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ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter
December 17, 2020
John E. Ross, KD8IDJ, Editor
ARRL Home PageARRL Letter ArchiveAudio News


  • Due to severe winter weather, ARRL Headquarters is closed on Thursday, December 17 for the safety of our staff. Headquarters management expects that things will be back to normal on Friday, December 18.

  • Because of the holidays, this will be the final edition of The ARRL Letter for 2020. The ARRL Letter will return on January 7. ARRL Audio News will be available on December 18, and then go on hiatus until January 8.

  • Logbook of The World (LoTW), ARRL's online QSO confirmation system, will undergo scheduled maintenance beginning Monday, December 21, at 2300 UTC (6 PM EST) for approximately 6 hours. LoTW will be offline and unavailable while the system's server is upgraded to new hardware. Thank you for your understanding.

SKYWARN Recognition Day 2020 Deemed A Success

Judging by the list of more than 700 registered participants, SKYWARN® Recognition Day (SRD) on December 5 was a success. Cosponsored by ARRL and the National Weather Service (NWS), SRD recognizes radio amateurs for the vital public service they provide during severe weather. Participants ranged from NWS offices, radio amateurs, non-amateur radio spotters, and non-SKYWARN spotters. Radio amateurs -- the first SKYWARN volunteers -- comprise a large percentage of SKYWARN volunteers across the country, providing vital communication between the NWS and emergency management in the event that telecommunication systems are knocked out.

The NWS Milwaukee Forecast Office reported more than 150 contacts logged across 35 states. The NWS office in Springfield, Missouri, tweeted, "What would SKYWARN Recognition Day be without a special thanks to the net control operators?" The NWS office in Chicago tweeted, "SKYWARN Recognition Day has come to an end; thanking everyone for attending and to all of our spotters across the nation."

SKYWARN Recognition Day planner and organizer Michael Lewis, KG4KJQ, who is the Warning Coordination Meteorologist in the northern Indiana NWS Forecast Office, expressed appreciation to the SRD Planning Team and the Facebook livestream presenters for helping to make the event a success. The NWS Forecast Office in northern Indiana registered 34 radio amateurs. The office serves 37 counties in northern Indiana, southwest lower Michigan, and northwest Ohio.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, SRD was handled a little differently than in the past. Normally, radio amateurs participate from their home stations and from stations at NWS forecast offices, with the goal of contacting as many NWS forecast offices as possible. This year, participation from NWS forecast offices was minimal, and the focus shifted to contacting as many SKYWARN trained spotters as possible. New this year, SRD was opened to all SKYWARN spotters, and a SKYWARN Recognition Day Facebook page was created, hosting a variety of live and recorded segments throughout the day. -- Thanks to the ARRL ARES Letter

SSTV Event to Help ARISS Mark 20 Years of Continuous Ham Radio Operation in Space

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) will continue its year-long 20th anniversary celebration of continuous ham radio operation from the ISS this month, with a slow-scan television (SSTV) event over the holidays. The first ARISS school contact took place in December 2000, not long after the first ISS crew arrived on station a month earlier and had made test contacts. The commemorative late-December SSTV event will be held December 24 through December 31, although dates are subject to change. The frequency will be 145.800 MHz, using SSTV PD-120 mode. Over its 20 years, ARISS has supported nearly 1,400 scheduled ham radio contacts with schools, student groups, and other education organizations.

"ARISS would not be the complex and growing program of education, operations, and hardware were it not for ARRL, AMSAT, NASA, and the ISS National Lab (INL)," said Rosalie White, K1STO, ARISS-US Delegate representing ARRL. "For these past 20 years and for the years to come, when we grow into lunar ham radio opportunities and more, the ARISS team will continue to be grateful to ARRL and all our sponsors. We could not do it without you!"

The ARISS ham radio gear, for what would become NA1SS on board the station, arrived ahead of the Expedition 1 crew, headed by Bill Shepherd, KD5GSL. Shepherd made the first ARISS school contact with students at Luther Burbank Elementary School in Illinois on December 21, 2000. NASA has marked the ARISS milestone with an infographic highlighting the educational contacts via amateur radio between astronaut crew members aboard the ISS and students.

ARISS will continue to sponsor various commemorative events through November 2021, including more of the very popular ARISS SSTV sessions. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of ham radio on the space station, ARISS took part in the ISS Research and Development Conference (ISSRDC) panel session, "20 Years of STEM Experiments on the ISS." A video developed for the session describes the program, conveys some key lessons learned over the past 20 years, and describes the ARISS team's vision for the future.

"Twenty years of continuous operations is a phenomenal accomplishment," said ARISS-International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, who's been with the program from the start. "But what makes it even more extraordinary is that ARISS has achieved this through hundreds of volunteers who are passionate in paying it forward to our youth and ham radio community. On behalf of the ARISS International team, I would like to express our heartfelt thanks to every volunteer who has made ARISS such an amazing success over the past 20 years. Your passion, drive, creativity, and spirit made it happen."

In September, ARISS announced that the initial element of its next-generation Interoperable Radio System (IORS) had been installed in the ISS Columbus module, replacing outmoded and problematic station gear.

A helpful addition to the ARISS website is a "Current Status of ISS Stations," which reports the present or coming operating mode of ARISS radios in the Columbus and Service modules. Click on "General Contacts" and then "Current Status of ISS Stations" on the drop-down menu of the ARISS website to access the reports.

ARRL Podcasts Schedule

The latest episode of the On the Air podcast (Episode 12) features a discussion about storm spotting and SKYWARN, with Mike Corey, KI1U.

The latest episode of Eclectic Tech (Episode 23) includes a story about 6th-generation wireless networking, and a discussion with W1AW Station

Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, about the technology in use at W1AW.

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.

Oregon ARRL VEC Testing Group Offers Testing from the Comfort of Your Car

Volunteer Examiners in Grant County, Oregon, affiliated with the ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC), put their heads together to overcome adversity and hold a safe and secure drive-in exam session that took pandemic precautions into account. Current health regulations in Oregon precluded both indoor and outdoor gatherings, so the Grant County Amateur Radio Club, the local ARES Group, and the Grant County Emergency Radio Infrastructure Coalition (ERIC) combined forces to offer five candidates the chance to obtain their first license or to upgrade their existing license, all from the comfort of their vehicles.

"Many amateur radio clubs have experimented with exams via the internet," said Steve Fletcher, K7AA, who is the ARES Emergency Coordinator for Grant County. "In eastern Oregon, with the cooperation of the County Roads Department, we chose to hold a 'drive-up' exam session on Saturday, December 12. Under the circumstances, we used four ARRL VEs for the exam instead of the required three." Wheeler County ARES loaned Stuart Bottom, K7FG, to help as the third required Amateur Extra-class Volunteer Examiner.

Fletcher reports three new Technician-class licensees and two new General-class radio amateurs resulted from the session.

Required ARRL VEC forms contained pre-printed data -- including the FCC Registration Number (FRN) -- were given to the candidates on a clipboard. Each candidate took the exam in the front seat of their own vehicle. Cell phones, papers, and anything not required for the exam were removed.

"Everyone dressed warmly, and most candidates had their heaters running," Fletcher reported. A camper owned by Ronda Metler, KB5LAX, and a communications van owned by Fletcher served as sites to check results and sign forms.

The Grant County Roads Department loaned its parking area for the exam session. Thanks to Steve Fletcher, K7AA; photos courtesy of Thomas Dekany

  • The summer/autumn edition (No. 25) of The 5 MHz Newsletter is now available for download in PDF. A newsletter archive is maintained. -- Thanks to editor Paul Gaskell, G4MWO

  • CWops is accepting award nominations for the 2021 CWops Award for Advancing the Art of CW. The award recognizes individuals, groups, or organizations that have made the greatest contribution toward advancing the art or practice of radio communications by Morse code. More details are on the ARRL website.

  • As he has done each December for the past few years, Brian Justin, WA1ZMS, of Forest, Virginia, will transmit a program on 486 kHz, under authority of his FCC Part 5 Experimental License WI2XLQ, to commemorate wireless pioneer Reginald Fessenden's accomplishments. Justin will transmit for at least 24 hours starting at around 1800 UTC on December 24. Fessenden claimed to have made his first voice -- and music -- broadcast on Christmas Eve in 1906 from Brant Rock, Massachusetts, although his account is disputed.

  • The WINTERHEAT VHF/UHF simplex event will take place during January. The event is open to participants in Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. -- Thanks to Jesse Hunter, W9ABS

  • HamAlert will notify you when a desired station appears on the DX cluster, the Reverse Beacon Network, or PSK Reporter. Alerts are available via email, push notification, text message, or URL GET/POST. Registration is free.

The ARRL RTTY Roundup is January 2 - 3

The 2021 ARRL RTTY Roundup on January 2 - 3 features two new multioperator categories: multi-two (M2) and multi-multi (MM). Because M2 and MM are new categories, there are no existing records, so the high scores for these categories will, by default, become the new records. High scores are kept by US call area, ARRL Division, ARRL Section, Canadian Province, and DX entity. Visit the ARRL Contest web page to see the current ARRL RTTY Roundup all-time records.

If you're new to RTTY or digital modes, in the RTTY Roundup, operators worldwide contact and exchange QSO information with other amateurs using Baudot RTTY, PSK, FT8/FT4, ASCII, AMTOR, and Packet. Automated operation is not permitted; each claimed contact must include contemporaneous direct initiation by the operator on both sides of the contact.

If you have to look outside your immediate household for M2 or MM operators and you're already set up for RTTY or FT8/FT4, consider staying safe and letting other team members access your station remotely via AnyDesk or another sharing technology. The key to making this easy and frustration-free for all involved is that all aspects of your station's operation be controllable from your logging computer's desktop, and that the RTTY audio be audible to the remote operator (if using RTTY) via the sharing software.

It is possible to do RTTY without listening to the receiver and just by watching the decode and X - Y or waterfall, but it's not recommended. Many, if not most, RTTY operators prefer low-level audio to signal when other stations are transmitting. For those using FTx modes, all you really need is the screen display.

Contacts must be made on 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters. Any station may work any other station. Stations may be worked once per band, regardless of mode. The ARRL RTTY Roundup begins at 1800 UTC on January 2 and wraps at 2359 UTC on January -- Thanks to Brian Moran, N9ADG, and Paul Bourque, N1SFE

SAQ Alexanderson Alternator Christmas Eve Transmission Cancelled

There will be no Christmas Eve transmission from SAQ, the Alexanderson Alternator transmitting station in Sweden. The Grimeton World Heritage Foundation and Alexander GVV Friends Association cited "prevailing circumstances in our society" for the event cancellation.

"We find it sad to have to make this decision, but see it as a necessary measure to protect everyone involved," the announcement continued. Past SAQ transmission events are chronicled on YouTube. "We truly regret this and hope for your understanding of the situation and continued support for the business. We hope that 'our old lady' can soon be heard on the air again," the announcement concluded.

The vintage Alexanderson Alternator provided an electromechanical means of transmitting message traffic. It dates back to the early 1920s.

ARRL Learning Network Webinars

Visit the ARRL Learning Network (a members-only benefit) to register, check on upcoming webinars, and to view previously recorded sessions. The schedule is subject to change.

Learn and Have Fun with Morse Code: Howard Bernstein, WB2UZE, and Jim Crites, W6JIM

Morse code, or "CW," is a popular ham radio operating mode. Learning CW does not have to be an arduous or lonely experience. Learn, practice, and enjoy CW with the methods used by the Long Island CW Club.

Thursday, December 17, 2020, 5 PM PST / 8 PM EST (0100 UTC on Friday, December 18)

QSLing in an Online World: Anthony Luscre, K8ZT

Learn all about the changing methods of QSLing in amateur radio, including traditional paper QSL cards, and electronic QSLing methods, such as Logbook of The World and eQSL.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021, 10 AM PST / 1 PM EST (1800 UTC)

Amateur Radio Logging: Anthony Luscre, K8ZT

Discover the advantages of keeping an electronic amateur radio log. Find out why you may need more than one software program for logging-contesting, digital modes, special events, and more. Learn about using one full-featured logging program to pull everything together, interface with outside databases, handle electronic QSLing, and so on. The discussion will include file formats, importing and exporting data between programs, submitting contest logs online, and safe backup of data.

Thursday, January 7, 2021, 12:30 PM PST / 3:30 PM EST (2030 UTC)

VHF/UHF Contesting and SOTA; A Perfect Match: Brian Betz, W7JET

Explore the challenge of VHF UHF contesting and the success of the large-scale participation of SOTA Summit activators in Arizona for the January VHF contest.

Thursday, January 14, 2021, 12:30 PM PST / 3:30 PM EST (2030 UTC)

Emergency Communications: Why Train? North Texas Section Emergency Coordinator Greg Evans, K5GTX

Why should we train? Utilizing amateur radio operators in an emergency communication situation is a key function that can save lives. We must be able to respond to the needs of our served agencies quickly and responsibly. Topics covered include: Incident Command System and its relevance; building on consistent training; interoperability with multiple communication providers; interoperability with VOAD and partners, and Mission One: Get the information delivered.

Thursday, January 21, 2021, 12:30 PM PST / 3:30 PM EST (2030 UTC)

Reverse Beacon Network Leveraging Yasme Foundation Grant for Expansion

The Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) is taking advantage of a grant from the Yasme Foundation, in cooperation with Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC), to add 15 more nodes. RBN is a global system of software-defined radio receivers that monitor amateur radio bands and report CW, RTTY, and FT4/FT8 signals to a central, searchable database. In October, a Yasme-funded node was successfully installed in Tunisia, bolstering RBN representation in northern Africa. Additional nodes are planned for Algeria and Libya. The success of this small program led to the global 15-node project to expand the RBN into such under-represented areas as the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Central Asia, the Middle East, and South America. Selections were guided by the research community at HamSCI, whose website provides a forum for researchers and amateurs to interact and conduct studies and experiments.

"By adding stations in these areas, the network's data quality and coverage are improved to allow better analysis of events and openings beyond what was previously available," Yasme Foundation President Ward Silver, N0AX, said. "This large and growing database of records supports scientific research and allows hams to be more effective on the air and in planning operations and station design."

Silver said researchers are particularly interested in the RBN data because it covers such a wide area with so many stations, a capability unusual in research. Silver also noted that the RBN project has resulted in many volunteers working together around the globe. "The RBN team deserves a lot of credit for creating an important asset that combines amateur radio and science in the best traditions of both," he said. "We look forward to helping keep that spirit alive and well." -- Thanks to Ward Silver, N0AX, and DX Engineering

The K7RA Solar Update

Tad Cook, K7RA, Seattle, reports: Solar activity has declined recently, with average daily sunspot numbers slipping in recent weeks from 57.6 to 28.9 and then 17.4 over this past week. Solar flux averages also slipped from 108.1 to 91.9 to 82.1 over the past week.

The latest solar flux prediction also appears soft, with predicted values over the next 45 days at 82 on December 17 - 23; 83 on December 24; 86 on December 25 - 28; 85, 84, and 83 on December 29 - 31; 82 on January 1 - January 10; 83, 83, and 84 on January 11 - 13; 85 on January 14 - 20; 86 on January 21 - 24; 85, 84, and 83 on January 25 - 27, and 82 on January 28 - 30.

Predicted planetary A index is 8 on December 17; 5 on December 18 - 20; 12, 8, 8, 5, and 8 on December 21 - 25; 5 on December 26 - January 4; 10 on January 5 - 6; 5 on January 7 - 12; 8 on January 13; 5 on January 14 - 16; 10, 12, and 10 on January 17 - 19; 8 on January 20 - 21, and 5 on January 21 - 30.

The National Science Foundation has published an article, "New sunspot cycle could be one of the strongest on record."

Sunspot numbers for December 10 through 16 were 11, 11, 24, 14, 25, 25, and 12, with a mean of 17.4. The 10.7-centimeter flux was 81.5, 83.3, 81.8, 80.6, 83, 82.9, and 81.9, with a mean of 82.1. Estimated planetary A indices were 8, 7, 4, 5, 3, 3, and 3, with a mean of 4.7. Middle latitude A index was 6, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, and 3, with a mean of 3.3.

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. For customizable propagation charts, visit VOACAP Online for Ham Radio.

Share your reports and observations.

In Brief...

During the 3rd Quarter of 2020, ARRL Volunteer Monitor (VM) Program volunteers spent more than 6,100 hours poring over the amateur bands. The VM Program issued 15 Good Operator Letters. "Volunteers are in the chair monitoring, recognizing exemplary operators and admonishing those who need to pay closer attention to their operating practices," said Riley Hollingsworth, K4ZDH, the VM Program Coordinator. The VM Program referred two cases to the FCC while accepting two cases from the FCC for investigation. Developed in partnership with the FCC, the VM Program routinely maintains contact with the FCC and took part in three meetings during the 3rd Quarter with FCC Enforcement Bureau personnel.

You Shop, Amazon Gives! Thank you for shopping With your help, Amazon has donated more than $45,870 to ARRL since 2014, helping ARRL to extend its reach in public service, advocacy, education, technology, and membership. With just a few shopping days left, as you shop for those final gifts, we invite you to continue to choose ARRL as your charity of choice. Bookmark ARRL's link and support amateur radio and ARRL the remainder of this holiday season and every time you shop.

Contest University to Host Propagation Summit Several radio propagation experts will share their knowledge during a Propagation Summit via Zoom, sponsored by Contest University (CTU). The event is scheduled for January 23, 2021. The presentation schedule includes: "Update on the Personal Space Weather Station Project and HamSCI Activities for 2021" with Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, at 11 AM EST (1600 UTC); "Solar Cycle 25 Predictions and Progress" with Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, at noon (1700 UTC); "Maximizing Performance of HF Antennas with Irregular Terrain" with Jim Breakall, WA3FET, at 1 PM EST (1800 UTC), and "HF Ionospheric Propagation" with Frank Donovan, W3LPL, at 2 PM EST (1900 UTC). Registration is free. An Icom IC-705 will be raffled off as a door prize. The winner must be present on Zoom to win. -- Thanks to CTU Chair Tim Duffy, K3LR

Just Ahead in Radiosport
  • December 18 -- AGB-Party Contest (CW, phone, digital)
  • December 18 -- Russian 160-Meter Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 19 -- Feld Hell Sprint

  • December 19 -- OK DX RTTY Contest

  • December 19 -- RAC Winter Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 19 - 20 -- Croatian CW Contest

  • December 20 -- ARRL Rookie Roundup, CW

  • December 20 - 21 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest (CW)

  • December 23 -- SKCC Sprint CW

  • December 26 -- Gedebage CW Contest

  • December 26 -- DARC Christmas Contest (CW, phone)

  • December 26 - 27 -- Stew Perry Topband Challenge (CW)

  • December 27 -- RAEM Contest (CW)

  • December 31 -- Bogor Old and New Contest (Phone)

  • January 1 -- Straight Key Night

  • January 1 -- AGB New Year Snowball Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 1 -- SARTG New Year RTTY Contest

  • January 1 -- QRP ARCI New Years Sprint (CW)

  • January 2 -- PODXS 070 Club PSKFest

  • January 2 - 3 -- PMC Contest (CW, phone)

  • January 2 - 3 -- Original QRP Contest (CW)

  • January 2 -- ARRL Kids Day (Phone)

  • January 2 - 3 -- ARRL RTTY Roundup

  • January 2 - 3 -- EUCW 160-Meter Contest (CW)

  • January 5 -- ARS Spartan Sprint (CW)

  • January 6 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

  • January 6 -- VHF-UHF FT8 Activity Contest

  • January 6 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

  • January 6 -- UKEICC 80-Meter Contest (Phone)

  • January 6 - 10 -- AWA Linc Cundall Memorial CW Contest

  • January 7 -- CWops Mini-CWT Test

  • January 7 -- NRAU 10-Meter Activity Contest (CW, phone, digital)

  • January 7 -- SKCC Sprint Europe

Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division Conventions

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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