German Ham Claims First DXCC on 432 MHz
The world of Amateur Radio DXing has passed a new milestone: On Friday, June 6, Jan Bruinier, DL9KR, of Niedernhausen, Germany, worked his 100th country on 432 MHz (70 cm) via moonbounce (EME) and CW.
Zdenek Samek, OK1DFC, and Zdenek Hofbauer, OK3RM, were getting ready to go on an EME DXpedition to Macedonia. Once they arrived, Samek asked Bruinier to help test out the equipment; Bruinier gave him a beacon, aiming a signal off the moon. According to VHF guru and conductor of QST's "World Above 50 MHz" column Gene Zimmerman, W3ZZ, this is done by transmitting a series of CW dashes and then stopping to listen for the signal to return a little more than two seconds later. The moon averages 384,000 km from the Earth; radio waves travel at ~300,000 km/sec.
After one of these transmissions, Bruinier was excited to hear Samek appear on frequency with a 549 signal. Thus, after an exchange of calls and reports, Bruinier's 100th country on 432 MHz was in the log. Once his QSL cards are confirmed in the near future, he will become DXCC #1 on 70 cm.
Bruinier's 70 cm EME operations began in 1977. He had followed the exploits of the early EME pioneers in QST, operators like KH6UK, W4HHK, W3GKP and W1FZJ who was conductor of the "World Above 50 Mc" during much of the 1960s. Jan and his family moved to a semirural location in Germany in 1976 where he could put up decent VHF antennas. Working initially on his own, he built an array of 16 ten-element quagis (antennas with single quad loop driven elements and reflectors and 8 Yagi directors) following the design described in QST by Wayne Overbeck, K6YNB (now N6NB). After a few false starts with other tubes, he obtained an Eimac 8938 and built a near-legal limit amplifier. The station exciter was a set of Drake twins as an IF strip using homebrew transverters with an increasingly sensitive group of GaAsFET preamplifiers, always working at the state-of-the-art.
As time progressed, Bruinier built a bigger amplifier capable of running 1500 W continuously to deal with the high duty cycle found in EME operation -- long, slow CW with two minute transmissions at a time -- and receiver systems that yielded noise temperatures of 60 kelvins that could detect 7 dB of noise when he pointed his array into the ground. He eventually transitioned from the quagis to an array of DL6WU design Yagis fed with 1-5/8 inch Heliax, currently having a gain of 28.4 dBd. For comparison, this is slightly more gain than the 28 foot Kennedy parabolic dish has at 432 MHz.
According to Zimmerman, the range of contacts covered by the 70 cm band is less than 1000 km; even under the most enhanced conditions, it is less than double that. "To work the 100 entities needed for DXCC, EME communications are essential. EME is the most demanding form of operation there is in Amateur Radio," he said. "Every single aspect of the station must be optimized: The equipment, the antennas, the feed lines and most particularly, the talent of the operator. Even 1 dB may make the difference between a contact and no contact. Bruinier's achievement was accomplished the old fashioned way -- by dint of hard work, excellent equipment, big antennas and many, many hours on the air looking for new countries and not missing many, if any, DXpeditions to the many countries where there is no 432 MHz EME activity."
Bruinier told Zimmerman that many people going to many countries on all continents made this award possible: The Five Bells Group, the Yota Sawe Group, Michale Kohla, DL1YMK, and Monica; Bernd Mischlewski, DF2ZC; Mark De Munck, ON5FF (now EA8FF); Bernhard Dobler, DJ5MN; Mart Sakalov, SM0ERR; Dimitris Vittorakis, SV1BTR; Gudmund Wannberg, SM2BYA; Frank Hobelmann, DL8YHR; Joachim Werner, DL9MS, and Allen Katz, K2UYH, among others, as well as groups from Russia, Spain, France and Denmark.
If you would like to read more details about Bruinier's career as an EMEer, please look for his story in his own words in the "World Above 50 MHz" column in the September 2008 issue of QST.