Category Archives: Special Events

Kenwood TS-520 – what a great rig!

Last weekend at our local club tailgate (W4RYZ) I picked up a Kenwood TS-520 at a bargain price. It took me a while to decide if I wanted to buy it or not. It was big and scary looking with only analog dials and it had tubes! I am sure at this point some more seasoned Hams are probably laughing at me, but for a Solid State guy this was pretty daunting! The seller was kind enough to print off the manual and several FAQ’s for the rig prior to the tailgate so I had a great starting point.

I shouldn’t have even turned it on until I read the manual through at least once because I thought it was broke when I first powered it up. The meter swung all the way to the right and I had no audio. I turned it off, checked a few things and turned it back on,  same thing! I wasn’t sure what was wrong so I went to the manual. They had a nice list of dial settings for initial receive and transmit. After reviewing the list I had one of those “duh!” moments. The RF gain was all the way DOWN, instead of up. A rookie mistake I know, we all have those at some point. I turned it back on with the RF gain up and there was the beautiful sound of a slightly off SSB signal. The WAWWA WAWAA WAA voice was quickly tuned in to a very legible SSB conversation. Off I went to fire up the SDR receiver to see what frequency they were on and could see that the dial was off by 32Khz or so and I had to calibrate both main and sub dials. I also noticed right away the TS-520 was receiving much better than the SDR but they were on two different antennas so I thought it was the antenna that made the difference.

I soon figured out how the 25Khz cal signal worked,  I also  figured out how to tune the rig for transmit. Since I didn’t have a microphone for the the rig I  built an audio breakout box for the High impedance MIC I had on hand and the PTT switch. After a few attempts at tuning and listening for a station to contact on 20M I heard ZW7MGY, a special event station in remembrance of the radio operators of the Titanic. I jumped in and gave my call. He picked out another stronger station, when he finished that QSO I called again. This time he clearly called back my entire callsign, I was like YES! That was Brazil station over 4200 miles away. That old rig still had it! I tuned in 40M and started calling CQ more confident that the rig was working and pickup up an Arkansas station, K5RPD. I was impressed. All I really did was calibrate some dials, set the RF Bias and followed the directions  and I was on the air.

Lessons Learned

  1. Don’t be afraid to try other types of radio gear, just read the manual first. 🙂
  2. Old equipment is still a great way to enjoy the hobby. Even with all the fancy screens, filters, buttons, computer interfaces, and software it is still just about getting on the air, making new contacts and enjoying yourself.
  3. Go out to tailgates, Hamfests and other gatherings, you never know who you are going to meet and what equipment you will come across.

Final remarks

The TS-520 is a great transceiver with a sensitive receiver, I tuned in a station listened for a few minutes switched the antenna to the SDR and compared signals and the TS-520 was by far more sensitive to weak signals. It seemed to beat my IC-756 but only by a small margin. Those were subjective comparisons without any “real” measurements but I trust my ear. The tuning process was quite simple when you break it down. There were several resources on the web that I used to help me understand how to accomplish it without hurting the rig. It is a classic rig and I can see why so many people hold it in high regard, it is a venerable piece of equipment that I am proud to now own. It sure makes my Ham shack look more authentic!


  • Tuning Video
My "New" Kenwood TS-520

My “New” Kenwood TS-520

ARRL Video Tour of W1AW

For those have wondered what it was like inside the most famous Amateur radio station in the world,  here is your chance to get a tour! I remember as a kid going to my friends house and listening to the W1AW broadcasts on his Dad’s shortwave radio. I imaged this massive building with wall to wall  radio’s humming and glowing well into the night. One day I hope to visit this wonderful operational monument and museum.

The video was streamed live over the internet Sunday, Feburary 12, 2012.

arrl_videotour_feb2012_hd from Awecast on Vimeo.

Slow Balloon to China using APRS and ISS

Amateur Radio enthusiasts have stepped up their game in Katy, TX. The South Texas Balloon Launch Team will launch a balloon at 1500 CST (2100 UTC) on Saturday, February 11th. The primary goal of the launch is to send an amateur radio balloon across the Atlantic and Mediterranean to Nanjing, China, the final estimated destination. A unique feature of the balloon is the frequency agile APRS transmitter that will change frequency according to where it is geographically located. The call sign to be used for APRS is KT5TK-11. It will also use the orbiting International Space Station as a relay to reach ground stations thousands of miles away. This will allow anyone to view the balloon’s progress as well as speed, altitude and direction.

This will be interesting to watch as it travels half way around the world.

**14 Feb 2012 Update**

Andy, W5ACM stated the most likely cause for the loss of reporting was due to frozen batteries or electronics. He has posted pictures and videos of the BLT-28 launch on his site.

Pictures from Launch Day

Videos from launch Day by K9TEX



USA = 144.390 MHz FM
mid-Atlantic = 145.825 MHz (International Space Station packet digipeater frequency)
Europe = 144.800 MHz FM

Links – will be adding more as I find them

Tracking Map


ARISSat-1 finally deployed

I had the opportunity to watch the EVA live for the launch of ARISSat-1. Instead of a enjoyable thing to watch I was horrified at how the satellite was being handled. As soon as they came out of the hatch I thought for sure the solar panels would get busted the way they were letting it bounce around in micro-gravity. A lot of Amateur operators and students have been looking forward to the launch since SuitSat and the last thing I wanted to watch was this little sat get damaged before deployment.

Well my fears were realized as the “oh so careful” cosmonauts released the tether and was about to shove it off. The ground director radioed to hold, because they were concerned an antenna was missing. After a few minutes it was confirmed that one of the antennas was in fact missing. It was the UHF antenna that provides command and control inputs as well as the uplink to the transponder. They placed it near the airlock for safe keeping until they can make a decision whether or not to scrub the launch. A few hours later they decided to launch it in the degraded configuration.  I am thankful that it is now in orbit so we can listen in on the telemetry, SSTV and voice recordings. That should provide a lot of fun for anyone interested.

I am, however, very disappointed  with the reckless and unprofessional handling shown during the spacewalk for the deployment of ARISSat-1. A lot of time and money was spent on the development, manufacturing and coordination of this launch. The Cosmonauts handled it like it was a basketball rather than a fragile sophisticated piece of hardware. I am not surprised at all that one of the antennas got ripped off and a solar panel has a gouge in the side of it. It was a pathetic EVA  and this is what Americans have to depend on for the foreseeable future?  If I were AMSAT I would not have any more sats deployed in that manner, unless they knew it was going to be handled MUCH better than it was by these two “Cosmonauts”.

Final Launch

First hand launch attempt:

Possible damage to solar panel

Broken UHF Antenna

Pre-deployment UHF installation


The Russian way to handle satellite deployments.


CQ WW VHF Contest – 6m Fun!

It was a good weekend for a VHF contest! Before this weekend I have never made a contact on 6 meters. A fellow ham and friend of mine Greg, N4KGL informed me that 6 meters was opening up. I was in the process of setting up a new “Hentenna” and wasn’t quite finished with it, so I switched to a 40 meter dipole and let the tuner try it’s best to tune it. It barely tuned but it was good enough to make contact with Belize, Costa Rica, Caicos Island and a Mexico station. I was hooked!

We finally had a break in the rain and I was able to complete the “Hentenna”, continued to make strong contacts in Mexico, CA, TX, IL. The “Hentenna” tuned up well and performed very well, it proved itself to be bidirectional because I had to turn it a few times to get the contacts to hear me.

I certainly didn’t come close to winning anything but it was enjoyable and a learning experience, well worth it!



13 Colonies Special Event

The 4th of July weekend brings family fun, camping, good food, fireworks and special events. As a newly licensed Extra I was going through the bands trying to find something interesting. Let me tell you I found it!

The Amateur radio special event is the Thirteen Original Colonies SE. They started the event in 2009 to commemorate the birth of our wonderful country. I have really enjoyed the SE and am really getting my feet wet. There is quite a competition to get all the stations so that leads to a big pile up. The operators are very patient, professional and courteous as well as most of the Hams that are trying to get through. For one station there was a QRM’er that was playing back a recording about some nonsense and then gave a .com address. It was very discouraging for the Operators and the Hams trying to get through. With patience and a QSY he (Charlie I believe) was able to resume the contacts.

I am currently trying to get my last two stations, K2C and K2D. I see K2C is on 40m CW and I am just now learning Morse code, so I will have to wait until a digital station or SSB comes up. This has been a blast of fun and I hope to get a clean sweep this weekend.

Thanks to all the coordinators and operators for this Special Event, and God Bless America!

For more information please visit:



Clean sweep!!! All thirteen colonies, my last contact was Myrt (N1GKE) operating a Rhode Island station (K2C) from Hope, RI on 20m. He had a strong signal all morning, but it took me over two hours to get through. Between the pileup and a lot of QSB I am not surprised it took a while. I admire all the operators stamina and patience during this SE. Thanks to everyone for celebrating the birth of our fantastic country!