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…
Helping a School Make Contact with an Astronaut on the ISS
As many of you know, I have been dedicating much of my time over the last 6 years to helping folks to get into Amateur Radio, to learn new skills through our hobby, and to experience the joy and sense of accomplishment that Amateur Radio brings. I hope to further this effort in the position of New England Director in the ARRL…
Several friends and supporters have approached me about running for the position of New England Division Director in the ARRL. Directors serve on the Board of Directors of the ARRL for a Term of 3 years and are elected by the members of the ARRL in the Director’s Division. In our case, this encompasses ARRL members in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
After much consultation with friends, the NARS Executive Committee, my wife Anita, and others who have played major roles in the ARRL, I have decided to take on this challenge by running this fall. I am doing this, in part, to try to help Clubs and Hams here in New England and across the ARRL to grow participation in the Amateur Radio Service and to benefit from the many learning opportunities that it provides.
You can read more about what I am hoping to accomplish as New England Division Director of the ARRL via the link above.
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 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.
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…
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!
We have successfully tested the Telebridge capabilities here at our station. ARISS has scheduled a Multipoint Telebridge an ISS school contact using our Ground Station for Thursday, April 30th beginning at 13:35 UTC (9:35 am Eastern Time). The Multipoint Telebridge format enables the students to contact the ISS from their homes via telephone connections.
Space Communications Ground Station at AB1OC-AB1QB
Our station will provide the ground to the ISS link for the contact between Chris Cassidy KF5KDR, an astronaut on-board the ISS, and the Northern Virginia Schools Group, Woodbridge VA.
IP Camera View of VHF/UHF Tower at AB1OC
ARISS will Livestream video and audio during the contact including a view of the antennas here as they track the ISS. The Livestream of the pre-contact program will begin at around 30 minutes before the ISS comes up. You can click on the YouTube stream below just before the contact to see the pre-contact program and to listen to our contact with the ISS.
Stations in the Northeastern USA should be able to receive the downlink signal from ISS during the contact on 145.800 MHz FM, Rx only. We hope that you’ll join us for the upcoming contact with 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
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.
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
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 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.
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:
Ann Stockbridge, Educator at Kennebunk’s Sea Road School
Regional School Unit 21 has been selected for an out-of-this-world opportunity. An international association of space agencies and Amateur Radio organizations has chosen RSU 21, represented by Sea Road School, to advance in a process climaxing in a conversation between students and astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
RSU 21 was one of 10 schools selected nationally to continue through the multi-month acceptance process. The contact event with the ISS could occur between July and December of this year.
The opportunity is provided by ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), an association that includes NASA, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, the American Radio Relay League, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, and space agencies in Canada, Japan, Europe, and Russia. They collaborate to enable students to communicate with ISS astronauts and help inspire interest in space, communications and STEM coursework.
As our readers may know, I have joined the ARISS program as a Mentor to help schools prepare for and make successful contacts with Astronauts on the International Space Station. I am working with Regional School Unit 21 Sea Road School teachers and local Ham Radio folks in Maine, USA to help them make contact with the ISS during 2H2020. The link above shares more about the STEM learning program that is being created around this contact.
Slow-Scan TV from the International Space Station (ISS) was on the air again late in December 2019. The ISS SSTV event was in memory of cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. We had our satellite station running to track the ISS and capture the SSTV images during the event. It’s pretty easy to receive these images – it can be done with an HT, hand-held antenna, and a laptop…
This article includes a gallery of the images that we received during the December 2019 ISS SSTV event and some how-to information that you can use to receive SSTV images from the ISS with just an HT and a handheld antenna.
After our contact, I decided to become an ARISS Mentor so I could help other schools make contacts with astronauts aboard the ISS. I spent the last year working with Dave Jordan, AA4KN to learn how the ARISS program works and how to help schools make successful ISS contacts. Dave did a great job coaching me as I worked with Council Rock H.S. South in Holland, PA to prepare for their ISS Contact…
I recently had the privilege of helping Council Rock H.S. South in Holland, PA to make contact with astronaut Drew Morgan on the ISS. The link above shares the story of this amazing experience and my journey to become an ARISS Mentor. The article also contains videos and photos that capture and share the experience. I hope that you enjoy it!
Students at Council Rock High School South in Southampton, PA will be talking with Astronaut Drew Morgan, KI5AAA aboard the ISS on Thursday. The ISS will be over our area here in the Northeastern Unit States beginning at about 12:55 pm eastern time on Thursday, December 5th. Council Rock’s ARISS Contact is made possible by the ARISS Program…
You should be able to hear Drew on the ISS voice downlink at 145.800 MHz FM. The ISS pass will be a high one over our area. As a result, we should be able to hear the downlink using a good vertical antenna and perhaps even using an HT.
I am serving as the ARRIS Mentor for Council Rock H.S. South’s ISS Contact. I am looking forward to the opportunity to be at their school on Thursday to be part of what I am sure will be a very memorable event.
All of our gear and Antennas are set up and ready to go. Contact activities will start around 1:15 pm eastern time (18:15 UTC) and our contact will begin at 1:45 pm eastern time (18:45 UTC). The article above contains a link where you can watch the Live Video of the ISS contact. We hope that you’ll join us for the contact!