Fall 2008 Issue


Amateur Radio Satellite Meetings

By Keith Pugh, W5IU

Sergy Samburov, RK3DR, and his famous great-grandfather, K. E. Tsiolkovsky.

I spent the last half of the month of July 2008 attending amateur radio satellite meetings. First came the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Face-to-Face Meetings in Moscow, Russia, and second was the annual AMSAT-UK Space Colloquium at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK. This was my first-ever trip to Russia and the most recent of several trips to the AMSAT-UK Space Colloquium. I will attempt to relay my impressions and knowledge gained during these meetings in the following paragraphs.

ARISS Face-to-Face Meetings

Over the years, ARISS has held at least one face-to-face meeting in addition to the regularly scheduled telephone conferences and e-mail activity utilized to conduct the day-to-day business of ARISS. These meetings give the ARISS international delegates and others a chance to meet one another and conduct discussions, etc., that are difficult to do without the free exchange in a face-to-face setting. Typically, these meetings are held in conjunction with other amateur radio satellite meetings such as the annual AMSAT-NA Space Symposium and the AMSAT-UK Space Colloquium. Occasionally, the ARISS Face-to-Face Meeting is held independent of other meetings. The meeting in Russia was originally planned to take place near the time of the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputink I on October 4, 1957. Due to the planning and logistics involved in arranging such a meeting, it was nearly a year late.

This was actually a series of meetings involving several different aspects of the ARISS program. In addition to the core ARISS International meeting, there was a meeting of a newly formed Amateur Radio Working Group—a group of delegates made up of selected representatives of the various space agencies involved in ARISS. There were also meetings of the people involved in crew training relative to ARISS and Technical Interchange Meetings to discuss current and future ARISS programs such as SuitSat II. These meetings were held in a combination of NASA leased facilities in the hotel at which we stayed, the Energia Corporation Moscow facilities, and the Gagarin Crew Training Center in Star City, Russia.

We were also able to tour the excellent Space Museum at Energia Corporation. Many examples of actual space hardware were available to look at in this museum. Some actual hardware was available, along with test articles, spares, etc.

I was able to attend the ARISS International core meeting and the technical interchange meetings. At the ARISS international meeting held in the hotel, most of the delegates were present, but those who were not were tied in by teleconference and e-mail. Reports were given by each country or region represented on their activities over the past year. Status of the equipment currently on board the ISS was discussed. Plans for this equipment in the future, including updates, were spoken about. With the addition of more modules to the ISS comes the possibility of expanding station functions and increasing activity with more crew members present. Current thinking on these potential expansions and upgrades was discussed.

Technical Interchange Meetings were held the following week at Energia Corp. A principal focus of these meetings was for all parties involved to better understand the SuitSat II project. Some limited hardware was available for fit check into a genuine Russian Orlon Suit, and measurements were taken for making up cabling between the equipment inside the suit and the antennas and control box on the exterior of the helmet. Plans for the expanded functionality of SuitSat II were discussed, including location of solar panels for battery charging and interfacing of experimental payloads. Two representatives from a Russian university were present to discuss their proposed payload. With increased functionality, renewable power source, and experimental payload capability, SuitSat II will become a full-fledged amateur radio satellite, not just a neat publicity trick. It will fulfill a very valuable educational and inspirational service, as well.

Of course “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” came into play, and a weekend train trip to Kaluga, Russia, about 125 km southwest of Moscow, was planned by Sergy Samburov, RK3DR, the Russian ARISS International representative. The process started with a learning experience in the Moscow Public Transportation System, obtaining tickets for the Kaluga trip, and visiting a new, up-to-date shopping center for a first-class dinner. Kaluga is Sergy’s home town and the town in which his famous great-grandfather, Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky (1857– 1935), lived and taught in most of his life. Kaluga is justifiably proud of K. E. Tsiolkovsky, Father of Manned Space Flight Theory, and has preserved many mementos of his career in his home, erected several memorials to him, and hosts an excellent space museum in his honor.

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