November 1958 Popular Electronics
People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about and learning some of the history of early electronics. Popular
Electronics was published from October 1954 through April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged. See all articles from
confirmation of having made a contact (QSL in ham-speak) with a radio
operator behind the communist Iron Curtain was a real achievement during
most of the 20th century. Russian and Chinese citizens were routinely
imprisoned for such activity, and if you did manage to elicit a response
to your CQ (request for contact), there was a good chance it was with
a government propagandist posing as a civilian. When
was put in orbit on October 4, 1957, a whole new
realm of DXing (long distance communication) opened up by providing
satellite relay paths. Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial
satellite, broadcast a series of pulses at 20.005 and 40.002 MHz
that were tracked and reported by both professional and amateur radio
operators. Vital data was learned based on the time and strength of
signals that allowed scientists to ascertain the physics of upper atmosphere
characteristics. Not wanting to give the impression that the assistance
of the rest of the world's capitalist pigs was needed or wanted (although
it definitely was), virtually no acknowledgement was forthcoming from
Radio Moscow. This is a story of one Ham's successful effort to obtain
a - in those days (1957), rare - space route QSL card.
QSL from Sputnik
How one SWL managed to get his prized space verification
By C. M. Stanbury, II
you heard Sputnik? Yes. Have you received your QSL? Unless you live
on the other side of the iron curtain, chances are pretty good you haven't.
Despite the fact that Radio Moscow has repeatedly asked for reports
on the Soviet satellites, until now the highly prized space-QSL's have
not been crossing the "red divide."
What's needed to verify
Sputnik? An address? Yes, that will help a little. How about transmission
data to prove your reception ? Yes, knowing how to get this is essential.
But even more important is your approach. Without the proper approach,
a DX'er is a very dead duck so far as Sputnik verifies are concerned.
The Proper Approach.
The key word of this approach
is frankness. Most of you know that the opposite seems to be the standard
for at least 90% of the broadcasts coming from Radio Moscow. The same
evasiveness carries over into their handling, of DX reports. The following
excerpt is typical.
call letters of the Chinese language transmission you heard are the
same as the ones used for the North American broadcasts - the first
bars of Dunaevsky's "Song of the Motherland."
To meet this
kind of thing with more evasion would result in an endless series of
correspondence which would net the DX'er nothing but propaganda. On
the other hand, following a straight-line approach, cutting through
the Soviet curves, will - nine chances out of ten - bring you what you
The following are the final paragraphs of the
letter that brought home my SPUTNIK QSL.
am going to speak frankly. Even if you had not promised to verify reception
of your Sputniks, it would be an act of bad faith not to do so. Many
listeners all over the world took the time and trouble to receive and
report reception of your satellites. They certainly deserve QSL cards
or letters for their efforts.
Thank you very much for the cards
and letters you have sent me in the past. I do hope you or somebody
else will correct this most unfortunate QSL situation.
Radio Moscow, like any other International Short-Wave Service is dependent
upon the world's SWL's. A letter such as that above would seem to leave
them very little choice but to fulfill their obligations. You'll note,
however, that the letter is courteous. Any station has the right to
ignore a rude or insulting DX report. Transmission
You will need transmission data to prove your reception.
Easiest to obtain are the number of beeps per minute. Merely count the
beeps in a 30-second period and multiply by two.
have a slightly musical ear, you can make your report considerably better.
Estimate the modulation frequency by comparing the Sputnik signal with
the alternate 440- and 600-cps tones transmitted by Station WWV.
If your receiver is poorly calibrated on the upper short-wave frequencies,
the WWV signal on 20,000 kc. can be used to zero in the satellite's
frequency of 20,005 kc. First locate WWV. If the signal is strong, tune
to its upper edge. If WWV is being received weakly, tune just above
the edge. In either case, retune every 10 or 15 minutes (unless WWV
has disappeared) to decrease the danger of missing the Sputnik if you
are slightly off frequency or if your receiver is drifting.
Where to Report.
If you have already sent a report
either in care of Radio Moscow or to The USSR Committee on the International
Geophysical Year, wait one month for a reply.
If you have
not yet sent a report, send your first one to the committee and wait
three months. Make this a standard report with a casual request for
If you do not get results, send a second report
to: Eugenia Stepanove, North American Service, Radio Moscow. Ask her
to forward it to the proper agency and say why you think you deserve
a QSL. Posted 2/11/2013