Ham Video transmitter onboard ISS Columbus module

International Space Station ISS with shuttle Endeavour 2011-05-23

How a DATV transmitter on S-band is being added to the ARISS equipment onboard the International Space Station has been related in an announcement recently circulated and available at


Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

The ARISS Ham Video transmitter is presently onboard Columbus. The transmitter was delivered by Japanese cargo spacecraft HTV-4, which launched August 4 and docked 5 days later.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano KF5KDP / IR0ISS reported that the bags are stored in Columbus. There are two bags: one for the transmitter, the other for the power, camera and antenna cables.

Installation will be done by US astronaut Michael Hopkins KF5LJG who has been trained for the commissioning of the Ham Video equipment.The commissioning is planned later in the year, possibly end October when there are favourable passes over Italy. Indeed, the tests transmissions for the commissioning of the onboard equipment will be received by the ground station of the “Centro di Geodesia Spaziale” of the Italian Space Agency, located in Matera, Southern Italy.

A basic amateur radio station that should be able to receive HamTV from ISS - Image AMSAT-Italia

A basic amateur radio station that should be able to receive HamTV from ISS – Image AMSAT-Italia

We will report in due time on the commissioning procedure which will involve a series of tests to be performed during 3 or 4 ISS passes.

Possibly, the Ham Video transmitter will transmit continuously between the commissioning steps offering amateur ground stations the opportunity to test and tune their receiving equipment. The transmissions will be performed in automatic mode, without requiring crew time. The camera, which runs on a battery, will not be used and the ground stations will receive a black image.

Meanwhile, commissioning is being prepared steadily. The kick-off meeting took place November 2012 at ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre, located in Noordwijk the Netherlands.  Detailed procedures are examined and finalized during weekly ESA/ARISS teleconferences. A preliminary EST (Experiment Sequence Test) is planned August 28-29. The test will involve the ARISS ground station IK1SLD, located in Casale Monferrato in Northern Italy.

One of the Columbus Module  2.4 / 1.2 GHz Antennas

One of the Columbus Module 2.4 / 1.2 GHz Antennas

IK1SLD, which is an ARISS telebridge station often used for educational ARISS school contacts on VHF, has been upgraded for S-band reception. Ham Video manufacturer Kayser Italia has delivered a 1.2 meter dish, a down converter and precision tracking motors, which are part of the ESA funded equipment. For the EST, the station will receive a DATV signal from a local low power S-band test transmitter. The decoded signal will be webstreamed to the BATC server. The British Amateur Television Club offers ARISS free access to their server. ESA examiners will connect to the BATC server and evaluate the reception. Test transmissions at IK1SLD will cover the different frequencies and symbol rates available on the Ham Video transmitter.

Web streaming will take advantage of the special software developed by Jean Pierre Courjaud, F6DZP. References are available in the HamVideo.pdf.

When the Ham Video transmitter will become operational, it will be used for ARISS educational school contacts. Video will be for downlink only. Uplink will be VHF FM audio. The Ericsson transceiver onboard Columbus will be used for reception onboard. This cross band and double mode operation is called Ham TV. Ham Video is the name of the DATV transmitter.


Gaston Bertels – ON4WF
ARISS-Europe chairman
This Bulletin is available from the frontpage of http://www.ariss-eu.org/

Signal strengths of the two ISS ham radio stations

International Space Station ISS with shuttle Endeavour 2011-05-23

Henk Hamoen PA3GUO used his AMSAT-UK FUNcube Dongle Software Defined Radio (FCD SDR) to show the variations in signal strength between the two amateur radio stations on-board the International Space Station (ISS).

Expedition 5 flight engineer Peggy Whitson KC5ZTD holds one of the two amateur radio antennas in the Unity node on the ISS. The antennas were installed during a spacewalk scheduled on August 22, 2002

Expedition 5 flight engineer Peggy Whitson KC5ZTD holds one of the two ISS amateur radio antennas installed on the Russian Service Module August 22, 2002

The amateur radio station in the Russian Service Module uses a Kenwood D700 transceiver which is understood be on its lowest power setting of 5 watts output and feeds a whip antenna on the Module. When acting as a packet radio digipeater it transmits data on 145.825 MHz.

A second amateur radio station in the European Space Agency (ESA) Columbus Module is usually used for voice communication. It comprises Ericsson handheld transceivers believed to be capable of 5 watts output to a whip antenna on the exterior of the module. When the radio hams on-board the ISS talk to other radio amateurs on Earth they transmit on 145.800 MHz.

Both stations use 5 kHz deviation FM (25 kHz channel spacing).

FUNcube Dongle Software Defined Radio

FUNcube Dongle Software Defined Radio

Henk PA3GUO writes:

FCD SDR recording of ARISS Italy school contact with astronauts onboard the ISS. Purpose is to show the signal strengths of the 2 transceivers onboard ISS: Ericsson Voice transceiver (left) and Kenwood data transceiver (right). At time 11:54z [2013-06-29] my antenna had to turn 180 degrees, signal is lost for a while. Remarkable: at the beginning voice TX signal is strong, even a bit stronger as data TX signal. At the end of the pass data keeps strong, voice fully drops into the noise. Seems the antenna of the Voice [ESA Columbus Module] transceiver is somewhat (more) shielded by the ISS exterior (e.g. solar panels).

29 June 2013, school contact Italy with International Space Station
Frequency: 145.800 + 145.825 MHz
Antenna: 6 elements + 15 meters Aircell coaxial cables
Receiver: FCD SDR + SSB pre-amp (mounted next to the FCD SDR)
Software: HDSDR (SDR receiver) + SatControlFCD (DK3WN freq control)

Watch ARISS Italy ISS SDR recording (speech and data spectrum)

Russian Service Module amateur radio antennas http://knts.tsniimash.ru/shadow/en/FAQ.aspx
Also see http://www.marexmg.org/hardware/antennas.html

Astronaut Radio Amateurs http://www.w5rrr.org/astros.html

PA3GUO website http://www.pa3guo.com/

Amateur Radio on ISS switches to Ericsson after Kenwood problems

ARISS Amateur Radio on the International Space StationAfter experiencing issues with the Kenwood D700 on two consecutive school contacts, ARISS will use the Ericsson radio on the Columbus module for ARISS contacts until problems with D700 are resolved.

According to Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, AMSAT’s Vice President for Human Spaceflight Programs, “…for some reason, our signals from the Service Module Kenwood D700 radio are much diminished.  Our contact with Israel last Sunday [February 3]  had low audio levels, with good signals only near TCA.  Our contact [February 8] with the Hospital for Sick Children was even worse.  Only one student was able to talk to Chris Hadfield [VA3OOG] before we lost the signal.”

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ISS Columbus Module VHF Radio Discussed at ARISS Meeting

International Space Station

In the July 17 ARISS meeting Kenneth Ransom N5VHO reported that his group is in the final stages of preparing the certification for flight of the replacement hardware for the degraded Ericsson VHF [145 MHz] radio.

The Ericsson rig is part of the second ISS amateur radio station that is located in the Columbus module.

The team had hoped for a launch of the equipment on flight 33-S [Dec. 5], but it may be launched on flight 49-P [Nov. 1], which is a month sooner than 33-S. The team is endeavoring to finish the certification in time for this earlier flight option. The degraded Ericsson VHF radio may be returned on flight 32-S in October. The team is very interested in trying to determine what the problem has been with this radio.

Read the minutes of the July 17 ARISS meeting at http://ariss.rac.ca/arisstel2012-07-17.htm

Amateur Radio TV and CW Beacons for ISS

The minutes of the ARISS International Monthly Teleconference for June 19 carry this report on the status of the amateur radio equipment for the ISS Columbus module.

Kenneth [N5VHO] reported that an onboard power issue somewhat impacted ARISS radio operations. The air purifier for the ATV [Automated Transfer Vehicle] has needed to be plugged in, recently, in the Service Module (SM). The ARISS radio in the SM was turned off while the purifier was being used. The radio is turned on by the crew for school contacts and when the crew gets on the air for random contacts, as Astronaut Kuipers has done in the past few weeks. The ATV will be docked at the ISS until late September.

Gaston [ON4WF] said the HamTV project is progressing. There have been discussions with ESA about the possibility of adding extra units to the HamTV transmitter that is being developed by Kaiser Italia. This is acceptable in as far as the KI unit under construction does not need to be modified.

A so called “Video Beacon” will be added externally to the HamTV unit. This beacon will allow automated DATV transmissions more or less permanently. The content of these DATV transmissions will be uploaded from the ground through existing channels and transferred to the Video Beacon on request. This function will also be used for educational purposes. Moreover, astronauts could record footage and load it into the Video Beacon for automated transmission.

Another additional unit will be a CW beacon transmitter delivering a small band low power signal (100 mW) on a frequency nearby the HamTV frequency. This beacon will transmit permanently and use the second ARISS L/S-band antenna. This offers ground stations signal reception with large S/N margins, facilitating antenna tracking and signal acquisition, especially at the beginning of a pass. The CW Beacon will transmit telegraphy signals, alternating its identification (call sign), a continuous carrier and possibly some telemetry comprizing onboard parameters (temperature, pressure, humidity, ambient sound level, etc.).

Lou W5DID suggested that we may be able to power it from the packet module already on the ISS, making it simple to operate.

ESA is being asked to address the cost of the Safety Package and testing such as EMI tests and outgassing tests for these additional units, but development and manufacturing will be supported by ARISS. A cost estimate is being developed for our team to build the units. A funding campaign will be set up to collect donations to cover the cost.

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) http://ariss.rac.ca/

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