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KD2BD History and Timeline

Between providing critical communications in times of disaster when traditional means often fail, to enhancing international goodwill and developing new and innovative applications of emerging technologies, the Amateur Radio Service has a long and proud history of serving society and helping to advance the state of electronic communications.

Unlike Citizen's Band (CB) radio, cellphone, or Internet users, Amateur Radio operators are licensed by the Federal Government to develop and implement our own communication systems and infrastructure. We communicate among ourselves, provide emergency communications, and experiment with various radio techniques and technologies to further the understanding of radio use and the development of new technologies.

Amateur Radio Operators developed effective wireless e-mail and text messaging services along with a global digital network infrastructure in the form of Packet Radio more than 30 years ago. Today's cellphone technology has its roots firmly planted in what Amateur Radio operators have been employing in FM repeater systems and telephone autopatch interconnection systems for the past 40 years. Amateur Radio Operators have been sharing pictures and real-time interactive video with one another in the form of Slow-Scan and Fast-Scan television for over 50 years. Amateur Radio Operators are the only civilians permitted to design, build, and license our own communication satellites, bounce our signals off the Moon, and communicate with astronauts in space.

While the Amateur Radio Service is often referred to as being a hobby, collecting stamps, coins, or sea shells does not require a proven mastery of knowledge or skills, licensing, national and international regulation, nor the allocation and use of publicly owned resources. Amateur Radio does. In fact, the word "hobby" never appears in any formal definition of the Amateur Radio Service, and Amateur Radio licenses, like those of all other radio services, are issued in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.

While it may seem odd to find individuals involved in such formal and technically rigorous activities being referred to as "Amateurs", the word actually derives from the Latin "amator" which means "lover". To be both a competent professional and an Amateur at the same time indicates the highest dedication to the advancement of the science of communication. As such, it comes as no surprise that many of the world's finest broadcast and wireless communication engineers come from the world of Amateur Radio.

For me, Amateur Radio has always been a practical extension of my life-long interest in electronics. As such, much of the radio hardware and software that I employ on a regular basis are products of my own design. What follows are descriptions of some of my accomplishments as an Amateur Radio Operator, and the stories behind them.

It All Started...

As a Shortwave Listener (SWL) in the 1970s, I often heard Amateur Radio Operators sending Slow-Scan Television images to one another. It wasn't long before the concept of sending, receiving, and recording video images using audio equipment began to intrigue me.

I began doing research on the subject, and by 1980, had gathered enough parts to build a circuit that appeared in the 1972 edition of the ARRL Handbook entitled, "An SSTV Viewing Adapter For Oscilloscopes" by Bill Briles, W7ABW, and Robert Gervenack, W7FEN. The adapter was interfaced to my Father's (K2IIQ) Model OM-2 Oscilloscope (that he later upgraded to a Model O-11), that served as a display device. The scope's original 5BP1 CRT was replaced with a 5UP7, that had the long persistence phosphor needed for SSTV reception.

All of this was accomplished at 15 years of age, three years before becoming an Amateur Radio Operator.

Old SSTV gear
My Original SSTV "SWL" Station: October 1981

My Hammarlund receiver and homebuilt SSTV equipment successfully received hundreds of slow-scan television images from around the globe for several years. It was in full operation during the Voyager 2 fly-by of the planet Saturn in August 1981, when images taken by Voyager were transmitted via SSTV by W6VIO operating from the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California shortly after their reception on Earth.

QSL Card Confirming My Reception of SSTV From W6VIO: August 1981

Not long after completing the SSTV oscilloscope adapter, I started gathering parts to build a higher-quality, stand-alone Robot 70A SSTV monitor. However, the advancement of color SSTV and video scan converter technology in the early 1980s caused SSTV standards to change dramatically over a short period of time, making my homebuilt P7-based SSTV gear obsolete. It wouldn't be until about a decade later when low-cost, PC-based SSTV communication techniques became available that permitted slow-scan television reception without the need for an expensive scan converter.

Getting My License

My interest in Slow-Scan Television was a major incentive for me to become an Amateur Radio Operator. So strong was my motivation that I took aim at getting an Advanced Class License from the start, rather than beginning as a Novice and upgrading step-by-step.

While studying to take my licensing exams, I participated in several Morse Code Proficiency Qualifying Runs sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL).

ARRL CW Certificate
My ARRL Certificate of Code Proficiency

I earned both the basic certificate for 10 WPM copy, and the 15 WPM endorsement sticker prior to taking the 13 WPM FCC code test (Element 1B) required for my Advanced Class License. A 25 WPM endorsement sticker was earned on October 12, 1983.

I took my Licensing Exams on July 19, 1983 at the FCC Field Office in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. My license arrived in the mail four weeks later. I used those four weeks to cobble together a transmitter so I could get on the air when my license arrived.

Getting On The Air

While I never held a Novice Class license, my start in Amateur Radio was initially confined to operating CW on a crystal controlled transmitter in the Novice Class portion of 40-meters.

My first transmitter was constructed in the housing of an old Knight Space Spanner shortwave receiver, and used components from this and other outdated electronic equipment that was on hand. A 375 volt D.C. power supply powered the transmitter, and was housed in a separate enclosure.

The transmitter consisted of a 6AQ5 crystal-controlled Colpitts oscillator feeding a 6BQ5 power amplifier. With about 30-watts input on the plate of the 6BQ5, and a quarter-wave end-fed wire antenna just 15 feet above the ground, this transmitter provided many solid CW contacts into 22 states, as well as the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. It operated on a frequency of 7.137 MHz, and saw its heaviest use between August 1983 and February 1984.

first xmtr
My First Transmitter

First QSL
QSL Card Confirming My First QSO

My Hammarlund HQ-140-X receiver was used in conjunction with my homebuilt transmitter. In the mid-1980s, I re-designed the receiver using solid-state components. JFETs replaced the 6C4 and 12AU7 triodes, and dual-gate MOSFETs replaced the 6BA6s pentodes used in the original design. An LM1496 integrated circuit replaced the 6BE6 pentagrid converter, and an LM380 chip replaced the 6V6 audio output tube. An LM7812 voltage regulator became the functional equivalent of the OC3 voltage regulator tube.

Although the basic functions of the receiver remained the same, several performance enhancements were made to the receiver during its conversion to a solid-state design. In particular, the AGC now functions when the BFO is in use. In addition, a ceramic I.F. filter, an FM detector, and noise-activated squelch were added to the basic receiver design. The receiver now operates from an internal regulated 12 volt DC power supply. It requires no warm-up time, and exhibits far less frequency drift than the original design.

A second transmitter was built in September 1983. This transmitter was VFO controlled, and operated on the 75-meter band. It consisted of a Heathkit VF-1 VFO feeding a single 6BQ5 power amplifier. The 250 volts required by the VF-1 was obtained from the Hammarlund receiver. The output power from this arrangement was about 15 watts. Up to 30 watts was possible using a pair of 6BQ5s in parallel. Plate modulation of the 6BQ5s allowed voice contacts on A.M.

Around December 1983, my Father's Swan 500 CX transceiver was pressed into duty on SSB and CW using a multi-band dipole antenna 25 feet off the ground. With over 300 watts of output power, this rig still packs quite a punch along with exceptional audio quality.

In February 1984, a 10-meter FM transceiver was built around a surplus Hy-Gain (Cybernet) C.B. radio chassis. Poly Paks (among other distributors) sold the Hy-Gain circuit boards for $12.95. A second board could be purchased for just one penny. Once converted to 10-meter FM, this transceiver provided scores of solid contacts, including many that took place through the 29.560/29.660 MHz W2IBJ repeater on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Receiving SSTV From Space

In August 1985, astronaut Dr. Tony England, W0̸ORE, flew on space shuttle Challenger mission STS-51F/Spacelab-2, taking with him a Motorola model MX-340 handheld 2-meter transceiver and a Robot Research model 1200C slow-scan television scan converter. Tony used this equipment to make voice and slow-scan television contacts with Amateur Radio Operators on the ground. In fact, Tony's SSTV operation from the Space Shuttle represented the first exchange of television images with a manned orbiter in human history.

I am privileged to have successfully received audio (listen to this clip) and SSTV images (see below) from the Space Shuttle Challenger during that historic mission. I was able to view the frame sequential color SSTV images transmitted from the Space Shuttle as low-resolution black-and-white images on my legacy SSTV equipment. Some ten years later, some of the higher resolution color SSTV images captured in my recordings were successfully decoded on a PC and are reproduced below.

SSTV Image of Astronaut Gordon Fullerton on-board the Space Shuttle Challenger

This color slow-scan television image was received from the Space Shuttle Challenger in August, 1985. It shows astronaut Gordon Fullerton wearing headphones in the lower right against the front windows of the Space Shuttle during mission STS-51F/Spacelab 2. Some papers can be seen above Gordon's head towards the top of the image, along with a keyboard and some instrumentation along the left.

SSTV Image of Astronaut Tony England on-board the Space Shuttle Challenger

The second image shows astronaut Dr. Tony England, W0̸ORE. Both images were received on a frequency of 145.550 MHz FM using an omni-directional turnstile antenna in my attic feeding a low-noise preamplifier of my own design.

QSL Card Confirming My Reception of W0̸ORE from the Space Shuttle Challenger, August 1985

This QSL card officially verifies my reception of amateur radio signals from the Space Shuttle Challenger during mission STS-51F, and commemorates my participation in this early SAREX experiment.

A decade and a half later, slow-scan television equipment was installed on the Russian space station Mir for the purpose of transmitting pictures to Amateur Radio Operators on the Earth below. The following color image, transmitted in Robot 36 mode on December 26, 1998, shows a spectacular view of the Earth as seen out of one of Mir's Earth-pointing windows. It was received during a pass over southeastern Canada on a frequency of 145.985 MHz FM using a Yaesu FT-726R transceiver, and a roof mounted 8-element yagi antenna.

SSTV from Mir
SSTV Video Received From The Space Station Mir on December 26, 1998

The next image shows Mir just prior to crossing the terminator and entering into the Earth's shadow. Mir appears very bright against the dark earth below. This image was received on January 31, 1999 on a frequency of 145.985 MHz. Mir was actually visible in the evening sky over New Jersey when this image was transmitted by the spacecraft.

SSTV from Mir
SSTV Video Received From The Space Station Mir on January 31, 1999

Entry Into Amateur Satellites and Related Software Development

The STS-51F mission inspired a strong interest in satellite communications. As packet radio began to become popular around 1987, an MFJ-1270B packet radio terminal node controller was purchased. This TNC was used in conjunction with the then-popular Commodore 64 home computer to facilitate AX.25 protocol communications. The TNC permitted access to local packet radio bulletin board systems including NN2Z-4, KS4HR-4, WB2COP-4, and the KA2QHD Unix-based Packet Radio <--> UUCP Gateway, which opened the door to the world of Usenet newsgroups and Internet-style e-mail in a completely wireless manner. Terminal emulation software was written for the C-64, and the skill of writing code in 6510 machine language was acquired in the process.

An interest in decoding the digital downlink signals of the UoSAT-OSCAR-9 and UoSAT-OSCAR-11 satellites developed concurrently with my earliest packet radio activity. I constructed a 1200 baud AFSK demodulator and used it in conjunction with my packet radio terminal emulation software to read the data I was able to receive from space. I eventually developed software specifically for this purpose, and donated it to AMSAT-NA in support of the Amateur Satellite Program.

UoSAT Capture Program
Opening Screen for my UoSAT Data Capture & Display Program

QSL Card Confirming My Reception of OSCAR-11 on its 20th Anniversary

Archives of weekly news bulletins and telemetry I captured from the OSCAR-9 and OSCAR-11 satellites using my software were collected over the period of several years, and may be found on-line.

Having the need to predict reception times for the OSCAR-9 and OSCAR-11 satellites on a regular basis was a strong motivating factor for my developing satellite orbital prediction software for my Commodore 64. My early software utilized reference orbit data sent daily in Morse Code by W1AW, propagated that information forward in time, and predicted AOS and LOS times based on my groundstation location and several other static orbital parameters. This was the precursor to the development of much more sophisticated satellite tracking software in the months and years that followed.

EasyTrack Real-Time Satellite Tracking
My first real-time satellite orbital prediction software called "EasyTrack" ran on the Commodore 64 computer.

* SpaceNews *

My growing interest in the Amateur Space Program, combined with the unique information resources to which I had access, provided inspiration for creating an electronic newsletter for individuals with similar interests in satellite and space communications. My newsletter was called "SpaceNews", and weekly publication ran from November 1987 through January 2001.

"SpaceNews" circulation was via Packet Radio, the Internet, and several Pacsat satellites, although it also appeared on many dial-up Bulletin Board Systems and proprietary information networks as well. Although written in English, circulation and interest in "SpaceNews" grew so high that versions of my newsletter were available in French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Chinese.

 Msg# TSP Size To @ BBS From Date Time
 6755 PN  775 KD2BD     K9HI 881031 0922
Subject: Greetings

R:881031/0848z [email protected] F:221.11 [ Middletown, NJ ]
R:881031/0831z [email protected] [New York,NY] Z:11354 F:441.000/145.01
R:881031/0713z [email protected] [Farmingville,NY] NY-NJ-CT-RI-MA Z:11738
R:881031/0216z [email protected] [Newington, CT - NTS Node] Z:06111
R:881030/2251z @:K1UGM Wakefield, MA #:6278 Z:01880
R:881030/2207z @:N1BGG Boston, MA. #:9057 Z:02129

Just a short note to let you know that SpaceNews is being received up here
in the Boston area. I download it regularly off the PBBS and port it over
to our proprietary E-Mail system (WangNet) here at Wang Labs. My distribution
list includes about 100 hams/swl'ers, employees of the company. About a dozen
are in Australia and the Pacific, and another 6-8 are in England/Ireland.
73, Phil K9HI @ N1BGG

"SpaceNews" Distribution at Wang Laboratories, October 31, 1988

As further evidence of its popularity, references to "SpaceNews" regularly appeared in The Yanoff List (sample copy), Internet Yellow Pages, Ham Radio Newsline, 73 Magazine, the Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists, and and even Sky & Telescope Magazine. Today, some early editions of "SpaceNews" can be found on the Textfiles.com website.

SpaceNews Listing
"SpaceNews" is referenced in the Directory of Electronic Journals, Newsletters, and Academic Discussion Lists

My newsletter also played a role in the creation of the sci.space.news Usenet Newsgroup in December 1991, and a method of accessing "SpaceNews" via a live Internet connection was described in Tricks of the Internet Gurus.

In the late 1980s, Amateur Radio operations from the Russian space station Mir began. Operations included voice contacts with stations on the ground, packet radio, and slow-scan television. Several inhabitants of Mir read my "SpaceNews" reports while living and working in space.

Msg # Stat     Date     Time  To     From   @ BBS  Subject
42     P     91/03/09   04:37 U2MIR  KA1SU         Hello Musa
41     PR    91/03/09   03:21 ALL    U2MIR         qsl
40     PR    91/03/09   03:02 U2MIR  VO1SA         Greetings
39     PR    91/03/09   03:00 U2MIR  VO1XC         GREETINGS
38     PR    91/03/09   02:54 U2MIR  KI4TD         GREETINGS
37     PR    91/03/09   02:51 U2MIR  KC4UZA        hello agai
36     PR    91/03/09   01:31 U2MIR  F3NW          TOMORROW
35     PR    91/03/08   20:37 U2MIR  TR8CA         * SpaceNews  04-Mar-91 *
34     PR    91/03/08   20:36 U2MIR  TR8CA         PHOTOS
33     P     91/03/08   16:30 KJ9U   U2MIR         LIST 02.03.91
2538 Bytes free
Next message Number 43

List of Active Messages on the Mir Packet Radio Bulletin Board System, March 1991

"SpaceNews" appears in message 35 in the Mir Personal Message System (PMS) listing above. It was uploaded to Mir by Alain Combelles, TR8CA, in Gabon, Africa. The letter R in the status column of message 35 means that "SpaceNews" was accessed and read by Cosmonaut Musa Manarov, U2MIR, who was stationed on Mir at the time.

I occasionally ran "Mini-Tutorials" in "SpaceNews" on subjects I felt would be of interest to Amateur Satellite enthusiasts. Out of my "Mini-Tutorials" grew a series of "Spotlight" articles that profiled the history and operation of different satellites each week. It wasn't long before the value of my "Spotlight" articles was recognized by AMSAT, and I was subsequently invited to write similar, but more in-depth articles for The AMSAT Journal, many of which are available on-line:

My "Spotlight" articles, in addition to some other news items I published in "SpaceNews", appeared in The ARRL Satellite Anthology, Fourth and Fifth Editions.

Magellan Award Nine years into publication, "SpaceNews" earned a "Best of the 'Net" Magellan Award from the McKinley Group's professional editorial team.

Other Publications and Media Interviews

The success of "SpaceNews" opened the door to even greater publishing opportunities.

In 1994, I was asked to serve as a Contributing Editor for Radio! magazine that was sold through Radio Shack stores.

Satellite Times Logo I also served as a columnist for Satellite Times magazine for four years. My responsibilities included writing a regular column on the subject of Amateur Radio Satellites, as well as several special feature articles for both Satellite Times and Monitoring Times magazines.

The November/December 1996 issue of Satellite Times appeared on the set of the movie Conspiracy Theory, starring Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts.

On September 11, 1994, I was the featured guest on "Spectrum" (Communications Technology News and Features "From DC to Light"), broadcast worldwide via shortwave radio station WWCR, Nashville, Tennessee. (Listen to a short clip)

Less than two weeks later, I was the featured guest on "Bridging Gaps", broadcast on radio station WBJB-FM, Lincroft, New Jersey. (Listen to a short clip)

In October 1996, I was a guest speaker at the Grove Communications Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, where I spoke on the subject of Amateur Radio Satellites.

I have given talks to nearly every amateur radio club in my local area.

An Amateur Radio contact between ISS astronaut Frank Culbertson and myself that took place on October 19, 2001 was featured on BBC Radio 3 on January 19, 2013. (Listen to a short clip)

To date, I have had technical articles published in a number of books and periodicals, including:

CQ-VHF Cover Photo
My photograph was featured on the front cover of the October 1997 issue of "CQ VHF" magazine.

PREDICT Satellite Tracking Software

Out of the simple orbital prediction software I created to receive OSCAR-9 and OSCAR-11 satellite downlinks in the late 1980s grew "SpaceTrack", a real-time satellite tracking application for the Commodore 64. "SpaceTrack" was written in a combination of BASIC and 6510 machine language. Its operation was based on the use of Keplerian orbital element sets, and was capable of rendering a satellite's position against a bit-mapped Mercator projection world map. "SpaceTrack" also supported a popular voice synthesizer chip that provided articulation of satellite bearings to assist in making visual observations of satellites traversing the night sky.

SpaceTrack World Map
"SpaceTrack" included a World Map Satellite Tracking mode that identified the satellite's position in real-time.

Although never released to the public, this early satellite tracking software was often put on display in the Natural and Applied Science building at Brookdale Community College during Space Shuttle missions in the late 1980s. Astronaut audio received via WA3NAN at the Goddard Space Flight Center was combined with real-time tracking video generated by "SpaceTrack", and distributed to several television monitors prominently displayed around the Electronics, Physics, and Drafting labs.

In order to more quickly predict satellite passes than was possible using software written in BASIC, work on an orbital prediction program began using a "Super C" compiler for the Commodore 64. This new program that I called PREDICT was then ported to several Unix computers before making its way to DOS and finally released as shareware in the early 1990s.

Commodore 64
"PREDICT" running on a Commodore 64

AT&T 3B1
"PREDICT" running on an AT&T 3B1 Unix PC

"PREDICT" running on a PC under DOS

I abandoned all Microsoft operating systems in 1994 in favor of the Slackware Linux operating system, and began porting PREDICT to my new (and still current) OS of choice. By the end of 1999, PREDICT had grown sufficiently mature where I felt comfortable releasing it under an Open Source Software License. Within a short period of time, PREDICT grew to become the most popular satellite tracking software on the Linux platform.

Single Track Mode
PREDICT's Single Satellite Tracking Mode running under Linux

Multitrack Mode
PREDICT's Multi Satellite Tracking Mode running under Linux

PREDICT World View
  Using XPlanet
The Linux version of "PREDICT" includes support for several graphical client applications

  the ESA
Use of my "PREDICT" software at the European Space Agency's Chilbolton Observatory

Today, PREDICT is employed at NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the European Space Agency (pictured above), Stanford University, Cornell University, CalTech, Stanford University's Space Systems Development Laboratory, and the U.S. Naval Academy. Holding true to its humble beginnings, it even talks to you so you can keep your eyes toward the sky during a visual satellite pass.

PREDICT is the engine behind the satellite tracking and orbital prediction services provided through the ISS Fan Club and AMSAT-NA Websites, as well as the ISS Spotter iPhone App. PREDICT also serves as the basis for many other Open-Source satellite tracking software applications, such as Gpredict and Ktrack. There's even a version of PREDICT under development for the Android platform.

Please visit the PREDICT Website for further information.

SPLAT! RF Propagation and Terrain Analysis Software

SPLAT! is an RF Signal Propagation, Loss, And Terrain analysis tool for the electromagnetic spectrum between 20 MHz and 20 GHz, that was originally developed to predict the operational coverage of the Brookdale ATV Repeater System.

SPLAT! has since developed into a serious communications tool, and is widely used for communication site engineering, wireless network design, Amateur Radio communications, frequency coordination, communication system design, and terrestrial analog and digital television and radio broadcasting.

Signal Strength Contours Terrain Height Plot
A SPLAT! signal strength contour map and a point-to-point path analysis plot

Rabbit Ears Website
Use of my SPLAT! software at the RabbitEars.info Website

SPLAT! also powers many telecommunication websites, such as RabbitEars.info (pictured above), CloudRF, Visual LMR, and the W5GFE SPLAT! Website.

Please visit the SPLAT! Website for additional information.

Pacsat Satellite Communications

As my interest in satellites and computers grew during the late 1980s and early 1990s, I purchased a Yaesu FT-726R multi-mode VHF/UHF transceiver so I could more seriously explore the world of OSCAR satellites.

Having already had experience with terrestrial Packet Radio communications and AFSK data decoding of UoSAT satellite downlinks, my thoughts turned toward decoding the BPSK downlink signals I was able to receive from the Pacsat satellites with my new transceiver.

With little technical information available on the subject, I designed a simple 1200 bps BPSK demodulator to evaluate some design concepts for a Pacsat modem I had in mind. After successfully decoding Pacsat downlinks with my simple prototype, I immediately drew up plans for a much more robust BPSK demodulator, along with a design for a matching Manchester FSK encoder, so I could eventually establish full-duplex communication links with Pacsat satellites.

KD2BD Pacsat Modem
The KD2BD Pacsat Modem

The final design of my KD2BD Pacsat Modem was published in the August 1994 issue of QEX magazine and the July/August 1995 issue of The AMSAT Journal. A description of my Pacsat Modem also begins Chapter 3 of the ARRL's Packet: Speed, More Speed, and Applications, first edition. Details of my circuit design may also be read on-line.

In August 1997, I successfully developed a 9600 baud FSK modem in just one week's time. Working in conjunction with my MFJ-1270B and FT-726R, this modem provided access to the UoSAT-OSCAR-22, KITSAT-OSCAR-23, and KITSAT-OSCAR-25 Pacsat satellites. The design of my 9600 baud modem was later published in the February, March, and April 1998 issues of Satellite Times magazine, a copy of which may be read on-line.

In January 1998, I used my newly created modem to establish communications with Andre Phillips, VK0MAP/VK5AAP/ZL3AW, an Astrophysicist who was stationed at South Pole Station in Antarctica:

To  : KD2BD
From: VK0MAP
Time: 025819UTC
Date: 22 Jan 1998

South Pole Station

Hello John,

Thanks for the brief mention in SpaceNews and it would have been fun to chat
direct with Ron when he was down here. Most of your article comments apply
to this station as well. The rig here is a Kenwood TS-790A with PacComm
Tiny 2. It all works very nicely I must say. The up/downlink antennas are
a couple of Lindenblads fashioned from no. 8 fencing wire and they do an
excellent job. I get a solid 5+ minutes of connect time per pass. At the
Pole UO-22, KO-25 and POSAT all rise to an elevation of 34 degrees, and
KO-23 to 12 degrees.

Power is not a problem as Pole Station is an extremely well equipped
scientific* Antarctic base, and also with a very agreeable social atmosphere;
it's a fun place (*unlike many Antarctic bases whose role is mostly political).

I'll be uploading more information over the next few days.  I'm keen to
promote Amateur satellite communications and fielding questions from kids
is one way to do it. If you know of any teachers who would like to forward
questions then I'll do my best to answer 'em briefly...

As I write there is a Herc taking off outside.  They pass only a few hundred
feet from my window and are an impressive sight, especially when occasionally
generating condensation trails right from ground level. We get 2-5 Herc
flights in per day.

Do you know John Arnold's callsign, and whether he's active on pacsats at
present (he was in '94-'96)?




Andre Phillips
Dept of Astrophysics & Optics
UNSW, Sydney, NSW
Australia, 2052
ph: (61 2) 9385-5003, fax: 9385-6060

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/astro.html (UNSW Astrophysics)
http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~mcba/aasto (AASTO project)
http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~mgb/jacara.html (Antarctic astronomy)

Jamesway Photo
A ten person Jamesway (accommodation module)
at South Pole Station. Photo sent by Andre Phillips
via the KITSAT-OSCAR-25 satellite in 1998.

Astronaut and Cosmonaut Communications

I have had numerous Amateur Radio contacts with Astronauts and Cosmonauts living in space. In fact, a conversation between ISS astronaut Frank Culbertson and myself that took place on October 19, 2001 was featured on BBC Radio 3 on January 19, 2013. (Listen to a short clip)


I was awarded a "Mir Achievement Award" in 1997 after successfully establishing two-way UHF voice and VHF packet radio contact with astronaut and fellow ham radio operator Michael Foale, KB5UAC in August and September 1997 while he was stationed onboard the Russian space station Mir.

Mir Achievement Award ARISS Award

I was awarded a Roy Neal International Space Station Commemorative Certificate for successfully establishing 2-way voice communications with the International Space Station on December 6, 2003.

In October 2008, I had the privilege of speaking with Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, on-board the International Space Station.


W5KWQ Letter

I also received quite a number of SSTV transmissions made by Richard during his stay on the ISS.

SSTV Video Received From The ISS On October 12, 2008.

Montage of ISS SSTV images along with space-to-ground audio received during the third week of October 2008.
A voice contact between myself and space tourist Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, on-board the ISS can be heard at 5:45.

Some audio recordings I've made of OSCAR satellites, Space Shuttle, and International Space Station communications are available here:

Earth-Moon-Earth Communications

On April 18, 2010, I successfully received 432 MHz CW signals reflected off the moon that originated from the 1000 foot radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.


Competition-Grade Frequency Measurement

After constructing my Elecraft K2/100 (serial #3563) HF transceiver in the Spring of 2003, I found myself in need of an accurate and reliable frequency reference with which I could calibrate my new transceiver. Having had a long-term interest in exploring the low-frequency radio spectrum, I decided to investigate using the 60 kHz carrier of NIST radio station WWVB as a frequency reference. Learning that the ARRL was going to conduct a Frequency Measuring Test later that year only served to accelerate the process, and by mid-October, I had successfully phase-locked a 10 MHz crystal oscillator to WWVB's carrier.

The rest (as they say) is history. I have been actively participating in Frequency Measuring Tests, using hardware of my own engineering, ever since.

2014 ARRL FMT 2007 K5CM FMT

Details of my unique hardware and measurement technique can be found on my FMT Methodology Page.

2017 Solar Eclipse Propagation Experiment

My FMT work led to the development of a very successful radio propagation experiment conducted during the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse. My experiment accurately measured amplitude and phase variations of 60 kHz WWVB reception during the course of the eclipse using hardware and software of my own design. I was subsequently invited to present the results of my experiment to the first gathering of HamSCI held at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in February 2018.

Eclipse Throu
gh Clouds
Eclipse Map
Eclipse Projection

Further details on my solar eclipse experiment can be found on my eclipse webpage.

Amateur Television

I have also been involved in Amateur Amateur Television (ATV), and engineered the 70-cm ATV Repeater System at Brookdale Community College, in Lincroft, New Jersey in the early 1990s. The repeater has been used to relay ATV signals throughout the North Jersey exterior area, to provide re-transmissions of NASA Television programming during U.S. Space Shuttle missions, and serve as an educational resource for students studying Electronics Technology and Electrical Engineering.

Rack photo
Brookdale ATV Repeater Equipment Rack

I designed the aural and visual exciters, the video modulator, and the video operated relay circuitry located within the repeater's controller.

My video modulator was featured in the The ARRL Image Communications Handbook, by Dr. Ralph Taggart, WB8DQT. The design of my video operated relay was published in the Spring 2000 issue of Amateur Television Quarterly, and the operation of the repeater's "timeout" timer was the inspiration behind an article written on the subject by Rich Moseson, W2VU, in the July 1998 issue of CQ VHF magazine.

Dish photo
Dish antenna used for NASA-TV Reception

The TriplePIC SSTV Scan Converter

Except for engaging in SSTV reception from the Space Shuttle, Mir Space Station, and International Space Station in the 1980s and 1990s, PC-based SSTV remained of little interest to me. Early in 2010, after realizing I had boxes of cassette tape recordings of old SSTV transmissions still in my possession with no practical means of viewing them, my thoughts began to turn toward developing the "world's best SSTV scan converter" to be able to view my old SSTV recordings, and re-visit the world of vintage slow-scan television once again.

By year's end, I had created the TriplePIC SSTV video scan converter, which has delivered outstanding performance, and is breathing new life into vintage SSTV.

TriplePIC SSTV Scan Converter
The KD2BD "TriplePIC" SSTV Scan Converter

TriplePIC Resolution Comparison
The KD2BD "TriplePIC" SSTV Scan Converter Resolution Comparison

I authored a two-part article describing my scan converter for the Summer and Fall 2014 issues of ATV Quarterly magazine. Further information is available on my Revisiting Slow-Scan Television, and my TriplePIC SSTV Scan Converter Resource web pages.

Public Service

I served as the staff advisor for the Brookdale Amateur Radio Club for 25 years, and help to save lives and property as a member of the National Weather Service's Skywarn program.

For more information about the Amateur Radio Service, please visit the web site of the American Radio Relay League.

73 de John, KD2BD


John Magliacane
Electronics Engineer
FCC General Radio Operator Licensee
Open Source Linux Software Developer
Advanced Class FCC Amateur Radio Operator (KD2BD)