Possible International Space Station Contacts for Field Day 2009


According to NASA ISS Ham Radio Project Engineer Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, there is a good possibility that groups participating in ARRL Field Day may be able to make a contact with one of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

"Some of the crew members of the International Space Station plan to make contacts with operators on the ground during Field Day operations as time permits" Ransom said. "Since the ISS now has a multinational crew representing all five space agencies, the possible club call signs to be heard are RS0ISS, NA1SS and OR4ISS. The crew could also elect to use their personal calls, as well. In either case, they will be signing 1A (Alfa) ISS after the call sign."

ARRL Field Day Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, said he is excited about the potential ISS participation: "In my 11 years heading up Field Day for the ARRL, I can think of nothing that causes more excitement around a Field Day site than the group completing a contact with the ISS. It is almost electrifying!"

But Henderson exercised caution, saying that there is always the possibility that circumstances on board the ISS will change and the astronauts will not be able to operate during Field Day times. "We are pleased to have their commitment to attempt it again this year," he said. "There is an ARISS contact on the schedule for Saturday morning before Field Day officially begins, so there is a good chance that on later passes, amateurs may get a chance to experience a unique thrill."

Ransom reminded US amateurs that talking to the crew on the ISS does not qualify for satellite bonus points, "but it is anticipated that the crew will have the crossband repeater active (437.80 up/145.80 down, no CTCSS), so any contact you make with another ground station using his repeater can count for the bonus. Of course, working an astronaut on Field Day has its own reward."

Remember that the ISS circles the Earth about once every 90minutes. As the Earth turns, the orbit of the ISS does not always give US amateurs a good path every orbit. "Some passes will favor some parts of the country while passes will favor others," Henderson said. "There will be passes where the US itself may not be in the 'footprint' of the ISS."

Henderson suggested that Field Day groups trying to contact the ISS visit the AMSAT Online Satellite Pass Predictions Web site. To use the Pass Prediction tool, first, select the ISS in the "Show Predictions for" box. Next, input both your site's latitude and longitude -- or input your grid square -- and the click the "Predict" button. From the predicted information you receive back, you will want to look for orbits that occur within the Field Day operating time beginning at 1800 UTC on Saturday, June 27 for the following 24-27 hours, depending on your group's operating window.

"You want to find a pass that has the highest maximum elevation," Henderson said. "For example, the best Field Day pass at W1AW is going to be at 62 degrees of elevation beginning at 11:44:30 UTC on Sunday, June 28 that will last for approximately nine to 10 minutes (AOS to LOS). Don't be discouraged if you don't have a lot of passes that have outstanding elevations or durations. And remember, if you don't complete a contact with the ISS, you can use the same prediction tool to see what other amateur satellites you might try to contact."