An Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (“ARISS”) educational contact will take place this week in the ARRL East Bay Section. The contact will be direct with students at Rancho Romero Elementary School in Alamo (Contra Costa County). (“Direct” ARISS contacts are entirely Amateur Radio simplex in both directions, without the terrestrial telephone linking used in “telebridge” contacts.) It is scheduled to occur on Wednesday morning, November 13, beginning as early as 1941 UTC (11:41 am PST). The session cannot last more than about ten minutes due to the motion of the space station.
During a typical ARISS contact, students at the school transmit questions on the International Space Station’s Amateur Radio 2-meter uplink frequency, with a licensed ham present and serving as control operator. The questions, which are prepared and sent to the space station in advance, are then answered by a ham-radio-licensed ISS astronaut, transmitted on the ISS downlink frequency. (The ISS uses its US callsign NA1SS for transmissions over the US.) Amateurs on the ground cannot hear the uplink transmissions unless they are very close by, but with a good 2-meter antenna it will be possible to hear the downlink transmissions from the ISS from anywhere in the SF Bay Area.
To listen in, tune your receiver to downlink frequency 145.800 MHz FM. It is a good idea to turn the squelch off, resulting in “hiss” but also maximum sensitivity to the signal. You will not hear the students asking questions on this frequency, only the astronaut answering them. You should not transmit during this event to avoid interfering with this educational experience for the students. This will be a good opportunity to listen in and interest other non-hams in the hobby and service of Amateur Radio as the students talk with the astronauts.
Tim Bosma, W6MU, from the San Francisco Section, is the ARISS Technical Mentor coordinating the contact.
Here is some background information provided by the school:
“Rancho Romero Elementary School (“Rancho”) serves a population of 10,000 in Alamo, California, about 25 miles east of San Francisco. Rancho Romero is committed to STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] education and is working with alumna and licensed amateur radio operator Rebecca Rubsamen KJ6TWM [to] install a permanent satellite communications station in the Rancho science lab. The satellite ground station will provide a laboratory environment where students and faculty can explore concepts from basic orbital mechanics and basic radio theory.
“The Rancho satellite station is being specifically designed to be accessible over the internet by partner schools in our larger community who lack the resources to have this type of equipment available on their site. Rancho Romero will be working with other schools in its network to encourage faculty to make use of this link to access the satellite station for classroom demonstrations at their campuses by accessing one of the many orbiting amateur radio satellites.
“Pre-contact activities have featured presentations by Camilla SDO, NASA’s mascot for the Solar Dynamics Observatory and retired astronaut James Van Hoften who will talk about manned space flight.”
Here are proposed questions for the contact generated by the Rancho Romero Elementary School students and distributed by AMSAT:
- How much were you allowed to bring with you for your 6 month stay on the ISS?
- What is your specific job as a crew member?
- What kind of experiments do you do, and which one has been your favorite?
- Are there any animals (including insects) on board?
- How do you recycle water?
- As a child, were you very interested in science?
- How many minutes per day do you need to exercise to keep your bones strong?
- What are the long-term effects of microgravity?
- How do you keep track of what day it is?
- How do you take care of daily housekeeping chores, like doing laundry and taking out the trash?
- How does Earth look from space, and do you have a favorite view?
- How do you sleep in the space station, and is it comfortable?
- How do the docking ports on the ISS work?
- Does your heart beat faster or slower in space?
- How do you communicate with family and friends at home?
- How do you store food on the ISS, and do you ever get fresh fruit and veggies?
- What are your sources of entertainment on the ISS?
- How did you feel when the rocket to the ISS took off?
- What is your favorite moment in space so far?
- What do you miss the most from Earth?
James R Latham AF6AQ
Section Manager, ARRL East Bay Section
John Rabold KS6M
Section Emergency Coordinator, ARRL East Bay Section