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ISS Status Nov 14, 2000

Space Station Alpha begins testing 2-meter Amateur Radio Station

November 14, 2000

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

Space Station Alpha on 2-meters:
Yesterday the International space Station Alpha began testing the crew's
new Amateur Radio station on the 2-meter band.  The Amateur Radio
station is used by the ISS crews during their fee time to provide the
crews with an extra way to entertain them selves and to talk to school
children during pre-arranged school schedules.  The Russians have been
using Amateur radio on Mir since 1988 and have found it to be very
beneficial for crews on long duration missions.  The Mir Amateur radio
was even used as a emergency comminations link on many occasions, and I
have even heard rumors the amateur radio link on the NASA Shuttle was
used to inform the Shuttle crew of an antenna switch problem which
disconnected the Shuttle from the normal voice channels.

The testing of the Amateur radio station initially took place while ISS
was over Russia during two prearranged test orbits.
1 pass 6:17-6:25 UTC (9:17-9:25 MSK)
2 pass 8:53-9:03 UTC

The Amateur Radio station on ISS consists of a commercial grade hand
held radio called a HT.  The radio operates in the ITU satellite portion
of the amateur radio 2-meter band 144.000 - 146.000.  The exact
frequencies used during the test are of course a closely guarded secret,
however when testing is completed the radio will be placed on one of the
published public channels.  The ISS Amateur Radio station is not
currently open to the public at this time.

Russian view of the test:
The club station R3K at RSA Energia in Korolev Russia (near Moscow) was
equipped with two different 2-meter radio stations to simulate typical
amateur radio home stations.  One station is what we call an Oscar class
station and the other a typical home station.

Station #1:
Transceiver, Oscar Class 180 watts RF FM.  Antenna 20 element Circular
polarized, gain approximately 9+ dBd, Approximate ERP 1440 watts

Station #2:
Transceiver, Mobile Class 50 watts RF FM.  Antenna, Vertical collinear 7
meters in length, gain aprox 6 dBd, Approximate ERP 200 watts.

The first pass test used the big station #1. This orbit was a low orbit
pass, only getting 28 degrees above the horizon, and its closest
approach to the station was just over 700 kilometers. Cosmonaut Musa
U2MIR was to be the first person in the club station to make the
contact, however Musa was a little late for the schedule.  So the task
fell upon Sergej Samburov RV3DR to make the first contact with ISS via
Amateur Radio. (Sergej Samburov is also the manager of the club station
at RSA and the club station on ISS.)  The initial contact took place on
schedule and the microphone was quickly passed around the room to the
other present, including Vladimior Zagainov, UA3DKR and Eugene Labutin,
RA3APR. The audio and signal quality were excellent, we use the term
DFQ, Darn Full Quieting.  The contact lasted 10 minutes as the space
station traveled from horizon to horizon.  A strong signal was
maintained during the whole 2-way conversation.

The second test orbit used the lower power station with a smaller
antenna. This orbit was also a low orbit pass, only getting 28 degrees
above the horizon, and its closest approach to the station was just over
700 kilometers.  On occasions you may get an orbit directly over your
house and the station will be only 400 kilometers away.
The signal quality was noticeably lower and there was considerable noise
on the signal during the beginnings and end of the 10 communications
pass.  The difference in signal strength was primarily because of the
lower gain antenna on the club station.  The bigger the antenna, the
more signal you can pull in. The ISS crew and club station member
enjoyed another 10 minute conversation and declared the initial voice
testing of the Amateur Radio station a success. Cosmonaut Mikhail Turn
was present during the testing.  It will be Mikhail job to install the
new Amateur Radio antenna on ISS during his expedition 3 ISS mission in

After the test Sambrov and I discuss the signal quality and compared it
to the Russian Space station Mir.  The Mir station had a slightly better
antenna and it had the ability to select different transmitter power
levels with the Kenwood TM-733 settings of 5,10 and 50 watts output.  To
help conserve power, the Mir station was usually kept on the 5 watt
setting.   The signal quality results of this ISS test were similar to
signal quality reports from Mir, when Mir was using the 5-watt setting. 
The ISS transceiver has an estimated ERP transmitter value of 1.5
watts.  These results are still preliminary.  However, it looks like
stations with a zero gain antenna will be able to hear ISS and will be
able to establish 2-way connections on good close orbit passes.  Sergej
then said, there are plans to upgrade the antenna system on ISS during
expedition #3 mission, with an antenna system specifically designed for
the amateur radio bands.  There are also tentative plans to upgrade the
transceiver on ISS to a 50-watt class transceiver (pending many

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.

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, and the list keeps
growing.  So far the ISS ALPHA has 4 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.  One NASA
engineer sent a message to the ISS crew saying, "You guys can use what
ever [Amateur Radio] call sign you want".  

William Shepherd, Expedition commander, KD5GSL
Yuri Gidzenko, Soyuz commander (pending)
Sergei Krikalev, flight engineer, U5MIR 
Russian Module call sign:	RZ3DZR
Other club call signs ISS used: RS0ISS, NA1SS and DL0ISS ALPHA

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	144.487.5	-1.315
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	Offset (Meg)
4	145.802.5	145.987.5	+0.185
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	145.197.5	-0.605
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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