HAMNET Report 18 August 2019

Dave Higgs, ZS2DH, of HAMNET Eastern Cape has told us about the Transbaviaans Mountain Bike event, which is taking place this weekend and at which PEARS and HAMNET EC are assisting. We look forward to a report on this race from you in the future, Dave.

The scientific part of our HAMNET report today says that the Planetary Society reports that its crowdfunded LightSail 2 spacecraft is successfully raising its orbit solely on the power of sunlight. Since unfurling the spacecraft’s solar sail on July 23, mission managers have been optimizing the way the spacecraft orients itself during solar sailing. After a few tweaks, LightSail 2 began raising its orbital apogee, something the mission team said demonstrated the mission’s primary goal of “flight by light for CubeSats.” Continuing to sail on sunlight in Earth orbit, the spacecraft’s orbital apogee hit 729 kilometres as of August 5, an increase of 3.2 kilometres since sail deployment.

LightSail 2 launched on June 25, and it deployed on July 2 from Prox-1, a Georgia Tech student-built spacecraft the size of a small washing machine. Using the Experimental License call sign WM9XPA, LightSail 2 automatically transmits a beacon packet on 437.025 MHz at 9,600 bps FSK every few seconds, which can be decoded into 238 lines of text telemetry describing the spacecraft’s health and status — everything from battery status to solar sail deployment motor state. Every 45 seconds, the spacecraft transmits “LS2” in CW on 437.025 MHz.

Thanks to the ARRL Letter for this interesting insert.

Science News reports that shudders in the cosmos have revealed what’s likely the sad end of a neutron star — getting swallowed by a black hole.

If confirmed, it would be the first solid detection of this source of gravitational waves, revealing a type of cataclysm never before spotted. Researchers from the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories reported the candidate event, which was detected on August 14, in a public database used by astronomers.

Scientists are still analysing the data to verify what created the gravitational waves, which are tiny vibrations in spacetime caused by massive, accelerating objects. But one thing seems fairly certain: “Something has occurred out there in the sky,” says physicist Daniel Holz of the University of Chicago, a member of LIGO. “So far, it doesn’t obviously look like anything we’ve detected with high confidence before.”

LIGO and Virgo previously have picked up gravitational waves from pairs of merging black holes and from colliding neutron stars, which are extremely dense collapsed stars. In April, scientists saw tentative hints of a rendezvous between a black hole and neutron star, but the signal was weak and could have been a false one.

This new discovery offers much more solid evidence: The detection was so clear that it’s considered very unlikely to be a false alarm. The researchers estimate that the run-in between the two objects occurred around 900 million light-years away, and within an area about 23 square degrees across the sky. (For comparison, the moon is about half a degree across.) Astronomers have since been peering at that region with their telescopes, looking for any light that may have been emitted in the merger. Such light could have been released if the neutron star were torn apart by the black hole before being gulped within its depths.

Further study of the encounter could help reveal new secrets about some of the universe’s most mysterious objects. But the potential detection is exciting on its own, Holz says. “The first of anything is always really fascinating.”

Now for the medical news in today’s bulletin, an excerpt in Science News, written by Aimee Cunningham reports that an especially dangerous type of tuberculosis may have met its match.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on August 14 that it has approved the antibiotic Pretomanid to help tackle what’s called extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis. This form of the disease is resistant to at least four of the main TB drugs, and treatment often fails. Only around 34 percent of infected patients typically survive, the World Health Organization says.

The current treatment requires patients to take as many as eight antibiotics orally, and sometimes by injection, for 18 months or more. By contrast, the new antibiotic is paired with two other previously approved drugs, Bedaquiline and Linezolid, in a six-month course of pills. Ninety-five of 107 patients who had the highly resistant disease and took this drug regimen recovered, according to the TB Alliance, the non-profit organization that developed Pretomanid. The drug is only the third since the 1960s to be approved for tuberculosis, which is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis sickened an estimated 10 million people in 2017. Around 558,000 cases were multidrug-resistant, unresponsive to the two most powerful TB drugs. Of those cases, about 8.5 percent, or roughly 47,000, were extensively drug-resistant, according to WHO.

Pretomanid has been tested only in patients with highly resistant TB. More research is needed to determine whether the drug could be useful for the vast majority of patients who have TB that’s more receptive to treatment, says William Bishai, a tuberculosis researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the drug’s development. Perhaps the standard regimen of multiple drugs taken for six months could be shortened by including the new antibiotic, he says. “We’re delighted to have this new drug Pretomanid, but there’s a lot more to do.”

And, in further medical news, Science News says that two Ebola treatments have proven to be effective in preventing death during a clinical trial conducted amid the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo, preliminary data suggest.

The trial began in November, with participants randomly given one of four experimental treatments. Data from 499 patients reviewed on August 9 suggest that those people taking one of two antibody treatments — mAb114 or REGN-EB3 — had a greater chance of survival than those on the antiviral drug Remdesivir or the antibody treatment ZMapp. Researchers reported the trial results in a news release on August 12th, but these findings have yet to be finalized.

“One thing that won’t change is that those two therapies are better than the other two — that’s for sure,” says Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. The trial now enters a phase with only the two most effective treatments in order to gather more data on their safety and the immune response to each drug. Researchers won’t study enough patients, however, to determine which drug works best.

The percentage of patients who died while taking one of the two treatments was in the region of 29 to 34 percent. That’s a big improvement over the current 67 percent mortality rate reported for Congo’s outbreak, which began on August 1, 2018.

The successful conclusion of this ground-breaking research will make a huge difference to the risks of Haemorrhagic Fevers in Central Africa.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 11 August 2019

If you’re ever in a disaster and see a weird-looking aircraft flying overhead, don’t fret — it could be there to help you.

For two years, Chinese aircraft manufacturer OXAI Aircraft Co. has been developing MOZI 2, a fully solar-powered unmanned aircraft it hopes will one day help out in disaster relief situations.

On Saturday, the drone took its maiden flight at an airport in Deqing County — and it appears the test went off without a hitch.

OXAI Aircraft told Xinhua that MOZI 2 has a wingspan of 15 meters and is powered solely by solar cells. It can reach an altitude of 8,000 meters, with a maximum cruise time of 12 hours at night following eight hours of charging in sunlight.

In addition to contributing to disaster relief scenarios, the solar-powered drone could be useful for reconnaissance missions and communication efforts, OXAI Aircraft told Xinhua — and now that it knows the craft can fly, it can start working toward those applications.

Thanks to the website The Byte for this report.

We’ve all tried to kill a cockroach only to watch it scurry away at a super-fast pace.

One of nature’s creepiest insects, as it turns out, has inspired researchers to create a very tiny robot that could in theory burrow through natural disaster sites and relay information to rescue workers. The New York Post says that a team at the University of California, Berkeley have designed a robot that’s made out of a material known as polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) and is the size of a postage stamp.

Scientists involved in the project explained that it could have many applications.

“For example, if an earthquake happens, it’s very hard for the big machines, or the big dogs, to find life underneath debris, so that’s why we need a small-sized robot that is agile and robust,” said Yichuan Wu, first author of the paper, who completed the work as a graduate student in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley, in a press statement.

It’s also almost as hardy as a real cockroach, as the researchers repeatedly applied pressure to it by stepping on it.

“Most of the robots at this particular small scale are very fragile. If you step on them, you pretty much destroy the robot,” Liwei Lin, senior author of a paper on the research, told New Atlas. “We found that if we put weight on our robot, it still functions, more or less.”

Although the robot doesn’t look like much, it can actually do a lot, according to researchers: It can move along the ground at a speed of 20 body lengths per second, which is comparable to that of a cockroach and apparently the fastest pace among insect-sized robots. It can also zoom through tubes, scurry up small slopes and carry tiny cargo loads, like a peanut.

ARRL member Eric Knight, KB1EHE, played a role in the development of an RF-based Alzheimer’s disease treatment that now shows great promise. A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease following a months-long FDA clinical trial of the treatment protocol concluded that memory decline in most patients “appeared to have been reversed to cognitive levels equivalent to 12 months earlier” after 2 months of treatment. The clinical trial concluded last December 31 and focused on the initial efficacy of what NeuroEM Therapeutics, Inc. — the company developing the device — calls “transcranial electromagnetic treatment” (TEMT), using a non-invasive head-worn device called the MemorEM™.

“Results from the trial demonstrate that TEMT was safe in all eight participating patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, and enhanced cognitive performance in seven of them, as measured by standard cognition scales,” said a news release from NeuroEM Therapeutics. Seven of the eight clinical trial patients agreed to take part in a 4-month extension study, based on the findings and the positive feedback from all participants.

“This pioneering study suggests that TEMT may be an entirely new therapeutic intervention against Alzheimer’s disease,” said NeuroEM CEO Dr. Gary Arendash. “Our bioengineering technology may be succeeding where drug therapy against this devastating disease has thus far failed. TEMT appears to be affecting the Alzheimer’s disease process through several actions directly inside neurons (brain cells), which is where we believe the disease process needs to be stopped and hopefully reversed.” Arendash has explained that TEMT in the 900 MHz range breaks down the small protein aggregates (amyloid oligomers) in brain cells that are thought to initiate Alzheimer’s development.

Knight, of Unionville, Connecticut, is the president of Remarkable Technologies. He has no medical background, but several years ago, he learned of experiments that Arendash had carried out on mice specially bred to have Alzheimer’s disease, in which the mice were exposed to low levels of RF for therapeutic purposes. The effects were dramatic, sometimes even reversing the disease’s effects. Borrowing some concepts from earlier experiments with small rockets and avionics, Knight set about developing — and later patenting — a wearable device that could deliver requisite low levels of RF to a human head. NeuroEM was also developing a device, which it patented as well, and NeuroEM has filed multiple patents since then, Knight explained to ARRL. NeuroEM has an exclusive license to Knight’s patent, and his contribution is now part of the overall mix of applied technology.

“As an inventor and entrepreneur, all you can hope for is to have a positive impact on society, and this is about as important as it gets,” Knight told ARRL News, whom we thank for this insert.

Finally, please be aware of Tropical Cyclone LEKIMA-19, which is currently 650km North-East of Taiwan, and bearing down on the Chinese mainland, with windspeeds of up to 190kph. 40000 homes in Taiwan are without power (as of Friday), and citizens in coastal areas are preparing to evacuate their homes. A RED typhoon warning has been issued for the coast of Taiwan and far Eastern tip of Chinese Mainland, while heavy rain, strong winds and storm surges are expected along the coast and Ryukyu Archipelago.

Please be mindful of emergency communications on HF frequencies over this weekend.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 4 August 2019

ARRL News reports that the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) next-generation Interoperable Radio System (IORS) successfully completed a battery of stress tests, required as part of the final certification of the hardware for launch to and operation on the International Space Station (ISS). The IORS consists of a JVC Kenwood D710GA transceiver and the AMSAT-developed Multi-Voltage Power Supply (MVPS). In early July, the equipment successfully completed a series of electromagnetic interference/electro-magnetic compatibility (EMC) tests to ensure that the ARISS hardware will not interfere with ISS systems or other payloads.

The IORS also successfully passed power quality and acoustics testing, which verified that the ARISS IORS will not introduce harmful signals back into the ISS power system and is quiet enough to meet ISS acoustic requirements. ARISS Hardware Team members Lou McFadin, W5DID, and Kerry Banke, N6IZW, were at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre to support the 2-week battery of tests in concert with the NASA test and certification team.

“Since the IORS is being qualified to operate on 120 V dc, 28 V dc, and Russian 28 V dc as well as transmit on VHF or UHF, a lot of test combinations were required to cover all cases,” Banke said. “Each input voltage type was also tested at low, medium, and high line voltage. Moreover, additional permutations were required to test the IORS under no load, medium load, and full load at each voltage level. So it should not be surprising that the tests took 2 weeks to complete.”

Successful completion of these tests represents a key milestone in preparing the IORS for launch. ARISS says it now can begin final assembly of the flight units and prepare for their safety certification before launch. ARISS is working toward launch-ready status by year’s end.

From a Blog entitled Bryan on Scouting, for Adult Scouting Leaders, comes proof that you can reach practically any corner of the globe via amateur radio. That’s the message K2BSA wanted to show Scouts at the World Scout Jamboree. Those in the amateur radio association launched four Mylar balloons from the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, in hopes that one would catch the jet stream and end up on the other side of the world.

Each balloon, about 3 feet in diameter, was equipped with a global positioning system and an amateur radio transmitter. This combination of devices could relay information about weather conditions, the balloons’ movement and location. Solar panels power the transmitter, sending signals during daylight hours. Filled with high-grade helium, each balloon could reach a height between 28,000 and 32,000 feet — that’s nearly as high as most commercial planes fly.

The first balloon, launched on July 21, was only in the air for a few hours before it was last tracked northeast of The Summit, still in West Virginia.

The second balloon, however, which went up on July 24, sent its last message two days later — from Spain. Specifically, the balloon reported back from the north-central part of the country, near the village of Bordecorex.

The third balloon was launched on July 27. The next day, signals were sent back from New Jersey; and the next day, it appeared to be floating by Newfoundland.

“We’ll continue to monitor this payload as it progresses,” says Bill Stearns, K2BSA vice president.

The final balloon went up on July 29 and tracked in the opposite direction, last heard over eastern Kentucky.

The amateur radio association also arranged communication with the International Space Station on July 27. Scouts were able to ask astronaut and assistant Scoutmaster Andrew Morgan some questions about space and his 8-month mission in space.

For more than 60 years now, amateur radio has been a fun part of the World Scout Jamboree. The Jamboree-on-the-Air was launched during the 1957 World Scout Jamboree in the United Kingdom.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that, with two weeks to go, and 335 registrations received for the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend so far, organisers are hoping for another 100 over the next 14 days.

Leading the field is Germany with 53 entries, USA with 48, Australia 39 and England 24. Just as important are the 17 countries with only one entry each some of which are sought after by DXers and award hunters. Some are the Canary Islands, Gibraltar, Panama Canal, Namibia, Latvia, Trinidad and Tobago, Serbia and Market Reef.

One entry worthy of note was received on Friday from GB2LG, the Wigtownshire ARC, for the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse. This club was a participant in the Northern Lighthouse Activity award 26 years ago, and which became the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend in 1998.

GB2LG has been at the same lighthouse with the same call sign since 1993. There are several other entrants who have been in the ILLW continuously since 1998 and these have been acknowledged with an appropriate certificate.

Our reliable and trusty reporter, Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, Director for HAMNET KZN reports that the Division will again be providing 12 operators to manage communications for the Kloof Conservancy 3 Falls Trail Run today the 4th August 2019, organised by the Kloof Conservancy. Operators assisting are: Keith Lowes ZS5WFD (Race Control/JOC), Dave ZS5DF, Terry ZS5TX, Troy ZS5TWJ,  Peter ZS5HF, Hettie ZS5BH, Geoff ZS5AGM, VAL ZS5VAL, Jitesh ZS5JM, Jason ZU5Z, Brad ZS5Z and Craig ZS5CD.  Last year saw us dealing with a number of medical emergencies that fortunately were not too serious. The race, now in its 8th year will start at 06H30. It covers a distance of 18,6Km through the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve, starting and ending at the Forest View Primary SchoolApproximately 350 runners have registered and at least 50 people have entered for the 6,5Km Fun Walk which starts at 06H45.

Keith says that communications will be on the 145.625 Highway Amateur Radio Club repeater with additional links to the JOC on the Ezemvelo Wildlife repeater system that the field rangers will be utilising.

Thanks for the news, Keith – we look forward to your race report in a future bulletin.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.