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Weather satellites

Following a visit by Norbert VK5MQ and checking his RTL-SDR dongle out I thought it might be fun to experiment with receiving the NOAA weather satellites. There are three of them circling the globe, NOAAs 15,18 and 19. They operate in the 137MHz area so can be heard on most 2M antennas.

Although I have tracking antennas, the satellites can be heard very easily. They’ve been up there for years and are quite big e.g. NOAA18 weighs 2.3 tonne was launched in 2005 and is in an orbit about 850km up. All these satellites are in polar orbit which means their path is north/south (mornings) or south/north (afternoons). Being nearly sun synchronous they appear more or less at the same time each day.

To receive the satellites you need a receiver that has a reasonably wide bandwidth, about 35kHz does the trick nicely so a software defined radio is probably best as you can adjust the bandwidth easily. I use a RTL-SDR.com Blog V3 dongle bought from South Eastern Communications in Frankston. I paid $44 which included the adaptor.

There are plenty of sites that show you how to get this going with SDR Sharp a software program that does the decoding to audio.

Use Orbitron (or one of a number of web based programs) to calculate when the satellites are going to be in view at your QTH. Orbitron is free and works well.

SDR Sharp running in the background showing the received signal and the waterfall. To the lower left is Orbitron working so I can keep and eye on where the satellite is currently located while centre is my program sending tracking data to my beam controller.
This is my main screen. In the meantime on the invisible monitor to the left, the program WXtoIMG (weather to image) is drawing the picture. This was a N/S pass so it would have drawn from the top down.

Once you have Sharp SDR working you have the audio available for decoding with WXtoIMG software. Download the Beta version of WXtoIMG from here:
https://wxtoimgrestored.xyz/downloads/
I use Windows 10.

You’ll need to enter your details in the setup of WXtoIMG. Your Lat/Long is important for the program.

Because WXtoIMG must access the sound coming out of SDRsharp program you need to install a virtual cable (not a real cable) program so it listens inside the computer. I got mine from:
https://vb-audio.com/Cable/
Download and install VBCABLE_Driver_Pack43.zip

Last job, go into your sound settings (right click on the speaker icon in the bottom right hand corner) and set your incoming and outgoing audio to the Output choose Cable input and Input device choose Cable output.

That’s it. All things being equal you should be able to receive pictures. By the way WXtoIMG does not start drawing the picture until the satellite is in view and then it starts automatically. It stops when it decides that the pass is over which is why your computer clock should be accurate.

Image received 9 Jan 2021 at 11.30AM. Note the program colours the water and land and puts in the border but you can turn these off
Image from NOAA19 on 9 Jan 2021 at 7:25PM

Have a go, it’s fun and later you can use SDR Sharp and your dongle to decode weather satellites or the balloons from AREG.

John VK5DJ

S.E.R.G. 2020 Christmas BBQ

Well.

It just goes to show that “when in doubt JUST DO IT”

Sunday 6th. December was shaping up as a disaster for a BBQ, with high blustery wind and numerous showers of varying intensity. Not a day for an outdoor gathering for sure.

After finishing off the Sunday morning Broadcast and the Call backs Tom, VK5EE and VK5HCF, set off for Millicent.

Numerous showers were encountered along the way with the occupants of the “Shopping Trolley” questioning their sanity.

On arrival at Lake McIntyre we found a few of the Members already there.

Most notably Chris, VK5MC, and wife Josie to whom we owe a big vote of thanks for arriving early in order to secure the site against marauding tourists.

Also to John, VK5DJ who organised for the area to be roped off with bunting to assist in pointing out to potential interlopers that the site was reserved.

This year we had the site at the top of the hill nearest to the toilets, (but not too near. 😄)

Referring back to my opening statement.

This site proved the above saying by sheltering us from the vast majority of the wind so that we barely noticed it, and we only really had one rain session that caused us to seek shelter for a few minutes. The rest of the afternoon was, in fact, quite pleasant which just proves that sometimes you get lucky.

Colin, VK5DK, John, VK5DJ and James, VK3JBM having a deep and meaningful.

18 Club Members were in attendance including James, VK3JBM, who came all the way from Horsham in Victoria to join us. Well done James and it was great to catch up again. It was also great to see Trevor, VK5NC, who is temporarily trapped here by the W.A. Border Closure. It was lovely to enjoy your Company for a short time “Niv”

A very pleasant afternoon of socialising.

A few of the regulars were missing because of other commitments which was a bit sad but it is very hard to organise these events to include everybody.

The Members who like to engage in a bit of Portable Operating set up their radios and David, VK5HDW’s new Hi-End Fed antenna which covers 6 metres to 40 metres, (I think?).

The “Portable Gang”

Unfortunately there was horrific noise on some of the bands and after looking around we suspected that it was coming from a four wheel drive parked on the road opposite our site. The Unit had a solar panel on the roof and we suspect, a refrigerator running inside. Obviously the Solar Panel regulator was a “crook” one as when the 4wd left, so did the noise, but by then the crew had packed up the gear as it was almost time to head home and the bands were almost completely “dead” anyway. “Life was not meant to be easy.”

Glad the 4wd is not our next door neighbour.

As usual the day turned out to be quite pleasant and all who attended enjoyed a few hours of banter and a good feed.

Now we can look forward to next year.

Here’s a link to the Lake McIntyre site. It’s a beautiful spot.

New power supply at VK5RMG

On Sunday 8th November Norbert VK5MQ installed a new power supply and batteries at the Bluff. In addition he installed cable trays for the antenna cables to tidy the installation outside the building.

The new power supply is very capable, it monitors battery voltage/current, mains 13.8V volts and current and indicates charge rate. Another feature is a built in low voltage detect so we can stop worrying about damage to batteries in the event of a sustained 230V power failure.

Lots of meters and LEDs, Wayne VK5ZX (SK) an ex president would have been thrilled.
VK5RMG 2M on left with links to VK5RNC, VK5RBT and VK3RSW. To the right the main power switching, the new power supply, the Dick Smith power supply unused but as an emergency and the TAIT power supply that powers the UHF equipment. Next below is the UHF repeater and its receiver cavity.

Moved antenna at VK5RMG

Recently SERG was advised that its 2m repeater antenna at The Bluff would need to be relocated to the adjacent tower as a result of an Axicom requirement. An unused antenna that already existed on the new tower was made available for SERG to use and a test proved the SWR was acceptable for our frequencies. Unfortunately, after our main antenna was removed and the repeater recabled to the alternate tower, the coverage was extremely poor.After several days, an interim strategy was to install a temporary antenna to restore our repeater acceptable coverage, even if not quite a good as before. This has been achieved by the generous support of the rigging team of Dylan and Brodie from Gambier Electronics.Plans are now underway to refurbish our old antenna and reinstall it in the coming weeks when tower space becomes available. 

Peter
Club President

The Gambier electronics Tower to the left, Axicom tower to its right
Clearer view of our antenna at it’s temporary low height with Brodie nearby
Brodie connecting the tail to the 550 Heliax

An update from one of our VK3 Members

Our secretary Col, VK5HCF, sent James VK3FJBM an email to see how he was getting on in Horsham with all the Covid19 surrounding us all.

Here is his reply.

“Hi Col,

Thanks for your email! 🙂
Yes, the COVID situation has definitely thrown a spanner in the works this year.I’ve been just treading water with the workload in …………(deleted)………………. as we have transitioned to and from Remote Learning twice now.However, if there is a positive in all this it has been the few extra moments I have gotten to play AR over the past 6 months.
I have invested in a couple of projects.
One has been the purchase a Yaesu 857-D unit, associated Automatic Antenna Tuner and a 10mtr squid pole as a Portable HF setup.Through this setup, I have been able to perform some HF and SSTV contacts.Must say I’m not sure if I will ever enjoy the ‘noise’ of HF compared to 2/70.
The other project has been setting up a Digital Repeater for the Horsham area.I’ve purchased a very nice outdoor cabinet for the project, got power and 4G Internet-connected, programmed up some Repeater Builder boards and a Motorola MTR unit.I’ve worked with City Council and got a contract for me to use an un-used (previously Ambos) tower which has a bunch on antenna’s on it perfect for AR.Through some inspiration from reading VK5DJ’s blog, I have programmed up a temperature sensor on a Raspberry Pi to automatically turn the cabinet’s inbuilt fan kit on/off as required.Hopefully, this will be completed in the next fortnight and I can put together a blog post about it.I have attached a couple of pictures of the cabinet, the repeater is yet to be installed and some cabling to be tidied up yet.
I wish that the restrictions to travel into SA were lifted so I could help out with SERG’s upcoming events, but I’m not sure that is going to happen anytime soon.Even if we have no cases in Regional Vic.
Hope you are also going well and enjoying some sunny days.
Thank You again for the email Col, it made my day!Also thanks to both yourself and other members of SERG for making me feel welcome at events.Without SERG, AR would not be a hobby of mine.
See you soon.
Cheers,James Mutch

Soon to be VK3JBM!😄 “

It was good of James to fill us in on what he has been up to, and by the sound of it, he has been very busy trying to stimulate activity in the Horsham Area. He is hoping to stand for office at the Horsham Club’s upcoming A.G.M. and, if successful, trying to generate some enthusiasm and activity into their Group. We wish him luck and thank him for the very nice email.

Which Capacitor Do I Use?

Many of you like me have wondered which of these capacitors should I use and for what circuit perhaps, what the heck”s a bumble bee capacitor and which ones do I may be throw out of a circuit or don”t use at all you may ask yourself ?

Fortunately we have Paul from Mr Carlson Lab to answer many of your questions in his following video so please welcome and thank Mr Carlson’s Lab Video for today’s presentation.

Hopefully today’s presentation and talk on capacitors by Mr Carlson has now shed some light on which are good capacitors, what capacitors are used for which type of circuits or recommended for what application. Hopefully you are now some what more proficient on capacitor selection and use.

If you have enjoyed this presentation on What Capacitor do i use and would like to see more of Mr Carlson’s presentations on other topics relating to electronics then click to the link to his you-tube website; Mr Carlson’s Lab.

Thanks again to visiting our website and Enjoy the Hobby.

Till Next Time 73”s from VK5NFT

Rally report -August

Over the week-end of August 15/16th, SEAC hosted the 1st Round of the SA Rally Championship in and around the forests near SEAC Park, just west of Mount Gambier. Again, SERG received a request to provide all the communications to enable safe management of the event.

Sunday was a long day, with many arriving at their points at 7am, and not leaving until nearly 5pm. It was a huge dedicated commitment by all from SERG, where a large team was deployed to man every start & finish stage control, plus an intermediate point of each stage. Our members were able to quickly report the whereabouts of all cars, plus report back to the scoring team at Race Control all of the competitors Stage start & finish times to enable rapid compilation of results. Some points were even delegated the task of reporting any car making contact with a barrier which was then applied as a penalty to the drivers score.

All messages were relayed over our 2m repeater nearby on The Bluff which provided excellent radio coverage over the entire area of the event.  Radio traffic was constant & relentless, yet our repeater performed faultlessly.

I would like to thank the following SERG members for an outstanding job.

  • Tom VK5EE
  • Colin VK5DK
  • Tim VK5AV
  • Norbert VK5MQ
  • Owen VK5HOS
  • Greg VK5ZGY & Gabi
  • Hans VK5PHS
  • Phil VK5PCL
  • Phil VK5BVC
  • Andrew VK5VKC
  • Deanna VK5FDCS

Your contribution made my sometimes difficult job in Race Control so much easier.

Peter VK5BE

Rally Coordinator

Phil VK5BVC knows how to make a long day comfortable
Who needs a road

New power supply tray

On Sunday 10/8/20 Peter VK5BE installed the new power supply tray for VK5RMG. As always, a really professional looking job. The VK5RMG/VK5ROH gear is something for our club to feel really proud about.

The setup at The Bluff. Left cabinet from bottom. Cavities for 2M, PRF1520 2M repeater, Main controller and VK5RNC link, Sub controller and links to Mt Benson and Mt Eckersley, three uhf cavities for links
Right cabinet from bottom. 2M system backup battery, UHF filter in RX, PRF1520 UHF repeater, power supply for two metres, battery charger controller for UHF and power supply UHF, DC switching panel
Close up of new power supply panel/tray and VK5ROH

Club Awards 2020

S.E.R.G. ANNUAL AWARDS

Roy Goodwin Award

This is awarded annually to a Foundation Licence holder who has made a significant contribution to SERG, and this year it goes to Kate, VK5FKLY, for her outstanding work in recent years for the video switching at the Lakes Hillclimb.

Kate works quietly behind the scenes, rarely seen or heard, but does such an awesome job presenting the camera pictures on the TV screens that we all take for granted.

Congratulations Kate

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President’s Shield

This is awarded annually by the SERG President to anyone that has made a significant contribution to SERG. This year, in recognition of the great work behind the scenes throughout the year, the award goes to our Welfare Officer, David VK5HDW.

Each month, David has made countless phone calls to our members ensuring they are not forgotten when they are unable to attend meetings or if feeling less than 100%. His very detailed monthly reports are always well received and most appreciated.

Congratulations, David, on being awarded the President’s Shield for 2020.

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