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ARISS to Celebrate 25 Years of Amateur Radio in Space with Special Events

12/03/2008

Twenty-five years ago this week, Owen Garriott, W5LFL, made history by being the first Amateur Radio operator to talk to hams from space. His historic flight on STS-9 on board the Space Shuttle Columbia was launched on November 28 and landed on December 8, 1983. Garriott's ham radio adventure on that mission ushered in a host of what Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Chairman Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, called "outstanding outreach activities that continue today with the ARISS program."

Bauer said that many hams still remember that first set of contacts and downlinks with Garriott: "Those first contacts allowed each of us to share the excitement of space exploration through Owen's first-hand eyewitness accounts. Owen's ham radio legacy enabled space travelers that have flown on the space shuttle, the space station Mir and now the International Space Station (ISS) to share their journey of exploration."

Just last month, Garriott's son Richard, W5KWQ, became the first second generation Amateur Radio operator to travel in space and speak with hams. "What other hobby, except Amateur Radio," Bauer wondered, "could or would open the communications lines of space travelers beyond that of the space agencies or international heads of state?"

To celebrate 25 years of Amateur Radio operations from space, ARISS has planned a set of special event opportunities for December and part of January. According to Bauer, a special certificate will be available for those who communicate with the ISS, either two-way direct (with the ISS crew, the digipeater or cross-band repeater) or one-way reception of SSTV or voice downlink. "Several 'surprises' are planned over the month-long celebration," he said, and will be announced soon.

Bauer said that in addition to school contacts and APRS digi-operations, ARISS will configure the radio system for cross-band repeater operations to utilize the standard U/V operations in low power mode during the first week of December. According to Patrick Stoddard, WD9EWK,  "U" refers to the 70 cm band used for the uplink to the cross-band repeater, specifically the 437.800 MHz FM frequency (+/- for Doppler), while "V" refers to the 2 meter VHF band used for the downlink, specifically the 145.800 MHz FM frequency.

Starting December 7, ARISS will then run a test of 9600 baud packet operations on 145.825 MHz."Given that PCsat should be in full sun starting December 9," Bauer explained, "we will switch to 1200 baud packet on 145.825 on December 14-19 to support double hop opportunities. At times, especially during the weekends, you might see some SSTV operations if the crew is available."

Bauer reminded hams that due to ISS flight requirements related to spacewalks and vehicle activity, the radio onboard the ISS may be off for some portion of this schedule. School contacts and general QSO opportunities by the crew will also preempt this schedule for short periods of time. "But remember that if you hear these," Bauer said, "you still qualify for a commemorative certificate!"



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