One of the best ways to promote amateur radio locally, and to get more youngsters interested in all things radio, is to host a schools contact with an astronaut on the International Space Station – but what’s involved in setting one of these up, and can any UK club arrange one of these? On this page, we look at the basics of arranging an ARISS (Amateur Radio on the ISS) contact
Arranging an ISS Contact
As this is a popular amateur radio activity, and there is worldwide demand, as you can expect, there is a waiting list – according to the ARISS Europe site, that can be between 6-12 months.
interested schools have to submit an application, often with the help of a passionate amateur or local amateur radio club. The application needs to include details of a STEAM-oriented educational project (STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths). The school is then matched with someone from the ARISS team to work on the detail and activity needed to make the contact happen – this person is known as the school’s ARISS mentor.
There is lots to prepare, including the technical side of making the contact, scheduling this in around school hours and NASA schedules, promotion of the event, and getting the school and kids ready – including preparation of 20 questions for the children to read to the astronaut.
There are typically two types of contact:
- Live Amateur Radio – Typically the UK ARISS team will arrange this, bring along all of the required equipment, and host the event
- Telebridge – The contact is made using a phone line or Voice-over-IP link, and the uplink is handled by another amateur somewhere else in the world – this is significantly easier for the school, and allows for contact when there may not be a suitable overhead pass in the time-window.
For full details of how to apply, see ARISS School Contact Procedure on the ARISS Europe website.
ISS Contact Videos
Here are a couple of videos that maybe of interest to those involved with arranging an ARISS contact.
Behind the scenes – Pete M0PSX from Essex Ham caught up with Kenneth Ransom N5VHO who usually heads up the NASA-side of schools contacts:
This video shows an ARISS schools contact between Sandringham School and Tim Peake aboard the ISS on Friday 8th January 2016: