Beacon-Prediction Wizard by KU5SD
Beacon-Prediction Wizard is an easy to use front end wizard for the very difficult to use VOACAP propagation prediction program written by Jim Tabor, KU5S.
The wizard operates by clicking the buttons in order. First, click on Circuits to enter your location, your antenna system, and the current smoothed sunspot number - available from the NOAA/Space Environment Center and other sources. KU5S has conveniently already built the long term predictions into the program.
Press the Analyze button to invoke the VOACAP program engine to analyze the paths to the beacons on all of the bands.
Press the Chart button to view the resulting chart. The data is displayed in real time in synchronization with the beacon transmissions so you can compare the predicted results with actual reception.
The generated graph is full of information, including the reliability of the signal, signal strength, signal to noise, angle of propagation, etc. The buttons on the right allow the selection of parameters to graph by time. You can change the default graphics using the Customize button at the top. The table below the graph shows the numbers in detail and includes the type of propagation.
A text report is also available which summarizes the reception for all of the beacons on an hour by hour basis for all five bands showing the expected signal strength in S-units, the reliability of the path, the propagation mode and an assessment of the path in general (Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent).
VOACAP is the best propagation analysis tool available and incorporates the results of 30 years of propagation study. But it is devilishly difficult to master, requiring careful study of the documentation and some understanding of propagation factors. Jim Tabor has done all the hard work in creating the Beacon-Propagation wizard, which boils the inputs down to a few recognizable values and presents the output in easy to read graphics and tables. With this program and observation of the beacon signals, everyone is in a position to learn more about HF propagation. As the sunspot cycle declines, and there is less activity on the higher frequencies, choosing the correct band will become more difficult. Now is the time to learn more about how propagation works, and Beacon-Prediction Wizard is a great place to start.