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The ARRL Letter
April 23, 2020
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COVID-19 Impact & News

Find the latest news and information on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to ARRL members and our global amateur radio community.


ARRL, AMSAT Seek "Relatively Minor Changes" In FCC Orbital Debris Mitigation Proposals

On April 8, ARRL Washington Counsel Dave Siddall, K3ZJ, and AMSAT-NA Executive Vice President Paul Stoetzer, N8HM, discussed with senior FCC International Bureau staff by telephone the FCC's draft Report & Order (R&O) on mitigation of orbital debris (IB Docket No. 18-313). The amateur representatives told the FCC staff that "two aspects of the draft regulations are of particular concern... and would seriously hinder amateur radio's future operations in space, if adopted as proposed without the relatively minor changes that we propose."

First, ARRL and AMSAT requested a revision to proposed language that otherwise would allow only private individual licensees to indemnify the US for the operations of an amateur space satellite. ARRL and AMSAT requested that satellite owners be added to that provision. The amateur representatives, noting that amateur radio licensees may only be individuals under the amateur rules, stated that "[i]n no other service would an individual be required to personally make a similar indemnification" and that "it would be difficult to impossible to find an individual amateur radio licensee willing to bear that risk."

Second, ARRL and AMSAT asked the FCC to delay by 3 years the proposed effective date of April 23, 2022, for a rule that would require satellite operators to certify that space stations "be designed with the maneuvering capabilities sufficient to perform collision avoidance" for spacecraft designed to operate above 400 kilometers in altitude. Citing the long lead times to design and construct amateur satellites, ARRL and AMSAT suggested that a more reasonable date would be April 23, 2025 and noted that, based on recent past years, only an estimated threeamateur satellites likely would be launched during the extra period.

"We do not disagree with the purpose of this requirement," they told the FCC staff, but "the proposed effective date is unreasonable in the case of amateur radio satellites." The new effective date "would allow time for amateur spacecraft designers to adapt to this new requirement," they said.

Citing the value of amateur satellites to the development of the commercial small satellite industry, and student participation in such projects, ARRL and AMSAT said a strong and robust Amateur Satellite Service will help inspire future developments in satellite technology. The requested changes to the draft R&O would help ensure that amateur radio continues to have a future in space and contribute to the public interest on an educational, non-pecuniary basis.

The FCC was expected to consider the R&O at its April 23 open meeting.

House Leaders Request that FCC Delay Action

Members of the US House Science, Space, and Technology Committee asked the FCC to delay action on the "Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age" rulemaking proceeding. Science Committee members raised several concerns, including the timing of the action during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, the immense effort undertaken to recover from the pandemic, and the potential for the FCC's proposal to exacerbate impacts on US industry and international competitiveness at a critical period in our nation's history, we hope that you will agree to postpone future action," the letter reads.

The lawmakers' letter also raises concerns with the rule itself, with the rulemaking process, and with the potential for regulatory and legislative inconsistency, noting significant stakeholder concerns.

"The proposal contradicts Executive Branch policy and is inconsistent with existing and proposed legislative action," the letter states. "Regulatory action by the FCC at this time, without clear authority from Congress, will at the very least create confusion and undermine the Commission's work, and at worst, undermine US economic competitiveness and leadership in space."

The letter also suggested that FCC action could duplicate efforts now under way by the Department of Commerce.

ARRL Suggests Taking a Creative Approach to Field Day 2020

This year, ARRL Field Day promises to be a unique iteration of this annual event, with many individuals and groups coming up with new and interesting ways to adjust their approach. As an event, Field Day is structured to be versatile and can be adapted for any situation.

Many groups have asked how they can adjust their Field Day planning to address social-distancing guidelines that may be in effect in many areas of the country, as gathering at their traditional Field Day site may not be feasible or safe. Instead of participating in a group event this year, consider operating as a Class B, C, D, or E station, utilizing your own call sign.

ARRL will include club names for all participating stations in the published results, so the efforts of your club's members can be acknowledged. While we will not publish an aggregate club score, seeing the name of your club associated with various individual member's results is certainly a way to highlight your club's activity.

Myriad opportunities are possible in this year's Field Day setting. A few options are as follows:

  • Consider having an intra-club competition among members, seeing who can make the most contacts during the event. You can award prizes or distribute certificates at a club meeting. This can be a fun way to bolster the activities of individual club members, even though they cannot all gather together at the same location this year.

  • Set up a Field Day Challenge with rival clubs in neighboring communities. See how many members of each club get on the air from their own stations and participate in the event. In addition to "bragging rights," perhaps certificates to the top-scoring individual entries in each category can be presented as part of this inter-club camaraderie.

One club is planning to conduct its Field Day as a 4A club group, with participants spaced to comply with social distancing guidelines within the required 1,000-foot-diameter circle and operating individual stations. This club also plans to set up a "Get on the Air" (GOTA) station. The club's plan is to have the GOTA coach at the Field Day site, while GOTA operators participate via remote link.


ARRL invites your stories about the interesting and creative ways you're planning to use to adapt your Field Day operation. Share these on the ARRL Field Day Facebook page.


Another club is planning to set up a remote-controlled station at its usual Field Day site, with club members taking turns controlling the station from their homes. The club is developing a schedule that outlines when each member of the club will be at the helm via the remote link.

Whatever approach you take to this year's Field Day, keep up to date with the current guidelines issued by local and state health agencies that may impact your proposed operation.

For the latest news and updates, visit the Field Day webpage. -- Thanks to ARRL Contest Program Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE

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Ballot Counting Postponed in Four Section Manager Elections

During these unprecedented times of social distancing and staying at home, the ARRL Ethics and Elections Committee (E&E) has postponed ballot counting for four contested Section Manager elections.

Since March 23, ARRL Headquarters staff has been working remotely under the Governor of Connecticut's mandate, which is currently in effect through May 20 and may be extended into June. The ballots for the Section Manager races in Illinois, Indiana, Oregon, and Maine were scheduled to be counted on Tuesday, May 19 as directed by the ARRL rules and regulations for Section Manager elections. Due to the circumstances, ARRL Interim CEO Barry Shelley, N1VXY, asked the E&E Committee for an extension that would allow ballot counting to happen as soon as practicable before mid-June.

Although this extension was granted, it does not change the Friday, May 15, 2020 deadline for ballots to be received at ARRL HQ. Standard operating practice dictates that any ballots received after this deadline will not be counted. The Governor's mandate and social distancing practices do not affect this section of the election rules.

Terms for election winners are scheduled to begin on July 1, 2020. ARRL hopes to see the Governor's restrictions relaxed in time to have a team of tellers inside HQ to count the ballots and publish the elections' results in enough time that the terms of office will not change. The E&E Committee will have to decide the course of action, should any unforeseen circumstances not allow the ballots to be counted by mid-June.

The safety of our staff and members remains the highest priority as we work through these difficult times. Thank you for your understanding.


ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 4) focuses how to create a family emergency communications plan and includes an interview with Dino Papas, KL0S, about attaching coaxial connectors with crimping tools.

The latest episode of the Eclectic Tech podcast (Episode 6) includes an interview with ARRL Assistant Laboratory Manager Bob Allison, WB1GCM, about key clicks and a discussion with NCJ editor Scott Wright, K0MD, about artificial intelligence software and amateur radio.

The On the Air and Eclectic Tech podcasts are sponsored by Icom.

Both podcasts are available on iTunes (iOS) and Stitcher (Android) as well as on Blubrry -- On the Air | Eclectic Tech.

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Nomination Deadline Extended for Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the ARRL Public Relations Committee has extended the nomination deadline for the Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award until Monday, June 15, 2020.

The Philip J. McGan Memorial Silver Antenna Award is presented annually to a radio amateur who has demonstrated success in his or her public relations efforts on behalf of amateur radio and who best exemplifies the volunteer spirit of the award's namesake, journalist Philip McGan, WA2MBQ (SK). McGan was the first chairman of the ARRL Public Relations Committee, which helped reinvigorate ARRL's commitment to public relations. To honor McGan, members of the New Hampshire Amateur Radio Association joined with the ARRL Board of Directors to establish an award that would pay lasting tribute to the important contributions he made on behalf of amateur radio.

Public relations activities for which the McGan Award is presented include efforts specifically directed at depicting amateur radio in a positive light in the media and for the general public. This may include traditional methods, such as issuing news releases or arranging interviews, or by less-traditional methods, such as hosting a radio show or serving as an active public speaker.

The ARRL Board of Directors will choose the award winner at its July 2020 meeting, based on recommendations from the ARRL Public Relations Committee. The Committee has responsibility for reviewing the nominations and supporting material.

Eligible nominees must be full ARRL members in good standing at the time of nomination. The award is given only to an individual, and nominees may not be current ARRL officers, directors, vice directors, paid staffers, or members of the ARRL Public Relations Committee. Nominees must not be compensated for any public relations work involving amateur radio -- including payment for articles.

A nominee's efforts must fit the definition of public relations and recognize the promotion of amateur radio to the non-amateur radio community.

Nominations must be received at ARRL Headquarters by the close of business on Monday, June 15, 2020. Nominations must be on an official entry form. Anyone may make a nomination.

For more information, contact ARRL Public Relations Committee Chair Sid Caesar, NH7C, or send an email to the ARRL Headquarters Public Relations mailbox.

2020 Youth on the Air in the Americas Camp is Canceled

The inaugural camp for radio amateurs in the Americas aged 15 through 25 has been put off until next year. It was set to take place June 21 - 26 at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting in West Chester Township (North Cincinnati, Ohio). It has been rescheduled for July 2021. Campers accepted to the 2020 camp will have the first chance to register for next year's camp. The daily schedule and plan for the 2020 camp will be the same for the 2021 camp as much as possible. The committee found that July was a more accessible date for the widest range of campers to attend.

The committee is also looking at ideas for a shortened, virtual camp this summer, so that campers can participate in limited activities from home. The camp was meant to focus on building peer and mentor relationships and taking amateur radio to the next level.

While many sponsors and donors have already expressed support for holding over funds received for 2020 to use in 2021, refunds of donations made to the camp are being offered. Groups or individuals wishing to receive a refund should contact director Neil Rapp, WB9VPG. Less than $350 of the money spent thus far went to items that may not be usable in 2021, Rapp said.

More information about YOTA in the Americas can be found at YouthOnTheAir and on YOTAregion2 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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FCC Seeking World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee Members

The FCC has announced that it's looking for individuals or entities to serve on its World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee. The committee will provide advice, technical support, and recommended proposals in the run-up to World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23). In particular, the committee will focus on international frequency spectrum issues identified on the WRC-23 agenda. The committee will be charged with gathering data and information necessary to formulate meaningful recommendations for these objectives.

The FCC seeks applications from interested individuals, organizations, institutions, or other entities in both the public and private sectors. Selection will be based on factors such as expertise and diversity of viewpoints necessary to effectively address the questions before the committee.

Applicants should describe both their specific interests and their expertise or experience as it relates to the questions before the committee, including such matters as wireless communications infrastructure and equipment, telecommunications, fixed, mobile, broadcasting, satellite, and other radiocommunication services, consumer advocacy, and underserved populations. It's anticipated that the committee will meet in Washington, DC, up to three times per year in preparation for WRC-23.

Submit nominations, including contact information and the statement of qualifications, by email no later than May 29, 2020.

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: The last day with a visible sunspot was April 4.

Over the April 16 - 22 reporting week, the average daily solar flux was 69, down 0.5 point from the previous week's average of 69.5.

Average daily planetary A index was 7.3, while the mid-latitude A index was 7, up from 6.1 and 5, respectively, mainly due to the first geomagnetic storm of 2020, which pushed the planetary A index to 18 on April 19.

Recent solar flux numbers have been soft, with averages over recent weeks of 71.1, 69.4, 70.2, 69.5, and now 69. Lower solar flux probably means less radiation that might excite the ionosphere. Predicted solar flux is 71 on April 23 - 30 and 69 on May 1 - June 6.

The predicted planetary A index is forecast at 10 on April 23; 5 on April 24 - 29; 8 on April 30; 5 on May 1 - 4; 12 on May 5; 5 on May 6 - 16; 12, 10, 8, and 10 on May 17 - 20; 5 on May 21 - 23; 10, 5, 5, and 8 on May 24 - 27; 5 on May 28 - 31; 12 on June 1, and 5 on June 2 - 6.

Sunspot numbers for April 16 - 22 were 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, and 0, with a mean of 0. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 68.5, 67.9, 69.8, 68.6, 68.2, 69.1, and 70.7, with a mean of 69. Estimated planetary A indices were 5, 4, 4, 3, 18, 9, and 8, with a mean of 6.1. The middle latitude A index was 5, 4, 4, 2, 16, 8, and 10, with a mean of 5.

A comprehensive K7RA Solar Update is posted Fridays on the ARRL website. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service, read "What the Numbers Mean...," and check out K9LA's Propagation Page.

A propagation bulletin archive is available. Monthly charts offer propagation projections between the US and a dozen DX locations.

Share your reports and observations.

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Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • April 25 - 26 -- 10-10 International Spring Contest, Digital

  • April 25 - 26 -- SP DX RTTY Contest

  • April 25 - 26 -- Helvetia Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • April 25 - 26 -- Florida QSO Party (CW, phone)

  • April 26 -- BARTG Sprint 75 (Digital)

  • April 27 - 28 -- QCX Challenge (CW)

  • April 29 -- UKEICC 80-Meter Contest (CW)

See the ARRL Contest Calendar for more information. For in-depth reporting on amateur radio contesting, subscribe to The ARRL Contest Update via your ARRL member profile email preferences.

NOAA Updates Solar Cycle 25 Prediction

Frank Donovan, W3LPL, notes that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has published its official updated prediction of Solar Cycle 25 in new, interactive Solar Cycle Progression graphs. The updated prediction is based on the results of NOAA's Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel.

"SWPC forecasts a solar maximum between 105 and 125, with the peak occurring between November 2024 and March 2026," Donovan said. "There is broad consensus that solar minimum is ongoing this year -- or may have already occurred -- and that Cycle 25 will have no major change in the level of solar activity compared to Cycle 24."

As Donovan explained, for many years the SWPC's solar cycle predictions have used the Royal Observatory of Belgium's International Sunspot Number. SWPC's official solar cycle prediction now uses the SWPC sunspot number. The International Sunspot Number is typically about one-third lower than the SWPC sunspot number.

"While this is SWPC's official Cycle 25 prediction, it's important to note there is still divergence among various forecasting methods and members of the space weather forecasting community," Donovan said. "Most forecasts and forecasters agree that the Cycle 25 peak is likely to be within ±20% of Cycle 24 and is likely to occur between 2024 and 2027."

More information is on the Springer Nature website. -- Thanks to The Daily DX

Japan's Radio Amateurs Gain Expanded Access to 160 and 80 Meters

Effective on April 21, Japanese radio amateurs have new privileges on 160 and 80 meters. The new allocations are 1800 - 1810, 1825 - 1875, 3575 - 3580, and 3662 - 3680 kHz.

ARRL Life Member Kenji Rikitake, JJ1BDX/N6BDX, said the new regime allows Japanese radio amateurs to operate FT8 on 80 meters (3574 ~ 3577 kHz), and on 160 meters (1840 ~ 1843 kHz) as well as WSPR (1836.6 kHz).

On 160 meters, the allocations are:

  • 1800 - 1810: All modes (new assignment)

  • 1810 - 1825: CW only

  • 1825 - 1875 kHz: All modes (as secondary service, new assignment)

  • 1907.5 - 1912.5: CW and data (A1A, F1B, F1D, G1B, and G1D)

On 80 meters, the allocations are:

  • 3500 - 3520: CW (A1A) only

  • 3520 - 3535: CW and data (A1A, F1B, F1D, G1B, and G1D)

  • 3535 - 3575: CW, phone, and image, and data only permitted for making contacts with non-JA amateurs

  • 3575 - 3580: All modes (as secondary service, new assignment)

  • 3599 - 3612: CW, phone, image, and data

  • 3662 - 3680: All modes (as secondary service, new assignment)

  • 3680 - 3687: CW, phone, and image

  • 3702 - 3716, 3745 - 3770, and 3791 - 3805: CW, phone, and image (no data).

Additional details are on the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) website.-- Thanks to Kenji Rikitake, JJ1BDX/N6BDX

In Brief...

The ARRL 2020 Teachers Institute sessions have been canceled. The landscape of education in the US has been greatly affected by the current pandemic. As K - 12 school systems and universities have been forced to move entirely to remote learning, teachers and students have had to make dramatic adjustments to their teaching and learning methods. After considering these educational challenges, along with travel restrictions and restraints on the ability to gather in groups, ARRL leadership feels it is appropriate and necessary to cancel the 2020 Teachers Institute. We look forward to bringing back this important program in 2021, so that we can continue promoting amateur radio in the classroom through our Education and Technology Program (ETP). ARRL will communicate directly with those who have already applied, and they will receive a full refund. Please direct questions to EAD@arrl.org.

The Medical Net, a special COVID-19 net, is running Wednesdays, 0130 UTC, on 7.222 MHz. The net deals with correct data on COVID-19 epidemiology care, care issues, and more. Net control will be Dr. Harry Przekop, WB9EDP, a past president of the Medical Amateur Radio Council Organization (MARCO) and now a director at large. Przekop is a specialist in infectious diseases and biomedical physics and is board-certified as an expert in HIV care. Participants do not need to be physicians or medical providers to check in, ask questions, and otherwise take part, but no diagnoses can be rendered. The regular MARCO Grand Rounds Net is held on Sundays, 1500 UTC, on 14.342 MHz.

Contest University (CTU) 2020 will be online and free. Tim Duffy, K3LR, has announced that CTU USA 2020 will be held online via Zoom on Thursday, May 14, starting at 1245 UTC. CTU 2020 is free. The CTU course outline has been posted online. Connection details to the CTU Zoom bridge will be posted on the Contest University site 1 week prior to CTU. Sessions will be recorded for viewing any time after May 14. Slide decks will be posted on the CTU website as well. At the end of CTU 2020, Dave Siddall, K3ZJ, will present the 2020 CQ Contest Hall of Fame awards.

A Welsh radio amateur copied the Titanic distress call, but authorities did not believe him. April 15 marked the 108th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. As the passenger vessel was going down, frantic shipboard radio operators transmitted repeated distress calls. Arthur "Artie" Moore, MNX, near Pontllanfraith, Wales, heard one of the calls for help: "CQD CQD SOS de MGY Position 41.44N 50.24W. Require immediate assistance. Come at once. We have struck an iceberg. Sinking." At that time, operators used "CQD" (come quickly, distress) and "SOS" interchangeably. MGY was the RMS Titanic's call sign. The then 26-year-old Moore picked up the distress calls from the stricken ship thousands of miles away, and, as recounted in The South Wales Argus newspaper, he raced to inform police about what he'd heard, but the authorities would not believe him. It wasn't until a day or two later that the grim news reached the shores of Great Britain. More than 1,500 people died in the tragedy, including some prominent individuals, on the voyage from England to the US on the Titanic's maiden voyage.


Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

Note: Many conventions and hamfests have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Check the calendar of canceled events on the ARRL website.


Find conventions and hamfests in your area.


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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.

Much of the ARRL Letter content is also available in audio form in ARRL Audio News.

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