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May 31, 2018
Editor: Rick Lindquist, WW1ME
ARRL Letter Archive
Amateur Radio Emergency Service Teams Activate for
MARS Urging Members to Use Computers that are
Isolated from the Internet
The Doctor Will See You Now!
Eagles Guitarist Joe Walsh, WB6ACU, Promotes
Amateur Radio in Media Announcements
IARU Region 1 Editorial Warns of the Danger of
VHF/UHF/Microwave Spectrum Grabs
Reception Reports Requested as Amateur Radio Heads
to the Moon
Ambitious Arizona STEM Planetary Rover Project is a
The K7RA Solar Update
Just Ahead in Radiosport
Upcoming ARRL Section, State, and Division
Emergency Service Teams Activate for Weather-Related Events
Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES®)
teams in three states activated in the past week for weather-related
YARES member Joe Sok, K9SOK (right), checks in a sandbag
client. [Bill Loman, N7PWC, photo]
The Billings, Montana Director of Emergency Services
activated the Yellowstone County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES)
group (YARES) on May 26 to support radio communication for sandbagging
stations and possible river-level spotting duty in advance of an anticipated
significant flood event, YARES Emergency Coordinator Ron Glass, WN7Y, told
ARRL. Glass said the request from the County Office of Emergency Management
called for staffing five sandbag centers last weekend, “helping to
coordinate logistics and supplies to get tens of thousands of sandbags into the
hands of citizens and communities to prepare for the historic flooding to hit
the area,” Glass said.
Blue Creek Fire Department “went above and beyond, with a homemade
sandbag filler, a military surplus vehicle to haul the sand, and [a few]
firefighters, and they went to homes to help residents deploy the sandbags,” Glass
said. [Lynn Crosby, KE7PZY, photo]
As “sandbag center managers,” he said, the ham radio
volunteers were the only officials on site, logging in everyone who stopped by to
fill sand bags. “As we say in YARES, ‘If you have a radio in one hand, a
clipboard in the other, and you are wearing a safety vest, everyone assumes
you are in charge!'” Glass quipped.
As it turned out, the
record-breaking flooding did not occur, and ARES was able to stand down
after 3 days. Seventeen volunteers staffed locations along the rivers and
bridges that have been trouble spots in the past. Glass said that while
significant rainfall did hit Billings, it was not as heavy as initially
predicted. River levels dropped on Monday by more than 1 foot from what had been
expected earlier, and cooler temperatures slowed the melt of a record snow
pack. By mid-week, though, Glass said he was following new severe weather
forecasts from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.
On May 27, ARES volunteers in the Maryland-DC Section activated in the
wake of regional flash flooding. Especially hard hard was Ellicott City,
where vehicles were washed away by fast-moving flood waters upward of 10 feet
deep. One person died as a result of the flooding.
many watched Alberto, radio amateurs in Maryland watched more and more rain
locally,” ARRL Assistant Maryland-DC Section Manager and Public Information
Coordinator Ken Reid, KG4USN, said on Sunday. “By 5 PM, heavy rain, as much as 8 to 10 inches, soaked
portions of central and southern Maryland.” The flooding disaster was the
second since 2016 in historic downtown Ellicott City, which was still
recovering from the earlier event. Section leadership asked radio amateurs in the
flood-affected areas to check on the health and welfare of their
neighbors. Reid said high-water rescues were needed in Perry Hall and Patapsco State
When the flooding quickly became serious in
several locations, MDC Section Manager Marty Pittinger, KB3MXM, activated ARES
in eight central Maryland counties at 6:30 PM EDT, and 15 minutes later,
more than 40 ARES volunteers reported to their respective 2-meter nets in
five counties. The majority of flood-affected communities were in Anne
Arundel, Prince George’s, and Howard counties. Amateur Radio volunteers in the MDC
Section provided additional situational awareness, and Pittinger
interfaced with Atlantic Division leadership, Maryland Section Emergency Coordinator
Jim Montgomery, WB3KAS, and state and local authorities.
“Many county [emergency operations centers] in affected areas were also
activated. Anne Arundel County ARES and Howard County ARES were in
communication with their local Emergency Management Agencies and were both told to
stand by in case of need,” Reid said. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan
declared a state of emergency.
telecommunications continued to function throughout the heavy weather, which caused road
closures and power and natural gas outages. The MDC ARES volunteers remained
on duty until 10:15 PM on May 28. During the activation, radio amateurs made
use of VHF, UHF, and HF capabilities, as well as Voice over Internet
Protocol (VoIP) modes.
West Central Florida (WCF) Section ARES went to a
Level 3 activation (standby) on May 26 after tropical storm warnings went up
for the coastal areas of WCF Section counties and for all of Pinellas
County. “We will continue at the Level 3 activation until the Tropical Storm
warnings are discontinued for all WCF Section counties,” ARRL West Central
Florida Section Manager Darrell Davis, KT4WX, told ARRL at the time.
Alberto shifted away from that part of the Florida coast and came
ashore on the Florida Panhandle, moving inland and dissipating, but still
causing serious rainfall and some flooding.
MARS Urging Members to Use Computers that are Isolated from
US Army Military Auxiliary Radio
headquarters is recommending that MARS members “migrate to standalone computer
systems for [MARS] radio operations,” subject to the availability of a dedicated
“These computer systems (or their associated
local area networks) should be ‘air-gapped’ from the internet,” Army MARS
Headquarters Operations Officer David McGinnis, K7UXO, said in a message to
members. “Although not a requirement for membership at this time, we will
continue make this a condition of certain parts of our exercises.”
McGinnis pointed to remarks by Cisco researchers in a
recent Ars Technica article that discussed how
hackers “possibly working for an advanced nation” have infected more than a
half-million home and small-office computers “with malware that can be used to
collect communications, launch attacks on others, and permanently destroy
the devices with a single command.”
McGinnis told Army
MARS members that MARS Headquarters does not discuss specific cyber threats
with MARS members or with the public. “We also cannot confirm or deny
information about specific threats,” he said, adding that he had “no specific
knowledge” about VPN Filter malware and no comment on the Cisco
For communication exercises this year, MARS
established conditions for a certain portion of the drill that requires use of
standalone computer systems “normally not connected to the internet.” He said
used or refurbished PCs are widely available at low cost and could be
dedicated to serve a standalone function.
“The most effective
way to protect against threats that come from the internet is to isolate
from the internet,” McGinnis added.
standalone environment, we assume that all computer systems in private citizens’
hands are infected with hostile software code of some sort and are not
secured,” he said. “No amount of virus and malware scanning software changes that
assumption. We can, however, isolate computers by disconnecting them from
the international network in which hostile software will report and receive
McGinnis said future versions of MARS
software will check for an internet connection and will disable the software.
“We understand this lockout does not provide security in and of itself;
rather, its value is in changing the behavior of members,” he explained.
MARS Program Manager Paul English, WD8DBY, told ARRL that
the MARS goal is to isolate MARS members’ computers from the internet as much
as possible and that isolating members’ computers used for MARS-related
activity is “a goal, but has not been directed.”
The Doctor Will See You Now!
“Coping with Poor HF Conditions” is the topic of the current (May
24) episode of the “ARRL The Doctor is In” podcast. Listen…and learn!
Sponsored by DX Engineering, “ARRL The Doctor is
In” is an informative discussion of all things technical. Listen on your
computer, tablet, or smartphone — whenever and wherever you like!
Every 2 weeks, your host, QST Editor-in-Chief Steve Ford,
WB8IMY, and the Doctor himself, Joel Hallas, W1ZR, will discuss a broad range
of technical topics. You can also e-mail your questions to email@example.com, and the Doctor
may answer them in a future podcast.
Enjoy “ARRL The
Doctor is In” on Apple iTunes, or by
using your iPhone or iPad podcast app (just search for “ARRL The Doctor is
In”). You can also listen online at Blubrry, or at Stitcher (free registration required,
or browse the site as a guest) and through the free Stitcher app for iOS,
Kindle, or Android devices. If you’ve never listened to a podcast before,
download our beginner’s guide.
Just ahead: “Field Day Antennas.”
Eagles Guitarist Joe Walsh,
WB6ACU, Promotes Amateur Radio in Media Announcements
Legendary rock guitarist Joe Walsh, WB6ACU, of the Eagles is featured in a
just-released set of ARRL audio and video public service
announcements promoting Amateur Radio. ARRL will provide the 30- and 60-second PSAs to
Public Information Officers (PIOs) to share with their Section’s
television and radio stations. The ARRL Media and Public Relations Department also
will provide these announcements files directly to interested television and
radio outlets, and the announcements are available for downloading from
the ARRL website for members to use in promoting Amateur Radio at club
meetings and public presentations, such as ARRL Field Day on June 23-24 (PSAs specifically
for ARRL Field Day also are available). Those PSAs will also be available
for download from the ARRL website, so that members can present them at club
meetings and other public gatherings.
Walsh, who visited ARRL Headquarters last year for taping, wanted to deliver
two main messages in his PSAs: Get involved in Amateur Radio, and become a
member of ARRL. The messages highlight the tremendous service that radio
amateurs provide to communities, and convey how ARRL advocates on behalf of
Amateur Radio on a wide range of legal and political issues.
An ARRL Life Member and longtime radio amateur, Walsh personally has
been a strong supporter and advocate of ARRL and Amateur Radio, and his ham
shack is just as impressive as his home recording studio. “I want to give
back to the hobby that has given me so much enjoyment,” he said.
The setting for the PSAs was W1AW, which Walsh was especially
eager to revisit. The occasion also offered him an opportunity to see equipment
he’d donated to W1AW years earlier. Walsh’s past on-the-air forays on W1AW
have always attracted enthusiastic pileups. While at W1AW, he spent some
chatting with station manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, about the station’s
operations. Walsh is a well-known collector of vintage Amateur Radio equipment.
Creating the videos were Media and Public Relations
Assistant Michelle Patnode, KC1JTA; freelance videographer/photographer Chris
Zajac, and former Media and Public Relations Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, who
also recorded a tag line for ARRL Audio News with Walsh.
for getting audio PSAs on the air are available on the PSA for
promotions web page.
IARU Region 1 Editorial Warns of the Danger of VHF/UHF/Microwave Spectrum
The chair of the International Amateur Radio
Union Region 1 (IARU
R1) VHF-UHF-µW Committee, Jacques Verleijen, ON4AVJ, has
highlighted extant threats to the Amateur Radio spectrum above 30 MHz. In an
editorial that heads the latest edition of the IARU R1 VHF-UHF-µW
Newsletter, issued on May 29, Verleijen invited all IARU
member-societies to consider ways to “promote, defend, and use our frequencies.”
“They are wanted by others, both government and
commercial users,” Verleijen wrote. “So, this is a wake-up call to be aware that if
we are not using those bands, we will lose them.” If that happens, he
continued, it won’t be the fault of IARU R1, but of the amateur community that
“often [has] more commitment to HF” than to VHF and higher bands. Conceding
that the HF bands “are the easiest to use,” Verleijen said member-societies
should think outside the box to come up with ideas to improve VHF, UHF,
and microwave activity.
Verleijen said the vast amount of
Amateur Radio spectrum from 50 MHz through 5 GHz makes it an attractive
target for commercial and governmental interests. He noted that 50 MHz is the
focus of a key World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) agenda item — specifically, to harmonize the 6-meter
allocation across all three ITU Regions.
“It would be
unfortunate to see a repeat of the WRC-15 result for 5 MHz, where high hopes
and years of hard work actually resulted in a few kilohertz at 15 W [EIRP]
max,” Verleijen continued. A repeat of that situation on 6 meters could mean
a “far more devastating” loss of existing spectrum and future
opportunities for digital innovation.
The 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands
are highly sought after for commercial wireless, Verleijen said, pointing
out that the UK recently auctioned large segments of 2.3 and 3.4 GHz
spectrum once available to Amateur Radio, “threatening significant activities
from narrowband/Earth-Moon-Earth to DATV (digital amateur TV).”
Two WRC-19 agenda items affect 5 GHz, focusing on Wi-Fi and so-called
“intelligent transport.” Amateur Radio, as a secondary service, faces
another difficult challenge in this part of the spectrum and has “little
influence over its direction,” Verleijen contended. In IARU Region 1, the primary
concern is the expansion of Wi-Fi into 5,725 – 5,850 MHz.
“[O]ur preoccupation with traditional or [narrowband] modes does not
justify the amount of spectrum,” he said, noting that “some activity levels
are quite low” outside of contests.
“Ideally, we need
genuine open innovation and to show amateurs leading in the 21st century,”
Verleijen said. “Pressures on amateur bands are nothing new, but we know that
the spectrum pressures above are not helped by poor engagement,
relationships, or lack of a united approach” in some member-societies, with respect
to their administrations.
Reception Reports Requested as Amateur Radio Heads to the Moon
China launched two microsatellites into a lunar transfer orbit on
May 20 in conjunction with the Chang’e 4 mission to the far side of the
moon. The Longjiang-1 (LJ-1) and Longjiang-2 (LJ-2) microsats
were secondary payloads on the launch, piggybacking on the Queqiao
relay satellite. Also known as DSLWP-A1 and DSLWP-A2, the satellites were
maneuvered onto a track to the moon, but LJ-1 then appeared to have
encountered problems, and Harbin Institute of Technology, which developed the
satellites, was asking for help from the world Amateur Satellite community.
The May 20 launch of LJ-1 and LJ-2,
which piggy-backed on the Queqiao relay satellite.
“We lost contact with Satellite A on S band
after an orbit adjustment,” Wei Mingchuan, BG2BHC, of Harbin Institute of
Technology said. “We just tried to switch on UHF, but we don’t know if it works
or not.” He said on 435.425 MHz, the satellite should alternate between 500
bps GMSK and JT4, while the 436.425 MHz signal should be 250 bps GMSK.
Both transmit once every 5 minutes.
LJ-1 and LJ-2 also
will test low-frequency radio astronomy and space-based interferometry. The
astronomy objectives of the two spacecraft are to observe the sky at the
lower end of the electromagnetic spectrum — 1 MHz to 30 MHz — with the aim of
learning about energetic phenomena from galactic sources, using the moon
to shield them from earthbound radio signals. The Chang’e 4 mission will
mark the first-ever attempt at a soft landing on the far side of the
Artist’s rendering of the DSLWP spacecraft.
Signals from the DSLWP satellites were
received after launch by radio amateurs in Brazil, Chile, and the US, as
well as by many others around the world. Each satellite carries VHF/UHF SDR
transceivers for beacon, telemetry, telecommand, and digital image downlink.
Onboard transmitting power is about 2 W.
Queqiao communications relay satellite is required for the lunar far-side
landing to facilitate communication with a not-yet-launched lander and rover,
because the moon’s far side never faces Earth, and some significant
scientific measurements from the dark side of the moon require real-time contact
with Earth. Queqiao was developed by the China Academy of Space
Ambitious Arizona STEM Planetary Rover Project is a Winner
An Amateur Radio-based science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics (STEM) initiative at an Arizona elementary school culminated on May
22, as youngsters competitively deployed their own radio-controlled rovers to
explore a simulated planet set up in the Sonoran Desert. Following in the
footsteps of NASA scientists, 25 pupils at Bouse Elementary School