The following questions and answers are based on material prepared by the ARRL and NASA.
See also, Questions about school contacts for Canadians
WHAT IS ARISS?
ARISS, (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) is a program that offers an opportunity for students to experience the excitement of Amateur Radio by talking directly with crewmembers of the ISS (International Space Station).
Teachers, parents and communities will see how Amateur Radio can energize youngsters about science, technology, and learning.
Speaking with astronauts and other crewmembers is a unique educational experience. ARISS would like to take this opportunity to involve large numbers of individuals, particularly youth, in technology and the International space program with the help of Amateur Radio.
WHO SPONSORS ARISS?
Amateur Radio organizations, and space agencies in the USA, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe sponsor these exciting experiments.
Hundreds of Amateur Radio operators, including those from NASA Amateur Radio clubs at Johnson Space Center, Goddard Space Flight Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center, work behind the scenes to make these educational experiences possible.
I AM A HAM. HOW CAN I INTRODUCE ARISS TO MY CHILD?
Bring a shortwave receiver to school and let students eavesdrop on Amateur Radio retransmissions. Then set up a 2-meter satellite ground station in class, and try a satellite contact. The teacher can apply for a future school contact, almost guaranteeing that students will have an opportunity to communicate with a crew.
CAN HAMS MAKE UNSCHEDULED ARISS CONTACTS?
Yes. The ISS crew has not lost sight of why it has been so successful. It is the Amateur Radio community that has brought astronauts voices into schools. Crew members make random contacts with earth-bound hams. They make contacts during their breaks, pre-sleep time and before and after mealtime. Astronauts have contacted thousands of hams around the world. Computer software allows the crew to operate the 2-meter packet gear radio in unattended mode, and hams can make contacts when the crewmembers are working.
WHAT TYPE RADIO DO I NEED?
A typical ARISS ground station includes a 2-meter FM transceiver and 25-100 watts of output power. A circularly polarized crossed-Yagi antenna capable of being pointed in both azimuth (N-S-E-W) and elevation (degrees above the horizon) is desirable. But successful contacts have even been made with verticals and ground plane antennas. Commercial and public domain software is available to help track when a shuttle or the ISS will be in range of your station, and where to point your antenna. For more details on assembling your station, you can buy a Satellite Handbook from ARRL
HOW DO I TALK TO THE ISS CREW?
You may communicate with the crew using voice, packet (computer) radio or television. It all depends on what equipment the crew has in space. Astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1996 made hundreds of random voice contacts with ham radio operators. When the astronauts were busy with other activities, a computerized ham station aboard the orbiting shuttle automatically made contact with thousands more hams.
WHICH ASTRONAUTS HAVE HAM CALL SIGNS?
The Johnson Space Center Amateur Radio Club has a web site with information about astronaut hams. Click on the following links for details.
WHAT ARE MY CHANCES OF MAKING A RANDOM CONTACT?
The work schedules of the ISS crew dictate when they are able to operate the radios. So most of the general contacts they make are random. The selection committee recognizes the long-standing commitment of the ham radio community in supporting ARISS, and asks the crew to do as many general ham contacts as possible during flights.
WHAT ARE ARISS RADIO FREQUENCIES?
The following VHF frequencies are used for some ARISS contacts. These frequencies were chosen after much deliberation, to minimize problems between ARISS and other 2-meter users. If you have comments, please direct them to AMSAT via Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, email firstname.lastname@example.org . We appreciate the cooperation of all amateurs making ARISS successful.
Frequencies used for ARISS
Voice Downlink: 145.80 (Worldwide)
Voice Uplink: 144.49 (Regions 2&3) 145.20 (Region 1)
*Packet Uplink: 145.99 (Worldwide)
*Packet has been operational on 145.825 simplex and will stay there until a complete reprogramming of the D700 system is performed.
Most ARISS operations are split-frequency (each school uses separate receive and transmit frequencies). Please do not transmit on the shuttle's downlink frequency. The downlink is your receiving frequency. The uplink is your transmitting frequency. Earth stations should listen to the downlink frequency and transmit on the uplink frequency only when the ISS or spacecraft is in range and crewmembers are on the air.
HOW DOES THE ARISS PACKET SYSTEM WORK?
There is a page of instructions and advice on this web site which will be kept current. To obtain help in using the ISS packet system, just click here for details.
CAN I USE MY SHORTWAVE RADIO TO EAVESDROP ON THE CREW?
Goddard Amateur Radio Club (MD) will often re-transmit live, NASA air-to-ground audio over Amateur Radio frequencies from their club station, call sign WA3NAN. This station, and some VHF and UHF repeater groups, provide this service so amateurs and students can hear the educational communications. You will hear the astronauts, Mission Control, and bulletins about ARISS activities. WA3NAN operates on the high frequency (HF) bands at 3.86, 7.185, 14.295, 21.395, and 28.65 MHz and in the Greenbelt, MD area on VHF at 147.45 MHz (FM).
HOW CAN I TRACK SPACECRAFT WITH A COMPUTER?
Software is available for tracking spacecraft with a personal computer. Here are some options (RAC in no way warrants these products or services):
AMSAT TRACKING PROGRAMS:
The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT-NA) has computer programs for IBM, Macintosh, Apple, Commodore, and other computers.
Contact AMSAT-NA at 850 Sligo Avenue, Suite 600, Silver Spring MD 20910,
Phone (301) 589-6062,
FAX (301) 608-3410,
AMSAT also has a collection of free software for download:
World Wide Web http://www.amsat.org/
Anonymous FTP ftp.amsat.org
STSPLUS (Shareware for IBM). This software, designed by David Ransom Jr., has excellent graphics and maps to help create a mock Mission Control Center.
STSPLUS and other tracking software are posted on this site: http://www.qsl.net/w2vtm/sat_track.html#PCshareware
WHAT ARE "KEPS?"
Spacecraft-tracking software uses "Keps" or Keplerian elements (also known as "orbital" or "tracking" elements) to pinpoint the location of a spacecraft. Keps provide the software with a spacecraft's orbital track, which the computer uses to calculate its location. Using a tracking program tells an observer when a spacecraft will appear above his or her horizon.
WHERE CAN I FIND KEPS?
Keplerian elements are available from AMSAT News Service publishes weekly information bulletins including Keps. These bulletins are distributed electronically through amateur packet radio networks, landline networks and the World Wide Web http://www.amsat.org/
AMSAT also has email mailing lists to deliver Keps. To subscribe, send a message with your request to email@example.com Include your call sign (if any), your email address, and the names (shown below) of the mailing lists you wish to receive:
SAREX - mailing list
ANS - AMSAT News Service
AMSAT-BB - AMSAT Bulletin Board
KEPS - "Keps" mailing list
Johnson Space Center Amateur Radio Club maintains a service with the latest element sets available during missions.
World Wide Web: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/home/realdata/elements/
HOW DO I FIND INFORMATION ON PAYLOADS, SPACE SCIENCE AND MISSION LESSON PLANS?
NASA has materials and resources for educators. Specific mission and payload information can be obtained directly from NASA, via the shuttle mission home page: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/home/index.html
NASA Education - One of NASA's electronic resources specifically developed for use by the educational community. NASA Education is a comprehensive electronic library that hosts NASA's educational publications, the NASA Television education schedule, and provides hundreds of subject-related links. http://education.nasa.gov/home/index.html
NASA Television offers a front-row seat during launches and the latest in space science, plus educational and historical programs. They sometimes air live coverage of ARISS/SAREX. NASA-TV is received by satellite dish or may be on your local cable TV network. This TV schedule is available via the Internet at http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/nasatv/index.html
Tuning-In NASA TV Satellite - GE-2 Transponder 9C 85 degrees west longitude Vertical polarization Frequency 3880.0 MHz Audio on 6.8 MHz For more details, contact: Kelly Humphries, NASA TV, NASA HQ, Washington D.C. 20546, or send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The European Space Agency (ESA) has material and lesson plans for educators. Information may be obtained on education projects that are developed around specific missions of ESA astronauts. http://www.esa.int/esaHS/SEMJ0IYO4HD_education_0.html
CAN I RE-TRANSMIT COMMUNICATIONS ON THE HAM
The Radiocommunication Regulations define the amateur radio service as being a
“radiocommunication service in which radio apparatus are used for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication or technical investigation by individuals who are interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest”. This entry not only defines the service but sets out in words what might be considered a description of the “spirit” behind what is the amateur radio service.
Retransmission of NASA space station communications, which is not necessarily originating from a radio amateur and which might include incidental music, might in some ways be seen to extend beyond what is permissible by current legislation. However, given the definition of the amateur radio service in the Regulations, above, and that the nature of legislation generally is that specific entries are either permissive or restrictive in nature, one can see why consideration should be given to a request to permit such retransmission. Retransmission of NASA space station communications would arguably allow the use of radio apparatus for the self-training and technical investigation with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest. Thus, provided it is not otherwise beyond the privileges granted by the amateur radio operator’s certificate and provided the NASA retransmissions are in keeping with the amateur radio service as defined by the Radiocommunication Regulations, such retransmission will be deemed to fall within the definition of the amateur radio service.
NASA audio contains crew "wake-up music
To be certain there is no problem in your country, please contact the local regulatory authorities.
HOW DO I GET AN ARISS QSL?
QSL cards are similar to postcards. Hams exchange QSLs to confirm
their radio contacts with other stations. Participating in ARISS is
an exhilarating experience. But waiting for that coveted QSL card
requires patience. Designing a card for the ultimate DXpedition is a
lengthy process. Once the cards are printed, RAC forwards them to
the Amateur Radio club managing the QSLs.
Send your QSL cards or reports to one of the following addresses.
For the USA :
225 Main Street
Newington, CT 06111-1494 USA
For Canada :
Amateurs of Canada
720 Belfast Road, Suite 217
ARISS Japan QSL
JARL International Section
1-14-5 Sugamo, Toshima-ku
Alexander Davydov, RN3DK
Novo - Mytishchinsky prospekt 52 - 111
Mytishchi 18, Moskovskaya obl.
Please include in your QSL or report: date, time in UTC, frequency and mode (voice, packet or sstv).
If you wish to receive a card, you must include a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope with proper postage or sufficient IRCs included.
ARRL'S ARISS RESOURCE LIST
EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT & INFORMATION is available from the American Radio Relay League's (ARRL) Field & Educational Services, 225 Main St, Newington CT 06111 USA Phone 860-594-0219 Fax 860-594-0259 World Wide Web: http://www.arrl.org/
RELATED SITES ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB:
ARISS Official site http://www.rac.ca/ariss/
English, Europe http://www.ariss-eu.org
Portuguese, Brazil http://www.qsl.net/py1kcf/
Portuguese, Portugal http://www.amrad.pt/ariss.php
AMSAT-NA Web site http://www.amsat.org/
Johnson Space Center Amateur Radio Club http://www.w5rrr.org/
ARRL's Amateur Radio station (call sign W1AW) transmits news bulletins (9:45 PM, 12:45 AM EST) on HF bands at 1.855, 3.99, 7.29, 14.29, 18.16, 21.39, 28.59 MHz and, in the Hartford, CT area, on VHF at 147.555 MHz. Bulletins are also on packet. AMSAT NET: The AMSAT International Satellite Net on Sundays, 14.282 MHz, +/- QRM.