Do you have a directional antenna, a 2m SSB transceiver with 50 W output and a PC?
If your answer is YES then, believe it or not, you are capable of making a QSO with EA6VQ (and other stations) using the Moon as a reflector. Please continue reading this page and you will discover a new world of DX communications, where you can work stations all around the world on 144 MHz.
Disclaimer: 2m EME communications can be addictive and if you try them you are likely to get side effects, like losing interest in other hobbies, in other bands and in other DX modes. If you don't want to take this risk you had better leave this page right now.
EME with a single Yagi and 50 W?
There is still some confusion about Moon Bounce operation and the station requirements for making a QSO in the VHF bands using the Moon as a reflector. Might be you have read in the past that only very large stations with four antenna arrays and Kw amplifiers (and skilled CW operators) were capable of working via EME (Earth-Moon-Earth). This was true till 2002, but nowadays thanks to the JT65B digital mode provided by the WSJT program, any station having an 2m. SSB transceiver capable of delivering 50 W and a directional antenna can make successful contacts via EME. And furthermore, no CW knowledge is required!
But, I can't elevate the antenna to track the moon...
In order to make an EME QSO, the most important requirement is (obviously) that both stations can see the Moon simultaneously (what is called "to have a common window"). If you have a typical tropo/MS antenna you are likely not to be capable of elevating it, but YOU STILL CAN make EME contacts when the moon is near the horizon.
A single Yagi antenna pointing to the horizon normally allows to work EME till the Moon is up to 15 or 18 degrees above the horizon. If you have a clear take off towards your moonrise/moonset this means about 90+90 minutes (3 hours) of possible operation every day!
Do I need a good preamplifier?
A preamplifier with a low noise figure, mounted as close to the antenna as possible is always a very good help, but it's not strictly necessary to make your first contacts. The larger EME stations are normally using a lot of power and somehow this will compensate your little reception. You can always get a preamplifier later, when you decide it's time to improve your reception.
Step 1. Get the WSJT free program
WSJT is a digital communications program written by K1JT and specially intended for weak signal communications in the VHF&up bands. It provides different modes adapted to different modes of propagation and bands. For 2m MoonBounce you will use the JT65B mode. You can download it from K1JT's WEB site.
Once you have downloaded the setup program you will have to install it your PC. If you are familiar with installing Windows applications this will be very easy, as you simply have to accept the default options offered by the setup program, however if you want you can also have a look at the WSJT setup procedure.
Step 2. Connect the PC to the radio.
If you have already worked some kind of digital communications (RTTY, Packet, PSK-31,etc) you will possibly be able to use the same interface for the WSJT program, and you could skip this step.
If you have never connected your PC to the transceiver then you will need some kind of interface to connect them. If you can afford it the best is to buy a commercial interface, such as the RigBlaster (available at West Mountain Radio).
If you want to build your own interface, you will need to make the serial port cable from your computer be able to key the PTT line of your transmitter. You also must isolate and attenuate the audio from the computer sound card (Line output / Speaker), so it can be connected to the transmitter MIC input. Information on how to do this can be found in many places, but here you have two simple designs.
And finally, you will have to split the audio output from your receiver, and run an audio line over to your computer sound card (Line input / Mic). This will permit your computer to also hear your receiver, and process the signals coming in.
Step 3. Automatically synchronize the PC Time.
WSJT modes (and specially the JT65x) require of a very accurate PC time in order to achieve good results. So accurate that in fact it's not enough to update the PC time manually. It's necessary to update it automatically according to some reliable source.
The most common way to do it is through Internet by using a Time Synchronization program, such as Dimension 4 or Automachron, and configuring them to synchronize the time every 5 minutes or so.
It is important that you select one of the time servers that will provide accurate and reliable time corrections to your computer from your particular location and internet connection. You can verify that the time has been properly set within a half second, by listening to WWV and watching the seconds display on the Dimension 4 program screen. If the time server you select doesn't seem to match WWV, or there seem to be corrections >.1 second when you repeatedly manually set the time with Dimension 4 or Automachron, try selecting a different time server from the optional list provided.
However, if you don't have an Internet connection in your radio shack then you still have other alternatives to achieve an accurate PC time synchronization:
Use the time signals broadcasted in LW and MW and a program like Radio Clock that keeps the PC time synchronized simply connecting the speaker output of the receiver to the line input of the PC sound card.
Step 4. Run WSJT for the first time and Configure it
Configuring the WSJT options properly is important in order to make successful QSO, so please read carefully the page on configuration.
Step 5. Rig setup
Make sure your transmitter is set to USB position and that the receiver is set to the widest filter width. If you have bandpass adjustment on your receiver, make sure it is set to pass tones from 1200 Hz - 1800 Hz (usually by turning the bandpass off). In general you could leave the noise blanker active, but make sure you turn the AGC off. If your rig has a Mic. compressor or speech. processor button you should also activate it, to insure that you are sending each of the tones at full power.
Step 6. Program operation
You should definitively read the operating manual provided with the program as it covers almost all details you need to know, however you could also find interesting to watch the following visual examples of real JT65B EME QSO.
Step 7. Get on the air
Now you are ready for your first WSJT EME QSO. However here there are some additional suggestions for you:
If you have some doubt or you need any additional information don't hesitate to send me an E-Mail
A Romanian translation of this JT65B / WSJT tutorial, provided by YO6XK, is available here.