Monday, March 29, 2021

Meteor Speed Run out west March 6th-8th 2021

 So for too long (a few months) the center of the country on my 6m map looked like this:


I had managed to work all the grids around the high plains of Kansas, but had only rarely found operators in those great wheat fields to work. Once in a while a rover like NA6L or N0LL would roll thru and I'd pick one up a grid or two, but still there was a big gap. My buddy Wyatt (AC0RA) had the same dilemma a year ago with his map, so he setup his home station to be remote-controlled by some other operators, packed up the rover and headed to the high plains. In the course of a few days he managed to work 'himself' with EN41 local hams running the AC0RA station and Wyatt running the AC0RA/R Rover in all the grids he needed, in very similar style to how the K0D rove went down. I managed to miss Wyatt's rove because I was living in EM27 at the time, and had given up temporarily on chasing 6m grids. Now that I'm back in EM36, and in my 200km circle with the old EM34 QTH, chasing counts again. I've also made some improvements to the home station (which I'll document in later blogs) and so I've become a fairly effective 6m scatter chaser. 

Anyhoo, since moving to EM36 I've done quite a bit of radio at home, but I haven't had a good rove other than a day trip down to EM43 with Matt and Wyatt last summer. I've had a plan to go grind out those Kansas grids for a while now, and finally in March a confluence of events came together in such a way I was able to make it happen. The plan would be to operate as KG5CCI/P and have Matt (NJ4Y) and Wyatt operate the KG5CCI station via remote control to pick up the grids from home. I would drive the mustang solo west to the EM05/EM06 line in Oklahoma, work myself on either MSK144 or the new amazing wonderfully powerfully </sarc> Q65 mode then head west near DM76 and spend the night. Get up early the next day and hit DM76 really early on scatter, then move up to DM87 and sit there for a while, also on scatter, since it was a top 50 most needed grid for the FFMA chasers. Then as the day would wear on I'd slowly work my way back east hitting DM97, DM98, and EM08 then spend the night in EM17 (Wichita) before getting up early the next day and blasting back home to EM36. Basically, it looked something like this: 


From a gear perspective I'd take the mustang - because of superior speed and miles per gallon efficiency. I'd also take my finely honed mustang portable kit of my drive on mast support, a 30' spider-beam aluminum push up mast, my 3 element MFJ1762 6m beam, about 40' of LMR400, my super trusty FT857d, and the assorted sound and computer accessories to make WSJTX work. I also threw in the 100ah LiFePo4 Bioenno Power battery so I would be sucking amps off the mustang's battery. After buying the battery last year in preparation for a second CM93 trip I hadn't really put it to a solid test yet, and wanted to really push it. The Home station would the 7300 into a modified Larcan running about 1200w going to my 5 element LFA up about 45' on the tower trailer parked next to my shop. More on that later too...

From here there's not much to say other than things went off without a hitch. I took some periscope from the stops: 

After hitting EM05 and EM06 in separate stops (I couldn't get to the line cause of lots of recent rain) I continued west to Capulin, NM and spent the night in a Super 8 - which interestingly enough was the first time I'd been in a hotel since the beginning of the pandemic. Next morning I got up early and managed to operate from the DM76/DM86 line, even though it wasn't my intention:

After my super early start I migrated up to DM87, got on the air quickly, and took the shot that defined the speed rove: 

Pre sunrise, a quiet road in southeast Colorado, the moon in the background, and the antenna banging away at the meteors flying in the sky. Anyway, more periscope from the next stop DM97 a few hours later into the morning once I was back in Kansas: 

Then I finally moved up to EM08/DM98 line, worked a few more, and headed to Wichita to crash for the night. Final results, for about 8 hours on the air, 8 grids activated, 78 QSOs made, and 37 unique stations worked. Not bad for a weekend drive in early March. I also managed to get DM87 knocked down from top 20% of FFMA chasers needing it to 10% in my little activation, which is probably the most rewarding part of roving.  

I had a bunch of chasers donate some cash to help cover food, fuel and lodging expenses for the trip - which was a giant boon. It feels really good to know folks have my back when I'm out in the middle of nowhere. And oh yea, my map? Now looks like this: 


Still got that gap up in the far northwest corner of Kansas, and further up into Nebraska, but at least the southern part of the plains is cleaned up on my map. Need to find another 30 or 40 this summer during E-Skip season and that should put me on the leaderboard. 

Good times :)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The Custom Jumper Blog

UPDATE 9/16/2021: New Prices, cause inflations and supply chain problems, and blah blah blah.. not a huge increase, but noticeable :)


So here's the blog I've really been meaning to do for a while. It only should barely be called a 'blog' since this is more of a cross between a sales pitch and a menu, but here we go. 

Yes - I build custom coax jumpers to use with your Satellite setup. 



OK, so now that that's out of the way, let's get into the nitty gritty. First, when I say custom - I really do mean custom. I keep a small supply of coax and connectors around for the more common builds I do, but as a rule I order everything is made from scratch when you tell me you want them. What do I build your jumpers out of? Great Question!

The only coax cable I use is genuine Times Microwave LMR. I've tried messing with other stuff, and it just isn't as consistent or as reliable. Times Microwave is expensive stuff, but it's worth it in my opinion. Normally for portable jumpers meant to be used with an Arrow or an Elk antenna I recommend (and 99% of my customer choose) Times LMR240 Ultraflex. It seems to be the perfect balance of very low loss, yet lightweight, rugged, and easy to work with. I do once in a while do a full LMR240 (not ultraflex) build for someone wanting a more permanent jumper, or for someone wanted to squeeze that last half a db out of their assembly. It's really just a preference thing for you. I do also once in a while make some LMR400 and LMR400uf assemblies for non-satellite uses, or for fixed Satellite or EME installations. Basically if you're needing a custom coax assembly made with low loss stuff, I can build it. I don't work with LMR600 or Hardline at the moment, as it's just too heavy and too expensive to send thru the mail. 

For connectors, I pretty well only use Amphenol RF. Once again, expensive, but they're the best. BNCs, N Connectors, PL259, pretty well covers them. Most have a male or female plug or jack option, some of them (like BNC and N) I can do right angle connectors too - which can be handy for certain types of antennae like the Elk Common port. 

Other random details, I use crimp shield connectors and crimp+solder center pins. Get around that argument by simply doing both. It makes a solid connection that gets even more solid when I put double wall marine grade and glue lined heat shrink tube over the crimp connector. That locks everything in place well so there's very little movement and good strength at the weak point in a coax assembly. Finally, I personalize each cable with the operator's callsign on a color label that also specifies the purpose of the cable. Normally I do a blue shrink tube and a blue label for a cable for the 2m side of an antenna, a yellow label and shrink tube for 70cm side, and red for 23cm. I've also got green, white, silver, and clear labels and shrink tube to use for different purposes. 

So now for some common builds. As of March 2021 the number 1 package I'm sending to operators is for the IC-9700, which is not surprising considering it's the only purpose built Satellite rig on the market right now. 


Normal length for 9700 jumpers is 8' for the 70cm side and 8' 10" for the 2m side (to match the offset in feed point on an arrow) but I can do as short as 6' and as long as 10'... it's just a personal preference thing. Prices as of March 2021 are as follows for this build:

2x LMR240uf Jumpers, N-Male to BNC and PL-259 to BNC, Shipped anywhere in Lower 48:

6' $95.00
8': $100.00
10': $105.00


Second most common is a set for a pair of FT817(8). This build is usually 2x 6' (cut to length) jumpers for the radios on your chest in a sling. 



2x LMR240uf Jumpers, BNC to BNC on both, Shipped anywhere in Lower 48:

6' $85.00

Next are just some example of different builds I've made for HT users, both with duplexers and without... They're not very common, so just message me for a quote - but hopefully it gives you an idea of things I've done and can do:


2 HT's mounted on a Boom Extension for an Arrow



Duplexer Mounted on a Boom Extension with a common cable to a handheld HT






Hanging Arrow with HT mounted on Boom:


HT Mounted on Boom with Cables and Hand Mic


Anyway, hopefully that gives you the idea. If you've got something different than this in mind, shoot me a DM on Twitter or drop me an email and we'll talk. 

As far as 'how to buy' just reach out to me, we'll talk your build over and I'll give you a quote. If the quote is good, give me your email address (preferably one associated with Paypal) and your current address and I'll get to work. I don't ask for a deposit or payment upfront, so far I've never been stiffed by a member of the community. If you give me your word you want it, I'll build it. 

Once the build is done I'll send you pictures of the completed package and an invoice thru Paypal (Don't worry, it's one flat cost to you that includes everything). Pay thru paypal, I'll get a message and then get it shipped out. I've used several versions of shipping over the years, but anymore I just go with USPS Priority Mail. That way I don't have to make special trips to shipping offices, the cost isn't prohibitive, and it normally makes it to the destination in a few days. Using Paypal also gets us both seller and buyer protection as well as discounted shipping. It's just easy that way. 

So that's it! Custom jumpers, built to order, by a Satellite Operator, for a Satellite operator. I never meant for this to become a business, it kinda just happened. I wasn't happy with what I could find on the market, so I bought all the tools and started doing it myself, and now I share my equipment and experience building with the community. If you're interested, hit me up on Twitter, or shoot me an email at dave@druidnetworks.com and let's talk.