Antarctica and the International Space Station Ham Radio

Ten California high school students have received a fellowship from the Barboza Space Center to develop an emergency communication system for the International Space Station.  This prototype will be used here on Earth to communicate with high school students in Australia, South Korea and Cabo Verde.  We are working on getting scientists in Antarctica to work with our American high schools,

International Space Station Reference

Ham Radio

When astronauts, cosmonauts and mission specialists from many nations fly on the international space station, they will have amateur, or ham, radio as a constant companion.

Since its first flight in 1983, ham radio has flown on more than two-dozen space shuttle missions. Dozens of astronauts have used the Space Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment, or SAREX, to talk to thousands of kids in school and to their families on Earth while they were in orbit. They have pioneered space radio experimentation, including television and text messaging as well as voice communication. The Russians have had a similar program for the cosmonauts aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. When U.S. astronauts were aboard Mir in preparation for the long duration missions of the international space station, they used amateur radio for communication, including emergency messaging while Mir was in distress.

IMAGE: Logo for the Amateur Radio International Space Station organization, or ARISS.
ARISS was created in 1996 to meet certain objectives and was the logical outgrowth of the very successful amateur radio activities on the Mir space station and the space shuttle.

As human space flight moves into a new uncharted era, an organization called ARISS, which stands for Amateur Radio on international space station, has been formed to design, build and operate equipment. In 1996, delegates from major national radio organizations and from AMSAT, which stands for the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, in eight nations involved with the international space station signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form ARISS.

NASA and the Russian space organization Energia have signed agreements that spell out the place of amateur radio on the station. A technical team, called ISS Ham, has been officially established to serve as the interface to support hardware development, crew training and on-orbit operations.

In the United States, the American Radio Relay League, which is also known as ARRL, and AMSAT provide leadership and consultation. They also donate and build hardware as well as making sure safety and qualification tests are successfully completed so the equipment can fly. The Russians have provided ports so that antennas can be mounted on the station’s Zvezda Service Module — the space station unit that provides living quarters for the astronauts and cosmonauts. United States and Russian teams have trained the astronauts and cosmonauts to operate the equipment. The Italian team has designed and built antennas. The German team has built sophisticated repeater stations that will allow crews to make recorded reports on their daily activities and permit hams on Earth better contacts with men and women aboard the station.

IMAGE:  The initial amateur radio station equipment being tested.
This is a photo of the initial radio station amateur equipment while it was being tested. After testing, the equipment was stowed aboard space shuttle Atlantis for delivery to the international space station during STS-106.

The initial space station operations will be mostly voice and packet, a text messaging device. The first initial radio station was flown onboard the space shuttle Atlantis on STS-106. The crew transferred the ham radio gear into the space station for future use by the Expedition One crew.

More than 40 missions over five years will be required to assemble the international space station in orbit. The astronauts and cosmonauts will work hard on these missions, but they plan to take some time off for educational outreach contacts with schools. NASA’s Division of Education is a major supporter of the amateur radio activity.

The sponsoring agencies have stated that they consider access to a ham radio system a requirement for psychological support of the crews, by providing family and general contacts for people who will be in space many weeks at a time.

As the international space station takes its place in the heavens, the amateur radio community is prepared to do its part by helping to enrich the experience of those visiting and living on the station.

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