UK ESA astronaut Tim Peake took the opportunity to sit his Technician amateur radio exam at the end of April while he was in Houston for astronaut training. He has now been issued the amateur radio callsign KG5BVI.
At the beginning of March Tim gave a presentation to the UKSEDS National Student Space Conference in Leicester. During the talk he expressed his enthusiasm about getting his amateur radio licence and operating from the International Space Station (ISS).
Tim is currently training for his 6 month mission, Expedition 46/47, to the ISS which is scheduled for November 2015. The UK communications regulator Ofcom has agreed in principle to issue the permanent Special Callsign of GB1SS to the ISS and it is expected Tim will use that callsign when operating the amateur radio station in the ESA Columbus module.
The UK’s first astronaut was Helen Sharman GB1MIR who launched into space 23 years ago on May 18, 1991, see https://amsat-uk.org/about/history/first-uk-astronaut-helen-sharman-gb1mir/
The USA Technician licence is the equivalent of the UK Foundation. The 35-question Technician exam covers topics such as radio theory, regulations and operating practices. 26 of the 35 questions need to be answered correctly to pass. Unlike the system in the UK there are no practical assessments for the USA exams just a single multiple choice exam paper. All the questions and answers for the US exams are available online and you can try a practice Technician exam at http://www.qrz.com/hamtest/
Technicians are allowed to use up to 1500 watts output on all the VHF, UHF and Microwave bands and 200 watts output on four HF bands. USA Technicians have full amateur privileges in the frequencies they are allocated, for example they can do set up beacons or repeaters, operate maritime mobile and design and build their own equipment.