Scouts in Australia Contact the ISS via Amateur Radio

Scout Making Contact with the ISS

Scouts in Victoria, Australia Making Contact with the ISS at VicJam

I once again had the pleasure to help a group of young people make contact with an Astronaut on the International Space Station this past week. The Scouts were participating in a Jamboree in Victoria, Australia. You can learn more about the event, called VicJam, here.

Astronaut Mark VandeHei, KG5GNP

Astronaut Mark VandeHei, KG5GNP

The Scouts made contact with Astronaut Mark VandeHei, KG5GNP this past Tuesday, January 4th, 2022. You can watch and listen to the contact on YouTube by clicking below. The actual contact begins at about 8:25 into the video.

The Scout’s contact lasted for approximately 10 minutes. The Scouts asked and Mark answered all of their questions and there was time at the end on the contact for “Thank You’s” and “Good Wishes”. Here are the questions that the Scouts asked:

  1. What 3 things do you miss from Earth? My Mum worked on a ship and missed; sleeping with the window open, the smell of cut grass, and the sound of rain on the roof.
  2. What do you have to do to become an astronaut?
  3. What would happen if someone were seriously ill on the ISS, and what would you do?
  4. How do you prepare and eat your meals while up in the space station?
  5. What is it like to float around in no gravity without friction?
  6. How does it feel going from zero gravity in space back to earth’s gravity? Does it hurt??
  7. What is the scariest thing to happen to you whilst you have been in space?
  8. How do you shower and go to the toilet in space?
  9. After being in the space station for so many months, how does it feel to experience planet Earth and nature again with all your senses, especially smell?
  10. How do the seasons affect the veggie production system on the ISS? How often do you get to eat fresh food?
  11. Did you always want to be an astronaut and how did you make it happen?
  12. Why do people go into space and how long is an average mission?
  13. How did you feel when you first learned of your selection to go to space and has this been a life-long ambition for you?
  14. Can you share some of the science that was worked on in space that we can now see on earth?
  15. Is there sound or much noise in space?
  16. Multiple nations have had space stations each bestowed with a specific name – Russia had Mir, NASA had Skylab, and China Tiangong-1. As a truly international effort and the largest man-made object in space, does the ISS have a Nickname, or is there a name that the astronauts use for the individual components?
  17. What energy supply do you use to power the station. If nuclear, what type of reactor do you use? If solar, how many solar panels do you use, and what is their power density?
ARISS Ground Station

ARISS Ground Station

This contact was made in a Telebridge format using my Ground Station here in New Hampshire, USA. The linkup with the Scouts in Australia was via a telephone connection using a phone patch in my shack. You can learn more about our ground station here.

AB1OC ARISS Ground Station Operations

AB1OC ARISS Ground Station Operations

Helping young people make contact with astronauts on the ISS using Amateur Radio is great fun. My work with ARISS is near the top of my list in terms of the most rewarding work that I do with Amateur Radio.

Best and 73,

Fred, AB1OC

YOTA 2021 ISS Contact

International Space Station (ISS)

International Space Station (ISS)

I had the pleasure of serving as the ARISS contact moderator for the Youth On The Air (YOTA) 2021 Camp’s contact with the International Space Station (ISS) using Amateur Radio today. Young Hams spent the week at the Voice of America Bethany Relay Station in West Chester, OH engaging in a variety of Amateur Radio Activities…

Source: YOTA 2021 ISS Contact

You can view the video of YOTA 2021 Camp’s contact with astronaut Aki Hoshide, KE5DNI via the link above.

Fred, AB1OC

Satellite Passes During Field Day 2021

Field Day 2021 Satellite Passes in FN42

Field Day 2021 Satellite Passes in FN42

We had some time over the weekend so we ran some Satellite Pass Predictions for Field Day 2021 for our Grid Square which is FN42. As you can see, we are going to have a lot of fun working satellite during Field Day! Field Day rules limit us to a single FM EasySat contact using but we can work as many contacts via Linear Transponder Satellites as we wish

Field Day Satellite Station

Field Day Satellite Station

We recently set up and tested our Portable Satellite Ground station here at our QTH and it’s working great! It has produced some good DX contacts into Europe from New Hampshire, USA during the past week.

You can read more about our Portable Satellite Station test here.

Fred, AB1OC

Field Day Satellite Station for 2021 – Setup and Test in Hollis

The Nashua Area Radio Society will be using our portable Satellite Station this year at Summer Field Day. A number of members got together recently to assemble and test our Computer-Controlled Portable Satellite Station for Field Day. Here are some pictures of our Field Day Satellite Station Test…

Source: Field Day Satellite Station for 2021 – Setup and Test in Hollis

Several members of the Nashua Area Radio Society got together to set up and test our Portable Satellite Station for Field Day 2021. Our station is a computer-controlled one and enables us to work FM and Linear Satellites using phone mode and CW.

The setup uses an M2 Antenna Systems LEO Pack Antenna System on a Glen Martin Aluminum Tower that is set up to be portable. Feedlines use 100 ft lengths for LMR-400uF and LMR-600uF coax cable for the 2m and 70cm bands. The rotator is an Alfa-SPID Az/El unit. The antenna system also uses coax-powered preamplifiers from Advanced Receiver Research. The station uses an IC-9700 Transceiver, a Green Heron RT-21 Az/El Rotator Controller, and a MacBook Air Laptop running MacDoppler and MacLogger DX.

This setup is an updated version of the portable satellite station that we built for an ISS Crew Contact that a local school did with us some time ago.

You can see how the portable station goes together in the article above. You can learn more about the design and construction of our Portable Sation from the series of articles that begins here. We hope to work some of our readers on the birds during Field Day this year!

Fred, AB1OC

Tech Night – EME II: Station Construction and Operation

EME II - Station Construction and Operation

EME II Tech Night – Station Construction and Operation

We recently did a second Tech Night Program on EME as part of the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program. I wanted to share the presentation and video from this Tech Night so that our readers might learn a little more about how to build and operate an EME station for the 2m band.

January 2021 Tech Night – EME II: Station Construction and Operation

You can view the Tech Night presentation by clicking on the video above. Here’s a link to the presentation that goes with the video. You can learn more about the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program here. There is a demonstration of an actual live EME contact on the 2m band at 57:57 in the video.

The first Tech Night in the EME Series was about Getting Started in EME Communications. You can view that Tech Night here.

We are in the process of upgrading our EME station to include adaptive polarity. you can read more about that project here.

Fred, AB1OC

ISS Voice Repeater is QRV!

International Space Station (ISS)

International Space Station (ISS)

Thanks to some great work by the ARISS Team, a new Voice Repeater system is operating on the International Space Station! Here is the access information:

  • Mode: FM Voice
  • Uplink Frequency: 145.990 MHz, PL 67.0 Hz
  • Downlink Frequency: 437.800 MHz
IORS Hardware

IORS Hardware and Kenwood Radio

The repeater uses the new InterOperable Radio System (IORS), a space-modified JVC Kenwood D710GA transceiver, and an ARISS developed power supply system.

Kenwood D710GA

Kenwood D710GA

Here’s some more information from the ARISS Press Release:

The ARISS team is pleased to announce that the setup and installation of the first element of our next-generation radio system was completed and amateur radio operations with it are now underway. This first element, dubbed the InterOperable Radio System (IORS), was installed in the International Space Station Columbus module. The IORS replaces the Ericsson radio system and packet module that were originally certified for spaceflight on July 26, 2000.

The initial operation of the new radio system is in FM cross-band repeater mode using an uplink frequency of 145.99 MHz with an access tone of 67 Hz and a downlink frequency of 437.800 MHz. System activation was first observed at 01:02 UTC on September 2. Special operations will continue to be announced.

The IORS was launched from Kennedy Space Center on March 6, 2020, on board the SpaceX CRS-20 resupply mission. It consists of a special, space-modified JVC Kenwood D710GA transceiver, an ARISS developed multi-voltage power supply, and interconnecting cables. The design, development, fabrication, testing, and launch of the first IORS was an incredible five-year engineering achievement accomplished by the ARISS hardware volunteer team. It will enable new, exciting capabilities for ham radio operators, students, and the general public. Capabilities include a higher power radio, voice repeater, digital packet radio (APRS) capabilities, and a Kenwood VC-H1 slow-scan television (SSTV) system…

You can view the full ARISS Press Release here.

I was able to work several stations using the new ISS Voice Repeater this morning. It is very sensitive and uses 5 watts of downlink power with a good antenna on the ISS. I was able to make solid contacts using the Ground Station here using only 1.5 watts uplink power when the ISS was at 10 degrees above the horizon. At least one of my contacts was with a station using an HT with a whip antenna!

The voice repeater is sensitive enough and uses a power level that will enable folks with an HT and a whip antenna to make contacts using the ISS when it is close to the horizon. It should also be easy to make contacts using mobile rigs that can support cross-band operation as well. Program your radios!

I’m looking forward to working you through the ISS!

Fred, AB1OC

 

AO-27 Is Back!

AO-27 Satellite

AO-27 Satellite

The AO-27 FM satellite is back on the air! AO-27 is an FM V/U Mode satellite that was launched back in 1993. The satellite’s Amateur Radio payload became inoperative about 7 years ago due to an internal communications failure. Thanks to some great work by Micheal, N3UC who was one of AO-27’s original designers, the satellite is back on the air on a limited-time basis (4 minutes, twice per orbit over the mid-latitudes).

I was able to make my first contact through AO-27 this morning. The contact was with AI9IN in Indiana, USA. I’m looking forward to making more contacts using this satellite in the near future. Here are the current frequencies for the uplink and downlink (no PL tone is required):

  • Uplink – 145.850 MHz FM
  • Downlink – 436.7975 MHz FM

It’s great to have yet another FM satellite that we can all use. I hope that other satellite operators will give AO-27 a try.

Fred, AB1OC

Getting Started With Amateur Satellites (and Progressing to Linear Birds)

Get Started with Amateur Satellites

Get Started with Amateur Satellites

We get quite a few requests from folks to explain how to get started with Amateur Radio Satellites. Requests for information on how to build a computer-controlled ground station for Linear Satellites are also pretty common. I recently got such a request from our CWA class so I decided to put together a session on this topic.

We covered a number of topics and demonstrations during the session including:

  • How to put together a simple station and work FM EasySats with HTs and a handheld antenna
  • A recorded demonstration of some contacts using FM EasySats
  • How-to build a computer-controlled station and work Linear Transponder Satellites
  • Fixed and Portable Satellite Station Antenna options
  • A recorded demonstration of some contacts using Linear Satellites
  • How-to work digital (APRS digipeater) contacts
  • How-to receive SSTV Transmissions from the ISS

About 30 folks attended this session and there was some good Q&A throughout.

Getting Started With Amateur Satellites

The presentation was recorded and can be viewed above. Here’s a link to the associated Powerpoint Presentation.

There are lots of articles about building and operating Amateur Satellite Stations here on our blog. The following are links to several articles and series on this topic:

I hope that you find this information useful for your Amateur Satellite projects!

Fred, AB1OC

Tech Night – Getting Started In EME Communications

Tech Night – Getting Started in EME (Click to View The Presentation)

We recently did a Tech Night Program as part of the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program.. I wanted to share the presentation and video from this Tech Night so that our readers might learn a little more about how to get started in EME or Moonbounce Communications.

April 2020 Tech Night Video – Getting Started in EME Communications

You can view the Tech Night presentation by clicking on the video above. Here’s a link to the presentation that goes with the video. You can learn more about the Nashua Area Radio Society’s Tech Night program here.

The second Tech Night in the EME Series was about Building and Operating an EME Station. You can view that Tech Night here.

We are in the process of upgrading our EME station to include adaptive polarity. you can read more about that project here.

Fred, AB1OC

Satellite Station 4.0 Part 11 – Phone Patch/Telebridge Capability

Council Rock South Students Contact the ISS

Council Rock South Students Contact the ISS

I have joined the ARISS Program as a Mentor to help schools make contacts with astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS). School contacts as part of the ARISS program can take two forms – Direct Contacts and Telebridge Contacts.

ARISS Direct Contacts

Direct contacts involve setting up a space communications ground station at the school making the contact.

ARISS Direct Contact Ground Station Antennas at Council Rock HS

ARISS Direct Contact Ground Station Antennas at Council Rock HS

Direct Contacts involve a great deal of preparation and a local Ham Club which has considerable VHF weak-signal experience and equipment to partner with on a school’s contact. There can also be considerable expense involved in assembling the necessary ground station for a Direct Contact. In addition, some locations are much better than others in terms of access to good, high-angle ISS passes and an environment that is relatively free of nearby obstructions like buildings, hills, etc.

Our radio club, The Nashua Area Radio Society, supported a Direct Contact at Hudson Memorial School in December 2018. It was a fantastic experience. You can read more about what was involved here.

ARISS Telebridge Contacts

students at Maani Ulujuk High School in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada

Students at Maani Ulujuk High School in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada

Telebridge contacts involve using an existing ground station in a different location with an audio link to the school making the contact via telephone. This type of contact provides a high-quality experience with an astronaut on the ISS without the need to construct a ground station at the school. It enables the teachers involved in the contact process to focus on the educational aspects of their contact with the ISS.

All of the ARISS Telebridge Ground stations are built and operated to very high standards.

Also, schools in difficult locations or those who don’t have the needed support of a local Ham Radio club with the necessary space ground station equipment can still enjoy making a contact with an astronaut on the ISS. In addition, a Telebridge contact also enables the supporting Amateur Radio Club to focus on providing great Amateur Radio activities and educational support to their partner school.

Adding Telebridge Capability to Our Station

Space Communications Ground Station at AB1OC-AB1QB

Space Communications Ground Station at AB1OC-AB1QB

We’ve used the station here to make many satellite contacts and to listen to ARISS contacts from the ISS. We’ve also used our station to receive images from the ISS during ISS SSTV events. We’ve decided to add a Phone Patch to our station here to enable it to be used as a testbed for schools preparing for Telebridge contacts.

Adding A Telephone Patch

Phone Patch To Enable Telebridges

Phone Patch To Enable Testing and Hosting Telebridge Contacts

A Telephone Patch enables a third party to communicate over an Amateur Radio link using a telephone. A Phone Patch provides a connection between a Transceiver and a telephone line. It also handles creating a proper balance at the 2-wire Hybrid Interface that connects to the telephone line to the radio. A typical Phone Patch device also provides for Transmit and Receive level adjustments.

Phone Patch units are not used all that much anymore. Fortunately, MFJ still makes the MFJ-624E Hybrid Phone Patch.

Setting up the MFJ Phone Patch was pretty straightforward. All that was required to work with our IC-9700 Transceiver was to set the internal jumpers in the MFJ Phone Patch to configure its microphone connection properly. The MFJ Phone Patch came with a cable to connect to the round microphone jack on the IC-9700 Transceiver. A connection between our audio amplifier to bring audio into the Phone Patch was made to complete the installation.

Testing On The Air

The MFJ Phone Patch was adjusted to achieve a good balance on the 2-wire Hybrid Interface to the telephone line and the Transmit and Receive levels were properly adjusted prior to on-the-air use. These procedures are clearly explained in the manual for the MFJ-624E and are easy to complete.

With these steps complete, we set up a telephone call and made several contacts using FM stateless on the air. We received good audio reports and could easily understand the downlink audio using a standard telephone receiver.

Becoming an ARISS Telebridge Ground Station

My initial purpose for adding Telebridge capability to our ground station was to enable it to be used to perform testing of the audio systems in schools that will be hosting Telebridge contacts. I am also going to apply to become one of the ARISS Telebridge Ground Stations in North America. We have an emergency backup power system here and our station’s location in our home makes it a good choice for situations where contacts need to be made at any time of the day or night. More to come on this in the future.

More About Our Ground Station

Here are links to some additional posts about our Satellite Ground Stations:

Fred, AB1OC