HAMNET Report 21st August 2022

Since the 18th of August, a tropical storm, so far only called FOUR, has been threatening the North Eastern corner of India, and Southern Bangladesh. It has not quite escalated to the level of Tropical Cyclone yet, but has more than 13 million people squarely in its projected path as it comes ashore.

Meanwhile, extreme weather, with heavy rainfall, flooding, landslides and even loss of life have been reported this week from Niger, Chad, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, South East Asia, Mexico and even New Zealand.

There are minor flood alerts out for France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Belgium, even though parts of France and Spain are still battling wild fires!

And we in the Western Cape are trying to keep up with the pace, by experiencing, and passing on to the rest of the country, a couple of cold fronts, absolutely sure to bring freezing levels to all the highlands from the Overberg to the Drakensberg. I’m certain you can expect snow all over the show in the next few days!

Earlier this week, the sun had a cadenza of its own, and launched two coronal mass ejections on consecutive days (Wednesday and Thursday), following an M2 solar flare. Both ejections were deemed to have an earth-directed component, and their effects on our ionosphere were dramatic. Geomagnetic storm activity was observed and the Planetary K index rose to the highest I’ve seen it, namely 6 (out of a possible score of 9), effectively killing the top bands on Wednesday. The K index is measured at a wide range of earth stations, and a new (averaged) report is issued every 3 hours. By midday Friday it was down at 2 again, which is much more acceptable. However, by 8pm our time Friday night, another coronal mass ejection had been detected, and the K index was on its way up to 5 again. This may well have scuppered your chances for some decent lighthouse contacts this weekend. I certainly hope not!

Keith Lowes ZS5WFD, he of the KZN HAMNET Division, tells me that HAMNET KZN were invited to setup and display a field station at Forest Hills Sports Club, Kloof, on Tuesday 9th August 2022. This was in support of S.T.A.R.T – Specialised Tactical Accident Rescue Team which is a non-profit organization that interacts with, and provides support to Municipal, private and volunteer emergency units.  S.T.A.R.T was conducting a recruitment drive and a number of their partners were showcasing or demonstrating their capabilities; namely:

Netcare 911 Rapid Specialised Extrication Unit                                                           Netcare 911 Medical Response                                                                         Rescuetech Search and Rescue                                                                                                              IPSS Medical Rescue                                                                                       S.T.A.R.T K9 Search and Rescue   and                                                                  S.T.A.R.T 4 x 4 unit

HAMNET KZN members Justin ZS5JW and Chris ZS5W are already both active members of Rescuetech Search and Rescue.

Prospective volunteers were given a basic safety induction course prior to a practical abseiling lesson in the Kloof Gorge before returning to the Sports Club for a meet and greet along with a braai.

At least twenty prospective new members were signed up.

Keith says HAMNET KZN will return to the same venue on Sunday 2 October to provide communications support for the Krantzkloof Trail Run.

He says further that, although the twenty new members signed up for rescue duties, and not HAMNET, he will nevertheless prevail on them to consider becoming licenced radio operators. Good luck with your endeavours, Keith.

Writing in The Daily Telegram on Wednesday. David Panian reports that a telescope designed by Adrian-based PlaneWave Instruments is being used by NASA to demonstrate laser communication technology for future spaceflight missions.

A PlaneWave RC700 laser communication telescope was installed in November at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

The development of the RC700 began when PlaneWave’s team realized that the industry needed more from laser communication, the release said. From software, design, assembly and testing, this is the first telescope engineered to meet the exact needs of the consumer.

“Previous laser communication missions at NASA have been supported by one-of-a- kind ground terminals built specifically for each mission. If NASA is to build a global network of optical terminals to enable widespread use of optical communications, then a blueprint for an economical ground terminal able to support a variety of missions is needed,” a research paper about the project said.

The paper said optical communications offer a way for space missions to return data to Earth at higher rates than what is possible by radio communications. Also, the size, weight and power requirements of an optical terminal needed for a given data rate are less than an equivalent radio terminal, the paper said.

An impediment to adopting laser communications has been a lack of an existing ground network of terminals, the paper said. A mission that wanted to use laser communications would need to create both a terminal to use in space as well as terminals on the ground to receive the signal from the spacecraft. Not only does that add cost to the project, but the equipment that is built is specific to that mission and will go into storage when that mission is over.

This new development means that similar systems can be installed in all parts of the world critical to the reception of laser signals from space, and standardization of output from them can be guaranteed.

Thank you to The Daily Telegram for these excerpts.

In case you need reminding, the International Space Station now has two amateur radio frequencies you can use to experiment with satellite operation. Voice communications are handled by the Kenwood D-710 dualband radio in the Columbus module, with an uplink frequency of 145.990 MHz and a CTCSS tone of 67Hz, and a downlink frequency of 437.800 MHz. Remember to adjust that downlink frequency on UHF up as the satellite comes towards you, and down as it moves away from you, for clear reception. Packet signals, also handled by a Kenwood D-710 but in the Service Module, may be sent and received on a frequency of 145.825 MHz, both up and down. Adjusting for Doppler effects is not usually necessary on VHF frequencies. Have fun experimenting with your antennas.

As the amateur radio stations sometimes need to be switched off during other important ISS activities, go to ariss.org/current-status-of-ISS-stations.html for up-to-date news of the availability of the voice and packet equipment on the ISS,

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