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The ARRL Letter
December 8, 2011
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+ Available on ARRL Audio News.

The last ARRL Letter and ARRL Audio News for 2011 will be published Thursday, December 15. The ARRL Letter and ARRL Audio News will resume Thursday, January 5, 2012.

+ FCC News: FCC Commissioner Michael Copps Announces Resignation

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has announced he will resign effective January 1, 2012.

On Monday, December 5, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps notified President Obama that he would resign as Commissioner effective January 1, 2012. If the Senate does not confirm a successor prior to Copps' departure, the FCC would be down to three commissioners: two Democrats and one Republican. Only three sitting Commissioners may be members of the same political party. At present, Chairman Julius Genachowski, Copps and Mignon Clyburn are Democrats. Robert McDowell is the lone Republican since Meredith Attwell Baker left the Commission in June 2010.

"Yesterday, I submitted to the President notice of my intention to resign my post as Commissioner effective January 1, 2012," Copps said in a press release. "Should the Senate confirm my successor prior to that date, or should the Senate adjourn sine die before January 1, I would of course be leaving sooner."

Copps has served as a Commissioner since May 2001. In January 2009, he took on the additional role of acting FCC Chairman, following the resignation of then-FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin. Copps relinquished the chairmanship to Julius Genachowski after Genachowski was confirmed by the US Senate and sworn into office in June 2009. Read more here.

+ On the Air: New Rules for 60 Meters Have Yet to Take Effect

Last month, the FCC released a Report & Order (R&O) detailing new rules for the 5 MHz (60 meters) Amateur Radio band. These rules have not been published in the Federal Register. In order to be official, the rules must be published in the Federal Register and will take effect 30 days after the publication date. Any radio amateur who is operating under the new rules before this time is in violation of the current rules. The official date for these new rules will be announced on the ARRL website as soon as the information is available.

+ On the Air: Round Up Those CW QSOs in the ARRL CW Rookie Roundup

The ARRL's Rookie Roundup comes around again on Sunday, December 18. This time, the focus is on CW operation. The Rookie Roundup is an on-the air event is designed to help newly licensed amateurs build their HF and 6 meter operating skills. Similar to the ARRL Novice Roundup that ran from 1952 until 1995, the Rookie Roundup combines a competitive event with some on-the-air training, bringing fun and Elmering into the 21st century. Three Rookie Roundups -- SSB, RTTY and CW -- are held each calendar year: The CW running of the Rookie Roundup will take place Sunday, December 18 from 1800-2359 UTC. Read more here.

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+ Warm Up this Winter with the January 2012 Issue of QST

The January issue of QST is jam-packed with all sorts of things that today's Amateur Radio operator needs. Our annual Do-It-Yourself (DIY) issue has projects you can build this winter while you count down the days to the warm summer months. You'll also find product reviews, operating tips and upcoming on-the-air events that will start your new year off right.

When the weather outside is frightful, ARRL Lab Test Engineer Bob Allison, WB1GCM, heads to the workbench. Here, he can not only repair his existing gear, he can also build new and exciting things for his shack, such as this QRP SSB/CW receiver from a kit. Whether you are an experienced homebrewer or are using that soldering gun for the first time, you are certain to discover something that will inspire you to head to your workbench as you thumb through this special DIY issue of QST. Happy building!

If you're in the market for an easy-to-build -- and easy-to use -- VHF/UHF portable antenna, then look no further. In his article "A 2 Meter and 70 cm Portable Tape Measure Beam," John Portune, W6NBC, presents an antenna that will "measure up" when you want to work satellites or go transmitter hunting. When it comes to the family car, sometimes you need to be a bit discreet when installing your mobile rig, at least in the name of marital harmony. Thomas E. Nolan, W3EX, presents "A Low-Impact Mobile Installation," which offers a unobtrusive way to go mobile -- without looking like you've packed your complete shack in the car.

As you sit in front of the roaring fire, do your thoughts turn to your Novice days and the excitement and joy of working those first stations? Kim Johnson, KC0JQH, relives the memories in his article "Building a Dream Novice Station." Kim built his transmitter, receiver and voltmeter from plans in the 1963 ARRL Handbook. As hams, we have known for a long time how much fun it can be to build your own equipment -- and then use it to get on the air. ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, along with a slew of talented hams, has produced a video to be released December 27 that tells non-ham DIYers how Amateur Radio is the perfect activity for them. In his article "The DIY Magic of Amateur Radio," Pitts explains how Amateur Radio and DIY hobbyists make a wonderful fit.

QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY, takes a look at the WiNRADiO WR-G31DDC Excalibur software defined receiver in this month's Product Review. He says this receiver "offers excellent performance. Despite the wealth of features found in the accompanying software, it's easy to set up and enjoy." ARRL Contributing Editor Howard Robins, W1HSR, checked out the AvMap G6 APRS navigation system, saying that it "builds on the success of the G4 and G5 [versions]. The new version is smaller and more capable than previous models, yet it is still easy to hook up and use." QST Technical Editor Joel R. Hallas, W1ZR, test drove the TE Systems 1410G 2 meter linear amplifier. "This is a very nice amplifier in terms of construction and operation," he writes, although "there is some room for further optimization of its preamp configuration and transmit IMD levels."

Of course, there are the usual columns you know and expect in the January QST: Happenings, Hints & Kinks, The Doctor Is IN, Technical Correspondence, How's DX, Vintage Radio and more. Look for your January issue in your mailbox. QST is the official journal of ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio. QST is just one of the many benefits of ARRL membership. To join or renew your ARRL membership, please see the ARRL Web page.

Support ARRL: Renewed IRA Provision on Charitable Giving Makes It Easy to Support ARRL through 2012

In December 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (HR 4853) into law as Public Law 111-312. This law provided sweeping changes to the rules that govern federal estate taxes, gift taxes and generation-skipping transfer taxes. The law authorized those individuals who are at least 70.5 years old to donate up to $100,000 from their Individual Retirement Account directly to a qualified charity -- such as the ARRL -- in a Trustee-to-Trustee transfer; this charitable gift would not have to be reported on a tax return (no IRA income is reported and no charity deduction is reported). This keeps the giver's adjusted gross income lower and avoids any adjustments in Medicare premiums. The provisions in HR 4853 have been extended for two years and will expire on December 31, 2012.

Individuals who are interested in supporting the ARRL using this vehicle should consult their tax and/or financial advisors to determine the impact of such a gift. "This is the perfect time of year for members who qualify and are in a position to consider a direct contribution to the ARRL," said ARRL Chief Development Officer Mary Hobart, K1MMH. "Such gifts may support the Spectrum Defense Fund, the Education & Technology Fund, the W1AW Endowment Fund or one of the other ARRL permanent funds."

+ Nomination Deadline Approaching for ARRL International Humanitarian Award

The deadline to nominate an amateur or group of amateurs for the 2011 ARRL International Humanitarian Award is coming up -- December 31, 2011. This award is conferred upon an amateur or amateurs who demonstrate devotion to human welfare, peace and international understanding through Amateur Radio. The League established the annual prize to recognize Amateur Radio operators who have used ham radio to provide extraordinary service to others in times of crisis or disaster.

As one of the few telecommunication services that allows people throughout the world from all walks of life to meet and talk with each other, Amateur Radio spreads goodwill across political boundaries. The ARRL International Humanitarian Award recognizes the Amateur Radio Service's unique role in international communication and the assistance amateurs regularly provide to people in need. Read more here.

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Amateur Radio in Space: FASTRAC-1 Satellite Digipeater Active

As of 1600 UTC December 2, the FASTRAC-1 satellite (FO-69) is open for use as a packet radio digipeater. Anyone with a 1200 baud packet TNC and a VHF/UHF FM transceiver can try it. If you own satellite tracking software, you'll find the latest orbital elements on the FASTRAC Web site. FASTRAC-1 receives at 145.825 MHz and transmits at 437.345 MHz. The digipeater alias is FAST1. To connect to ARRL Headquarters station W1AW through FASTRAC-1, for example, you would send the following packet:

C W1AW VIA FAST1

Reports of your results are welcome via e-mail, or at the FASTRAC Facebook page.

+ On the Air: Special Prefixes on Tap for Canadian Stations this Month

If you are a prefix hunter, take note: Stations in Canada will be sporting new prefixes. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the CBC and Radio Canada, radio amateurs in Canada have been granted permission to use special prefixes for the month of December. Hams with call signs beginning with VA may use the prefix VG; those call signs beginning with VE may use VX; hams whose call signs with a VO prefix may use XJ, while call signs beginning with VY may use XK. -- Thanks to The Daily DX for the information

Solar Update

The Sun, as seen on Thursday, December 8, 2011 from NASA's SOHO Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. This image was taken at 304 Angstrom; the bright material is at 60,000 to 80,000 Kelvin.

Tad "I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end" Cook, K7RA, reports: Eight new sunspot groups appeared over December 1-7, with the average daily sunspot number for the week rising more than 9 points to 133.9. The verage daily solar flux also rose exactly 19 points to 156.5. The latest forecast from USAF/NOAA has solar flux at 150 on December 8, 155 on December 9-10, 150 on December 11-12, 145 on December 13-14, 150 on December 15, 160 on December 16-18, and 155 on December 19-22. The planetary A index for the same dates is expected to be 5 on December 8-10, 8 on December 11, and 5 on December 12-22. Geophysical Institute Prague sees a quiet week ahead, with quiet conditions December 9-11, quiet to unsettled December 12 and quiet again on December 13-15. Conditions should be good for the ARRL 10 Meter Contest this weekend. Look for more information on the ARRL website on Friday, December 9. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service Propagation page. This week's "Tad Cookism" is brought to you by James Taylor's Fire and Rain.

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+ Silent Key: Space Pioneer Jack Townsend, W3PRB (SK)

Jack Townsend, W3PRB (SK)

John W. "Jack" Townsend, Jr, W3PRB, of Cabin John, Maryland, passed away October 29 due to complications from lung cancer. He was 87. Townsend -- an ARRL member -- was a rocket and satellite pioneer who was influential in creating the first meteorological, communications and Earth viewing satellite systems. He joined NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in 1959 and later served as its Director from 1987-1990.

In 1949, Townsend joined the US Naval Research Laboratory as a research physicist, instrumenting V-2 rockets (captured from Germany at the end of World War II), Viking and Aerobee sounding rockets for upper air research. When NASA was created in 1958, he transferred with his Branch and the Vanguard Project into the new agency, becoming Chief of its Space Sciences Division. He helped form NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, and became the Assistant Director for Space Science and Satellite Applications. Townsend was named Deputy Director of Goddard Space Flight Center in 1965 and continued to serve in that capacity until 1968. Read more here.

QRP Group Offers Free Kit Building Services to Hams with Physical Limitations

Members of the Four States QRP Group (4SQRPG) -- a group of kit aficionados centered in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas -- are offering kit building services at no charge to hams who, due to physical limitations, need assistance with building. Hams who wish to have kits built for them need to visit the 4SQRP website and purchase one or more of the six kits offered. "This is a free service," 4SQRP Member Terry Fletcher, W0ITP, told the ARRL. "The builders donate their time, skill and knowledge. Their only motivation is to help needful hams."

This Week on the Radio

This week:

  • December 9 -- NCCC Sprint Ladder
  • December 10-11 -- ARRL 10 Meter Contest; CWops Mini-CWT Test; International Naval Contest
  • December 11 -- SKCC Weekend Sprint; CQC Great Colorado Snowshoe Run
  • December 11-18 -- NA High Speed Meteor Scatter Winter Rally
  • December 14 -- NAQCC Straight Key/Bug Sprint; NAQCC-EU Monthly Sprint
  • December 14-15 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

Next week:

  • December 16 -- NCCC Sprint Ladder; Russian 160 Meter Contest; AGB-Party Contest
  • December 17 -- OK DX RTTY Contest; RAC Winter Contest; Feld Hell Sprint
  • December 17, 2011-January 1, 2012 -- Lighthouse Christmas Lights QSO Party
  • December 17-18 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge; Croatian CW Contest
  • December 18 -- ARRL Rookie Roundup (CW); QRP ARCI Holiday Spirits Homebrew Sprint
  • December 19 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest

All dates, unless otherwise stated, are UTC. See the ARRL Contest Branch page, the ARRL Contest Update and the WA7BNM Contest Calendar for more information. Looking for a Special Event station? Be sure to check out the ARRL Special Event Stations Web page.

Upcoming ARRL Section, State and Division Conventions and Events

To find a convention or hamfest near you, click here.

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The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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