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a Florida Non-Profit Corporation

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Amateur Radio on the International Space Station Logo

WPBARG Links Students with Astronaut in Space Via Ham Radio

Last year, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium (SFSC&A) submitted a proposal to the "Amateur Radio on the International Space Station" (ARISS) program to host a radio contact with the crew on-board the International Space Station (ISS). The proposal included the West Palm Beach Amateur Radio Group as its partner to provide technical assistance. In a December 15, 2016 press release, the program announced that their proposal was selected to "move forward into the Next Stage of the ARISS Selection". Only 11 schools/organizations qualified for the second half of 2017. A successful contact with the space station was held on November 6, 2017.

Local students were given the chance of a lifetime to talk live with an astronaut in space. During the radio contact, eleven young students talked with Italian astronaut/ham Paolo Nespoli and asked questions they had prepared. The students, ranging in age from 7 to 12, were selected after writing an essay on what one question they would like to ask an astronaut. There was only a nine minute window where the ISS was in range for a radio contact. The ISS travels about 17,600 miles per hour and is over 250 miles above earth.

Members of the WPBARG were actively involved in the event. The lead technical person was Jim Nagle KF4OD and he was assisted by Rex Rathbun AJ4GC. Jim initiated the contact by calling, "NA1SS this is WS4FSC." NA1SS is the callsign of the ISS and WS4SFC is the callsign for the club's radio station. After a couple calls, the ISS replied and the contact began. Jim then handed the microphone over to the first student for him to ask his question. After receiving the answer from the astronaut, the next students followed with their questions. Things went so smoothly that some students had time to ask a second question.

The WPBARG was previously given the opportunity to conduct a radio contact with the ISS at the Science Center in 2012.

ABOUT ARISS
Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is a cooperative venture of the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States, and other international space agencies and international amateur radio organizations around the world. The primary goal of ARISS is to promote exploration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics by organizing scheduled contacts via amateur radio between crew members aboard the ISS and students in classrooms or informal education venues. With the help of experienced amateur radio volunteers from amateur radio clubs and coordination from the ARISS team, the ISS crew members speak directly with large group audiences in a variety of public forums such as school assemblies, science centers and museums, Scout camporees, jamborees and space camps, where students, teachers, parents, and communities learn about space, space technologies and Amateur Radio.

All photos by Steve Ikler KS3K
Banner showing sponsors of the ARISS contact

Banner showing sponsors of the ARISS contact.

Jim Nagle, KF4OD being interviewed by media

Jim Nagle, KF4OD, being interviewed by media.

Students anxiously waiting to talk with an astronaut
Students anxiously waiting their turn to talk with an astronaut in space.
VHF Beams used to contact the space station
This is the antenna system used to make contact with the ISS. The rotator controls both the azimuth and elevation to track the satellite as it travels across the horizon.
Radios and Computers used to make the contact
This is the equipment and computers used to track and communicate with the ISS.