UPDATE @ 1pm : 88.1FM is back at normal power! Pics are available on our Twitter feed here, here, here and here. By the way, many of these pics were taken with a stock iPhone 5S using this telephoto lens attachment. Pretty good for $45!
On Wednesday June 18th, beginning around 9:30 or 10am, 88.1FM will be running on the backup transmitter & antenna for a few hours to install new equipment on the top of the tower. We must run on the lower-power backup for the health & safety of our tower climber.
The backup operates using a one-bay vertically-polarized omnidirectional antenna and about one-tenth our normal power.
THIS WILL NOT IMPACT OUR 91.5 OR 102.7FM SIGNALS, NOR OUR WEBCAST.
We've talked in the past about skywave propagation, but it's cool when you heard about real-world examples of it. Recently I've gotten several emails from "DX'ers" (Distant Reception enthusiasts) in Europe saying they've been able to hear Latino Public Radio on 1290AM all the way across the Atlantic!
We have put a temporary setup in place with a donated 30 watt transmitter on loan (with the antenna array's gain factor of 2.1, it's really more like 63 watts of Effective Radiated Power), and a special radio that's tuned to 102.7FM (there's a high-gain FM antenna on the rooftop tower) and puts out the composite signal directly into the new transmitter. This effectively makes 91.5 into a "repeater" of 102.7FM.
UPDATE 01/21: Multiple letters sent with no response, and the pirate's still broadcasting. A letter has been mailed to the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. If you are an RIPR listener to 102.7 and you have experienced interference due to this pirate, you can submit your own letter to the FCC as well.
UPDATE 12/19: The pirate has been found! Well, we're pretty sure we have found the pirate. Using a directional antenna and a signal meter, we triangulated the position to a house a few blocks from the Locust Grove Cemetery in South Providence.
A letter of notification of interference to RIPR was mailed to this address several weeks ago, but apparently this pirate doesn't care as there's still an illegal broadcast on 102.9 from this location.
UPDATE 11/5: Thanks to a fellow engineer who informed me there is a pirate broadcasting on 102.9FM and that is likely the source of the interference people have reported (see below). Quite possibly the atmospheric changes made it worse, but the bulk of the problem is likely the pirate.
As all RIPR fans know, we are an NPR member station. That means we get a lot of our programming from NPR, the BBC, and other providers, via our satellite dish. The dish is medium-sized as dishes go, but it’s pretty big in real terms: 3.7 meters (12ft) in diameter. There’s quite literally nowhere to fit a dish that large at our studios in 1 Union Station, so instead it was installed out at our 1290AM transmitter site in North Providence (we still own 1290, but we lease it to Latino Public R
It has to do with our satellite downlink from NPR. We have a hefty 13-foot-diameter satellite dish, located in North Providence; there's no room for it at One Union Station! It points to "Galaxy 16," a telecommunications satellite in "geostationary" orbit that all NPR stations use.
"Geostationary," also popularly referred to as "geosynchronous," means that the satellite orbits the Earth in sync with the Earth's rotation...about 6800 MPH. That's pretty fast, but the key is that it's the SAME speed for both. So from our perspective here on Earth, the satellite just floats there, not moving, over 22,000 miles up in the sky! In Galaxy 16's case, the satellite is at 99.0 degrees west longitude, meaning it's fixed above a point on the equator over the Pacific Ocean, about 500 miles west of the Galapagos Islands (near Ecuador).
In general, geostationary orbits work great for communications satellites like for NPR, but there's a catch: twice a year there are a few days when, the Sun appears to pass right "behind" the satellite for a few minutes each day. The Sun puts out so much energy on ALL frequencies that it completely swamps the satellite's own signal, so we lose all NPR, BBC and other satellite programming.