GM4ULS ham radio station

a QRM-free zone!

QRV on 60m

Posted by gm4uls on August 11, 2013

With the expansion of the 5MHz allocation in the UK, I had been considering getting a Notice of Variation to my license to enable me to operate there. I lacked a radio that could operate on the band and have been as reluctant to open up my FT-847 to tinker with it for 60m as I have been to do the same to expand 40m. I’m all thumbs, my eyesight isn’t perfect, my technical knowledge is even less perfect, and there is a hell of a lot packed in to a small case.

However, I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on a Ten-Tec Jupiter 538 which was programmed for 5MHz, and it is currently sitting in the shack. This is my first experience with Ten-Tec equipment, and a comment made to me today on air by a friend rings very true – that Ten-Tec have their own ideas when it comes to what a rig should do.

Model 538 Jupiter

A view of the font panel of the Ten-Tec Jupiter. Later versions have a ‘blue screen’ display.

The Jupiter is no longer state-of-the-art SDR (software-defined radio). It has been superseded by other Ten-Tec rigs and by SDR outfits from other companies. As a model it is more than a decade old, and of course it is very unlikely that any further firmware updates will be available for it. It strikes me as being more ‘software-set-up’ than ‘software-defined’. The latter conjures up a picture of a black box driven entirely from a computer keyboard – I don’t know how correct an impression that is, but that’s what the look of the ‘Flex’ kit appears to be for example. The Ten-Tec Jupiter looks like a rig. In may respects it looks like the kind of simple HF rig I would have designed myself, as an operator.

Operating it is easy when one gets the knack. Rather than go into it in detail, I’ll direct you here to read a review of it by Dave Casler KE0OG who has been operating one for more than a decade. He has some niggles, but intends to keep using the rig. My own impression of the rig is that it is possibly down on receive compared to my FT-847 and FT-101ZD, but because it isn’t easy at present to switch my antennas between rigs this might be a false impression. Here are two or three further comments from me:

The rig I have does have the internal ATU. This is supposed to be able to handle SWR of 10:1. Whether it does is another matter, but what it certainly does do is cope very easily with my MA5B mini-beam. On each band the MA5B has an ideal ‘centre’ match, which tends to tail away the further one tunes from it. This is especially noticeable on 15m and 10m where the band is substantial. However, the internal ATU simply smooths out any bad match instantly. I have to remember to switch off the ATU (from the menu screen) before operating on 60m, 40m, or 30m, where I rely on an MFJ Intellituner to match my doublet.

The current firmware in the Jupiter is version 1.32 (2008). There has been a further firmware released, version 1.33 (2010) which I downloaded but which I can’t persuade the rig to upload. This is not particularly a problem, however.

The memory recall function is cancelled by touching any button on the front panel. As one changes memory channel by using the ‘Multi-function’ knob, that knob is unavailable for any other function; as one cancels memory recall by touching any other button, none of the functions of those buttons are available in memory mode. Thus one can’t alter AF (volume), or use the TUNE function, or do anything else (apart from using the main dial to tune away from the memory frequency, and engaging the PTT) in memory mode; anything one wants to do, such as adjusting volume or tuning steps of the main dial, has to be done before entering memory mode. This can be tiresome. Memory channel display is a very small number at the bottom right of the screen, and as the Multi knob doesn’t click moving from channel to channel sometimes seems a little sensitive.

The screen in memory mode. Can you spot the memory channel number? Kudos if you know what's on 5.505MHz without looking it up.

The screen in memory mode. Kudos if you know what’s on 5.505MHz without looking it up.

N0KHQ gives some advice here about electricity supply and grounding. I suppose I could run a separate earth wire out of the shack, but as for the rest, the phrases “Aye, right!” and “Good luck with that!” spring to mind. Technically, of course, he’s entirely correct.

On to 60m operation. I’ve only been using the allocated frequencies for just over a week, but it’s an interesting part of the spectrum. There are three UK beacons on 5.290MHz all of which I can hear at almost any time of day; also there is a Danish beacon about 500Hz away which  is often as strong a signal. Inter-G communication seems to be more reliable than 40m, according to the opinion expressed by many operators I have encountered. Sometimes it is possible to take signals from Scotland and further south in England at the same time as hearing Catalan ‘fishphone’ signals. I haven’t been operating at times when dx signals are about.

On 10th August I was having a three-way contact with GM3JIJ on the Isle of Lewis and GM4JEJ twenty miles away in Dundee. I am not yet familiar enough with 60m to be able to say at what point ground wave propagation gives way to NVIS (near-vertical incidence skywave – the propagation this amateur allocation was granted to test). I do know the principle that even high power HF stations are inaudible after only a few miles, and that a horizontally-polarised antenna (such as my doublet) is less effective for ground wave than a vertical. There may well have been some ground wave between me and GM4JEJ, but we are each more-or-less end-on to a range of hills. The distance between each of us and GM3JIJ is about 269km with the whole of the Scottish Highlands in the way, thus it’s bound to be a skywave path. Both I and the Dundee station noticed rapid fading between 10dB over S9 down to about S7 and up again, on the signals from Stornoway. Also for about fifteen seconds there was a slight echo (or rather an ‘after-signal’) on his signal.

It is NVIS that interests me most of all on 5MHz, so I am looking forward to more contacts with Scottish stations. I have had contacts with Falkirk and Edinburgh, both 50km away and with ranges of hills between us. Interestingly there is a path on 2m between my station and the Falkirk station, which could possibly be due to diffraction off the range of hills. I have ranges of hills in all directions.

By the way, Ian Wade G3NRW has some invaluable information here about using the 60m allocation.

Current shack lay-out. Still no replacement for the computer which controls the GM6MEN-L gateway. That may change soon, and I might also add Ham Radio Deluxe to control the Jupiter.

Current shack lay-out. Still no replacement for the computer which controls the GM6MEN-L gateway. That may change soon, and I might also add Ham Radio Deluxe to control the Jupiter.

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7 Responses to “QRV on 60m”

  1. Hans PD0AC said

    Any frequency which I can monitor to see if I can hear you?

    • gm4uls said

      Most UK activity seems to take place on 5.3985MHz, and that’s where I am usually. Occasionally I’m a little lower than that on 5.3950MHz. I’m most often there between 7am and 9am local time, though I put out calls at other times during the day. If I know when someone is likely to be listening, I can put out a call specially, maybe with a RX frequency on 40m.

  2. Hans said

    Oops, sorry, read this too late.

  3. Hans said

    Will listen again this evening.

    • GM4ULS said

      Unfortunately I have been unable to be on in the evening lately. However, I am on fairly regularly around 07:00 to 08:30 UTC, talking to various bods on 5.3985MHz

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