The current revision of WSJT-X is Version 1.8.0-rc2 (as of 21 Sep 2017). Among its modes, the most important for VHF+ contesting are MSK144, FT8, and JT65. Each mode requires careful setup:
JT65: 2M EME operation occurs from 144.100MHz to 144.150MHz. If you have a 2M EME setup, you can work a lot of stations that you could not work any other way on 2M. It does not take a huge station: One long Yagi or two medium-length Yagis and high power will do the job.
JT65 comes in three flavors; JT65A for 6M; JT65B for 2M, 222, and 432; and JT65C useful for bands above 432MHz. A typical JT65 VHF+ QSO consists of messages exchanged like this:
Message 1—K5QE W8XYZ EM89
Message 2—W8XYZ K5QE EM31 OOO
Note the use of grids in messages 1 and 2 — required for JT65 contacts to count in VHF+ contests.
Interestingly, almost every JT65 EME QSO will be with a new grid. You can work 60+ contacts in Europe and almost never dupe a grid. The NØUK EME-1 reflector is where the EME stations mostly hang out (www.chris.org/cgi-bin/jt65emeA). The EME-1 page is a “sister page” to the PingJockey page used by meteor scatter ops (see next paragraph). There are other reflectors in Europe that are popular with some ops.
MSK144: MSK is used for digital meteor scatter (MS). Distances typically are from 500 miles out to 1200 miles. The technical details of MSK144 are described in the Sep/Oct 2017 QEX article by K9AN and K1JT: www.arrl.org/files/file/QEX_Next_Issue/SeptOct2017/FrankeTaylor.
The “North American calling frequency” for MSK is 50.260MHz on 6M. During non-contest periods, you can go there and call CQ. You will often make a random contact that way. The PingJockey reflector (www.pingjockey.net/cgi-bin/pingtalk) is where meteor scatter ops hang out. You can chat with other MS ops, make schedules, and then run them. Many run their scheduled contacts right on 50.260MHz, but others move off the calling frequency just to avoid QRM. During contest times, if everyone tries to run their scheduled contacts on 50.260MHz bedlam is almost guaranteed, so moving off .260 is wise.
A “calling frequency” for 2M is not yet firmly established. Some are using the old meteor scatter frequency of 144.140MHz, while others are using 144.150MHz. Of those two, I tend to support 144.150MHz as frequencies below that are in the middle of the EME band on 2M. I don’t believe that there are any agreements for the other bands, but this is not a problem….just use the PingJockey reflector and make a schedule with the other station. You can put a LOT of grids in the log using MSK144 meteor scatter. You would be wise to practice using this mode.
SHAMELESS PLUG: MSK144 has made meteor scatter on 222 relatively easy. Many will tell you that “you can’t do MS on 222”, but they are wrong. We (K5QE) worked every station that ran 222 in the last contest. If everyone would make an effort on 222, there would be a lot more points in the logs.
FT8: FT8 was designed for weak and multi-hop E-skip and is also useful for tropo propagation. Depending on the strength of the tropo path, distances out to 600+ miles are possible and if you are very lucky, more. The calling frequency for FT8 on 6M is 50.313MHz. Right now, everyone seems to want to run all FT8 contacts on 50.313MHz. During a contest, this is obviously going to be a mess. Some mechanism is going to have to be worked out so that contesters can “spread out”.