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.

ERAU Students Set Record With Rocket Launch

A team of Aerospace Engineering students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University made history on March 22 when they successfully launched their two-stage Icarus rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

With 3,500 pounds of thrust in the first stage and 900 pounds in the second stage, the rocket set an altitude record for a student-built vehicle — 37.8 miles — and became the first two-stage student sounding rocket to launch from a NASA facility.

“The Embry-Riddle student-designed rocket was the most complex student project we have supported to date,” said Phil Eberspeaker, chief of NASA’s Sounding Rockets Program Office. “NASA subjects these student rockets to the same scrutiny as a NASA sounding rocket to ensure the flight can be conducted in a safe manner.”

Embry-Riddle student Mike Stackpole founded Project Icarus in 2003 with assistance from other students in the Embry-Riddle Future Space Explorers and Developers Society and has led the effort ever since. Current team members are Jon Barnhart, Brandon Boekelman, Josh Chatham, Jacklyn Duff, Curtis Ewbank, and Kevin Mock. Former team members who made significant contributions are Ron Driggers, Steven Trout, and Markus Zimmerman, all of whom have graduated in the past year. The team’s faculty advisors are Dr. Eric Hill and Dr. Rick Perrell.

“The mission of Project Icarus is to promote student rocket projects at Embry-Riddle, combining classroom knowledge with hands-on experience in rocket design and construction,” said Stackpole. “Icarus is the first in what will hopefully be a long line of vehicles, each pushing the envelope slightly more. The eventual goal is to create a rocket that reaches space.”

According to Stackpole, analysis of NASA radar and on-board telemetry data showed that the Icarus rocket performed nearly perfectly: The first stage blasted the rocket off the pad to reach a velocity of Mach 2.5 at an acceleration of 13.2 g’s; after the first stage fell away, the sustainer reached Mach 4.04 and a height of 37.8 miles.

The 16-foot-long rocket weighed 268 pounds fully loaded and carried a 15-pound electronic payload, including a telemetry system to relay information back to the ground via UHF radio signals. Data was collected on barometric pressure, acceleration, spin rate, GPS, altitude, and the temperature of the nose cone. The payload also included a capacitor discharge initiation system that ignited the second stage at a specified time during flight. The solid propellant, similar to that used by the solid rocket boosters on the space shuttles, was manufactured by Loki Research of Pennsylvania.

“The Icarus team put in a sustained effort over the years, and the importance of their achievement can’t be overstated,” said Dr. Perrell. “One of the many impressive aspects of this project is how efficiently the students used the monetary contributions they received in support of their work. The Icarus experience will stand them in good stead as they graduate into the real world of the aviation and aerospace industry.”

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