Hams Head into Space


On Saturday, May 31, the space shuttle Discovery launched into the heavens carrying a crew of one Japanese and six American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS); of the seven crew members, two are Amateur Radio operators. NASA's Greg Chamitoff, KD5PKZ, is the ISS Flight Engineer and Science Officer on Expedition 17 and will spend six months living and working onboard the ISS, returning home on Endeavour (STS-126), currently targeted for November 10. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Akihiko Hoshide, KE5DNI, is a mission specialist.

Chamitoff will replace Garrett Reisman, KE5HAE, who arrived on the ISS in March; Reisman will return to Earth when Discovery leaves the ISS. It is expected that the ISS Crew -- Commander Sergei Volkov, RU3DIS; Flight Engineer Oleg Kononenko, RN3DX, and Chamitoff -- will conduct Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contacts while on the ISS.

This mission, STS-124 -- the 123rd space shuttle flight and 26th shuttle flight to the ISS -- docked with the ISS at 2:03 PM (EDT) on Monday, June 2. Discovery carries with it the second component of JAXA's Kibo laboratory, the Japanese Pressurized Module (JPM). The 37 foot, 32,000 pound JPM will be attached to the left side of the Harmony connecting node by shuttle and station crew members during a series of three spacewalks. The JPM will join the first component of Kibo, the Japanese Logistics Module, which was launched on the last shuttle flight, STS-123 on Endeavour, in March.

Kibo (which means hope in Japanese) is so heavy that only its primary set of avionics systems can be launched inside it. The second set was launched in the logistics module delivered on STS-123 so that it will be available, if needed, when Kibo is activated. "Kibo is just a beautiful piece of work," said lead shuttle flight director Matt Abbott. "I know the Japanese space agency had an element installed on STS-123, but this is really their pride and joy. This module is amazing."

"It's going to be a world-class laboratory," said astronaut Mark Kelly, Discovery's commander. "It's its own little spacecraft, in the sense that it has an environmental system, electrical system, its own computer system, its own robotic arm. It's got a lot of capability, and I'm hopeful that over the years that laboratory produces significant discoveries in the fields of chemistry, physics, material science and life sciences. It certainly has that potential." The Kibo laboratory complex includes two robotic arms that also will be delivered on Discovery. A third and final shuttle mission to complete the complex will launch an exterior platform for the Kibo laboratory complex that will allow experiments to be exposed to space.

On Earth, STS-124 will mark the first time the JAXA flight control team will activate and control a module from Kibo Mission Control in Tsukuba, Japan. JAXA is scheduled to take over final activation of Kibo on the fifth day of STS-124, the day after the module is installed. "That's a big day for Japan," Hoshide said. "We'll be doing vestibule outfitting, which is basically hooking up all the jumper connections between Node 2 and the pressurized module for power signals, data cables, fluid lines, all that stuff. Once that's done we will be activating the main computer in the pressurized module from our laptop computer inside the station - we call that the initial activation. "Then, once the computer's activated, the Mission Control Center in Tsukuba Space Center can start commanding, so we'll hand it over to them. They will start doing the final activation of the module."

In addition to Kelly, Hoshide and Chamitoff, the STS-124 crew consists of Pilot Ken Ham and Mission Specialists Karen Nyberg, Ron Garan and Mike Fossum. Discovery is due back to Earth on Saturday, June 14 at 10:45 AM (EDT) at Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility.

-- Information provided by NASA