ARRL – Alaska’s super-power High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) transmitters in Gakona, Alaska, will take advantage of the WSPR digital protocol and the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter Network (WSPRnet) during a short experimental campaign, July 30 through August 1. University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Space Physics Group researcher and HAARP Chief Scientist Chris Fallen, KL3WX, told ARRL that he’ll be conducting research into ionospheric irregularities, but hardly with a weak signal.
“I am conducting a dual-use experiment to create field-aligned — plasma density — irregularities while also modulating the HF beam for a WSPR beacon test,” he said. Specifically, Fallen will be looking at plasma density irregularities in the F-layer of the ionosphere.
Fallen said the WSPR experimental periods are tentatively planned to last about 30 minutes per day and occur between approximately 2300 and 2400 hours UTC on all 3 days, which would put the operations during daylight hours in US time zones. Most transmissions will be at the WSPR 80-meter default frequency of 3.592.6 MHz, Fallen said. HAARP will use full-carrier AM, since it’s not equipped to transmit SSB. The call sign will be WI2XFX. The HAARP transmitters can generate megawatts of RF.
“One irregularity is that the actual transmit power will be higher than what is reported since it is out of range of what the software allows to be encoded,” Fallen told ARRL.
“These daytime 80-meter conditions are not ideal for a propagation test, but are the result of a compromise with other science objectives and operational constraints,” Fallen said. “I hope that this will be a useful trial for future propagation tests that utilize beacon networks maintained by hams. If I have a little bit of time remaining in my budget, I will try to accommodate a 40-meter test as well.”
Fallen said he’s using WSPRnet to retrieve signal reports automatically, rather than by soliciting listener reports, which often do not include the location and signal strength information his research requires.
“We will conduct a short test each day — admittedly not QRP, but the test will be short — transmitting on even numbered minutes, and then later collecting from the database the spots reported by each station that received HAARP,” Fallen explained. “This will demonstrate the concept of using a large and incredibly variable — in terms of frequency, power, and direction — HF transmitter such as HAARP, in conjunction with WSPRnet, to generate snapshots of HF propagation conditions from a point source in the subarctic.”
Fallen said hams have been requesting something like this, although with far more asking for FT8 than for WSPR transmissions. “But, I am having trouble figuring out specifically how FT8 would work with HAARP,” Fallen said.
Fallen said the Amateur Radio bands are not included in HAARP’s permanent Part 5 Experimental license authorization, but UAF routinely seeks a Special Temporary Authorization (STA, attached) that permits access to some amateur frequencies.