The WA7X Beacon Page

The 6 Meter beacon is currently:  ONLINE as of 9 July
The 2 Meter beacon is currently:  ONLINE
The 70 cm beacon is currently:  ONLINE
Note:  If you hear the 6 meter beacon, please report it by clicking here -
Click here if you hear the 2 meter beacon -

About the WA7X 6 Meter, 2 Meter, and 70cm  Beacons:

Frequencies:
6 Meter Beacon Carrier Frequency:  Nominally 50.0700 MHz.
2 Meter Beacon Carrier Frequency:  Nominally 144.2990 MHz.
70 Centimeter Beacon Carrier Frequency:  Nominally 432.3990 MHz.
For precise signal measurements of the beacons, see the "Parameter Measurements" section.
Location:  Located 4 miles east of Fairview, Utah (Grid square DM49ho) at approximately 8365 feet (2550 meters) ASL. 
Radiated Power: 
6 Meters:  Approx. 100 Watts EIRP (Effective Isotropic Radiated Power). 
2 Meters:  Approx. 100 Watts EICRP (Effective Isotropic Circular Radiated Power).
70 Centimeters:  See text.
Note:  5 second test carriers are provided at the 100, 10, and 1 watt (radiated) power levels (except for the 70cm beacon, which runs more ERP than specified in the beacon message.)
Antennas:
6 Meters:  J-Pole antenna (vertically polarized.) 
2 Meters:  Cycloid Dipole.  This omni antenna exhibits Left-Hand Circular polarization at the horizon and predominantly horizontal polarization above approx. 45 degrees elevation.
70 Centimeters:  Currently using a 7 element vertically-polarized yagi pointed north, towards the Salt Lake area.
Transmitters: All are modified GE Mastr Exec II's 
Note:  Both beacons are keyed simultaneously, by the same controller.

The WA7X Beacons are operated in accordance with FCC Part §97.203.  The 6 meter beacon operates on a nominal carrier frequency of  50.0700 MHz, the 2 meter beacon operates on 144.2990 MHz, and the 70cm beacon operates on 432.3990 MHz.  The purpose of these beacons is to facilitate receiver and antenna system testing, propagation observation, and to discern band openings as they occur.


The 6 and 2 meter beacons and the 70cm beacon operates at the "100 watt power level only during the following parts of the message:

For all other text, the power level will be 10 watts - plus the 1 watt level during that test carrier.  These changes were made primarily to reduce electrical power consumption (and operating costs) but by special request or during exceptional propagation conditions, the previous 100 watt power setting for all text (except for the 10 and 1 watt carriers) may be enabled remotely.

All three beacons are keyed in parallel, that is, they send exactly the same message at exactly the same time.

About the beacon itself:

6 and 2 meter beacons:

The 2 and 6 meter beacons are based on GE Master Exec II VHF transceivers, each with a 110 watt P.A.  The receivers were removed (as they were not needed in this project) and the transmitters were re-crystalled and retuned for their respective frequencies.

The transmitters were modified and extra circuitry was added to allow more precise and repeatable power control.  Additionally, a microprocessor-based controller was added to select the beacons' output power and generate the CW message keying.

6 and 2 meter beacon antennas:

The 6 meter beacon uses a simple vertical J-pole while the 2 meter beacon is currently being tested with an experimental cycloid dipole.  This antenna exhibits an omnidirectional pattern with Left-Hand Circular Polarization (LHCP).  A 6 meter cycloid dipole is under construction - but it won't be until spring (at the earliest) before it can be installed.

In late May, 2011 the 6 meter beacon went offline.  Upon investigation, it was noted that two problems had occurred - but it's unknown exactly which problem occurred first:

The power controller was installed in another 6 meter radio chassis, its exciter was retuned and even though one of the leads of the crystal was corroded and broke off very close to the body, it was still possible to make a connection to it and the frequency seems to be stable.  Once the repairs were made, it was put back online and was heard in the pacific northwest via sporadic-E within hours after that!

For more information on the antennas, transmitter, and beacon controller, go to the Beacon Technical Page .

A 70cm beacon:

As of 11/25/2006, the 70cm beacon was returned to the air using a permanant transmitter configuration.  After operating for quite a while using an Icom all-mode 70cm radio pressed into service as the beacon transmitter, a UHF GE Mastr Exec II with a 75 watt final was obtained, modified for beacon operation, and put into service.

The modifications made to the GE radio are very similar to those done to the 6 and 2 meter beacon transmitters, in that a "Servo" power control loop was installed to allow controlled power settings over a 20 dB range.  Presently, the RF output power of the beacon is set to 55, 5.5, and 0.55 watts for the "100," "10," and "1 watt" settings, respectively.

70cm beacon antenna:

The antenna on the 70cm beacon is a vertically-polarized 7 element yagi pointed approximately due North with an upward elevation angle of approximately 10 degrees.  The purpose of this configuration is to observe airplane scatter/reflection in the Salt Lake City area as well as to favor possible auroral propagation.  With this antenna, the EIRP is very much higher than the power level stated in the beacon message and possible antenna changes are being considered.

With the 7 element yagi, the radiated power (taking into account coax losses) is probably in the 750, 75 and 7.5 watt area at the respective power level.

The beacon text format:

The text of the beacon message is as follows:

VVV VVV VVV WA7X WA7X WA7X DM49HO DM49HO EIRP 100W <5 sec. cxr at 100 watts> 10W <5 sec. cxr at 10 watts> 1W <5 sec. cxr at 1 watt> - GO TO WA7X.COM DE WA7X/B AR

Note the 5 second "test carriers" after the the power level announcements.

As mentioned above, only the "VVV" portion, the 100 watt announcement and its test carrier, and the final identification  is transmitted at the full 100 watts.  The rest of the message (except for the 1 watt test carrier) is transmitted at 10 watts.  The older "all 100 watt" mode may be remotely reinstated by request.

A coverage prediction map and more technical info may be found on the
Beacon Technical Page .

A few beacon bits:

These beacons are operated from Glen's cabin (go to Glen's Cabin Cam page for more info) which is located in the mountains above Fairview, Utah at an altitude of approximately 8500 feet (about 2600 meters) on a northwest-facing slope.

On (relatively) rare occasions, the beacons may be turned off for a few hours.  This may happen when the cabin is occupied and Glen (or someone else present) is operating VHF/UHF.

Note:  For the moment, the 2 meter beacon will usually be turned on as the performance of the cycloid dipole is being evaluated.

Why 100 watts (eirp) for a beacon?
 
6 and 2 meter beacon antennas
A view of the beacon's 6 meter J-pole antenna mounted at the peak of the roof and the "temporary" (but seemingly becoming permanant) 2 meter cycloid dipole is to the right.  (An open-wire fed HF antenna may be seen in the background.)
Click on the picture for a larger version.

The 100 watt EIRP power level is well above average for a beacon.  Why so much power?  To be sure, if the band is open, even a 1 watt signal will be audible.  For detection of auroral activity, however, a fairly high ERP (Effective Radiated Power) is required due to path loss.  Most beacons intended primarily for detection of auroral activity use directional gain antennas - this allows much lower transmitter power to be run to maintain a high ERP - but these antennas may reduce the likelihood of being heard in other directions.

While it is probably a good thing that most beacons don't run this much power, it was felt that with the beacons operating in such a remote location, and in a sparsely-populated part of the USA, such an ERP was justified.  This particular remote location allows the majority of the "locals" (most of them being several mountain ranges and tens of miles away) to hear the beacons - but not have it be so strong that it disrupts reception of other beacons on nearby frequencies.  Furthermore, the beacons are weak enough in the nearby population centers (e.g. Salt Lake City) that they may still be used for detection of auroral activity.  The beacons' location offers an unobstructed view to the north - the direction in which auroral activity occurs in this hemisphere.


All reception reports are greatly appreciated - and many thanks to those who have sent them.
 
Using a beacon to assist in Meteor Scatter operation

Beacons can be useful when working meteor scatter propagation as well. 

N6YM (grid CM88xf, northern California) has successfully used the WA7X 2 meter beacon to assist in such operation:  By monitoring the beacon frequency he was able to tell when a path existed (when the beacon was audible) and make a call on the 2 meter calling frequency and snag a Colorado station. 

N6YM recorded the 2 meter beacon during an unusually long meteor "burn" on 14 October, 2001 at approximately 1551 Z.  That recording may be found here in this 52kB MP3 file.  Note the slight doppler shift near the beginning and end of the recording. 

KJ6KO has also used the beacon to "ambush" stations on Meteor scatter - and he describes his technique (and some of the results) here.

For the 6 meter beacon:  Reports of the 6 meter beacon have been received from many western Canadian provinces, all "western" states, including Texas, as well as  Florida, with reports from Alaska and Japan.  Additionally, the beacon has been copied throughout much of the state of Utah via "groundwave."

For the 2 meter beacon:  The 2 meter beacon has been reported with good signals in the Salt Lake City area - about 75 air miles to the north and west.  The beacon has also been heard in California in CM98 and CM88 via Es/Tropo as well as Meteor Scatter on several occasions.

If you wish to contact WA7X - the operator of these beacons with a question or with a reception report you may send an email to WA7X .

Also at this site:

For more information about 6 and 2 meters, take a look at these pages: Last page update:  20110709

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