ARISS Amateur Radio on the International Space Station

Want A Contact With Your School?



Amateur Radio on International Space Station Your school’s opportunity to talk live to astronauts in space! Here’s a question – who can’t you reach from your telephone these days? Maybe this is a tough question – but how about trying to reach an astronaut in space from your phone? ARISS and AMSAT-UK are very interested in helping to arrange contacts between school children and astronauts while they’re in space using amateur radio. Amateur radio is the only way the general public can speak to astronauts live while they’re in space – and ARISS scheduled contacts are only available to school children!ARISS is an international organisation with the primary aim of promoting science, space and amateur radio to young people, and is an integral part of NASA’s Educational Outreach Program. It is supported by the international space agencies and amateur radio organisations worldwide.The school children taking part do not need to have radio amateur licenses, although the station operator does need to be qualified. AMSAT-UK can help you by providing an experienced station operator if necessary.

How do I apply?

As a member society of ARISS, AMSAT-UK can help your school organise a contact with the astronauts while they live in the International Space Station.AMSAT-UK can helpThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view itwith filling out the applications form and also any equipment and technical support you may need. The application form may be found here. Committing your school to a contact with astronauts under the ARISS program is a two-way street. In return for the kudos of your school being able to talk to the astronauts in space, the space agencies (who fund the program) expect the school to make concerted efforts to make the subjects of space, science and telecommunications as widely available within the curriculum to as many children as possible, over a range of as many ages as possible. How you integrate these subjects into the school curriculum is up to you. Finally, for the event itself, you’re also expected to get as much publicity as possible, such as TV, radio and the press. AMSAT-UK can help you with publicity. Once the formalities are completed and your application is accepted, you’ll be added onto the waiting list. There are two types of ARISS contact, either ‘direct’ or ‘telebridge’. A direct contact is where the transmitting and receiving equipment, and aerials, are set up at the location that the contact is to take place. Alternatively, a telebridge contact is conducted remotely using a telephone link to one of several amateur radio stations around the world. AMSAT-UK can provide some or all of the equipment and expertise needed for a direct contact. For a direct contact, the location should have largely unobstructed views, especially to the West and the East. This may mean gaining access to the building roof to temporarily erect aerials for a couple of days.

The timeline Generally, accepted applications are done on a first come, first served basis, so the earlier you submit your application, the sooner your school will be talking to the astronauts in space. There are some occasions when the schedule is juggled. This happens, for example, when a school has accepted a contact during a time when many schools are taking holidays. If you don’t think that you will be able to make a contact during certain times, like school holidays, it is important to say so on the application form. If you are offered a contact but cannot make it, you are in risk of ending up back deep in the pile of waiting applications. At the time of writing (August 2003), accepted applications for contacts are taking about two years to come to the top of the pile. During the intervening time, it will give your school the opportunity to introduce space into the curriculum as much as possible. About three or four weeks before the contact itself, you will be offered the opportunity of some dates, which you should make sure you can make! We have had situations where children have come back early from their vacations especially for these contacts. A week or two prior to the contact, the date and time will be confirmed, and you can organise the final logistics.

The contact The contact itself starts with a brief establishment of communications by the station operator. Following this the children ask their questions and the astronaut answers each of the questions, one at a time, as they are asked. Finally the contact is closed by the station operator and there is always a spontaneous round of applause that the astronauts get to hear too. Not only is this a chance for the audience to let the astronauts know they’re there too, this is also great for the astronauts who probably haven’t heard so many people at once for quite some time! The ISS takes only ten minutes to rise over the horizon and then set again. Normally, each contact has twenty questions prepared. Ten minutes is a very short time to pose such a large number of questions, so to avoid disappointment you may wish to limit the number of questioners to, say, ten children. They can then have an extra question ready if all ten get through. Try to keep each question to a single question only, for example it is tempting to have a question like “Have you ever been ill in space? If so, how do you deal with it?”. Because of the short time available, it would be better simply to ask “What do you do when you become ill in space?” Howard Long, G6LVB This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view itAMSAT-UK ARISS Representative

Links to successful UK contacts

Harrogate Ladies’ College has a long history of astronaut contacts

Children at the National Space Centre in Leicester had a successful ISS contact in April 2003

Pictures and audio, video and press clippings of Neston Primary School, Wiltshire, who had all their 20 questions answered in August 2003

Pictures, audio, video and press clippings of Soar Valley College, Leicester who had a very successful contact in August 2003.

Links to other sites




NASA, ARISS and Ham Radio

Some useful ARISS information


International Space Station (ISS) – ARISS school contact – OR4ISS

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