio contacts with the Expedition 1 crew of Space Station Alpha, the International Space Station. Armstrong Fundamental Elementary School, Hampton, Virginia, and Jan Sheldon Elementary School, Varysburg, New York, hope to complete contacts in January as part of the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station--or ARISS--program. The QSO with Armstrong School is tentatively scheduled for January 4 or January 5. The Sheldon School QSO is tentatively scheduled for the January 15-19 time frame, but all school QSO schedules are subject to change. The first ARISS school contact between Expedition 1 Commander William "Shep" Shepherd, KD5GSL, and youngsters at Burbank Elementary School in Burbank, Illinois, was completed December 21. * Slain Texas police officer was amateur: An Irving, Texas, police officer shot and killed after answering a robbery call was an Amateur Radio operator. Aubrey W. Hawkins, KC5USI, a Technician licensee, died on Christmas Eve while responding a robbery-in-progress call. He was 29. Hawkins had been a police officer in Irving since October 1999. Police said this week that seven escaped prison inmates wanted in connection with the killing remain at large. An Eagle Scout, Hawkins was active in RACES and SKYWARN. Marv Kontak, N5MK, reports that more than 2000 attended Hawkins' funeral December 28. Hawkins' wife and a nine-year-old son survive.--Marv Kontak, N5MK * Snowbound ham uses 2-meter H-T to call for help: Suffering recently from bronchitis and pneumonia, Jim Stewart, KK7VL, a homesteader in a secluded area near Bettas Pass, Washington, used his 2-meter hand-held to summon help. Stewart called his friend, Jim Flint, W7TXU, on the Kittitas County Repeater Association's repeater, advising him of his worsening condition and requesting assistance. Flint, a member of the Kittitas County Search and Rescue team, enlisted the help of Deputy Sheriff Robb Lipp. But, snowdrifts prevented them from reaching Stewart's home. A snowmobiler passing by took the rescuers to Stewart's house. Lipp then used his GPS and radio to guide a rescue helicopter to the scene, and Stewart was airlifted to a hospital in Yakima. "Many of our present rescue team members are already hams," said Flint, "and as a result of this rescue being reported on local radio, several people have called and asked to join our team, and to learn more about Amateur Radio."--The Daily Record (Ellensburg, Washington) =========================================================== The ARRL Letter is published Fridays, 50 times each year, by the American Radio Relay League--The National Association For Amateur Radio--225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111; tel 860-594-0200; fax 860-594-0259; http://www.arrl.org. Jim Haynie, W5JBP, President The ARRL Letter offers a weekly e-mail digest of essential news of interest to active amateurs. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise, and readable. Visit ARRLWeb at http://www.arrl.org for the latest news, updated as it happens. The ARRLWeb Extra at http://www.arrl.org/members-only/extra offers ARRL members access to informative features and columns. 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