International Space Station Briefly “Ham-less” After Crew Members Return to Earth
The only two radio amateurs on the International Space Station (ISS) were among three crew members who returned to Earth on November 10, and another ham-astronaut won't arrive onboard the ISS until later this month. But an exciting 2015 appears to be in store.
NASA Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman, KF5LKT, and European Space Agency Astronaut Alexander Gerst, KF5ONO, joined Expedition 41 Commander and Russian Cosmonaut Max Suraev on the flight home this week. Traveling in a Soyuz space capsule, the trio touched down safely in Kazakhstan after some 6 months on station. Wiseman and Gerst were active on Amateur Radio during their time on orbit, handling questions from curious Earthlings during Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) educational contacts and, in Wiseman's case, his first ARRL Field Day in June — an activity he discussed in a recent #askAstro YouTube post.
This was the first mission for both Wiseman and Gerst. While in space, the pair carried out a spacewalk to relocate a failed pump module and configure the station for upcoming additions. Wiseman completed a second spacewalk with fellow NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore, now the ISS Expedition 42 Commander.
According to ARISS, there will be no US Operational Segment hams on the ISS until December 7, and the ARISS Russian team will conduct any school contacts in the interim. European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, IZ0UDF, heads to the ISS on November 23. She will be the sole radio amateur on orbit until next March. That’s when Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, RN3DT, and Mikhail Kornienko, RN3BF — both space veterans — will arrive. A key research focus during Expedition 41 was human health management for long-duration space travel, as NASA and Roscosmos prepare for Kornienko and NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly to remain aboard the ISS for 1 year.
Several call signs are available for use on the ISS. NASA astronauts use NA1SS, while Russian cosmonauts operate under RS0ISS. Other call signs include DP0ISS, OR4ISS, and IR0ISS, available for use by European Space Agency astronauts. UK telecoms regulator Ofcom recently issued the call sign GB1SS for assignment to UK space travelers while aboard the ISS.
NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren, KO5MOS, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Astronaut Kimiya Yui, KG5BPH, will head to the ISS next May. Astronauts Tim Kopra, KE5UDN, and Tim Peake, KG5BVI, will be part of a crew increment heading into space a year from now. Peake, who is from the UK, may use the GB1SS call sign.
British pop singer Sarah Brightman is currently scheduled to travel to the ISS in October 2015 for a 10-day visit as a fare-paying "spaceflight participant;" her website has adopted an otherworldly theme. While it is not known if she will participate in any Amateur Radio contacts during her short ISS stay, she apparently would be eligible to do so using GB1SS.
ARISS has announced that the deadline is December 15 for schools and educational institutions and organizations — formal and informal — to submit proposals to host an Amateur Radio contact with an ISS crew member. ARISS is especially interested in arranging contact events that will draw large numbers of participants and integrate the radio contact into a well-developed educational plan. ARISS anticipates that the ham radio contacts between students and the space station will take place between May 1 and December 31, 2015. The ARRL website has more information.