ARISS Notes Record Number of ISS-to-School Contacts


When the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program began coordinating ISS-to-school contacts in 2001, only one school -- Luther Burbank Elementary School in Burbank, Illinois -- participated. Ten years later, more than 120 schools participated in the ARISS program in 2009 alone.

The number of ARISS-coordinated ISS-to-school contacts has climbed dramatically since that first contact in 2000. In 2001, there were 42 contacts, and in 2002, there were 40 contacts. During the first five years of the program -- 2000-2004 -- there was an average of 31.4 QSOs between the ISS and schools. In 2004, ARISS only conducted 35 contacts -- the lowest in its 10 year history -- but in 2005, 55 schools had contacted the ISS through the program. In 2006, there were 47 QSOs, 75 QSOs in 2007 and 62 in 2008. The 121 QSOs in 2009 show a jump of 95 percent over the 2008 numbers -- setting an ARISS record for the number of contacts.

Of the 517 ARISS QSOs through 2009, 313 were direct (a radio link between an Amateur Radio station set up in a school and the amateur station onboard the ISS), while 202 were via telebridge (a dedicated ARISS Amateur Radio ground station located somewhere in the world establishes the radio link with the ISS; voice communications between the students and the astronauts are then patched over regular telephone lines). Two contacts were a combination of direct and telebridge means.

"We saw a surge in interest from schools in all parts of the globe," said ARRL ARISS Program Manager Rosalie White, K1STO. "The number of schools in Europe and Canada peaked this past year, thanks to Frank DeWinne, ON1DWN, and Robert Thirsk, VA3CSA, who were onboard the ISS for six-month stints; previously, most Canadian and European ham-licensed crew members were onboard for only a few weeks."

ARISS has coordinated contacts between the ISS and schools in the 38 countries: USA, Canada, Russia, Finland, Japan, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, France, South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Israel, the Netherlands, Thailand, Slovenia, Turkey, Spain, Poland, Ireland, Brazil, Switzerland, Kuwait, Greece, India, Portugal, Hungary, China, Malaysia, Reunion Island, Croatia, South Korea, Ecuador, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, Mali and Senegal. There have already been two ISS contacts to schools in 2010 -- Italy and Taiwan -- with more to come.

White said that during the last quarter of 2009, ARISS saw an uptick in the number of US educators sending queries about how to get involved in ARISS --and in the number of ARISS applications received from areas of the US: "It seems that students are not jaded about the space program!"

For information on how to get your school involved in the ARISS program, please consult the ARISS Web site.