Spring 2009 Issue


ARISS – Amateur Radio
on the International Space Station

By Keith Pugh, W5IU

Backdropped by a cloud-covered part of Earth, the International Space Station is seen from Space Shuttle Atlantis as the two spacecraft begin their relative separation. Earlier, the STS-122 and Expedition 16 crews concluded almost nine days of cooperative work on-board the shuttle and station. Undocking of the two spacecraft occurred at 3:24 AM (CST) on February 18, 2008. (NASA photo)

In my last column in the Winter 2009 issue of CQ VHF, I mentioned the 10th anniversary of ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) and the 25th anniversary of amateur radio in human space flight. Having just completed a tour of duty as an ARISS Operations Lead, I have gained additional insight into the purpose, organization, and operations of ARISS. I would like to share this insight with all members of the amateur radio community. This column will be limited to my observations and opinions. Additional details (such as names of current personnel) are available at <http://www.ariss.org> and other sources. This column will lean heavily towards portraying the day-to-day operations of ARISS.

ARISS’s Purpose

The primary purpose of ARISS is to promote education of our youth in math, the sciences, engineering, and technology through exposure to the International Space Station Program. A secondary purpose is to expose students and others to the world of amateur radio and the many benefits of this fascinating avocation.

Working with professional educators worldwide and with the space agencies of the world, ARISS provides opportunities for students of all ages to talk and exchange ideas with astronauts on board the ISS (International Space Station) while in orbit. Amateur radio provides the medium for this exchange to occur and the volunteers who facilitate the primary purpose.

ARISS Organization

Based on a proud legacy of human space flight dating back to 1983 and Owen Garriott’s STS-9 flight, including SAREX (the Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment) and MIR, ARISS was formed in 1996. the founders were Roy Neal (SK), K6DUE; Frank Bauer, KA3HDO; Rosalie White, K1STO; and Matt Bordelon, KC5BTL. The team is governed by a group of ARISS International Working Group delegates from Canada, Europe, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Delegates are chosen from the AMSATs (Amateur Radio Satellite Corporation) of the world, the national amateur radio organizations (such as the ARRL), and the space agencies of the world. These delegates meet via monthly telephone conferences and about once a year at face-to-face meetings (last year’s was in Moscow, this year’s in the Netherlands). In between, activities are coordinated by e-mail and additional telephone conferences as necessary. These delegates set the policy (with advice from the space agencies) for operation, coordinate equipment for the ISS, coordinate with education organizations, coordinate school selection for contacts, and provide oversight to the ARISS Operations Team, the other major ARISS group.

The ARISS Operations Team is made up of ARISS mentors, scheduling/technical representatives, and an orbital prediction specialist. An ARISS Operations Lead is selected from within the ranks on a periodic basis. This group meets weekly by telephone conference and much more frequently via e-mail and individual telephone conversations.

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