Update October 10: Results EME: We have finally arrived back in Australia after completing our DXpedition to Tonga. Firstly I must say a huge thank you to everyone in the 6m EME community who supported us in getting the EME gear out there. Without your help and encouragement this part of the DXpedition project would never have happened. I must give a special mention to Lance W7GJ at this point. What can we say but “you are a bad man” <grin>. It didn’t take much encouragement to plant the seed for the pain and fun we have had since you first contacted me nearly 12 months ago. Thanks for giving us the nudge to try and give this a go!
We had more than our fair share of trials and tribulations along the way. Having said that we are very happy to have worked 23 stations and heard a further 30 stations calling. Given that we are still relatively new to the 6m EME game it was fantastic to finally get the station built and make our first contacts from the Kingdom of Tonga via the moon!
The first problem was that our original site on Tonga became unavailable just as we were about to book it. That prompted a scramble to find an alternative. We finally settled on Teukava Beach Oasis right out on the NW tip of Tongatapu. As it was about as far out as you could get from the centre of the island even that presented us with logistics challenges to solve just transporting gear from the freight depot and the airport out to the resort.
Then, even before we left, things didn’t go smoothly back home either. Along the way we did various trials and tests from VK earlier in the year. Just getting regulatory approval to run high power 6m EME in VK was an ordeal that took 4 months with the ACMA. Then when we did start our first full trial the SPE amplifier failed after 3 hours at the start of July. That threatened to end the project when it became clear that the amp was not coming back from repairs in time for our departure for Tonga in September.
Thanks to Bjorn SM7SJR who sold me the M6-1k2 amp late in the planning, and to Peter VK5PJ who donated a 50V power supply to run it, we got the project back on track.
The final hurdle was simply getting the customs department in Tonga to clear the shipment so it was available for the start of our expedition. It came down to 3 days window left before the freight was released. A huge thanks to the team at Pacific Forum Line Freight handlers in Tonga for helping get this over the line for us.
The Station we took
The antenna system we took wasn’t spectacular but it was what we could muster on the remaining budget and weight capacity we had (it still gave us 12.5dBi). Thanks to Paul VK4MA we purchased a second hand 6 element LFA2 and refurbished it, and then with sponsorship support from Spiderbeam, we purchased a Spiderbeam 10m aluminium collapsible tower to hold the array in the air. To get it all out there we had to resort to air freight as it was all too big and heavy for our baggage allowances (a lot more time is needed to fashion a copy of Lance’s setup). The donations received went a long way to covering that bill. The total weight for the 6m antenna system and feedline came to ~40kg.
The gear we used included an Elecraft K3S, Elecraft W2 watt meter, M2 Systems M6-1k2 linear, 30m of Messi & Paoloni Hyperflex 13 feedline (sponsored in part by RF Solutions in Brisbane). The power supplies were a Codan 3020 12V 30A unit for the driver and an Eltec 2kW rectifier module for the 50V supply. The software was WSJT-X v 2.1.0 running on a Windows 10 instance within a Macbook Pro laptop.
Finally On the Air
Once we got to site things finally started to click. The beam was unpacked and assembly and erection went smoothly. We were able to locate the antenna relatively close to the radio hut which made for fairly easy beam steering manipulations as we manually tracked the moon.
First contact was made shortly after moonrise on Wednesday 25th at ~3am local Tonga time. We made 6 contacts the first night of operation elevating the station to ~35deg in the process (thanks to a tilt bracked built by Peter VK5PJ following a design by Lance W7GJ).
The later days saw fewer stations worked although we know we had a lot of sporadic E and TEP propagation around on the Thursday and Friday which we are sure didn’t help. We also came to the conclusion that we didn’t have the antenna gain needed for successful elevated contacts.
For the last few passes we just worked the 0-20deg horizon band with greater success. To the east we found we needed about 5deg moon elevation before we were working stations. To the west (which was a clear shot over the ocean) we could hear people down to ~1deg elvation. The best signal we heard was from G8BCG who we copied at -18. Most signals were between -26 and -30dB with a small number in the -22—25 range.
The end result: we worked the following stations over moonrise/moon set between Wednesday 25th and Sunday 29th of September.
OH6MIK, G8BCG, KG7H, GM3POI, G4BWP, W7JW, K2ZD, K4PI, K5NA, UR0MC, OH7KM, ON4GG, S57RR, ON4IQ, JA7QVI, N8RR, K5DU, SP4MPB, I4YRW, ES6RQ, NJ6P, N7IP, ZS4TX
We also heard the following stations but were unable to make contact:
NN7J, VE1JF, HA0DU, *****, WA1MEK, ******, UT7QF, I2RV, GD0TEP, PA5Y, N3XX, W5ADD, W6UC, N8JX, W0VTT, KA9CFD, OH2BC, OZ4VV, G8VR, EA8DBM, OE3MPL, LY2WR, S51DI, I4EAT, YL2AO, IW5DHN, JG2BRI, SP7VC, ZS6NK, SP3RNZ
Thanks everyone who took an interest in our EME activity and attempts. I know Andy VK5AKH and I in particular learned a lot about it and have a lot of ideas now for how we might improve it in the future. You never know, I may now consider it next time I pick a Pacific Island for an expedition. How many need 6m EME from VK9N (Norfolk) I wonder?
Finally, we have a little video we are preparing showing some of the EME station activity. As soon as it is uploaded to the Internet I will share a link here and complete a report on the expedition webpage as well. (https://vk5gr-iota.net/). A timelapse of erecting the 6m beam is available here: https://vk5gr-iota.net/2019-a35jt-oc-049-tonga/2083/
Thanks again for everyone’s encouragement and support. Congratulations to those we did manage to work or hear via the moon. Next time, I will see that we can take more elements so we can hear and be heard better.
Grant VK5GR – Team Leader A35JT Dxpedition
Update October 6: A35JT is QRT
Update September 27: It has been a busy 3 days here in Tonga and we now have over 3000 contacts in the log. The station build has taken longer than anticipated. However we finally have the three stations operational since Wednesday night local time. We will be stepping up our efforts to target Europe and USA east coast from Thursday, particularly after the team gets some rest following the build. Read more updates
Update September 23: Suggested frequencies and modes are:
CW - 1820, 3518, 7018, 10118, 14038, 18078, 21038, 24903 and 28038 kHz
SSB - 1860, 3775(*), 7185, 14265, 18150, 21265, 24975 and 28465 kHz
RTTY - 1803, 3593, 7051, 10143, 14083, 18103, 21083, 24923 and 28083 kHz
FT8 - 1840, 3570, 7066, 10143, 14083, 18103, 21083, 24923 and 28095 kHz
6m - 50100/CW, 50130/SSB and 50313/FT8
6m EME - 50203/JT65A
(*) 80m for JA - 3518/CW, 3775/SSB DOWN 5 and 3535/RTTY
At present, they do not have access to 60m – however, they will continue discussions with the ministry of communications to see if they can gain access to that band as well. Note at this stage the frequencies are subject to change depending on coordination with other Pacific DXpeditions that will be active at the same time. Please watch the DX Cluster and website for updates.
Update September 22: A35JT team checked in flight and waiting for our flight to NZ!
Update September 18: Good News - A35JT just received our customs release and duty waiver - our antennas are now ready and waiting on us to collect them in Nuku'alofa on Monday.
All being well we hope to send our first signals via the moon at ~1430z on September 24th (3.30am Wednesday Tonga local time). A35JT is planning to use 50.203MHz but may drop down lower subject to local birdies and QRM. I am told we have internet access so look for us on the 6m EME ON4KST Chat channel.
Update September 17: A quick update regarding the A35JT DXpedition which includes 6m EME due to start next week. Tonga has seen some tumultuous events this week with the passing of their long serving PM. This has lead to additional public holidays being declared.
Our plans currently remain unchanged to activate 6m EME by 1430z Tuesday 24th September as A35JT, however it is not clear what disruptions we may find to government services such as customs clearance on our arrival. We are doing everything we can to ensure we can pick up the antennas from the freight handlers on Monday afternoon but as you can appreciate we may encounter circumstances beyond our control. We will let you know more as the situation becomes clear.
Regards, Grant VK5GR
Update August 26: 6m EME Activity: On the weekend I had the pleasure of live testing the M2 1KW amp that is going to Tonga (A35JT) for a 23rd September 2019 start. I can report it produces a healthy 1KW for extended periods without fuss. If your looking for details on the HF and EME operation from A35JT please have a look here
Regards, Peter Sumner, vk5pj
Update August 5: 6m EME Activity: Thanks to Bjorn SM7SJR I have been able to acquire a replacement 1kW amplifier to run the Tonga 6m EME station. We will be taking the AMP and the radio chain over to Peter VK5PJs in the next few weeks and will give everything a further end to end test to be sure things are behaving before we leave. The new amp is a M6-1K2. Peter VK5PJ is helping us with the necessary 50V power supply as well. Very happy we have been able to keep the EME project alive as we learned last week that the SPE amp that failed during the trials from VK at the start of July wont be back from repair before we leave for Tonga.
We also completed the freight pack up for the expedition antennas yesterday. Our Spiderbeam 10m mast, the yagi and all of the material required to get it into the air fit into one carry case. Weighing in at 31kg we are looking good to freight it all to Tonga leaving the end of the month. All up we are shipping nearly 140kg of antennas and cable to Tonga, while the rest of the station is being flown in with us (much of that is the HF station as well).
Looking forward to seeing you all on the air on the magic band via the moon!
Regards, Grant VK5GR
Update May 17: The A35JT DXpedition team heading to Tonga in September wishes to introduce the pilot team for their 2019 DXPedition. They are very fortunate to have assembled a great team of people to help you make contact with them between September 23rd and October 7th. The team com- prises of Bjorn/ON9CFG, who will be their Chief Pilot and will also cover Europe and Africa; Steve/N2AJ, will cover North America; Cesar/PY2YP will cover South America; Joe/JJ3PRT will cover Japan; Chris/VK5SA will cover VK/Oceania and Jim/AC9EZ will be their Youth pilot (in training). This team is in addition to their QSL Manager, Charles, M0OXO, who has again offered to support their expedition as he did for VK5GR on Niue (E6AG) and Vanuatu (YJ0AG) in recent years.
Update Mar,19: Firstly thanks to everyone who has made a donation to our 6m EME project as part of the Tonga DXPedition planned for September this year. We can now commit to taking the 6m equipment with us to Tonga and hope to see as many of you as possible via the moon! We also finally received our actual licence paperwork today. It contained a little surprise – with the final assigned callsign being different to what we were original advised would be granted. So, now we will be A35JT instead of A35AG. Preparations are continuing and we hope to have more news of some tests from VK again soon! Regards, Grant VK5GR – A35JT DXPedition Leader – Sept. 2019
Update Mar,2: They will also be QRV on 6m EME. Keep watching http://vk5gr-iota.net for more details. We will host a page dedicated to the 6m EME activities soon.
Update Feb,24: Flights booked, accommodation confirmed, license issued and dates set – read more
Update Dec,20: We have confirmed dates and team members now – currently the team will be myself, Oly VK5XDX and Andrew VK5AKH. We arrive in Tonga on Monday 23rd Sept 2019 and should be on air by the 24th, and will be departing Monday October 7th (on air up to 0800 on the 6th at the end of the OCDX SSB contest). Callsign (A35AG) still to be confirmed – that should be in place in the new year. We are planning as a minimum 80-10m SSB, CW, FT8, RTTY with potentially other bands and modes to be announced later. [Tnx VK5GR].
Team now assembled: VK3BDX, VK5GR & VK5XDX. Grant VK5GR says: "OUR A35 ACTIVATION PLAN IS FOR CQWW RTTY PLUS THE OCDX SSB CONTEST. (THESE ALIGN WITH THE VK SCHOOL HOLIDAYS AS MY WIFE AND DAUGHTER WILL AGAIN BE COMING FOR PART OF THE TRIP). THE TEAM IS KEEN FOR A 4 SQUARE ON 40/30, BEAMS ON 20-10 AND VERTICALS FOR 160-60M. THESE ARE SUBJECT TO SOME DEVELOPMENT WORK IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2019. WE ARE GOING TO TRY TO HAVE 1-2 STATIONS ON AIR FOR AT LEAST 8-12HRS A DAY. CALLSIGN IS STILL TBA BUT MAY LIKELY BE A35AG. MY INTENT WILL AGAIN BE TO TRY AND REACH THE HARD TO REACH PLACES."