Tuesday, 18 August 2015

630m Trans-Pacific Path Alive

In spite of the recent high levels of geomagnetic disturbance (or maybe because of it), just as it did last year at this time, the path between North America and Australia has sprung to life once again. Last night saw the reception of  both WH2XND (NI7J), in Phoenix and WG2XXM (K5DNL), near Oklahoma City, by VK2XGJ in New South Wales, Australia. Not to be left out, VK2DDI, also in NSW, copied WG2XXM as well. Some of K5DNL's 630m gear can be seen here.

courtesy: John Langridge (WG2XIQ / KB5NJD)

The American beacons were operating in the WSPR mode, which has become very popular amongst 630m experimenters as well as those just interested in listening-in. WSPR is not a QSO mode but strictly a one-way 'beacon' mode. Although two stations may each spot each other, it is not considered to be a valid two-way QSO. A check of evening  WSPR activity will often reveal dozens of stations actively spotting what they are hearing.

VK2DDI runs the Berry Mountain Grabber, providing other VK and ZL experimenters a handy way of checking their system progress or propagation conditions but during good T-P nights, it can be a good place for U.S. stations to watch for their signals as well.

If you have been doing any WSPR work on HF, you might be surprised at what you can hear down on 630m, even without a dedicated antenna for that band. Surprisingly good results can often be had with a non-resonant antenna as the signal to noise ratio can often be better even though signals may sound weaker. Give it a try and spot what you hear!

If you are interested in learning how to receive WSPR, here is a nice tutorial by ZS6SGM. 

Should you be interested in knowing more about obtaining a Part 5 licence to transmit on 630m, John, KB5NJD / WG2XIQ, has a wonderful 630m resource page here, as well as more details about the recent down-under receptions. While there, be sure to check out his up-to-date 630m links page. He can be contacted via email or you can find him hanging-out most nights on the ON4KST kHz (2000-630m) chat page.

To keep on top of what is happening or who is on-the-air, most LF'ers rely on three sources:

Radio amateurs in Canada have had 630m as an amateur band since May of last year but unfortunately are not allowed to contact any of the experimental stations. Hopefully the U.S. will also obtain 630m as a ham band some time soon. In the meantime, a Part 5 licence for any U.S. amateurs would be a good way to be all set when that day eventually comes!

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