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Space Station Alpha ON THE AIR

Space Station Alpha is ON THE AIR
November 2, 2000

By Miles Mann WF1F,
MAREX-NA (Manned Amateur Radio Experiment, North American Division)

The first full time crew for ISS ALPHA has docked and moved in.
One of their first official requests was to give the International space
station a name.
Astronaut Bill Shepeard ask Dan Goldin of NASA for a request on behalf
of the first ISS ALPHA crew.
Dan left him self open during all of the congratulatory speeches and
said what's the request.  Bill asked to use the call sign of the Space
station as  Alpha.  Dan initially said, ok temporally we will use the
call sign Alpha.  The ISS ALPHA crew then all grabbed a hand and had a
big three way hand shake. Later Dan said its official, we will call ISS
ALPHA for the rest of your mission.  Dan then went on  to comment how
when Bill wants something, he sticks with it until he gets it.  It seems
that Bill is one of the may who wanted the name Alpha.

When I was in Russian in 1998 training Mir cosmonauts on the new MAREX
amateur radio equipment, everyone in Russia was calling the ISS ALPHA. 
When I came back to the states, I called ISS ALPHA in  a few of my Mir
news memos.  I then quickly received a memo from a NASA engineer stating
that "an official international board has determined that ISS does not
have an official name at this time, a name will be chosen in the future,
bla bla bla".

Congratulations to Bill Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko  and Sergei Krikalev for
cutting through all the red tape and giving ISS ALPHA a name.  Lets hope
her names stays and she flies as long as the successful Russian Mir

I would also like to nominate Bill Shepherd for the first annual Lt.
Montgomery Scott Flight Engineer award.  For being able to grasp the
moment and succeed where so many others have tried.

For more information on this mission please check the NASA web pages.

ISS ALPHA visibility:
The NASA web page has a program, which will calculate the potential for
being able to visually see the ISS ALPHA as it passes over your city. 
They have a listings for many different cities and countries.

ISS Alpha VHF / UHF radio links:
Alpha is not currently connected to the TDRS NASA satellite network. 
The Alpha crew has been using the old MIR VHF and UHF radio links to
communicate with Mission control.  This morning driving into work
(Boston area)  I was able to monitor the Alpha crew chatting with
Mission control Moscow.

Amateur Radio Equipment delivered:
The 2-meter voice and packet station has already been delivered to the
International space station.  It has been estimated that it will require
the ISS ALPHA crew 2 hours to unpack and install the amateur radio
station.  The time line for this project is only one hour, so a little
adjustment needs to be done to fit the task into the time line.  At the
present time, there is no official public start time for the amateur
radio station from ISS ALPHA.
http://arISS Alpha.gsfc.nasa.gov/sts106photos.html

International Space Station Alpha Amateur Radio Call signs:
The ISS ALPHA is keeping the international flair by hosting several
amateur radio call signs from around the world.  So far the ISS ALPHA
has three calls signs from three different countries, Russia, USA and
Germany. Also each of the crewmembers of expedition 1, has their own
personal Amateur Radio call sign.

William Shepherd, Expedition commander, KD5GSL
Yuri Gidzenko, Soyuz commander (unknown)
Sergei Krikalev, flight engineer, U5MIR 
Russian Module call sign:       RZ3DZR
Other club call signs ISS used: NA1SS and DL0ISS ALPHA

Ground Station Link:
What will you need to Hear the ISS ALPHA Amateur Radio 2-meter Station.
That's a tricky question because there are good orbit pass and poor low
orbit passes.  On a good 45 degree orbit pass, since the ISS ALPHA is
only 250 miles high, you will be able to hear the 2-meter signal from
the space station with a very small antenna (0 dBd  to  minus 12 dBd
(rubber duck)).  During a very low orbit passes under 20 degrees you may
need a much larger antenna.
The Amateur Radio station on ISS ALPHA will be transmitting in the
satellite 2-meter band (ITU 144.000 - 146.000 mc).  I have listed a
frequency chart below.  The ISS ALPHA transmitter power output is
approximately 3 watts, into a vertical antenna rated at minus 3 dBd.  I
do not have the coax loss values at this time.  This combination of
power and antenna gain will provide an ERP rating of  approximately 1.5
watts.  The 1.5-watt value is not that bad, I was able to hear the
RS-17/18 satellites from my car antenna (minus 3dBd) and those
satellites were only running 0.5 watts.  If you only have a zero dBd
gain antenna and a police scanner you will still be able to hear the ISS
ALPHA on some good orbits.
(note:  if your antenna is rated in dB rather than the correct dBd
value, subtract 3 to convert the dB value to the correct dBd rating)

Suggested receiving station:
Casual listening for ISS ALPHA and Mir
2-meter vertical or scanner antenna (0 dBd or better)
Police scanner or amateur radio with the ability to receive in the 144 -
146 mc or MHz range, FM mode.  Antenna cable should be a low loss RG-8
style cable less than 100 feet long (RG-213 best choice).  You will not
need to mount the antenna very high, just try to get above the roof
ridgeline.  And of course you will need to find / buy a satellite
tracking program.  I recommend the InstantTrack 1.5. It's a simple easy
to use program, which can be purchased from Amsat.

ISS ALPHA frequencies:
The Amateur Radio frequencies for ISS ALPHA have been posted.
Worldwide downlink for voice and packet: 145.800
Worldwide packet uplink: 145.990
Region 1 voice uplink: 145.200
Region 2 & 3 voice uplink: 144.490

You will need to dig out the manual for your radio and program in the
following frequency combinations.  Note that some of the older FM mobile
and Walkie-talkie HT style radios over 15 years old may have some
difficulty in saving these combinations into memory.  The channels
listed below will help you compensate for the speed of the space
station, called Doppler.  If the smallest channel step your radio
supports is 5k, then only program in channels 2, 5 and 8.  If your radio
supports the smaller 2.5k channel step, then program in all channels
listed.  After you have determined your smallest channel step supported
by your radio, then program in the channels.  You can either use the
procedures for storing ODD-Splits or you can reprogram your repeater off
set for each of the channels and then save the new combination in a new
memory location. This channel procedure has been successfully used on
the Mir Amateur Radio program for years and is the choice of usage for
school schedules (you do not want to fiddle with VFO's during a
10-minute pass).  I also recommend you program in all channels, no mater
what part of the world you live in.  The World Map ISS ALPHA location
display used by the ISS ALPHA crew is not located next to the Amateur
Radio station. 

Voice operations Region 2 & 3 (North and South America and Pacific)
Chan    Receive         Transmit        Offset (Meg)
1       145.802.5       144.488.5       -1.314
2       145.800.0       144.490.0       -1.310
3       145.798.5       144.492.5       -1.306

Packet operations Regions 1, 2 & 3 (Europe, North and South America and
Chan    Receive         Transmit        
4       145.802.5       145.988.5       +0.186
5       145.800.0       145.990.0       +0.190
6       145.798.5       145.992.5       +0.194

Voice operations Region 1 (Europe)
Chan    Receive         Transmit        Offset (Meg)
7       145.802.5       145.198.5       -0.604
8       145.800.0       145.200.0       -0.600
9       145.798.5       145.202.5       -0.596

Usage Example:
Lets assume ISS ALPHA is approaching for a good 10 minute over head
pass, running Packet.  When ISS ALPHA comes over the horizon the Doppler
frequency error will initially be 3.5k plus 145.990 = 145.993.5.  This
means the frequency ISS ALPHA will appear to be transmitting on is
145.993.5.  Set your radio to channel #4 for the first 3 minutes of the
pass.  Then for the next 3 minutes use channel #5 and for the last three
minutes use channel #6.  Follow the same procedure for Voice
operations.  Since we are using the Mode FM, we do not have to have our
Transmit and receive frequency exactly on frequency. We can be off
frequency 1-2khz and still get reliable Voice and Data.  The MAREX-NA
team has been using this procedure for 10 years with excellent results.

QSL card:
A QSL card is a post card, which you can request to confirm you made a
two-way or heard the crew on the Amateur Radio band.  The QSL procedure
for ISS ALPHA is under development, please check the AIRSS web pages for
the latest updates and QSL procedures for ISS ALPHA.
http://arISS Alpha.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Copyright 2000 Miles Mann, All Rights Reserved.  This document may be
freely distributed via the following means - Email (including
listservers), Usenet, and World-Wide-Web.  It may not be reproduced for
profit including, but not limited to, CD ROMs, books, and/or other
commercial outlets without prior written consent from the author. 
Images received from the MAREX-NA SSTV system on the Russian Space
Station Mir are considered public domain and may be freely distributed,
without prior permission.

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