A trip to the Project Diana site with KA6U
When Peter Van Horne, KA6U, announced that he was going to move his portable two meter EME operation to the site of Project Diana, I immediately volunteered to meet him there and help with the operation. He accepted and this is the account of that activity.
Project Diana Background
The site is located in Wall, NJ, part of the information Age Science Learning Center. In 1946 the site was part of the US Armyís Camp Evans. There, scientists discovered that they could bounce radar signals off the moon, and receive the echoes. It was the forerunner to the US Space program. Project Diana was named for the Roman goddess of the Moon, and that began the trend of naming space projects after Roman and Greek gods, like Mercury and Apollo.
The building to the right, under the dish (above) houses the control station for the dish, an Amateur Radio moonbounce station, and some pictures and equipment that was used in the original tests.
Below are pictures of the original Diana radar antenna, and todayís control center.
The left screen
shows the control program and live views of the dish and parking lot.
The screen to the right has summary data from signals received from
various celestial objects, and an SDR receiver display at the bottom.
To the far right is the 1296 MHz. ham station, a Kenwood TS-2000X.
The TS-2000ís 1296 signal feeds a 250 watt amplifier mounted at the dish
feed. It produces very loud echoes!
I first met Peter in March of 2020 (on the air), when he lived in California. He was traveling around to some of the rare grids on the west coast and I was able to work him in several of them. The next thing I knew, he had moved to Florida and before long started an incredible odyssey. He started in the south, moving each day or two to a new, but rare, grid square. In each grid he set up his portable EME station and worked many stations around the world. He took pictures and published descriptions of the places he went, the contacts made, and people he met. His latest trip started in early July and ended just a few days ago on September 28, 2021. I donít have a full account of all the states he visited or grids he activated. I mostly only worked him in grids I did not have, allowing others to more easily work him, but I worked him in 12 states and 31 grid squares. I know his state count is at least double that, and his activated grid count may be as well.
Below are some pictures of the Project Diana activation, showing his setup and some of the people that were there on September 21, 2021.
From left, Charlie Cebula AC2ZU, Russ K2TXB, Peter Van Horne KA6U, Lori Lauber KD2OMA, and an unknown gentleman.
Lori is the control operator for the Dish, she opened the site for us and stayed around for most of the night.
Charlie is one of the operators who came up to operate 1296 EME with the big dish. Those operations were carried out at the same time as Peter and I were working 2 meter contacts.
Here is a view as we first saw the moon peeking out above the eastern trees. Peter was checking the alignment of the rotator, making sure we were pointed at the moon. To the right, is Peter, placing one of the 2 Meter crossed Yagis on his mount. Peter has made a science of being able to setup and take down quickly. He did it all himself, and setup was about 40 minutes. Tear down is about 30 minutes.
Below: To the left is a view of Charlie, Peter, and myself standing under the two antennas! On the right is Peter, operating 2 meter EME (JT65) from the passenger side seat of his Ford Pickup. We made about 2 dozen contacts on 2 meters that night. There is not much demand for the FN20 grid square, so most of the callers just wanted to work the Project Diana site. In a normal (rare) grid Peter usually works around 70 stations each Moon pass.
For more information about Peter and his setup, see his QRZ page.
Looking at the Moon
This dish is awesome! It is about 60 feet in diameter (18 meters), and has a gain of about 46 dBi, on 1296 MHz. The echoes we heard returning from the moon were reading S9 on the TS-2000X S meter.
The 1296 MHz operation that day was not well publicized and there was not much activity. They did make a SSB contact with a station in Russia, and I copied K5DOG in Texas calling CQ on CW at S5. Unfortunately Steve was operating remote and could not easily tune around, so he missed our calls and no contact was made.
I think it would be a lot of fun to operate there during the EME contest!