Where are you spaceman?

So I mentioned a few weeks ago that I passed my technician class HAM radio test.  It took me a few weeks to get my call sign and ticket (my paper license) but I am now on the air.  While waiting on the FCC to issue my license, I researched radios and decided on getting a Handi-talkie (aka HT).  Basically, it is a hand-held radio that is a typical beginner radio.  I ordered a Wouxon KG-UVD1P which translates to the cheapest radio that had fairly good reviews (There is your Chinese lesson for the day).

My new Wouxon radio

That’s my new radio…yes, it’s on a new beehive

It took awhile to figure out what I was doing with this radio but a lot of that was really just learning how HAM radio in general works.  I had to research PL tones and offsets and repeaters and then figure out how to translate that to my radio.  Luckily Wouxon provides free software to assist in programming the radio from a computer…if you buy their $15 cable.  It was a bargain I soon found out!

So, I have been talking to (and listening to) lots of local folks on the local repeater.  A repeater is a system that “listens” on a particular frequency and re-broadcasts the signals it receives.  My HT can only transmit over a fairly limited distance, especially in these WV hills.  The frequency band in which I am licensed to transmit typically only works with 50 miles or so max.  As I advance, I will get licensed to talk at the frequencies that people use when they communicate globally, but for now I must communicate through the repeater…mostly.

My j-pole antenna

I was listening on the repeater the other night when “they” announced that the International Space Station would be passing overhead between 6:06 and 6:12 am today.  My HT does ok with its stock antenna but I figured I would need to beef things up if I was going to hear the astronauts, many of whom are licensed HAMs.  I searched around online and found plans to make a j-pole antenna tuned for the 2-meter radio band in which I am licensed and in which the ISS would possibly be communicating.

Close-up of my j-pole antenna

All these pipes have to be just the right length

I bought copper and connectors and a candy bar and worked on my new antenna.  I even used the metric system!  Anyhow, late last night in the dark, I was outside soldering copper pipe to be ready.  I hooked my radio to the new antenna and tested it last night and everything seemed to work well.  I could hear locals talking loud and clear.

The alarm went off at 5:45 am so I hustled outside, plugged in to my new antenna and listened…and listened…and listened.  Finally at 6:20 I gave up.  I was pretty bummed…mainly because of all of the sleep I missed but I am still pleased that I was able to build a nice and portable j-pole antenna.  So, if you see a handsome bald man wandering the streets of Charleston looking to the sky, calling out to spacemen, it is definitely not me…do not make eye contact…take shelter immediately!

5 thoughts on “Where are you spaceman?

  1. Well, You have always been a “ham”, I suppose talking on a radio was the next logical step.
    Your antenna building reminded me of when I was a kid and my brother and I both received out own personal transistor radios. One day by accident we discovered that by touching the antenna to the barbed wire fence it improved reception greatly. And a wire inserted into the earphone jack and connected to the fence brought in stations from all over. Years later when we worked at the local grain elevator we connected an AM/FM radio’s antenna to the lightning rod grounding system and picked up our favorite stations in Chicago.

  2. GW – yeah, I am not too proud of the soldering job but it was so windy that my torch flame was hard to manage and it was dark as can be. But you know what…the antenna works just fine anyhow! I am going to a mtg tonight for HAMs and may try to get some advice on making it better from them.

    When I was a kid, I strung old phone wires around my room to try to get stations from Pittsburgh…pretty cool stuff these radios!

  3. I think I would be more worried if you started making a replica of the Devil’s Tower out of mashed potatoes!

  4. My husband’s uncle was into the ham radios big time before he was killed in a car accident. I don’t know much about them but they sound interesting. 50 miles is a good distance to me.

    Happy Easter!

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