31 August 2013

Ultimate Adventures in QRSS with Meteor Showers

It was a quiet summer until Hans Summers (G0UPL) offered the Ultimate II kit. Boys and Girls, I really don't know when this man sleeps... But let us take one step after the other.

As always I was too late when Hans offered the first QRSS Kit in 30, 40, 80 and 160m versions for about 15 Euro. I followed the discussions but couldn't make up my mind. And when I did, it was sold out. Now I am glad that I am a late-comer, for Hans promised an improved version the Ultimate 2 Kit.

Ultimate II viewed from behind with  DDS, LPF and LCD

And it was really an improvement. You get a programmed chip with all components. You get a DDS which works up to 60 MHz and you can choose a plug-able Lowpass filter module from 10 - 2200m.
The software can do everything you ever dreamed of without a computer:
  • QRSS mode (plain on/off keyed slow CW)
  • FSK/CW mode (frequency shift keyed slow CW)
  • DFCW mode (dual frequency CW)
  • WSPR mode (Weak Signal Propagation Reporter)
  • WSPR-15 experimental WSPR mode with 15-minute frames
  • Slow-Hellschreiber (frequency shifted slow-Hell)
  • Full-speed Hellschreiber
  • Half-speed ("DX") Hellschreiber
  • CW (plain CW)
  • FSK (0-999Hz shift, fast-speed FSK CW)
  • Customisable FSK patterns
A copy from Hans Summers Page

The frequency is controlled by the DDS and if you want you can attach a GPS module to get in WSPR mode a lock on the time. (If you have no GPS - don't panic: You can adjust the module that it runs nearly a day without losing synchronization. 

Low Pass Filter Module

Your call sign will be transmitted in CW at a chosen interval. All text messages can be programmed with an easy to use button interface and the display. And best of all: You get all the power you need 150 mW RF ;-).

Downside: You got to have an antenna ;-)

The documentation is excellent and the kit was complete. Although I am used to soldering I was a little bit afraid of putting together the DDS module. But it came already assembled so that you only have to solder the connecting pins.

The complete DDS board
The instructions also for the alignment were clear and easy. I used a grabber program "Argo". This allows you to monitor your signal and of course also the other signals on the air. For WSPR you can use the WSPRnet to see where your signal was heard. 

When the first kits safely landed on the desks of many hams the hell broke loose on the reflector of the QRPLabs. This is living ham spirit. And it didn't stp by helping people who had troubles with the kit: There are a lot of hams who requested new features for the kit Hand  Hans delivered. Until now he has produce 5 additional versions of the firmware which you can order for nearly no costs. 

And I don't want to forget all these active QRSS Knights who monitor the waves and show their findings. (A good starting point is the blog KnightsQRSS written by WA5DJJ ( David R. Hassall). You can find the announcements on their Knightsqrss@cnts.be. And if you want to see some pictures just follow the link.

And what has this to do with meteors? When monitoring QRSS signals hams in England found some strange signals and they were able to prove that theses signal were real QRSS signal reflected by airplanes passing by. So when the Perseid showers came they were able to spot them by watching the reflections of the QRSS signals.

PS: Do not tell Hans: I used the LPFs and the DDS also in other projects. No way to find a cheaper one.

Stay Tuned!