Friday, October 20, 2023

Multi-band transmitter and monitoring system for Eclipse monitoring (Part 1)

It should not have escaped your attention - at least if you live in North America - there there have been/will be two significant solar eclipses occurring in recent/near times:  One that occurred on October 14, 2023 and another eclipse that will happen during April, 2024.  The path of "totality" of the October eclipse happened to pass through Utah (where I live) so it is no surprise that I went out of my way to see it - just as I did back in 2012:  You can read my blog entry about that here.

 Figure 1:
The eclipse in progress - a few minutes
before "annularity".
(Photo by C. L. Turner)
I will shortly produce a blog entry related to my activities around the October 14, 2023 eclipse as well.

The October eclipse was of the "annular" type meaning that the moon is near-ish apogee meaning that the subtended angle of its disk is insufficient to completely block the sun owing to the moon's greater-than-average distance from Earth:  Unlike a solar eclipse, there is no time during the eclipse where it is safe to look at the sun/moon directly, without eye protection.

The sun will be mostly blocked, however, meaning that those in the path of "totality" experienced a rather eerie local twilight with shadows casting images of the solar disk:  Around the periphery of the moon it was be possible to make out the outline of lunar mountains - and those unfortunate to stare at the sun during this time will receive a ring-shaped burn to their retina.

From the aspect of a radio amateur, however, the effects of a total and annular solar eclipse are largely identical:  The diminution of the "D" layer and partial recombination of the "F" layers of the ionosphere causing what are essentially nighttime propagation conditions during the daytime - geographically limited to those areas under the lunar shadow.

In an effort to help study these sort of effects - and to (hopefully) better-understand the propagation effects, a number of amateurs went (and are) going out into the field - in or near the path of "totality" - and setting up simultaneous, multi-band transmitters.

Producing usable data

Having "Eclipse QSO Parties" where amateur radio operators make contacts during the eclipse likely goes back nearly a century - the rarity of a solar eclipse making the event even more enigmatic.  In more recent years amateurs have been involved in "citizen science" where they make observations by monitoring signals - or facilitate the making of observations by transmitting them - and this happened during the October eclipse and should also happen during the April event as well.

While doing this sort of thing is just plain "fun", a subset of this group is of the metrological sort (that's "metrology", no "meteorology"!) and endeavor to impart on their transmissions - and observations of received signals - additional constraints that are intended to make this data useful in a scientific sense - specifically:

  • Stable transmit frequencies.  During the event, the perturbations of the ionosphere will impart on propagated signals Doppler shift and spread:  Being able to measure this with accuracy and precision (which are NOT the same thing!) adds another layer of extractable information to the observations.
  • Stable receivers.  As with the transmitters, having a stable receiver is imperative to allow accurate measurement of the Doppler shift and spread.  Additionally, being able to monitor the amplitude of a received signal can provide clues as to the nature of the changing conditions.
  • Monitoring/transmitting at multiple frequencies.  As the ionospheric conditions change, its effects at different frequencies also changes.  In general, the loss of ionization (caused by darkness) reduces propagation at higher frequencies (e.g. >10 MHz) and with lessened "D" layer absorption lower frequencies (<10 MHz) the propagation at those frequencies is enhanced.  With the different effects at different frequencies, being able to simultaneously monitor multiple signals across the HF spectrum can provide additional insight as to the effects.

To this end, the transmission and monitoring of signals by this informal group have established the following:

  • GPS-referenced transmitters.  The transmitters will be "locked" to GPS-referenced oscillators or atomic standards to keep the transmitted frequencies both stable, accurate - and known to within milliHertz.
  • GPS referenced receivers.  As with the transmitters, the receivers will also be GPS-referenced or atomic-referenced to provide milliHertz accuracy and stability.

With this level of accuracy and precision the frequency uncertainties related to the receiver and transmitter can be removed from the Doppler data.  For generation of stable frequencies, a "GPS Disciplined Oscillator" is often used - but very good Rubidium-based references are also available, although unlike a GPS-based reference, the time-of-day cannot be obtained from them.

Why this is important:

Not to demean previous efforts in monitoring propagation - including that which occurs during an eclipse - but unless appropriate measures are taken, their contribution to "real" scientific analysis can be unwittingly diminished.  Here are a few points to consider:

  • Receiver frequency stability.  One aspect of propagation on HF is that the signal paths between the receiver and transmitter change as the ionosphere itself changes.  These changes can be on the order of Hertz in some cases, but these changes are often measured in 10s of milliHertz.  Very few receivers have that sort of stability and the drift of such a receiver can make detection of these Doppler shifts impossible.
  • Signal amplitude measurement.  HF signals change in amplitude constantly - and this can tell us something about the path.  Pretty much all modern receivers have some form of AGC (Automatic Gain Control) whose job it is to make sure that the speaker output is constant.  If you are trying to infer signal strength, however, making a recording with AGC active renders meaningful measurements of signal strength pretty much impossible.  Not often considered is the fact that such changes in propagation also affect the background noise - which is also important to be able to measure - and this, too, is impossible with AGC active.
  • Time-stamping recordings.  Knowing when a recording starts and stops with precision allows correlation with other's efforts.  Fortunately this is likely the easiest aspect to manage as a computer with an accurate clock can automatically do so (provided that one takes care to preserve the time stamps of the file, or has file names that contain such information) - and it is particularly easy if one happens to be recording a time station like WWV, WWVH, WWVB or CHU.

In other words, the act of "holding a microphone up to a speaker" or simply recording the output of a receiver to a .wav file with little/no additional context makes for a curious keepsake, but it makes the challenge of gleaning useful data from it more difficult.

One of our challenges as "citizen scientists" is to make the data as useful as possible to us and others - and this task has been made far easier with inexpensive and very good hardware than it ever has been - provided we take care to do so.  What follows in this article - and subsequent parts - are my reflections on some possible ways to do this:  These are certainly not the only ways - or even the best ways - and even those considerations will change over time as more/different resources and gear become available to the average citizen scientist. 

* * *

How this is done - Receiver:

The frequency stability and accuracy of MOST amateur transceivers is nowhere near good enough to provide usable observations of Doppler shift on such signals - even if the transceiver is equipped with a TCXO or other high-stability oscillator:  Of the few radios that can do this "out of the box" are some of the Flex transceivers equipped with a GPS disciplined oscillator.

To a certain degree, an out-of-the-box KiwiSDR can do this if properly set-up:  With a good, reliable GPS signals and when placed within a temperature-stable environment (e.g. temperature change of 1 degree C or so during the time of the observation) they can be stable enough to provide useful data - but there is no guarantee of such.

To remove such uncertainty a GPS-based frequency reference is often applied to the KiwiSDR - often in the form of the Leo Bodnar GPS reference, producing a frequency of precisely 66.660 MHz.  This combination produces both stable and accurate results.  Unfortunately, if you don't already have a KiwiSDR, you probably aren't going to get one as the original version was discontinued in 2022:  A "KiwiSDR 2" is in the works, but there' no guarantee that it will make it into production, let alone be available in time for the April, 2024 eclipse. 

Figure 2:
The RX-888 (Mk2) - a simple and relatively inexpensive
box that is capable of "inhaling" all of HF at once.
Click on the image for a larger version.

The RX-888 (Mk2)

A suitable work-around has been found to be the RX-888 (Mk2) - a simple direct-sampling SDR - available for about $160 shipped (if you look around).  This device has the capability of accepting an external 27 MHz clock (if you add an external cable/connector to the internal U.FL connector provided for this purpose) in which it can become as stable and accurate as the external reference.

This SDR - unlike the KiwiSDR, the Red Pitaya and others - has no onboard processing capability as it is simply an analog-to-digital coupled with a USB3 interface so it takes a fairly powerful computer and special processing software to be able to handle a full-spectrum acquisition of HF frequencies.

Software that is particularly well-suited to this task is KA9Q-Radio (link).  Using the "overlap and save" technique, it is extraordinarily efficient in processing the 65 Megasamples-per-second of data needed to "inhale" the entire HF spectrum.  This software is efficient enough that a modest quad-core Intel i5 or i7 is more than up to the task - and such PCs can be had for well under $200 on the used market.

KA9Q-Radio can produce hundreds of simultaneous virtual receivers of arbitrary modes and bandwidths which means that one such virtual receiver can be produced for each WSPR frequency band:  Similar virtual receivers could be established for FT-8, FT-4, WWV/H and CHU frequencies.  The outputs of these receivers - which could be a simple, single-channel stream or a pair of audio in I/Q configuration - can be recorded for later analysis and/or sent to another program (such as the WSJT-X suite) for analysis.

Additionally, using the WSPRDaemon software, the multi-frequency capability of KA9Q-Radio can be further-leveraged to produce not only decodes of WSPR and FST4W data, but also make rotating, archival I/Q recordings around the WSPR frequency segments - or any other frequency segments (such as WWV, CHU, Mediumwave or Shortwave broadcast, etc.) that you wish.

Comment:  I have written about the RX-888 in previous blog posts:

  • Improving the thermal management of the RX-888 (Mk 2) - link 
  • Measuring signal dynamics of the RX-888 (Mk 2) - link

Full-Spectrum recording

Yet another capability possible with the RX-888 (Mk2) is the ability to make a "full spectrum" recording - that is, write the full sample rate (typically 64.8 Msps) to a storage device.  The result are files of about 7.7 gigabytes per minute of recording that contain everything that was received by the RX-888, with the same frequency accuracy and precision as the GPS reference used to clock the sample rate of the '888.  

What this means is that there is the potential that these recordings can be analyzed later to further divine aspects of the propagation changes that occurred during, before and after the eclipse - especially by observing signals or aspects of the RF environment itself that one may not have initially thought to consider:  This also can allow the monitoring of the overall background noise across the HF spectrum to see what changes during the eclipse, potentially filling in details that might have been missed on the narrowband recordings.

Because such a recording contains the recordings of time stations (WWV, WWVH, CHU and even WWVB) it may be possible to divine changes in propagation delay between those transmit sites and the receive sites.  If a similar GPS-based signal is injected locally, this, too, can form another data point - not only for the purposes of comparison of off-air signals, but also to help synchronize and validate the recording itself.

By observing such a local signal it would be possible to time the recording to within a few 10s of nanoseconds of GPS time - and it would also be practical to determine if the recording itself was "damaged" in some way (e.g. missed samples from the receiver):  Even if a recording is "flawed" in some way, knowing the precise location an duration of the missing data allows this to be taken into account and to a large extent, permit the data "around" it to still be useful.

Actually doing it:

Up to this point there has been a lot of "it's possible to" and "we have the capability of" mentioned - but pretty much everything mentioned so far was used during the October, 2023 eclipse.  To a degree, this eclipse is considered to be a rehearsal for the April 2024 event in that we would be using the same techniques - refined, of course, based on our experiences.

While this blog will mostly refer to my efforts (because I was there!) there were a number of similarly-equipped parties out in the fields and at home/fixed stations transmitting and receiving and it is the cumulative effort - and especially the discussions of what worked and what did not - that will be valuable in preparation for the April event.  Not to be overlooked, this also gives us valuable experience with propagation monitoring overall - an ongoing effort using WSPRDaemon - where we have been looking for/using other hardware/software to augment/improve our capabilities.

In Part 2 I'll talk about the receive hardware and techniques in more detail.

Stolen from


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Remote (POTA) operation from Canyonlands National Park (K-0010)

As I am wont to do, I recently spent a week camping in the "Needles" district of Canyonlands National Park.  To be sure, this was a bit closer to "glamping" in the sense that we had a tent, a flush-toilet a few hundred feet away, plenty of food, solar panels for power and didn't need to haul our gear in on our backs - at least not any farther than between the vehicle(s) and the campsite.

While I did hike 10s of miles during the week, I didn't hike every day - and that left a bit of "down time" to relax and enjoy the local scenery.

As a first for me - even though I have camped there many times and have even made dozens of contacts over the years on HF - I decided to do a real POTA (Parks On The Air) activation.  In the days before departure I finally got around to signing up on the web site and just before I left the area of cell phone coverage (there is none at all anywhere near where we were camping) I scheduled an activation to encompass the coming week as I had no idea exactly when I would be operating - or on what bands.

Figure 1:
The JPC-7 loaded dipole at 10', backgrounded by red rock.
Click on the image for a larger version.

* * *

It wasn't until the day after I arrived that I finally had time to operate.  As it was easiest and most convenient to do so, I deployed my "modified" JPC-7 loaded dipole antenna (an antenna I'll describe in greater detail in a future post) affixing it atop a tripod light stand that could be telescoped to about 10 feet (3 meters) in height - attaching one of its legs to the swing-out grill of the fire pit to prevent it from falling over.  Being only about 10 feet from the picnic table, it offered a relatively short cable run and when it came time to tune the antenna, I simply disconnected it from the input of the tuner, connected it to my NanoVNA and adjusted the coils:  In so-doing, I could change bands in about two minutes.

The radio that I usually used was my old FT-100 - typically running at 50 watts on CW, 100 watts on SSB, but I would occasionally fire up my FT-817  and run a few contacts on that as well.  As you would expect, the gear was entirely battery-powered as there is not a commercial power line within 10s of miles of this place:  Often, one of my batteries would be off being charged from a solar panel, requiring that I constantly rotate through them.

* * *

For reasons of practicality - namely the fact that I would be operating in (mostly) daylight - and for reasons related to antenna efficiency, I mostly operated on 30 meters and higher.  Because we were outside, this made a computer screen very difficult to see so I logged on a piece of paper - also convenient because this method required no computer or batteries!  The very first contact - a Park-to-Park - occurred on 15 meter SSB, but I quickly QSY'ed down to 17 meters and worked a few dozen stations on CW - breaking in my "CW Morse" paddle for the first time on the air:  It would seem that my scheduling the activation and my Morse CW being spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network caused the notice to go out automatically where I was quickly pounced on.

In using this paddle - made by CW Morse - for the first time I quickly discovered several things:

  • I've seen others using this paddle by holding it in their hand - but I was completely unable to do that:  I would get into the "zone" while sending and inevitably put my fingers on the "dit" and "dah" paddle's tension adjustment screws, causing me to send random elements:  At first I thought that something was amiss - perhaps RF getting into the radio - but one of the other folks I was with (who are also hams) pointed out what I was doing.
  • Since my CW Morse paddle has magnets in the base - and since the picnic table's top was aluminum - I stuck it to the bottom of a cast-iron skillet which solved the first problem, but I quickly discovered that the bottom of a well-used skillet is really quite smooth and lubricated with a fine layer of carbon.  What this meant was that not only did I have to use my other hand to keep the key from sliding around, I started looking like the carbon-covered operators of high-power Poulsen Arc transmitters of a century ago:  My arm and hand quickly got covered with a slight residue of soot!  I then made it a practice to at least wipe down the bottom of the pan before operating.
  • During contacts, I would randomly lose the "Dah" contact.  I was presuming that this was from dust getting into the contacts (I'm sitting outside!) as it usually seemed to "fix" itself when I would lean over and blow into the paddle, but in once instance when this didn't work at all I wiggled/rotated the 3.5mm TRS jack on the back and it started working again.  I'm thinking that the issue was just a flaky contact on the jack.

At some point I'll need to figure out a better means of holding this paddle down to keep it from sliding about - perhaps a small sheet of steel with bumpers and rubber feet - or simply learn to use the paddle with a much lighter touch!

Figure 2:
Operating CW from the picnic table, the paddle on a skillet!
Click on the image for a larger version.

With a few dozen CW contact under my belt I readjusted the antenna and QSYed down to 20 meter SSB where I worked several pages of stations, my voice getting a bit hoarse before handing the microphone over to Tim, KK7EF who continued working the pileup under my callsign.

* * *

After a while, we had to shut down as we needed the picnic table to prepare dinner - but this wasn't the last bit of activation:  Over the next few days - when time was available - I would often venture out on 40, 30, 20 and 17 meter CW - occasionally braving 17 meter SSB:  I generally avoided 20 meter SSB as the band generally seemed to be a bit busy - particularly during the weekend when some sort of activity caused the non-WARC bands to be particularly full.

* * *

By the end of the trip I had logged about 387 total contacts - roughly 2/3 of them being CW.  When I got home I had to transcribe the paper logs onto the computer and learned something doing this:  If you do such a transcription, try to avoid doing so late at night when you are tired - and always wait until the next day - whether you were tired or not - and go back and re-check your entries BEFORE uploading the logs to LOTW, eQSL and/or the POTA web site!  Being tired, I hadn't thought the above through very well and later had to go back and make corrections and re-upload.

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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Resurrecting my FE-5680A Rubidium frequency reference

Fig 1:
The Hammond 1590 aluminum case
housing the FE-5860A rubidium osc-
oscillator and other circuitry - the
markings faded by time and heat.
Click on the image for a larger version.
Recently I was getting ready for the October 14, 2023 eclipse, so I pulled out my two 10 MHz rubidium frequency references (doesn't everyone have at least one?) as I would need an accurate and (especially) stable frequency reference for transmitting:  The details of what, why and how will be discussed in a post to be added in the near future.

The first of these - my Efratom LP-101 - fired up just fine, despite having seen several years of inactivity.  After letting it warm up for a few hours I dialed it in against my HP Z3801 GPSDO and was able to get it to hold to better than 5E-11 without difficulty.

My other rubidium frequency reference - the FEI FE-5680A - was another matter:  At first, it seemed to power up just fine:  I was using my dual-trace oscilloscope, feeding the 'Z3801 into channel 1 and the '5680A into channel 2 and watching the waveforms "slide" past each other - and when they stop moving (or move very, very slow) then you know things are working properly:  See Figure 2, below, for an example of this.

That did happen for the '5680A - but only for a moment:  After a few 10s of seconds of the two waveforms being stationary with respect to each other, the waveform of the '5680A suddenly took off and the frequency started "searching" back and forth, reaching only as high as a few Hz below exactly 10 MHz and swinging well over 100 Hz below that.

My first thought was something along the lines of "Drat, the oven oscillator has drifted off frequency..."

Fig 2:
Oscillogram showing the GPS reference (red)
and the FE-5680A (yellow) 10 MHz signals
atop each other.  Timing how long it takes for the
two waveforms "slide" past each other (e.g. drift
one whole cycle) allows long-term frequency
measurement and comparison.
Click on the image for a larger version.

As it turns out, that was exactly what had happened.


 I've written a bit more about the aforementioned rubidium frequency references, and you can read about them in the links below:

Oscillator out of range

While it is the "physics package" (the tube with the rubidium magic inside) that determines the ultimate frequency (6834683612 Hz, to be precise) it is not the physics package that generates this frequency, but rather another oscillator (or oscillators) that produce energy at that 6.834682612 GHz frequency, inject it into the cavity with the rubidium lamp and detect a slight change in intensity when it crosses the atomic resonance.

In this unit, there is a crystal oscillator that does this, using digital voodoo to produce that magic 6.834682612 GHz signal to divine the hyperfine transition.  This oscillator is "ovenized" - which is to say, the crystal and some of the critical components are under a piece of insulating foam, and attached to the crystal itself is a piece of ceramic semiconductor material - a PTC (positive temperature coefficient) thermistor - that acts as a heater:  When power is applied, it produces heat - but when it gets to a certain temperature the resistance increases, reducing the current consumption and the thermal input and the temperature eventually stabilizes.

Because we have the rubidium cell itself to determine our "exact" frequency, this oven and crystal oscillator need only be "somewhat" stable intrinsically:  It's enough simply to have it "not drift very much" with temperature as small amounts of frequency change can be compensated, so neither the crystal oven - or the crystal contained within - need to be "exact".

Fig 3:
The FE-5680A itself, in the lid of the
case of the 1590 box to provide heat-
sinking.  As you can see, I've had this
unit open before!
Click on the image for a larger version.
What is required is that this oscillator - which is "pullable" (that is, its precise frequency is tuned electronically) must be capable of covering the exact frequency required in its tuning range:  If this can't happen, it cannot be "locked" to the comparison circuitry of the rubidium cell.

The give-away was that as the unit warmed up, it did lock, but only briefly:  After a brief moment, it suddenly unlocked as the crystal warmed up and drifted low in frequency, beyond the range of the electronic tuning.

Taking the unit apart I quickly spotted the crystal oscillator under the foam and powering it up again, I kept the foam in place and watched it lock - and then unlock again:  Lifting the foam, I touched the hot crystal with my finger to draw heat away and the unit briefly re-locked.  Monitoring with a test set, I adjusted the variable capacitor next to the crystal and quickly found the point of minimum capacitance (highest frequency) and after replacing the foam, the unit re-locked - and stayed in lock.

Bringing it up to frequency

This particular '5680A is probably about 25 years old - having been a pull from service (likely at a cell phone site) and eventually finding its way onto EvilBay as surplus electronics.  Since I've owned it, it's also seen other service - having been used twice in in ground stations used for geostationary satellite service as a stable frequency reference, adding another 3-4 years to its "on" time.

As quartz crystals age, they inevitably change frequency:  In general, they tend to drift upwards if they are overdriven and slowly shed material - but this practice is pretty rare these days, so they seem to tend to drift downwards in frequency with normal aging of the crystal and nano-scale changes in the lattice that continue after the quartz is grown and cut:  Operating at elevated temperature - as in an oven - tends to accelerate this effect.

By adjusting the trimmer capacitor and noting the instantaneous frequency (e.g. adjusting it mechanically before the slower electronic tuning could take effect) I could see that I was right at the ragged edge of being able to net the crystal oscillator's tuning range with the variable capacitor at its extreme low end, so I needed to raise the natural frequency a bit more.

If you need to lower a crystal's frequency, you have several options:

  • Place an inductor in series with the crystal.  This will lower the crystal's in-circuit frequency of operation, but since doing so generally involves physically breaking an electrical connection to insert a component, this is can be rather awkward to do.
Fig 4:
The tip of the screwdriver pointing at the added 2.2uH
surface-mount inductor:  It's the black-ish component
at sort of a diagonal angle, wired across the two
crystal leads.
Click on the image for a larger version.
  • Place a capacitor across the crystal.  Adding a few 10s of pF of extra capacitance can lower a crystal's frequency by several 10s or hundreds of ppm (parts-per million), depending on the nature of the crystal and the circuit.

Since the electrical "opposite" of a capacitor is an inductor, the above can be reversed if you need to raise the frequency of a crystal:

  • Insert a capacitor in series with the crystal.  This is a very common way to adjust a crystal's frequency - and it may be how this oscillator was constructed.  As with the inductor, adding this component - where none existed - would involve breaking a connection to insert the device - not particularly convenient to do.
  • Place an inductor across the crystal.  Typically the inductance required to have an effect will have an impedance of hundreds of ohms at the operating frequency, but this - like the addition of a capacitor across a crystal to lower the frequency - is easier to do since we don't have to cut any circuit board traces.
With either method of tweaking the resonance of the oscillator circuit, you can only go so far:  Adding reactance in series or parallel will eventually swamp the crystal itself, potentially making it unreliable in its oscillation - and if that doesn't happen, the "Q" is diminished, potentially reducing the quality of the signal produce and furthermore, taking this to an extreme can reduce the stability overall as it starts to become more temperature sensitive with the added capacitor/inductor than just the crystal, alone.

In theory, I could have placed a smaller fixed capacitor in series with the trimmer capacitor  - or used a lower-value capacitor - but I chose, instead, to install a fixed-value surface-mount inductor in parallel with the crystal as it would not require cutting any traces.  Prior to doing this I checked to see if there was any circuit voltage across the crystal, but there was none:  Had I seen voltage, adding an inductor would have shorted it out and likely caused the oscillator to stop working and I would have either reconsidered adding a series capacitor somewhere or, more likely I would have placed a large-value (1000pF or larger) capacitor in series with the inductor to block the DC.

"Swagging" it, I put a 2.2uH 0805 surface-mount inductor across the crystal and powered up the '5680A and after a 2-3 minute warm-up time, it locked.   After it had warmed up for about 8 minutes I briefly interrupted the power and while it worked to re-establish lock I saw the frequency swing nearly 100 Hz below and above the target indicating that it was now more less in the center if its electronic tuning range indicating success!  As can be seen from Figure 4, there is likely enough room to have used a small, molded through-hole inductor instead of a surface-mount device.
Fig 5:
The crystal is under the round disk (the PTC
heater) near the top of the picture and the
adjustment capacitor is to the right of the
Click on the image for a larger version.

With a bit of power-cycling and observing the frequency swing while the oscillator was hot, I was able to observing the electronic tuning range and in so-doing, increase the capacitance of the trimmer capacitor very slightly from minimum indicating that I now had at least a little bit of extra adjustment room - but not a lot.  Since this worked the first time I didn't try a lower value of inductance (say, 1uH) to further-raise the oscillator frequency, leaving well-enough alone.

Buttoning everything back up and putting it back in its case, everything still worked (always gratifying!) and I let the unit "burn in" for a few hours.

Comparing it to my HP Z8530 GPS Disciplined oscillator via the oscilloscope (see Figure 2) it took about 20 minutes for the phase to "slide" one entire cycle (360 degrees) indicating that the two 10 MHz signal sources are within better than 10E-10 of each other - not too bad for a device that was last adjusted over a decade ago and as seen about 15000 operational hours since!
* * *
Follow-up:  A few weeks after this was originally posted I had this rubidium reference with me at the Eclipse event as a "hot standby", its frequency being compared to the LPRO-101 - which was the active, on-the-air unit - using an oscilloscope.  This (repaired) unit fired up and locked within 5 minutes at the cool (45F/7C) ambient temperature and remained stable for the several hours that it was powered up.

* * * * *
This page stolen from