WSPR on the 2M band 144.489 Mhz

WSPR – having fun on HF/VHF while doing other things…

One of the best things about Ham Radio is that if your interest level wanes or you’re just too damn busy with life to sit at a transceiver and make contacts then there is always WSPR!

A few stations in VK land are using WSPR to see just what happens on a daily basis propagation wise. Interestingly, stations are hearing each other out to 750+km (VK1 to VK5) at low power levels, even when the time of day and WX conditions would have conventional thinking saying, “no way!”

So what is this WSPR stuff, anyway?

WSPR stands for Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, and is a mode of transmission that is ideally suited if you don’t want or can’t spend time in front of as radio. Its software that runs on your PC (Win/Linux/Mac) and the PC connects to your rig just like if you were using a digital mode like RTTY or PSK31. You probably have all the stuff you need.

WSPR works on all bands to 2 M and beyond, indeed,  WSPR on the HF bands is extremely popular and you’ll find many hams on all of the common HF and WARC bands spotting signals from around the world in real time, and uploading the data to the wsprnet site.

What kind of computer and Rig do I need?

WSPR will run on a fairly low spec computer, and most shack computers will run it fine. I’m actually using an old Toshiba satellite pro laptop that has a Celeron processor  - running Linux – and it works a treat. As for the Rig, again, just about anything will work as long as it’s frequency stability is good. I’d probably give Valve, or Valve hybrid jobs a miss though. At VHF however, the rigs need to be all the more stable…I use a little Yaesu FT817 as my WSPR radio, and i’ve modified it so that it is frequency locked to a Rubidium standard. This ensures that the radio wont drift when it cycles between TX and RX., or is affected by the temperature in the shack. This would be overkill on HF WSPR, but I WSPR on the 2M band, where drift is an issue. Some rigs like the TS2000 drift too much on 2M and above to be unsuitable for the mode. It’s also important to observe the usual precautions when using a sound card mode with a transciever – make sure any speach processing is off, and adjust the rig so there is little or no ALC indicated when TXing. This ensures you are not overdriving and splattering all over the band…

For the interface between the PC and the Radio, then a Tigertronics Signalink or similar interface is the way to go if you don’t want to bother with building anything.

Signalink1

These things work marvellously and you can order it with a cable for your particular radio for a solder free plug and play experience…

If you just want to do HF WSPR, then the Icom 7200 is just about the ideal rig, as it has a built-in USB port that provides a 1 cable solution  between the pc and Rig. other USB capable rigs are equally awesome for hooking up to WSPR…

With WSPR, once it’s up and running, you can just set and forget. When you have a spare moment, at work or home just look at the wsprnet page and see who’s hearing you, and who you’re hearing…

How?

Download the software for your operating system from the below site…note that the Linux packages are broken and don’t work.

http://physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/wspr.html

If you want to use Linux then the very aptly named George Smart has some instructions here for getting it to run under Linux…

http://www.george-smart.co.uk/wiki/Compiling_WSPR

On time, every time…

Next, make sure you PC’s clock is set EXACTLY – be anal about this as it won’t work properly if it’s out by more than a couple of seconds…make sure it’s synchronised with an internet time-server…http://www.timesynctool.com/ is one of the better ones. alternatively, you can just use set windows time and date to sync with a time server.

Once the software is  installed you’ll need to configure it with some basic info, like your call sign, grid locator, soundcard input and output, PTT method, CAT control (if any) and how much power you’ll be running…you can then set your Rig to the desired band and tune it to the “dial” frequency (displayed in the software screen) – i.e for the 30M band the dial frequency is 10.138700Mhz USB

WSPR1WSPR2

When all is well, set the TX slider to say 10%, make sure upload spots is checked and TX idle is unchecked. Your rig will listen in 2 minute blocks, and if it hears a station and successfully decodes the call/locator/power level information from a Transmitting station, it will upload the info to the wsprnet site for display. At 10% TX, it will switch to transmit for a 2 minute block every 20 minutes or so…and you will hopefully be heard far away!

Then What?

WSPR’s main “port of call” if you like, is http://wsprnet.org/drupal/wsprnet/spots this is where everyone goes to look to see where and how far their transmissions are being heard at any time of the day or night. Don’t be surprised to see your 5 watts get spotted by stations 1000′s of km away on HF, and 100′s of km on VHF. There are lots of statistics available on the site, along with maps, various forum and even chat.

WSPR3WSPR4

So there you have it, if your time is precious but you still want to keep your finger on the pulse of ham radio, then a little WSPRing might be for you…

One thought on “WSPR on the 2M band 144.489 Mhz

  1. You could probably add to this Andy, that WSPR is also very good at antenna testing. Try one antenna and then flick over to another and you will soon get a good idea of which ones giving you the best signals (SNR). For instance Ive run tests with VK5BC to check the gain of my 4 yagi array, we saw 6dB increase with the array over a single antenna. Good results.

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