Preparing and planning for any worldwide contest or DX expedition (or hunting a DX) require a thorough analysis of propagation predictions. The propagation predictions help you, so to speak, get a good grasp of the playing field, i.e. where to play and when. The predictions tell you when and on what bands the best openings are in the given direction at a suitable signal strength, so that the QSO rates can be maintained at their best; at what times it’s good to use those valuable long-path openings, and when to focus on working those hard-to-reach areas while the band opens elsewhere at the same time.
For these specific purposes I developed a new service on my Web site — VOACAP Propagation Planner. It provides VOACAP propagation predictions as numeric data, which can then be entered into an Excel template giving you zone-specific summaries and thus helping to create your own contest or DX operation plan.
It all boils down to making optimum use of the openings — being in the right place at the right time. So, the better predictions you have, the better basis for operating planning. Nevertheless, we must remember that predictions are just that — predictions, not exact science. And, due to the nature of VOACAP, you must visualize low-band openings with the help of grayline map software such as DX Atlas by Alex VE3NEA or GeoClock by Joe Ahlgren. VOACAP predictions are of less help there.
VOACAP Propagation Planner is in two parts:
- a Web site ( www.voacap.com/planner.html ) that offers VOACAP predictions as numeric data, and
- Windows and Mac software called PropPlanner (together with a User’s Manual plus an Excel template) that helps you work on the VOACAP prediction data on your own computer and make it more usable.
Here are some screenshots of the various parts of the service: