Supporters

Press Release #8: OQRS is now open for A35JT

Charles M0OXO

Click here for OQRS

We are pleased to announce that OQRS (Online QSL Request Services) are now available for those who wish to request QSL cards. These are provided via our QSL manager Charles M0OXO.

We have completed background extraction and comparison of the WSJT internal logs with our main database and tracked down about 120-130 missing contacts. Most of these occured when one of the systems was running an old version of the software in the first 2 days. Others were when we broke the network apart to separate contesting from standard operations. These have been added to both M0OXO and to Clublog.

If you still cant find your contact please lodge a busted calls request with M0OXO and we will try tracking it down. Note however that we will be following DXCC rules. If it doesn’t have log evidence for the contact then sorry we will not be able to help you.

Thank you Charles!

The team wishes to give a big thank you to Charles for his continuing service as our QSL Manager. I have worked with Charles now on 3 expeditions as well as having him handle my own domestic logs. He does a stellar service and I can’t recommend him more highly if you are in need of QSL Manager Services. Thank you Charles!

Thanks for your Logistics Support: A35CS and ZL1RPL

Christian A35CS

Along the way during our journey we have had help from many people.

We would particularly like to thank Christan Sakalia A35CS in Tonga who helped with transport to and from the airport across the island, as well as sorting out a number of logistics issues for us prior to the trip.

We also want to thank Jean-Philippe ZL1RPL who helped with transport for the team from Auckland Airport on Monday night. Your contributions both made a difference to the smooth running of the expedition.

Oly VK5XDX, Grant VK5GR, Andy VK5AKH and Jean-Philippe ZL1RPL in Auckland

I also again must thank Mary Mahe from Pacific Forum Line who helped the “crazy Aussies” in our madcap adventure with freighting our antennas to and from Tonga. I also want to thank Mala Sjarif from Tayper Freight Forwarders in Australia for her help on the VK end with the transport arrangements.

It is this sort of support that helps make these expeditions possible. Thanks everyone!

Press Release #4: A35JT Enters Week 2

L-R VK5XDX, VK5SFA, VK5AKH, VK5GR

As A35JT enters Week 2 things are going well. We are hugely appreciative of the kind feedback we have recieved and wish to thank everyone for your contacts with us from Tonga. We continue to explore different band openings and times looking for the unexpected. We also are capitalising on greyline openings on 160m and will do more on 80m in the next few days.

At the same time we will as far as resources allow target the main EU 20 and 17m openings (noting we cant operate 40-20m together and we cant operate 20-17m together). 30m will receive more attention in the next couple of days as well.

Finally, we have been alerted to some potential 12m and 10m openings to South America around 17-18z through our pilot network. We will attempt to exploit those if they are there tomorrow.

ATNO Friday (UTC)!

We also want to open up some lesser used slots and bring some RTTY back to expeditioning. We continue seeking to target more ATNO QSOs for first time contact with Tonga and will call for CQ ATNO (All Time New One) on Friday looking for the smaller stations seeking their first contact with this DXCC.

Team Member Departs – Week 2 More Relaxed

We also said goodbye to one of our team members last night. Steve VK5SFA was unable to stay for the entrie expedition so we are down to 3 operators. The second week will be more relaxed as a result. We have been working ~1500 stations a day with the full team. We expect that to decrease as we take some time to also explore the island a little. Team leader Grant VK5GR has also been joined by his family and will be taking some time off during the day to be with his wife and daughter. We will still try to maintain 1 station on air for as many hours as we can in the second week so keep looking for us here in the South Pacific.

Contesting Plans

We are also planning an effort for the Oceania DX contest, but may not be able to run the entire event. The problem we face is the contest finishes at 0800z which is 9:00pm local on Sunday. We fly out at 1.40pm Monday so packup will be starting during the contest.

Our effort in the CQ WW RTTY contest was more to provide multipliers in the end. Too many other demands on the station meant a full RTTY effort was unable to be mounted. We will submit our log as a CHECKLOG due to the number of broken contacts unfortunately caused by DQRM. At least some of the contesters will be able to get verification of working A35JT this way.

Thanks and see you on air!

Finally thanks again to everyone who has donated to the expedition! It is hugely appreciated! Your support both in terms of encouragement and financial is humbling. We are not a big expedition and many of the team members are new to expeditioning. The feedback received has had a huge impact on the team and for that we say thank you!

73 and see you on the air!

 

A35JT Tonga Expedition: 30 Days out – Final Preparations Underway

We are now 30 days away from departing Australia and heading for Tonga. Excitement is building within our team including Oly VK5XDX, Steve VK5SFA, Andy VK5AKH and Grant VK5GR. Our operators have interests from all of the CW, SSB and Digital worlds so we hope to cater for everyone – propagation willing. Our EME equipment is packed too so expect to find us on 6m via the moon! We are also planning to enter the CQ WW RTTY contest as a Multi-1 station as well as the Oceania DX SSB Contest. We hope both of these entries will provide opportunities particularly for the RTTY and SSB die-hards.

Milestones Reached

We passed several major milestones in recent weeks including the completion and packing of our 40m and 30m 4-square arrays, testing and packing of the 6m EME and 20-10m arrays, initial testing of the beverage on ground receive antenna and an on air test of the 160m inverted L built on our Spiderbeam 12m fibreglass pole (which returned impressive results during the Remembrance Day contest held in VK last weekend).

This week we also completed the first set of payments for our freight shipment to Tonga. This first load consists of the majority of the antenna arrays. All up we are shipping ~250kg of equipment to establish 2x 500W HF stations, 1x 6m EME station and a 3rd 100W HF station. (We had hoped to have more power but alas after the failure of one of our multi-band amplifiers during the 6m EME trials in July we learned a few weeks ago that it wont be returning from repairs in time to make it on the expedition).

On Air Planning & Propagation Predictions

We are finalizing operating plans and studying propagation charts. More information can be found on our operating pages

Please note our operating strategy:

If we are calling for NA, EU or AS we politely request other regions stand by.

However if you are in OC, SA or AF we will accept your call at any time!

 

When should you look for us? The team at Voacap.com have kindly added our expedition to their Voacap DX Charts page. Just enter your grid square and scroll down to the A35JT entry. The following is a quick summary Zone by Zone of expected conditions.


A35JT Pilot Team

40m 4-square Array by Oly VK5XDX

To assist the A35JT expedition team get quickly dialled in to what bands are open from when for Tonga, we have enlisted the help of various pilot stations around the globe. The role of the pilot stations are to gather SWL reports as to when stations in their area are hearing the DXpedition. SWL reports containing the date, time, band and mode are then compiled and forwarded to the team on the island, so they will know when they are being heard and adjust their operating schedule for various continents to target them at the right time.

NOTE: pilots do not take NIL complaints, requests for certain bands or modes (wish list), etc. These will be considered only after the expedition by our QSL manager via the OQRS Busted Call Request function.

30m 4-square Array by Steve VK5SFA

Our pilots are:

  • Chief Pilot – Bjorn ON9CFG
  • North America – Steve N2AJ
  • South America – Cesar PY2YP
  • Oceania – Chris VK5SA
  • Japan – Joe JJ3PRT
  • Youth & ATNO – Jim AC9EZ

E-mail addresses for out pilots will be published shortly!

We must thank Joe JJ3PRT in particular for his help with our Japanese Web page too!


Donations Welcome

If you would like to support our expedition, please click on the donate button on our website!

Please include your callsign and indicate whether it is a general or a specific EME donation in the Paypal Note!


Sponsors

We must thank both our society and corporate sponsors who have helped greatly with making this expedition possible! As we are quickly learning, expeditions are expensive things to stage. Even modest ones like ours. The support of the DX associations and corporate sponsors is invaluable!


Frequency Plans

Our website also contains full details of our frequency plans.

BandCWSSBRTTYFT8
160m1818kHz1846kHz1803kHz1840kHz (1908kHz for JA)
80m3518kHz3780kHz3593kHz3567kHz
80m (for JA)3518kHz3775kHz DOWN 53535kHz3570kHz
40m7018kHz7185kHz7051kHz7070kHz
30m10118kHzNA10143kHz10143kHz
20m14038kHz14265kHz14083kHz14083kHz
17m18078kHz18150kHz18103kHz18103kHz
15m21038kHz21265kHz21083kHz21083kHz
12m24903kHz24975kHz24923kHz24923kHz
10m28038kHz28465kHz28083kHz28095kHz
6m50100kHz50130kHzNA50313kHz
6m EME50185kHz JT65A

Logs and QSL Information

We will be attempting (Internet access permitting) to upload logs to Clublog and to our QSL Manager daily. Thanks to Michael G7VJF our expedition also has access to the DXPedition tools on Clublog!

We are exploring a live logging feed option as well. If we can make it work we will announce it on our website!

OQRS QSL Requests

Our QSL Manager is Charles M0OXO.

LoTW will be uploaded once the team returns to Australia. If you wish to receive a direct paper QSL, please request these via our QSL Manager Charles using the M0OXO OQRS Service. The cost for a direct card is currently $3USD which covers printing and postage (only). You can also request cards to be delivered to you via the QSL Bureau network using the M0OXO OQRS. Bureau cards will be delivered free of charge.

If you wish to send us a Bureau QSL card, please send those to “A35JT via VK5GR” so that incoming bureau cards are routed to the Australian QSL Bureau system.
DO NOT send your own bureau card via your local bureau addressed “via M0OXO” as they will not be delivered. I am not a member of the RSGB bureau and they will not handle delivery of them.

Note: due to WIA (2018) Outbound member QSL policy for DXpeditions, I will reply to all received incoming bureau cards via my QSL manager.  

 


DX Trophy Awards

If you are participating in the DX Trophy Awards you will be pleased to learn that A35JT qualifies for that award.


So with 30 days to go things are looking good!

We hope to work you all from Tonga in September!

73 from the A35JT DXpedition Team!

A35JT Logo

A35JT 6m EME Antenna – Mechanical & Tuning preparation

Over the weekend we put the finishing touches on the 6m EME antenna mechanical and packing details and did a first set of measurements to confirm it’s tuning. The antenna, which started life as an InnovAntennas LFA2 6el Yagi can now be elevated for EME work using a tilt bracket designed by Lance W7GJ and built by Peter VK5PJ. The antenna has been modified so it can also be packed down into less than 1.5 metres in length for transport. It has also been adapted to fit out new Spiderbeam 10m Aluminium portable mast that Spiderbeam generously sponsored us with.

Now to pack it into it’s travel case and take it down to Lake Alexandrina next weekend for the trials!

6m Moon-bounce Dress Rehearsal planned for July 6th 0050-1130z

The A35JT expedition team will be running a shakedown test of the 6m EME system we are taking to Tonga in September next weekend. The plan is to operate from moon-rise to moon-set in VK5. We will have elevation control now for the antenna and will be able to manually track the moon through the full lunar pass. The team also visited the site today and now believes that we can operate down to the horizon on moon set, which will benefit the European stations hoping to call us. The callsign to be used will be:

VK5GR – Grid PF94mm

Frequency: 50.203MHz (planned)

Moon Rise = 0050UTC July 6th

Moon Set = 1130UTC July 6th

The team will monitor the ON4KST EME Chat and ask you keep track of our activities there – (in case we have to move due to birdies or other factors).

If you are going to try and call us could you please drop me an email beforehand (to make sure you are in our CALLS3.TXT file).

The intention is to run the same calling procedure as Lance W7GJ uses for his DXpeditions. This way it becomes a full dress rehearsal for when we operate from Tonga in September.

Our station will consist of a K3S Elecraft + SPE 1.5KFA Amp and 12dBi antenna with 0.6dB feeder loss using Hyperflex-13 coax (LMR400 equivalent from Messi and Paoloni). The station is the full portable one we are packing up to send to Tonga in August ready for our arrival in the last week of September. Spiderbeam have helped sponsor our 10m aluminium portable tower for this station and we must say a big thank you to RF Solutions in Queensland who have supported our venture  through the supply of our coaxial cables (they are the M&P cable dealers here in VK).

We have been allowed to run 1kW and 12dBi by the ACMA (our VK regulator) for this trial. We hope with this that we should be able to work the bigger stations at least. We did manage with this setup the work several NA stations + JA, UK, I, OH and S5 when we ran the first test in February as well as hear our own echos. That was without elevation. This time, with elevation and an extended window we hope to work some more.

If you miss us on the moon, also look out for VK5GR on HF. We are taking the opportunity to test end to end the complete Tonga expedition station and will have all of the antennas on air over the weekend. We are setting up on Friday 5th and tearing down late Sunday 7th (perhaps even the morning of the 8th for some antennas). Watch the clusters looking for VK5GR/P on HF.

A35JT 80/160m Antenna Tests: How to mount a CrankIR to a Spiderbeam 12m Fibreglass Pole

Antenna development work continues for the A35JT DXpedition. Today, after several failed attempts over the past month, and some yacht rigging experience from Matt VK5ZM, we successfully mated a SpiderBeam 12m Fibreglass pole with a CrankIR portable antenna. What does this give us you might ask? In short, the ability to run a folded 1/4 wave mono-pole vertical on 80m on a tune-able antenna rig that will support our expedition across all bands from 160-10m. It is, in effect, a variation of the same antenna I took with me to Vanuatu last year – but in a much more robust form.

While the original CrankIR does have an 80m add on kit, our measurements indicated that it was rather inefficient at that frequency. Converting the antenna using the SpiderBeam pole and moving to a full size folded monopole design for 80m with elevated radials raises the efficiency considerably on 80m, while retaining the rest of the versatility of the CrankIR system.

So, how did we do it? Using a combination of components from both the 80m add on kit for the original CrankIR and all but the top section of the SpiderBeam 12m Fibreglass pole. These were arranged in the form of a box rigged yacht mast. Through careful selection of guying points and pole segments, we were able to achieve sufficient compressible strength to take the head load of the CrankIR spreader system while improving the lateral stability of the top half of the SpiderBeam mast at the same time. Doing so required several pieces of ingenuity and home brew development, as well as a few visits to the local hardware store.

Components

To achieve the box rig guy configuration required two main elements, the 4 way spreader arm and hub assembly plus a base plate at the bottom of the mast. This spreader arm assembly was created from a rubber dolly wheel of about 100mm diameter and 4x 600mm fibreglass tent poles. The wheel was drilled out to the appropriate size to fit the mast at the height we wanted. Then 4 holes were drilled to fit the tent poles at 90deg to the mast.

Mast Base plate

We then manufactured a base plate from a 150mm square piece of 3mm plate aluminium, some Carabina clips and a door stop to centre the pole.

Mast Setup

As noted by the SpiderBeam, the top couple of sections of their 12m fibreglass poles are not designed to take any load more substantial than a piece of wire. Our experiments confirmed this, with problems encountered with the pole bending uncontrollably with the ~300g+ head load of the CrankIR spreader arm unit applied, even before rigging the  wire radiating element. So, in addition to the box mast rigging addition, we also had to rearrange how the masting we had from both the Spiderbeam Pole and the 80m CrankIR kit was being used.

The ultimate objective was to get the top of the antenna at least 11.7 metres off the ground. This would allow the 80m folded element to reach the required height of 10m with the base of the antenna at least 1.7m high. This was important as it raised the antenna impedance up to 50 ohms once the 8x25m ground radial lengths were adjusted (note these are longer than needed to raise the impedance).

Our solution was to not use the top section 12 of the SpiderBeam mast at all, and to indeed lower the 11th section (held by a hose clamp) so that only 10cm was visible above the 10th section (for stiffness and diameter matching for the CrankIR spreader). The mast was then guyed from the bottom of the 10th section. The box rig guys use 1mm polyethelene cord while the main guys used 2mm dia “Spectra” rope – very light weight but also high breaking strain. The end result looks like this:

The SpiderBeam mast then fits neatly on top of the connecting aluminium pipes supplied by CrankIR allowing us to extend the mast by the 1.7m we lost at the top. The overall height doesn’t change, but the strength does. With this setup, we had finally created our multi-band tune-able vertical!

The total weight for the entire antenna is predicted to come in under 10kg (without pegs) including an addition that will also give us tune-able access to 160m through mounting an inverted L to the same mast.

80m Antenna Operation

Tuning the antenna for 80m is a combination of adjusting the amount of wire in the driven element plus the length of the earth radials. An important point to note is that the impedance is sensitive to how much of the radial is on contact with the ground. In our tests we arranged the radials to be 25m long and elevated off the ground for approximately 3-4m away from the base of the antenna. Doing so allowed us to achieve some great results! We were able to tune and match the antenna with relative ease from 3.5 – 3.85MHz.

160m Modifications

We also want the expedition to be able to have some access to 160m, although it is not a primary band for us (we just cant take enough gear with the number of team members we have to build a full size 160m station as well). To achieve this, based in part on a design by Rick DJ0IP, we wound in the wire on the 80m CrankIR. Then on a second pully and string we had rigged for the purpose, we attached a new radiator wire to the top of the guyed section, brought it down 11m to the 160m feedpoint, and extended the other end out ~34m to form the inverted L. For testing and initial tuning, we then passed it through a 5-500pf 15kV variable vacuum capacitor (VVC). The horizontal part of the L is then varied to tune the antenna across the band.

In this configuration, the antenna itself then presents a feed impedance of ~ 32ohms, which when connected via a 1.5:1 Binocular Core matching transformer (thanks to Neil VK5KA), returned the antenna to 50ohms for transmission back to the shack. While the VVC is too heavy and bulky to take with us, it did allow us to determine the correct fixed value high voltage “door-knob” disc capacitor to place in series to allow operation on both 1823-1843kHz and 1908kHz (for the Japanese FT8 operators).

We were very happy with how the 160m inverted L modification worked out. This combined with the 128m beverage Rx antenna we are taking will hopefully give us at least a reasonable chance of 160m across Asia/Pacific and the Americas – and if we are very lucky perhaps parts of Europe as well!

Conclusion

Now, you might be saying why go to all of this effort? It really came down to using the materials we had available in the best way possible to build as efficient antennas as we could. Given weight, cost and availability of other options to us (remember VK is a long way from the manufacturers of anything) we were happy to put together what we did and achieve the results we did.

With this work done, we have now achieved a working tune-able vertical which is ready to be packed up for use on Tonga. Another major milestone complete in our preparations to go to Tonga in September!