(Amateur Radio on the International Space Station)

A VERY RARE EVENT IN THE NATION, and ROARS member Kelly (KM6SMW) pulled it off.  Her students were able to speak with NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy (KF5KDR) on 14 October 2020!  Below is the YouTube window where you can watch the event as it was recorded!  The NASA/ARISS folks have it populated.  Watch below or CLICK HERE!

Amateur radio is alive and well on the International Space Station, and there is a NASA program to allow students to talk to the station.  More great ROARS and Ramona news because one of our ROARS members, Kelly (KM6SMW) is a local teacher and applied with many others to be one of the few selected teachers to make this happen for her students.  SHE MADE IT!!!   The primary goal of the ARISS program is to engage young people in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) activities and raise their awareness of space communication, radio communication, space exploration, and related areas of study and career possibilities.

The astronaut they will likely talk with is Navy Captain and SEAL Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR (see photo).  Christopher J. Cassidy was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2004 and is a veteran of two space flights, STS‐127 and Expedition 35. During STS‐127, Cassidy served as a Mission Specialist and was the 500th person in history to fly into space. This mission delivered the Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility (JEM‐EF) and the Experiment Logistics Module Exposed Section (ELM‐ES) to the station. For Expedition 35, Cassidy and the European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano had their unplanned spacewalk to replace a pump controller box cut short when Parmitano had cooling water leak into his helmet. Cassidy, a U.S. Navy SEAL, has been deployed twice to the Mediterranean and twice to Afghanistan. He has been the recipient of Bronze Star with combat ‘V’ and Presidential Unit Citation for leading a nine‐day operation at the Zharwar Kili Cave on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. 

Cassidy launched to the ISS on April 9, 2020 as part of the Expedition 63 mission.  Here is a link to his bio:

Only Nine Schools and Organizations Nationwide Made the Cut for Ham Contacts with ISS Crew

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) has announced that nine schools and organizations were selected to host Amateur Radio contacts with International Space Station crew members during the first half of 2020. The selected host organizations must now complete an equipment plan that demonstrates their ability to execute the ham radio contact. Once a plan is approved, the final selected schools/organizations will have contacts scheduled as their availability matches up with the opportunities offered by NASA.  [Done for Kelly's event.]

The schools and host organizations were: Celia Hays Elementary School, Rockwall, Texas; Golden Gate Middle School, Naples, Florida; J.P. McConnell Middle School, Loganville, Georgia; Kittredge Magnet School, Atlanta, Georgia; Maple Dale Elementary School, Cincinnati, Ohio; Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, Nashville, Tennessee; Oakwood School, Morgan Hill, California; Ramona Lutheran School, Ramona, California, and River Ridge High School, New Port Richey Florida.

Kelly (KM6SMW) was then selected by ARRL (W1AW) to travel to their headquarters in Connecticut for training on all the steps required to get a proper amateur radio station, antennas and tracking system constructed to make a reliable communications link the the International Space Station (ISS).  The space station flies at an average altitude of 248 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. It circles the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,500 mph (28,000 km/h). In one day, the station travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back.  Kelly's (see photo) is caught sitting at a ham station at ARRL HQ.   

Click this ARISS web site link for more information  

This is the ROARS team recently doing a complete system test of the communications system that Kelly and her students will use to contact Astronaut Chris Cassidy.In addition to very specialized radios not in the photo, the system needs two directional antennas (shown at the top of the tower) at two different frequencies, one for the up-link to the space station and one the down-link from the space station.  Between the two antennas is a dark area which is actually two antenna rotors to move the two antennas up and down, left and right, to track the space station as it flies overhead at 17,500 mph.  More station photos are below.

Following is the formal press release:


Amateur Radio connects kids, crew as ISS orbits overhead   September 27, 2019

Ramona Lutheran Christian School at 520 Sixteenth Street, in Ramona, CA, has been selected as one of nine schools in America, to talk directly with astronauts on the International Space Station via Amateur Radio.  This activity is part of the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) Program, which promotes learning opportunities as part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) initiative.

Ramona Lutheran students and teachers have been preparing for this upcoming event by: studying Astronomy, learning through student-centered projects about Space, researching International Space Station History, using technology-integrated curriculum, NASA educational materials, and practicing amateur radio theory and protocol.  Students will have the opportunity to practice, using a variety of radios, contacting amateur radio satellites at Ramona Lutheran’s campus prior to this event. Kelly Cammarano, Ramona Lutheran’s STEM teacher, had the opportunity in Connecticut to practice these skills when her summer ARRL Teachers Institute class contacted the Johnson Space Station in Texas with satellite communications, observing the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.  This will be the first direct contact in Ramona and students will ask questions to either a NASA astronaut or one of the first commercial astronauts to be assigned an ISS expedition. Ramona Outback Amateur Radio Society (ROARS) will provide technical training for students in grades 3-5 and equipment for this exciting educational experience.  At the bottom of the page are three articles - including photos - about this great activity you can download and print.

 What is ARISS?

ARISS is a joint venture by NASA, the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), and the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) to facilitate communication via Amateur Radio between astronauts aboard the International Space Station and schools and communities around the world. ARISS programs excite and motivate students in a one-of-a-kind presentation and exchange.

ARISS program goals are:

1. Inspiring an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects and in STEM careers among young people.

2. Providing an educational opportunity for students, teachers, and the general public for learning about wireless technology and radio science through Amateur Radio.

3. Providing an educational opportunity for students, teachers, and the general public for learning about space exploration, space technologies and satellite communications.

What does our ARISS station look like?

It starts with a computer program that continuously plots the orbit locations of all the communications satellites including the International Space Station (see the ovals and orbit paths for a number of satellites on the screen).  This program also has the capability to (1) automatically control the frequency of the radio (in this case an ICOM 9700) including a necessary - and constantly changing - frequency offset to correct for the Doppler errors caused by satellite motion, and (2) send azimuth and elevation steering instructions to the tracking antenna system.

Joe (AA2IL) had to build a custom interface module between the computer and the older Yaesu two-axis rotator.  With that done, the system flawlessly tracks a satellite from horizon to horizon.  This is a dynamic process since a full satellite pass may last 10 minutes or less.

The antennas themselves are hand-made by Joe, one for VHF and one for UHF.  Both have phased elements 90 degrees apart to made them circular polarized.  This is important since many satellites are tumbling and their polarization constantly changes.