Early August Pictures



091013 - We had the second ISS contact in five days today.  I will post more info later.  Here is a picture from space.

The two events both went very well - a huge amount of work by all involved.  The first contact, on Friday, was broadcast on AMSAT, via a Skype feed to the UK.  It was also rebroadcast on the LARA repeater.  The second contact, on Monday, was also broadcast on AMSAT, again via Skype in the UK.  We did not do the rebroadcast on LARA's repeater this time.  The kids at both events had a great time, and I am sure it will be most memorable.

090901 - The Langley Amateur Radio Association (LARA) is sponsoring not one, but two International Space Station (ISS) school contacts which are tentatively scheduled for early October 2009.  This effort, and opportunity, was the dream of Dr. Greg, VA7GAB.  Greg has a passion for space, and combined with his recently acquired Amateur Radio license, he was the prime individual responsible for making this dream a reality.

The club acquired a used set of antennas and rotors, from a local school that previously had tried to do an ISS contact, but was no longer using the equipment.  The equipment was in pretty rough shape, and it was Greg that did the many hours of work over nine months rebuilding it all.  Charlie, VE7MEC, our resident electronics expert build the satellite interface controller that was kindly donated by Mark Spencer from the ARRL.  Charlie and Greg worked to get all the electronics working over the summer, and learning the AMSAT program to control it all.  Other ISS crew who have helped with testing and some fabrication were John, VE7EEX, Bill, VE7 ISV, Al, VE7RMP, Monte, VE7VIM, Mario, VE7WOP, Robert, VE7AXC, and Dave VE7DPE. 

In addition to the volunteers, we received generous corporate support from ICOM, with a donated brand new preamp, and Anixter, with a custom built control cable.  Last week, we were lucky enough to be part of the group that did the first real test of the equipment.  Using Charlie's Icom 271H and 471H radios the stage was set. The antennas were mounted on LARA's portable trailer, on our new pneumatic mast.  The team set up at Greg's residence to hit AO-51, an FM satellite - the first pass was almost directly overhead, and an hour later, the second pass was further out over the Pacific.  When AO-51 was 3 degrees below the horizon, the computer 'woke' up the circularly polarized crossed Yagi antennas to track that bird! 

What a beautiful sight to see the antenna array move 180 degrees in the vertical, acquire the satellite, and then track it.  Greg bagged the first contact, and Charlie on the second - we had a half a dozen contacts over the two passes - it was awesome.  When we were done, the antennas reversed, and parked themselves.  We were doing some last minute adjustments right up to the wire to get the computer assisted transceiver (CAT) control going, but did not manage to do so. The frequency control ultimately was done manually.  We are working on the CAT control for the next testing.  It is not that critical for low orbiting satellites, but would be gravy to have the computer do the work.  So - next steps - 'productionize' the setup - ensure all of the equipment is organized, marked and the wiring seamless to set up.  

We have others that will be working on rebroadcasting the events via EchoLink or IRLP, to ensure the world can take part in listening to the excited school children talk to Robert Thirsk, the Canadian astronaut that is on the ISS.  In addition, we will be working on our back-up radios (it is a requirement to be able to fall back to another radio setup if something goes wrong with the primary system) and mounting a home made VHF eggbeater, made by Ron, VA7AUZ.  The eggbeater will allow two more minutes of contact time relative to a fixed, nondirectional antenna.

Other individuals that have contributed to this project would include, Steve MacFarlane from ARISS, who provided guidance as to how to fulfill the ISS school contact application.  Jason Proulx, from Belmont Elementary School in Langley and Susan Guilford, from Boundary Beach School have coordinated for Steve to come out for the events to make the productions as real as possible for the kids. 

The ISS project is a youth outreach project that LARA has supported.  It is the club's desire to have the equipment mounted on our communications trailer, and available with trained hams to be able to sponsor other schools who in the future might also want to apply for ISS school contacts.  It is the club's aim to foster the students to study space sciences, and communications.  We might even get some youth interested in Ham radio and its usefulness. 

In the past, when the MIR space station had it's communications go down in an emergency, it was Ham radio that allowed them to get help. 

Please see here for pictures in early August



Early August Pictures

This site was last updated 10/13/09