The RSGB report that on October 9, 2014 Ofcom confirmed that the callsign GB1SS will be made available for issue to UK astronauts who wish to operate from the ISS.
In May 1991 the first UK astronaut Helen Sharman GB1MIR talked to radio amateurs around the world from the Mir space station. After a gap of 24 years it looks as though two more UK astronauts may be flying to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015.
One of the UK radio amateurs that Helen contacted all those years ago was Chris Lorek G4HCL he says: I remember it fondly! I and my three children all chatted with her on 2m using my club station call G4SMC (South Midlands Communications in Chandler’s Ford) on her next-but-last Mir pass over the UK before she came down. Steven (10 years old), David (8 years old) and Carolyn (5 years old) all said hello to her, each giving their name and age, with Steven asking whether there was a particular challenge she may have had. Helen replied, knowing it was very young children, that one difficult challenge she’d had was putting her socks on as she floated around the station!
In September 2015 Sarah Brightman hopes to become the 2nd UK astronaut, flying to the ISS on a 10 day mission. She is committed to encouraging young women to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). In 2012 in conjunction with Virgin Galactic, she launched The Brightman STEM Scholarship program. It is not yet clear if she will operate the ISS amateur radio station during her mission.
Tim Peake was selected to train as an astronaut in 2009 and hopes to go to the ISS in November 2015. He holds the USA callsign KG5BVI and has recently been learning to use the Ericsson 144 MHz handheld radio which is installed in the Columbus module of the ISS. On September 18 Tim said “Will be great to chat with schools next year from space using this ham radio on board the ISS.”
There are two amateur radio stations on the ISS, one in the Russian Service Module, the other in the ESA Columbus Module. Almost any 144 MHz FM rig will receive signals from the ISS, you can even use a general coverage VHF scanner with an external antenna. As far as the antenna is concerned the simpler the better. A ¼ wave ground plane is a good antenna for the ISS as it has a high angle of radiation. Large 2m colinears may not work quite as well since the radiation pattern is concentrated at the horizon.
You can receive the ISS outdoors using a 2 metre hand-held with its helical antenna but a 1/4 wave whip will give far better results.
In the UK we use narrow 2.5 kHz deviation FM but the ISS transmits using the wider 5 kHz deviation used in much of the world. Most rigs can be switched been wide and narrow deviation filters so select the wider deviation. Hand-held rigs all seem to have a single wide filter fitted as standard.
Voice contacts with astronauts usually take place using “split” frequencies. The astronauts transmit on 145.800 MHz and listen for replies on 145.200 MHz, you just need to activate your rig’s repeater shift. Recently, however, they have also been operating simplex listening on 145.800 MHz.
When astronauts are not on the air they usually leave the packet digi-peater running on 145.825 MHz so why not listen out for it.
ISS status and tracking information http://issfanclub.com/
The First UK Astronaut Helen Sharman GB1MIR
Sarah Brightman to fly to ISS
Read the report of the Ofcom-RSGB meeting on October 9