HAM RADIO FROM SPACE

After less than a day in space, civilian space traveler Charles Simonyi,
KE7KDP/HA5SIK, was already making contacts with the earthbound ham radio
community from NA1SS. The billionaire software pioneer and aviator arrived
April 10 at the International Space Station with the Expedition 15 crew of
Russian cosmonauts Fyodor Yurchikhin, RN3FI, and Dr Oleg Kotov. The trio
launched two days earlier in a Soyuz spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome in
Kazakhstan. Ron Hashiro, AH6RH, in Honolulu was among the lucky ones. He
tells ARRL that after putting out a blind call, he spoke not only with
Simonyi but with Expedition 14/15 Flight Engineer Suni Williams, KD5PLB.

“I mentioned to her that I had listened to her earlier contact with the
school in India and it was a thrill to speak with her directly,” Hashiro
recounted. “She said that Hawaii was her favorite place and had some
relatives in Hawaii.” Then, Hashiro says, Williams told him someone else was
interested in talking with him, and Simonyi came on a few minutes later.

“I welcomed Charles to ham radio and asked him if he was the author of the
“Hungarian notation” of Windows programming, which he acknowledged,” said
Hashiro. He told Simonyi that he was involved in Windows programming more
than 20 years ago, and was glad to meet its creator. Hashiro deemed the
occasion “a fabulous and eventful evening.”

Flying under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency, Simonyi also
has been running through a list of four scheduled Amateur Radio on the
International Space Station (ARISS) school contacts, including one with a
school in his native Hungary.

On April 12, Simonyi responded via Amateur Radio to upward of 30 questions
posed by students at Fairborn High School in Ohio, telling them he’s
enjoying microgravity now that he’s become used to it. Simonyi also talked
about why he wanted to go into space.

“I wanted to make a contribution to civilian space flight and assist in
space station research, and also to have a fantastic experience,” he said.
As to why he flew with Russian cosmonauts and not with NASA, Simonyi said,
“NASA doesn’t fly space tourists yet, so the Russians are the only game in
town.” Simonyi paid a reported $25 million for his space adventure.

While in space, Simonyi will do some maintenance on the ham radio gear
aboard the ISS as well as testing to isolate an antenna problem, and he’ll
reprogram the Phase 2 NA1SS transceiver to correct a configuration problem.
He’ll also conduct some research before returning home April 20 with the
Expedition 14 crew of Michael Lopez-Alegria, KE5GTK, and Mikhail Tyurin,
RZ3FT, who have been in space since last September. Williams is scheduled to
return home this summer on the shuttle Endeavour.

Frequencies in use for ARISS general QSOs: Voice and packet downlink: 145.80
MHz (worldwide); Voice uplink: 144.49 MHz for Regions 2 and 3 (the Americas,
and the Pacific) and 145.20 MHz for Region 1 (Europe, Central Asia and
Africa). All frequencies are subject to Doppler shift.

Astronaut Suni Williams Working on Radio Record

If she keeps up her current pace, ISS Expedition 14 Flight Engineer Suni Williams, KD5PLB, could set a new record in the number of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) school contacts. Since arriving on the space station in late December aboard the shuttle Discovery, Williams has logged five ARISS ham radio contacts with schools, starting the first week in January. Recently she told youngsters at Dilworth Elementary School in San Jose, California, that viewing the entire planet Earth from space is the most impressive thing she’s seen to date. She also confirmed that the lack of gravity aboard the ISS does affect the human body.

“Your muscles are used to working on the ground,” she said. “In space they have to relearn that gravity is not helping them — for example, going to the bathroom.”

Williams also advised any prospective astronauts among the kindergarten through grade five pupils to pick a career they enjoy and stay in good health. ARISS arranged the direct VHF contact January 8 between AA6W at the school and NA1SS in space.

ISS Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, now holds the record for the most ARISS school contacts in a single mission — 37. The Dilworth contact was the second successful school QSO on the same day for Williams, who’s indicated she’d like to speak via ham radio with as many schools as possible during her six months in space.

On January 16, Williams chatted with seventh graders from two schools in Streator, Illinois: St Anthony’s School and Northlawn Junior High School. Members of the ARRL-affiliated Starved Rock Radio Club, including club president Steven Michalski Jr, KB9UPS — who loaned his call sign for the event — set up the Earth station at the school for the direct VHF contact arranged by ARISS.

Williams answered 20 of the students’ questions during the approximately 10-minute pass. “I think the most important and interesting thing that I’ve learned is looking back at our Earth and seeing that there really are no borders between any of the countries on the land masses down there,” she told the Illinois students. “We’re all just human beings working together.”

Responding to other questions, Williams explained that the challenges of doing a spacewalk include confronting the “unfriendly environment” of space and having to work while wearing a pressurized spacesuit. On the other hand, “even moving big, heavy objects around in space is no problem, because they really don’t weigh anything.”

ARISS http://www.rac.ca/ariss is an international educational outreach with US participation by ARRL, AMSAT and NASA.

ARISS “CONTINGENCY NETWORK” IMPRESSES NASA

When Russian flight controllers encountered difficulties during a recent International Space Station cargo rocket docking, NASA called on a special — although little-known — Amateur Radio team to stand by if needed. Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Ops Team “ISS Ham Contingency Network” volunteers around the world immediately swung into action. Within 15 minutes of receiving the call from Johnson Space Center, Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, reported the ISS Ham Contingency Network was ready to provide any necessary communication support.

“The ARISS teamwork was very effective,” ARISS Secretary-Treasurer Rosalie White, K1STO said. “Its members learned a great deal, and they impressed NASA with how quickly the system was brought up.”

During the October 26 Progress docking, NASA says, Russian flight controllers were unable to confirm whether an automated antenna on the rocket had retracted as commanded. If still extended, the antenna could have interfered with the final latching of the supply ship to the ISS. To avoid disturbing the softly docked cargo ship and to aid the crew with docking maneuvers, the ISS orientation was allowed to drift freely.

During free-drift mode, however, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) — which handles communication between the crew and Mission Control in Houston — can be lost. That’s because the station’s solar arrays may not directly face the sun, causing a drop in onboard power.

Awakened at 2 AM, ARISS Australian team member Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, put out a blind call on VHF to the ISS crew, although no answer was needed at that point. Others available to cover later passes included Gerald Klatzko, ZS6BTD, in South Africa; Gaston Bertels, ON4WF, at ON4ISS in Belgium; Dick Flagg, AH6NM, and Nancy Rocheleau, WH6PN, at Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu; and Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, and Mark Steiner, K3MS, at the Goddard Space Flight Center’s WA3NAN. Each of these Earth stations has a track record of being able to sustain reliable communication with the ISS.

The call-up marked the first time that NASA had asked for such Amateur Radio assistance since the initial crew came aboard the ISS in November 2000. Ransom says that by remaining available to ensure solid communication while Mission Control staff dealt with the docking issue, the ISS Ham Contingency Network provided Mission Control with an additional layer of security.

Once the antenna retraction problem was resolved, the contingency network stood down, but NASA’s request and the ensuing ham radio activity did serve as a valuable drill, ARISS said.

NASA says Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria, KE5GTK, and flight engineers Mikhail Tyurin, RZ3FT, and Thomas Reiter, DF4TR, opened the hatch to the supply ship October 27 to unload supplies.

Students talk to ISS

Students at three schools participated in a bit of ham radio history Friday, September 22, when they spoke with the International Space Station’s first female civilian space visitor and two astronauts.

The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program sponsored the separate, direct VHF contacts with US civilian space traveler Anousheh Ansari, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Reiter, DF4TR, and US astronaut Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ. Ansari told students gathered at George Washington University, her alma mater, that everything looks “so beautiful” from the ISS.

“It’s great up here,” Ansari told the students, “The weightlessness feels fantastic. It’s like floating like a feather.”

Youngsters from Washington, DC-area elementary and middle and high schools joined GWU students in interviewing Ansari, who spoke via NA1SS with Williams as the control operator. Ansari, who returned to Earth September 28 with Williams and ISS Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, RV3BS, said she misses her family on Earth, but “otherwise, I think I’m just going to stay up here,” she quipped.

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Inuit Students Chat with ISS

Thanks to Amateur Radio and an international teleconferencing link, Inuit students attending Jaanimmarik School in Kuujjuaq, Quebec, Canada, joined the space program May 4. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program arranged the contact between NA1SS and ARISS veteran Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, in Kingston, Australia. Verizon Conferencing donated a two-way audio link between the northern Quebec school and VK5ZAI. Speaking from NA1SS, US astronaut Jeff Williams, KD5TVQ, told the students that it’s very exciting to be in space.

“To look at the earth from up here and to see the entire earth at one time is fabulous,” Williams said. “Of course, being weightless is also fantastic, when you float around, and everything else floats around too, if it’s not tied down.”

Williams reported that he and Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov, RV3BS, are doing experiments involving crystal growth in a microgravity environment as well as fluid dynamics and growing plants. In what little spare time he has in his busy work week, Williams–like many ISS crew members before him–enjoys looking through the ISS window at Earth some 220 miles below.

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SuitSat-1 still in orbit

SuitSat-1 still in orbit: Tossed into orbit three months ago from the International Space Station, SuitSat-1 continues to orbit Earth–although its batteries are long since dead,

Spaceweather.com reported this week that skywatcher Kevin Fetter videotaped SuitSat-1 as it passed over his Brockville, Ontario, Canada, home (the bright star in the movie is Vega) http://science.nasa.gov/spaceweather/swpod2006/27apr06/fetter.wmv

A spare Russian Orlan spacesuit equipped with a voice transmitter, slow-scan TV system, voice recordings and various sensors, SuitSat-1 was the brainchild of the Russian Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) team.

From the outset, radio signals from the unusual satellite were very weak due to an undetermined problem. Even so, SuitSat-1 remained in operation for more than two weeks, easily outlasting initial predictions that it would only transmit for about one week.

The last confirmed reception of SuitSat-1’s voice audio was on February 18. Calling the project “tremendously successful,” ARISS International Chairman Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, says SuitSat-1 captured the imagination of people around the world, despite its much-lower-than-expected signal strength.

Eventually, SuitSat-1 will sink into Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrate in a flash of fire. Another surplus Orlan suit remains aboard the ISS, so SuitSat-2 could be in the
offing.

Hams Hear Voyager Spacecraft

Hams in Germany and Portugal reportedly have received signals from the US Voyager 1 spacecraft http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/ in March and April. On March 31, AMSAT-DL (Germany) radio amateurs at the Institute for Environmental and Future Research (IUZ) at Bochum Observatory used a 20-meter radio telescope dish to detect Voyager 1’s 8.4 GHz signal.

Using Doppler shift and sky positioning, the German team received the signal from a distance of 8.82 billion miles (14.7 billion km)–nearly 100 times the distance from the sun to Earth. This is the first recorded reception of signals from Voyager 1 by radio amateurs.

Members of the AMSAT-DL/IUZ team included Freddy de Guchteneire, ON6UG, James Miller, G3RUH, Hartmut Paesler, DL1YDD, and Achim Vollhardt, DH2VA/HB9DUN. Assisting were Theo Elsner, DJ5YM of IUZ, and Roger Ludwig of Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), as well as the Deep Space Network (DSN) tracking station in Madrid, Spain.

Luis Cupido, CT1DMK, in Portugal reported April 15 that he spent “two nights without sleep” to hear Voyager I at his QTH using a 5.6-meter dish. To detect the signal, Cupido says he had to acquire and integrate spectrograms over an extended period.

“I did several acquisition periods of 15 minutes (900 s), the minimum I would expect to see something,” he said on his Web site http://w3ref.cfn.ist.utl.pt/cupido/dsn.htm noting that any longer time period would be incompatible with his Doppler-shift correction scheme. “The receiver is operated at fixed frequency, and the Doppler variation was corrected by skewing successive spectrograms in software while accumulating [images].”

He based positive identification of Voyager 1’s signal on the fact that signal is “only visible for the right skew amount that corresponds to the Doppler variation as predicted by the relative velocity calculation.”

Voyager 1 was launched in September 1977 to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn’s rings and the larger moons of the two planets. Designed to last only five years, the probe is expected to send back astronomical information to NASA and JPL until at least 2020. Voyager 1 will study ultraviolet sources among the stars, and its fields and particles instruments will continue to search for the boundary between the sun’s influence and interstellar space.

STUDENTS IN ITALY, CANADA, US CHAT WITH ISS

Tuesday, March 21, was a banner day for schools in Italy, Canada and the US, when students got the rare opportunity to hook up via Amateur Radio with the commander of the International Space Station. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program arranged contacts between NA1SS and IZ7EVR at the Giuseppe Settanni School in Rutigliano, Italy, and VE6AFO at Sir James Lougheed Elementary School in Calgary, Alberta, in advance. A couple of contacts the same day with KG4EDK at Coloma Junior High School in Michigan came about through luck and happenstance. During the Rutigliano contact, ISS Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, predicted that humans one day will settle elsewhere in the universe.

“I think that is the destiny of mankind to leave the earth and colonize and
settle other planets, and we will start by learning how to settle and live
on the moon,” McArthur said. In a similar vein, McArthur hypothesized in
response to another question that the universe is larger than humans can
fully understand. “And there are so many other stars and so many planets
that the probability of life elsewhere in the universe is very, very high. I
do not think we have ever met any however.”
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SPACE QSOs A HIT IN DC, JAPAN

Sixteen youngsters attending the Discover Engineering Family Day event February 18 in Washington, DC, had the rare opportunity of talking to International Space Station Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, via ham radio. Operating from the space station’s NA1SS a few days later, McArthur also answered a series of questions from pupils at Itaki Elementary School in Japan. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program arranged both events. During the Engineering Day contact, one participant wanted to know if the Expedition 12 crew had “learned anything really cool” during its science experiments.

“One of the biggest experiments is just the crew members on board, just the human beings on board, so we learn how our bodies change in space,” McArthur said, noting that ISS research centers on finding out what’s needed for a journey to Mars. On other fronts, he’s growing crystals in space, while crewmate Valeri Tokarev is growing seeds.

As for the really cool stuff: “I think the coolest thing I’ve learned is that living in space is a very pleasant, very nice thing to do,” McArthur added.

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Students talk with ISS

International Space Station Expedition 12 Commander Bill McArthur, KC5ACR, spoke recently via ham radio with cadets at his alma mater, the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, and with high schoolers in Orlando, Florida. The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program arranged both on-the-air events. During a January 26 direct VHF contact between NA1SS and W2KGY at West Point, one cadet asked McArthur’s opinion regarding the most important design factors for a future lunar base. McArthur responded by expressing his frustration with the ISS crew’s lack of control over its work schedule.

“We have a daily list of tasks that we’re scheduled out for,” McArthur told the cadets. “The bottom line is the schedule is very full, and you really need to maintain the timeline.” Unfortunately, he went on, various factors come into play that cause the crew to under-schedule the time needed for each task.
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