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UK Students Enjoy First ARISS Contact with Astronaut Tim Peake, KG5BVI


A brand-new ham was the first to speak with UK astronaut Tim Peake, KG5BVI, on the International Space Station, when students at Sandringham School in Hertfordshire, England, enjoyed an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact on January 8. Peake, a European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut whose “Principia Mission” will focus on educational activities, used the special GB1SS call sign for the event, while the school had obtained permission to use GB1SAN. Year 10 pupil Jessica Leigh, M6LPJ, made initial radio contact with Peake. Along with two other students, Leigh passed her Foundation class exam just before Christmas, after training with the Verulam Amateur Radio Club.

“When I get home, I’ll be completely in shock,” Leigh told the BBC after the contact, noting that the “amazing experience” of talking to someone in space had yet to sink in.

The Sandringham School Space Festival got under way on January 5 and culminated with the live VHF contact with Peake. With an enrollment of 1300, Sandringham School students range in age from 11 to 19, with 100 faculty members. Head teacher Alan Gray, G4DJX, called the event “an extraordinary experience for the school.” Students were able to ask Peake questions about his life and work on board the ISS.

The week leading up to the contact included a wide range of activities aimed at engaging the students in space and space travel, including a presentation from a spacecraft engineer, mobile planetariums, an Amateur Radio “buildathon,” rocket workshops, and talks on Mars and cosmonauts.

ARISS UK provided and set up all the necessary radio gear, including the low-Earth-orbit satellite tracking antenna and VHF radio gear. The contact took place on 145.800 MHz FM.

Peake launched on December 15 from Kazakhstan on board a Soyuz spacecraft as part of the Expedition 46 crew. His time on station will be devoted to the Principia Mission and will dedicate part of his schedule in space to educational activities for youngsters on Earth. The mission is named for Isaac Newton’s text, Philosophæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). Peake will spend 6 months in orbit on board the ISS, mostly working in the Columbus laboratory module.

The Columbus module is equipped with two Ericsson 5 W hand-held radios, one for 2 meters, the other for 70 centimeters. The module also is home to the 2.4 GHz HamTV Digital Amateur Television Transmitter. The HamTV system was not available for the Sandringham School contact, because the equipment was turned off to permit other experiments. 



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