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Ham-Astronauts among First Nine Astronauts Scheduled to Fly on Commercial Spacecraft


Three radio amateurs are among the initial nine NASA astronauts scheduled to fly on commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station. Others in the group are studying for their ham licensing exams in order to take part in Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) school radio contacts, or because they have expressed interest in supporting ARISS events. The women and men chosen will be the first to fly the SpaceX Crew Dragon or Boeing CST-100 Starliner.


SpaceX plans to fly a two-person crew — Robert Behnken, KE5GGX, and Doug Hurley — in Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center. Boeing aims to launch a CST-100 Starliner capsule on an Atlas V vehicle from Cape Canaveral. It would carry a three-person crew — Eric Boe, Chris Ferguson, and Nicole Aunapa Mann, who attended an ARISS introductory talk at Johnson Space Center (JSC) and voiced interest in doing ARISS contacts in the future. At this point, however, her crew training will be stepped up to a more intense level.


Boe and Ferguson, along with Josh Cassada, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, KF5LJG, and Sunita Williams, KD5PLB, will also be on the commercial spacecraft on later trips following the first test flights.


Behnken earned his license with help from the ARISS team at JSC in 2005. Hopkins got his license in 2011 and made ARISS school contacts in early 2014. Within the Amateur Radio community, however, he may be best known for installing the ARISS Ham Video system in 2014, shortly before wrapping up his ISS duty tour. He transmitted live images of himself in the ISS as the system was being commissioned, in coordination with the ground-based ARISS-Europe team that’s responsible for the equipment.


Glover has been studying for his ham radio license at Johnson Space Center with a little mentoring from ARISS team member Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO. Cassada spoke in person to students taking part in an ARISS contact at an ISS education conference in 2016, at the time telling the ARISS team that he wanted to get his ham radio license.


Williams has supported a large number of ARISS contacts on the ISS throughout her career, and Ransom said that Williams “is already looking forward to talking to kids through ARISS during her tour of duty.”


“The men and women we assign to these first flights are at the forefront of this exciting new time for human spaceflight,” JSC Director Mark Geyer said. “It will be thrilling to see our astronauts lift off from American soil, and we can’t wait to see them aboard the International Space Station.”






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