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International Space Station Reference

Ham Radio

When astronauts, cosmonauts and mission specialists from many nations fly on the international space station, they will have amateur, or ham, radio as a constant companion.

Since its first flight in 1983, ham radio has flown on more than two-dozen space shuttle missions. Dozens of astronauts have used the Space Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment, or SAREX, to talk to thousands of kids in school and to their families on Earth while they were in orbit. They have pioneered space radio experimentation, including television and text messaging as well as voice communication. The Russians have had a similar program for the cosmonauts aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. When U.S. astronauts were aboard Mir in preparation for the long duration missions of the international space station, they used amateur radio for communication, including emergency messaging while Mir was in distress.

IMAGE: Logo for the Amateur Radio International Space Station organization, or ARISS.
ARISS was created in 1996 to meet certain objectives and was the logical outgrowth of the very successful amateur radio activities on the Mir space station and the space shuttle.

As human space flight moves into a new uncharted era, an organization called ARISS, which stands for Amateur Radio on international space station, has been formed to design, build and operate equipment. In 1996, delegates from major national radio organizations and from AMSAT, which stands for the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, in eight nations involved with the international space station signed a Memorandum of Understanding to form ARISS.

NASA and the Russian space organization Energia have signed agreements that spell out the place of amateur radio on the station. A technical team, called ISS Ham, has been officially established to serve as the interface to support hardware development, crew training and on-orbit operations.

In the United States, the American Radio Relay League, which is also known as ARRL, and AMSAT provide leadership and consultation. They also donate and build hardware as well as making sure safety and qualification tests are successfully completed so the equipment can fly. The Russians have provided ports so that antennas can be mounted on the station's Zvezda Service Module -- the space station unit that provides living quarters for the astronauts and cosmonauts. United States and Russian teams have trained the astronauts and cosmonauts to operate the equipment. The Italian team has designed and built antennas. The German team has built sophisticated repeater stations that will allow crews to make recorded reports on their daily activities and permit hams on Earth better contacts with men and women aboard the station.

IMAGE:  The initial amateur radio station equipment being tested.
This is a photo of the initial radio station amateur equipment while it was being tested. After testing, the equipment was stowed aboard space shuttle Atlantis for delivery to the international space station during STS-106.

The initial space station operations will be mostly voice and packet, a text messaging device. The first initial radio station was flown onboard the space shuttle Atlantis on STS-106. The crew transferred the ham radio gear into the space station for future use by the Expedition One crew.

More than 40 missions over five years will be required to assemble the international space station in orbit. The astronauts and cosmonauts will work hard on these missions, but they plan to take some time off for educational outreach contacts with schools. NASA's Division of Education is a major supporter of the amateur radio activity.

The sponsoring agencies have stated that they consider access to a ham radio system a requirement for psychological support of the crews, by providing family and general contacts for people who will be in space many weeks at a time.

As the international space station takes its place in the heavens, the amateur radio community is prepared to do its part by helping to enrich the experience of those visiting and living on the station.

Suni Williams
IMAGE: Astronaut Suni Williams
Astronaut Suni Williams talks on the amateur radio in the international space station's Zvezda Module.
Worldwide downlink for voice 145.80
Worldwide packet uplink/downlink 145.825
Region 1 voice uplink 145.20
Region 2 and 3 voice uplink 144.49
Worldwide uplink for cross band voice repeater
Worldwide SSTV downlink
Callsigns for the ISS
Joe Acaba KE5DAR
Aki Hoshide KE5DNI
Yuri Malenchenko RK3DUP
Gennady Padalka RN3DT
Sergei Revin RN3BS
Suni Williams KD5PLB
Russian callsigns RS0ISS, RZ3DZR
U.S.A. callsign NA1SS
German callsign DP0ISS
Packet station mailbox callsign RS0ISS-11
Packet station keyboard callsign RS0ISS-3
Packet Digipeater ARISS
For more information on the procedures used to contact the international space station, please visit the ARISS Web site.
Related Links
* Amateur Radio International Space Station (ARISS)
* ARISS-Europe
* Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT)
* American Radio Relay League (ARRL)
* Amateur Radio Stations Heard via the International Space Station
* Space Walk to Help Astronauts Ham It Up in Comfort
* Successful School List
* Radio Amateurs of Canada ARISS Web site
Wanna Be a Ham?What is AMSAT?AntennasCurriculumPhase 1SAREXRadio ClubsHam Radio

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: Amiko Kauderer | Updated: 07/23/2012
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