Winter 2008 Issue

ARISS Contact with the
Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children

Here AA4KN writes of a first for the Amateur Radio on
the International Space Station program—an ARISS
contact with children who are hospitalized.

By David Jordan, AA4KN

This girl is shown asking her prepared question, “What do you do
if you get sick in the space station?” (KF4HFC photo)

Since the early years of the Amateur Radio Service, the ways in which our hobby has been of service to others has continuously evolved. These evolutions have included providing phone patches between international parties and providing emergency communications in times of need. Other ways of public involvement with our hobby include introducing ham radio to the public via Boy Scout Jamborees, special event stations, and the like.

One of the more unique ways in which amateur radio has been of service to the public is by way of arranging amateur radio contacts with the public and astronauts and cosmonauts in orbit. These have taken place via the old SAREX (Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment) program and are now taking place via its replacement, the ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) program. Here AA4KN writes of a first for the ARISS program—an ARISS contact with children who are hospitalized.

For 11 of the young patients at the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Florida, July 17, 2007 was a memorable day that they will not soon forget. These children had the unique opportunity to ask questions of astronaut Clay Anderson, KD5PLA, on board the ISS (International Space Station) via amateur radio as it made a 9- minute 30-second pass over the United States. This ARISS contact was made possible by way of the initial efforts of AMSAT member John Rothert, KC4IYO. John had been a resident of the Orlando area for many years and the mentor for several ARISS scheduled contacts in the past.

On August 29, 2006, after securing sponsorship from the Lake Monroe Amateur Radio Society (LMARS), John applied for the scheduling of an ARISS contact with a unique institution, a place where this had never been attempted before—a children’s hospital—in particular, the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, shortly after application was submitted, John became ill with leukemia and was not able to continue supporting the effort. However, members from the LMARS group carried forward John’s efforts by working with both ARISS and the Child Life Department of the hospital in order to make this event a reality.

The Day of the Contact

On the morning of the contact members from both LMARS and AMSAT arrived at the hospital and began setting up for the QSO. Operators on hand were Northern Florida Section Public Information Coordinator Mike Welch, KF4HFC, Bob Pollack, KF4IMF, Lou McFadin, W5DID, and me, AA4KN.

Because the ISS’s orbital pass would occur over the western part of the United States, ground-station communication was provided by Santa Rosa Junior College amateur radio station W6SRJ in Santa Rosa, California. The station director is Tim Bosma, W6MU.

W6SRJ was linked to the hospital by using a phone patch, called a telebridge. At the hospital a conference phone was set up with microphones hanging from the ceiling and an additional hand microphone for more directional use during the actual contact. The audio for the event was carried over the IRLP Discovery Reflector 9010 and the Echolink AMSAT node, as is usually done for all ARISS contacts.

W6SRJ was operated by Bill Hillendahl, KH6GJV, and Don Dalby, KE6UAY. Will Marchant, KC6ROL, directed the Child Life staff in both the pre-contact preparation and post-contact wrap-up. Graham Lawton, G7EVY, was in charge of the audio for the IRLP connection. Child Life Specialist Linda Jones served as the hospital moderator for the event. The contact on board the ISS was with astronaut and flight engineer Clay Anderson, KD5PLA.

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