ISS Ham Video Commissioning – Blank Transmissions

Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

As announced December 22, 2013 the Ham Video transmitter is onboard the International Space Station (ISS) and stored in the Columbus module. It is slated to be installed February 5, 2014 by Michael Hopkins KF5LJG. Hopkins will also install the camera and the supporting Bogen arm.

The Ham Video transmitter will be connected to the ARISS 41 antenna and to the KuPS power supply. The installation procedure comprises a check of the electrical connections. The transmitter will be powered on and will transmit a signal on 2.422 GHz. This check will be very limited in time, just enough to verify that the control LEDs are nominal. Then Ham Video will be powered off, ready for the first Commissioning Step.

New HamTV Antennas for ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD at Casale Monferrato, Italy

New HamTV Antennas for ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD

January 23 and 24, Commissioning Simulations were again performed by ESA, in collaboration with ARISS. The ARISS Team, in charge of receiving the signals during the Commissioning, worked with B.USOC, simulating the four scheduled Commissioning Steps. The procedure was an update of the Simulations performed 5-6 September 2013, as reported in HamTV Bulletin #2.
( All HamTV Bulletins are archived at ).

The four Commissioning steps are scheduled February 8, 15 and 16 and March 5. These dates are still to be confirmed and this depends on the signature of the Flight Rules relative to Ham Video (see HamTV Bulletin #4).

Blank Transmissions will start immediately at the conclusion of Commissioning Step 1 and will continue till Commissioning Step 4. This means that the Ham Video transmitter will operate continuously during 25 days.

The DATV signal parameters will be:
* Downlink frequency: 2.395 GHz
* DVB-S standard (QPSK modulation)
* Symbol rate: 1.3 Ms/s
* FEC : ½
* Video PID = 256
* Audio PID = 257
* RF radiated power : approximately 10 W EIRP
Ham Video will operate with a Canon XF-305 camera, but the camera will be turned off during the Blank Transmissions.

ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD at Casale Monferrato, Italy

ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD at Casale Monferrato, Italy

Blank Transmissions

A « blank » DVB-S signal contains all the data of normal DVB-S. The information tables describing the content and the content itself, i.e. the video (black) and the audio (silence), are the same as for the image and the sound produced by a camera.
Receiving a black image and silent sound may seem uninteresting but, from a technical perspective, the digital signal offers an important source of information.

The decoded signal provides many data :
* the video stream can be measured (Tutioune + TS reader)
* the audio stream can be measured (Tutioune + TS reader)
* the DVB tables can be decoded (satellite receiver (Set Top Box) or Tutioune or TS reader or VLC …)

The DVB tables mention the PIDs (content identification numbers) as well as the SDT (Service Description Table) with the TV channel name, which will be « HAMTV »

Even without decoding, several measurements of the received signal provide valuable information:
* analogic HF signal strength  (dBm)
* analogic Signal/Noise ratio (dB)
* digital Signal/Noise ratio = MER (dB)
* error/correction ratio = Vber, Cber …
* validation of the received transport stream = TS

Reception Reports

Ground stations with S-band capability can provide valuable information, which will be much appreciated. Basic data such as:
* noise level without signal
* AOS time (UTC)
* maximum signal level during pass
* LOS time (UTC)
can be reported by ground stations without the need of special DATV hardware and software.

ARISS is preparing a Ham Video Internet Reporting Program for collecting reception data from volunteering ground stations. These most needed reception reports will be gratefully accepted.

Basic DATV receiver

A “Set Top Box” or a Television receiver with satellite tuner can be used for receiving Ham Video signals during a pass of the ISS.

When scanning the 2.395 GHz frequency, the DVB stream can be decoded. When this is successful, the channel name « HAMTV » will appear on the TV screen.

Windows computer with TechnoTrend TT S2-1600 card and Tutioune software

A Windows computer with TT S2-1600 receiver card can be used for Ham Video reception. See appended Block Diagram of N6IZW Station.

The Tutioune software, developed by Jean Pierre Courjaud F6DZP, measures and records the Ham Video signals second by second:
* HF signal level
* digital Signal/Noise level = MER (dB)
* error/correction = Vber
* validation of the received transport stream = TS

The recorded file can be examined and forwarded to ARISS.

Better even, the data can be forwarded during an ISS pass to the TiouneMonitor on the website. In other words, the data can be observed worldwide, real time.

Tutioune also shows the constellations during signal reception (see HamTV Bulletin #4). The TS stream can be recorded, but this is less interesting since richer information is already available.

Tutioune also decodes the DVB tables and provides the PIDs and the channel name  (« HAMTV ») recovered from the SDT table.


Gaston Bertels, ON4WF
ARISS-Europe chair


ARISS minutes regarding ISS HAMTV frequencies


Space Station orbit live on Channel 4 TV

International Space Station ISS 2011

International Space Station – Image credit NASA

BBC News reports that Channel 4 TV is to screen a live broadcast featuring a complete orbit of the International Space Station (ISS), later this year.

Luca Parmitano KF5KDP / IR0ISS  on Expedition 36 EVA July 9, 2013 - Image credit ESA

Luca Parmitano KF5KDP / IR0ISS
on Expedition 36 EVA July 9, 2013 – Image credit ESA

The show, hosted by Dermot O’Leary, will link live to the astronauts from mission control in Houston as they make a 90-minute circuit of the Earth.

The ISS, which orbits 400 km above the Earth, will send back High Definition live images of the planet.

The show Lap of the Planet screens in March as part of a space season.

It will also feature contributions from Professor Stephen Hawking and UK astronaut Tim Peake, who is due to join the crew of the ISS next year.

Read the full BBC story at

Channel 4 TV streams its shows live to the web but overseas viewers may need to use a Proxy Server / VPN to get around geographic blocking. Watch Channel 4 at


Our thanks to Peter M0PWW for spotting this item.

ISS Ham Video Commissioning

Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

Front panel of the HamTV transmitter

As announced August 21,  2013 the Ham Video transmitter is onboard the International Space Station and stored in the Columbus module.

September 10, 2013 we informed about the Experiment Sequences Test (EST) and the Simulations performed by the European Space Agency in collaboration with ARISS.

September 20, 2013 we announced the Ham Video Launch Campaign and described a simple station for Ham Video reception.

New HamTV Antennas for ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD at Casale Monferrato, Italy

New HamTV Antennas for ARISS Telebridge Station IK1SLD at Casale Monferrato, Italy

The Commissioning of the Ham Video transmitter needs to cover different configurations involving 2 antennas, 4 frequencies and 2 symbol rates. As announced earlier, the signals transmitted during the Commissioning steps will be received by the Matera ground station, located in south Italy (see HamTV Bulletin #2).

Moreover, during the Commissioning period, the Ham Video transmitter will transmit permanently for several days (weeks). This will allow ground stations to test their equipment and to provide useful information concerning the efficiency of the transmitter.

For these transmissions, no camera will be used. The so-called “blank” transmissions will nevertheless provide a complete DVB-S signal, as described hereafter.

We hoped that the Commissioning of the Ham Video transmitter would be planned October 2013. It appeared that the “Flight Rules” regarding ARISS activities, which cover VHF and UHF transmissions, needed to be updated for S-band.

One of the Columbus Module  2.4 / 1.2 GHz Antennas

One of the Columbus Module 2.4 / 1.2 GHz Antennas

Writing Flight Rules and having them verified, accepted and signed by all parties involved is a process that takes time. ARISS matters have low priority among the countless activities that populate the International Space Station. Unforeseen events, such as the recent failing of a cooling system, evidently cause further delay.

Finally, the January – February 2014 time frame seems a reasonable guess for the Ham Video Commissioning.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !


Gaston Bertels, ON4WF
ARISS-Europe chairman
December 22, 2013


HamTV Bulletins are available at
See left side column : HamTV Bulletin 4 (with annexes)

Young radio hams at Fontana school anticipate ISS link

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

Ten year-old radio amateurs Maribel Laguna KK6IGY and Laisha Vergara KK6HZH hope to link up with the International Space Station next year.

The San Bernardino Sun newspaper reports both are students at the Dorothy Grant Elementary School in Fontana. The school has a popular amateur radio club with nearly 50 members which was founded by teacher Beverly Matheson KJ6RSX.

Beverly said originally she looked at the club as a platform to get students interested in cultures in other lands.

Using the club’s high frequency radio and portable antenna, students set up outside the classroom and take down after their weekly meetings — students have made contact with amateur radio operators such diverse places as Hungary, Maldovia, Japan and the Falkland Islands.

But now Beverly said she wants to personally, and with her students, delve more into science with ham radio as a platform for a STEM program at the school.

Along those lines, next year — before the end of school — the Grant Elementary School Amateur Radio Club will be talking with astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

Read the full San Bernardino Sun story at

48 students sat their amateur license exam on November 7, 2013

Live Video Streaming from the ISS

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

The N2YO satellite tracking website provides live video streaming from the International Space Station (ISS) alongside a track showing the position of the ISS over the Earth.

The Ustream video from the station is available only when the complex is in contact with the ground through its high-speed communications antenna and NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System. During “loss of signal” periods, you will see a blue screen. Since the station orbits the Earth once every 90 minutes, it sees a sunrise or a sunset every 45 minutes. When the station is in darkness, external camera video may appear black, but also may provide spectacular views of city lights below.

Live streaming from the ISS

HD Video Cameras sent to ISS November 25, 2013

The US segment of the ISS uses a data link in Ku band to connect to a NASA server. The link provides a data rate of 10 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload available about half the time through a network of ground stations.

In October 2012 the first laser communication link with the Russian segment of the ISS was established paving the way for higher speed broadband links to the ISS in the future. Read the RIA Novosti article in Google English.

ISS CubeSats Deploy Tuesday and Wednesday

Pico Dragon CubeSat - Image credit VNSC

Pico Dragon CubeSat – Image credit VNSC

Four CubeSats carrying amateur radio payloads will be deployed from the International Space Station (ISS) by the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD). Three of them, Pico Dragon, ArduSat-1 and ArduSat-2 will be deployed on Tuesday, November 19, and the fourth Cubesat, TechEdSat-3p, will be deployed Wednesday.

The CubeSats:
Pico Dragon developed by the Việt Nam National Satellite Center (VNSC), University of Tokyo and IHI aerospace. 437.250 MHz CW beacon and 437.365 MHz 1200 bps AFSK AX.25 telemetry.
ArduSat-1 developed by NanoSatisfi. 437.000 MHz 9k6 MSK CCSDS downlink.
ArduSat-X developed by NanoSatisfi. 437.345 MHz 9k6 MSK CCSDS downlink .
TechEdSat-3 developed by interns at the NASA Ames Research Center. 437.465 MHz 1200 bps packet radio beacon transmitting 1 watt to 1/4 wave monopole. It plans to test an Iridium Satphone modem and has a deployment mechanism to de-orbit in 10 days.

They are 1U in size (10*10*10 cm) except for TechEdSat-3 which is 3U (30*10*10 cm).

As well as the ISS deployment next week also sees two mass launches of satellites on Minotaur-1 and Dnepr rockets. In total 37 satellites carrying amateur radio payloads are expected to be deployed next week. The frequencies of these satellites can be seen at


Australian Foundation licensee Jonathan Oxer VK3FADO talks about the ArduSat satellites that he helped develop in this video