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First steps into QRSS

December 24, 2008

Today I took a little time out from the Holiday preparations to try receiving a QRSS beacon.  I was pleased to find that I could copy Vern’s, VE1VDM, 350mW beacon located in Truro, NS. To do this I used the my usual HF setup, the K3 and the 88ft doublet, with my Asus Eee PC running Baudline connected to the sound out of the K3.

QRSS is very slow CW, usually from very low power transmitters, QRPp (in the order of tens or hundreds of mW). Because of the speed and the power it is best to detect them using spectral analysis software which displays the received signal on the screen. Since the code is decoded visually then beacons sometimes use frequency shifts to represent dits and dahs or marks and spaces.  There can even be distinctive  frequency shifts to generate visual patterns.  Frequency shifts are small, only a few Hz, so finding the signals can be tricky.  30m is a popular band for the beacons, often called manned experimental propagation transmitters (MEPTs), which normally are found between 10.140000 and 10.140100 MHz.

QRSS seems to be more popular in Europe than in North America.  Information can be found here about QRSS and there are some online grabbers showing regular screen captures from receivers around the world.  If you listen to Bill Meara’s ‘Soldersmoke’ podcasts you will also find some information about his adventures in QRSS.

Below is the screen shot of the VE1VDM beacon on 30m which I recorded today, 24th Dec. 2008.  The message of “VDM” signal of the beacon is clear, and I have labelled the CW to help read the message.

VE1VDM's MEPT beacon, I have labelled the "VDM" signal

I modified my settings on Baudline to get the improved image below.

VE1VDM's MEPT on a baudline screen

This is my first steps into QRSS.  I will spend more time in the future investigating the abilities of Baudline for QRSS reception. Also,  now I have some 10.140 MHz crystals I want to design and build a beacon for MEPT work.

Finally, as this is Christmas Eve, I would like to wish all the readers of this blog a Merry Christmas and a happy and peacefull 2009.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 25, 2008 1:23 am

    The best to you and your family Alan too. Good DX in 2009 as well as more great articles on your blog.

    73 de Bob VE3MPG

  2. Scot, KA3DRR permalink
    December 25, 2008 11:18 am


    I’m reading with interest your adventures into QRSS and WSPR MEPTl. I’m going to listen to PSK31 using DigiPan software and a computer interfaced microphone for the first time ever. And my interest in digital modes of communication via wireless continues growing each day. Thank you transmitting your lesson’s gained into ham radio’s blogosphere.

    Scot, KA3DRR

    • va3stl permalink*
      December 25, 2008 12:11 pm


      Tnx for the comment.

      PSK31 is a great mode, perhaps my favourite. Take a look at Bob’s, VA3QV, blog as he is just getting going with this mode – we have a 2m PSK31 net running here in Ottawa. There are some tips in the comments of some of his posts.

      If you have any questions about PSK31 feel free to contact me, I am happy to help if I can.

      I should also mention VE3MPG’s blog (by another local to me and also called Bob!) he uses digimodes a lot and has posted tips.

      Merry Christmas and all the best for 2009.


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