Sunday, January 22, 2023

Catchup On Some Things

This is going to be a sketchy week around here so let me clear a couple of things I've meant to report on and then get into The Sketchy.   

  1. Monday, Jan 23, is looking like we could see the long awaited first static firing of the stacked Booster/Ship24 at SpaceX Boca Chica.  The likely road closure for the day has been accompanied by a warning about overpressure to Boca Chica Village and a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) filed by the FAA to avoid the area below 14,000 feet above the test area.  The NOTAM starts Jan. 23 at 0601 UTC (2:01 AM Local) and runs 24 hours.  Likewise a Marine Safety Information Bulletin (MSIB) has been issued (pdf warning) for the day, mostly affecting boats offshore Starbase. 

    It sounds real.  Things could always go wrong that cancel it or it could be a more prolonged Wet Dress Rehearsal that doesn't end in firing engines.  You never know. 

  2. Tuesday, Jan 24, Rocket Lab is expecting to launch their first orbital launch from the Wallops Island, Virginia launch facility at 6:00 PM local (EST).  The mission, in keeping with their practice of coming up with clever/cutesy names for missions is Virginia is for Launch Lovers.

The Sketchy

I mentioned back at the start of the month that I have surgery coming up for a hiatal hernia repair that will include a thing called a LINX device that will be implanted.  That's scheduled for this Thursday.  I anticipate being grounded and unable to do much for at least Thursday and Friday. It's possible that can extend longer, but I'm scheduled to only spend Thursday night in the hospital.  Of course, while the chances of Bad Things are as small as can reasonably be assessed, and depending on after-surgery pains, consider this very preliminary. 

The adventures have been building for a while, and tomorrow will have an increase with a pre-surgical evaluation and probably at least a blood draw.  Probably half the day with the doctor and others.

Which brings me to the next big adventure I'm working on.  Regular readers will know I posted a lot about problems I had after Tropical Storm Ian (TS here, hurricane on the SW coast).  The storm broke elements off one antenna that I had to repair, it damaged my tower and the house bracket that helped reinforce it.  Then, when I thought it was done, I found the other antenna on the tower also got broken.  I only got my station fully operational at the start of December.  

Knowing the surgery was coming and that I'd be restricted by that in my ability to work for the heart of the best time of year to work on towers and such hardware, I came up with a workaround: a short term and a long term fix.  The short term fix is up there now, but I need to improve that a bit and that should be done before the mandatory time off.  The long term fix is to change my whole method of cranking the tower over.  

The company I bought the tower from has a solution they offer called a mounting pole, or MP-2.  This is the drawing of it they post online.  

The MP-2 is rated to crank over fully loaded towers many times bigger than.  Mine is a light duty 20' tower; this is rated to crank over fully loaded, heavy duty, 75' towers.  I have surprisingly few pictures that show the pole I use but there are two big differences between this pole and mine.  First, their pole is 13 feet long, 7-1/2' feet above ground, of 4" schedule 40 galvanized steel pipe while mine is 10 feet long, 7 feet above ground of schedule 40 aluminum pipe.  Second, their pole is designed to be mounted without concrete and instead held by four plates extending the cross sectional area of the part in the ground, digging that 13" diameter hole and filling it with wet sand, while mine is mounted in poured concrete, 2 feet square by 3' deep. 

I think my pole will work. 

Unfortunately, converting my pole to take the place of theirs is going to be quite the exercise.  There are things in the drawings they give away that I didn't understand properly, and I only know that because I asked around for opinions of how people like the MP2, pictures of the way the tower attaches and as many details as guys cared to give.  Hams, being generally helpful, voluntarily sent me pictures of the way the MP-2 works.  Both my tower and my pipe will have to be modified.  This is the essence of what I'll have to duplicate. 

The job will entail first taking down my tower and taking off all the antennas for relatively long term storage (weeks at best).  After that, I'll need to add the plate on top of the pole, the aluminum channel (if the pipe is 4" OD, that looks to be well under half, so maybe 1-1/2" channel).  Clearly, my pole can't be removed from the concrete block to work on so someone will need to attach the plate and channel while up on a ladder.  The there needs to be another piece of channel added to the tower at the right height at both top and bottom, and all that hardware you can see.  Did I mention I can't weld?  

Once the tower and pole are modified the tower will need to be lifted into place and mounted to the mounting pole.  After cranking it up and down a few times for tests, I'll need to mount the antennas and crank it up for good.  Hopefully the story will have a happy ending then.


  1. Sounds complicated and expensive for the tower work.

    I hope your surgery goes well.

    At one time I was considering surgery for my hiatal hernia that I've had for about 50 years. When I lost quite a bit of weight, it helped greatly with the severity of it, so I get along fairly well as long as I make sure I stop eating well before bedtime. I figure I've had enough surgeries without adding another as I have issues fully recovering from general anesthesia.

    1. I think the tower work is going to be complicated and difficult. I'd really like to find someone to do it, but that really multiplies the cost.

      I have no idea how long I've had this, what caused it or what it looks like. It has been getting worse over the last year.

      What started the road down to finding it was coughing a bit too much over the last couple of years and taking a lot of Mucinex for the cough suppressant. I mentioned this at a yearly checkup - I figured since the box disclaimer says not to take it over a week or two without a doctor's recommendation, and it was closer to two years, maybe I should say something. That started a round of tests that concluded acid reflux was getting into my lungs and irritating them.

      Yeah, I knew about the "addiction to prilosec OTC" but didn't know it could do that. I sure hope the combination of things gets rid of it.

      Thankfully, I've had no problems with general anesthesia, the couple of times I've had it.

  2. Best wishes on the upcoming surgery, SiG. Good "PPPPPP" on the tower issues, too.

  3. Fingers crossed for the 33-engine burn and your surgery.

  4. I just bought a tower from an estate. It was never installed, but sat for a while. The hardware package and 'feet' are not there. It's a no brainer to buy the hardware package from the manufacturer (Rohn, BX-56 free standing tower, very similar to the Wade DMX 52) as it's not that expensive and includes everything you need.

    I'm trying to decide whether to buy the fixed 'feet' which embed in concrete and bolt to the tower legs, ~$245 or the tilt base at ~$615. I'm inclined (hah) toward the tilt base, but it costs as much as I paid for the tower, and IDK if it's worth it on such a big tower.

    One consideration is that I'll be assembling it myself, or with one other person, and tilt up seems like it would be safer for that.

    What do you think? I've never had a tower before, currently using a vertical multiband on a 20ft pole beside the house.


    1. The primary reason mine tilts over is to pull the antennas in case of hurricanes. Most years, I don't need to do that. I think one year ('04) I had to do it three times, and several years I've only done it once all year. My routine has been to crank it over, pull the antennas and then put the tower back up bolted to the house bracket. With a minimum wind load it has always been fine.

      With a forecast of tropical storm winds in the "50-60mph" range, I didn't do the hurricane prep. We go through winds in that range a few times a year for short duration during severe thunderstorms.

      I think the main difference between this year's TS winds and other storms, (IIRC peak sustained wind was 62mph) was the direction. This storm's winds were out of the SW which pushes everything away from the house, while every other one I can think of, the peak winds were NE.

      That's a long answer, but the bottom line is whether you frequently need to take everything down to keep them from being destroyed. Then you can think about how often you need to work on the antennas or replace one.

      I suppose another consideration is how big a deal it is for you to climb towers if you need to.

      Hope that's useful!

    2. Thanks SiG, I'm in Houston so hurricanes at home are worrisome. The new tower will be at a country place, 2 hours north. They got a tornado last year, but you can't really do much about that. @ mid 50s but fairly fit, I've got a couple years of climbing towers left in me, but then I've never climbed one 50ft tall so that might just be bravado. The initial assembly is my main concern right now, but nothing is going to happen on the project for a while. SO MANY other things need to happen first.


  5. Best of luck (actually, skill of the surgeon!) on your surgery, and then rebuilding your tower.
    I had my wife yell at me when I got out of surgery, went home two days later, and then two days after that I was working on our riding lawn mower (had to lift it up to get underneath!) Not the brightest thing to do after aortic valve surgery!.
    I guess I'm stoopid that way. No harm, no foul and I never let my heart surgeon or my GP know about that...

    1. You know, I think I side with your wife on this one. I think you do, too. ;-)

    2. Oh, yes - God watches over fools and small children... and I quit being a child a long time ago!

  6. It is 16:00 CST, WET DRESS REHEARSAL!!! Looks as though today was a full WDR including activating the water fire suppression systems. A major milestone has been reached.

    1. I watched back and forth between NASA Spaceflight and Lab Padre. I guess this means the test last week was aborted midway through as some people were saying. I still have hope we'll see a static firing soon.