[amsat-bb] Trip Report June 2015 to CN74/CN75, CN84

Bryan Green bryan at kl7cn.net
Wed Jun 17 19:59:54 UTC 2015

Hello, AMSAT-BB:

Recently I made a trip to CN74/CN75 and CN84. Here is my report.

A business trip to the Portland, Oregon area (CN85) over the week of June 6, 2015 through June 10, 2015 gave me and my XYL Karen an opportunity to visit her family. They live in CN84, and the family's favorite Indian Casino is very near the gridline of CN74/CN75. I saw an opportunity!

Previous remote trips have involved an Icom IC-W32A and an Arrow. This was effective when there were more FM satellites.

In the time since I have accumulated some gear compatible with linear satellite work. This is what I took with me:

Yaesu FT-897D with two internal battery packs and W4RT fast charger.

Yaesu FT-817ND with expanded internal battery pack and stock charger.

Arrow II 146/437 with 10BP module removed.

Two 10-foot runs of high-quality RG-58, one for VHF and the other for UHF.

Other equipment:
Sony ICD-UX70 MP3 Recorder wired inline with FT-817ND and
Heil Traveler Dual headset.
Tripod purchased at a thrift store.
Garmin 72H GPS  using WGS-84 data to verify location.
Audio cable splitter to allow for remote auditing.
Apple iPhone 6 Plus running GoSatWatch 3.2 for pass timing and visualization.

I negotiated with the family to schedule our traditional "casino crawl" visit around a low eastern pass of FO-29. The normal extemporaneous nature of scheduling these visits did not allow much advance notification of the operation, but were were able to send an e-mail to this list and broadcast a notification on Twitter a couple hours in advance.

DXpedition team members included myself, XYL Karen, and XYL's brother Jason.

We located the grid line in the parking lot of a nearby RV park. 

Here is a diagram of our operating location:

Here is a verification of our location:

Our XYL and her brother were especially accommodating in precisely locating the vehicle at the 45.00000 degree line, and changed the parking spot of our vehicle four times to get it just right. In accordance with VUCC rules, the Transmitter must be at the proper location, and it certainly was.

All equipment fit inside a carefully packed and padded standard-sized airline carry-on wheeled bag. It was necessary to partially break down the Arrow, but assembly was quickly accomplished.

We set up the tripod, wired in the antenna, situated the radios on the open back hatch of the vehicle, and wired up the audio cables. Jason-Brother monitored the audio and XYL Karen took photos of the operation.

After the pass concluded, we disassembled and packed all equipment, and proceeded to give our semi-annual contribution to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. 

In all, we made 6 contacts with the following operators:


The use of the MP3 recorder was extremely valuable to clarify callsigns after the QSO.

Post-Production work:
We use Microsoft Excel to log each pass worked along with its parameters.
We use Audacity 2.0.5 for decoding and processing the MP3 files.
We use Ham Radio Deluxe Logbook for storing QSO records and TQSL 2.0.3 to upload QSLs to Log Of The World.

To post-process the DXpedition, we performed the following steps:

1. Created a new profile in TQSL named KL7CN_W7-CN74xx
2. Created a new log in HRD Logbook named KL7CN_W7-CN74xx-SAT.
3. Created a new My Station entry in HRD Logbook named KL7CN_W7-CN74xx.
4. Copied the MP3 file from the recorder to a special Dropbox folder.
5. Renamed the file to 20150612T2217Z KL7CN_W7 CN74xx FO-29.mp3 for ease of location later.
6. Made an entry for the pass in the Excel spreadsheet containing all the pass parameters as generated by GoSatWatch.
7. Listened to each QSO in the MP3 file using Audacity.
8. Made two entries for each QSO -- 1 per grid -- in HRD. Note: HRD has several issues that add extra work for satellite operators. Notably, the Band RX and Freq RX fields must be set manually. Have not been able to convince HRD publisher to fix these issues despite several passionate requests; especially annoying as these fields were previously available in HRD 5.x era.
9. Uploaded QSOs to LotW after double-checking the location setting.

Left to do:

10. Generate printed QSL template in MS Word based on another template previously used for these DXpeditions.
11. Mail QSLs to happy recipients.

CN84 activity:
Repeated these steps for activity in CN84 (at Jason-Brother's house), operating on two passes. Chose early low eastern passes for the benefit of east coast operators.

Changes for next time:
1. Obtain a lighter tripod, perhaps a telescope tripod?
2. Establish counter-weight for Arrow, as axial rotation is quite important for resolving satellite fading issues. Sometimes the Arrow would twist off in an odd direction when it was axially rotated. (Not sure if telescope tripods are rotatable axially like camera tripods.)
3. Obtain a powered speaker for audiences.
4. Locate or build some sort of an audio mixer that would allow uplink audio to be mixed in with downlink recording, as downlink recordings of uplink are not always especially audible.
5. Label the base of each element of Arrow for even faster assembly.
6. Obtain preamps, possibly.
7. Consider alternative logging software.

Keepers for next time:
1. Although heavy as sin, the extra power of the FT-897D is quite valuable especially on SO-50. Will continue with this.
2. The Garmin 72H GPS is quite sufficient to prove location.
3. The MP3 Audio Recorder.
4. Taking all the gear as a carry-on in the airplane.

Notes on passing rather odd-looking equipment through the American TSA:
Although the disassembled Arrow and dense batteries of the two transceivers must surely look like a threat or IED in the X-Ray, no one at the TSA looked twice or asked about them. However, my body was inspected quite closely and thoroughly, as extra adipose tissue is surely suspect as improvised plastic explosives.

Possible next operation:
The grid line of CN94/DN04 is a three-hour drive from Jason-Brother's house in CN84. If overnight accommodations can be arranged, it may be possible to activate these relatively rare grids with the support of the family. There are no Indian Casinos in this area, but it is a beautiful drive.

Thanks for reading! Looking forward the next Grid DXpedition!

-- bag

Bryan KL7CN

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