Farmwell Station Middle School

This page is a work in progress 🙂

On October 29th at 11:00 am US/Eastern K4LRG made contact with Dr. Drew Morgan, KI5AAA, on the International Space Station. Eleven students from Farmwell Station Middle School were able to ask questions of Dr. Drew Morgan and hear his answers.

KS1G’s antennas on top of Farmwell Station Middle School

Day of Event

Looking back about a month or so later, I’m still a bit awed how everything came together!…

Tuesday dawned with great weather (unlike the downpour when we brought the equipment to the school), plenty of anticipation, and high hopes. Equipment was assembled, checked out. Audio was ready and video was set up for live-streaming. The errant RFI from the assisted listening transmitter in the school’s PA board was gone, and the soon the students and guests were arriving for the main event.

[More to come…]


Problems Encountered

Streaming Issues

Just after go-live for the stream it was discovered that the stream audio was silent. After a bit of troubleshooting it was decided that restarting OBS was the best solution. Thanks to some quick tap dancing by Jeff K0ZR on stage we were able to get the time needed to restart the stream system without interrupting the local systems.

Radio Issues

Just before AOS, SatPC32 (software to steer the antennas) decided to act up (or I noticed it was not behaving). The antennas *should* have been pointing on the horizon towards the ISS. As the ISS contact time approached, SatPC32 calculated the pass required using “flip” mode (this compensates for mechanical stops in the rotator limiting how far the antennas can move in azimuth by flipping the antennas in elevation 180 deg). But the antennas were not moving! I could hear NA1SS calling, but we were pointing THE WRONG WAY and Drew Morgan didn’t hear us.

What I think I should have done immediately was go to the backup radio and omni-directional antenna to start the contact and then troubleshoot the rotator control. What I did do was try to get the main antennas pointing correctly, at first manually, then with SatPC32 controlling the rotators and wait for the antennas to move into position where Dr. Morgan could hear us. While this was going on, he directed a switch to a backup frequency (which we did) and the antennas finally were pointing close enough that we were heard and could commence the contact.

The students could then ask their questions and we had a solid contact until LOS.


Event Staging

In the months before the actual contact, back when the exact date wasn’t certain, it was decided to assemble and run a full setup of what we’d need. That’d help minimize the chances of a last minute “we need connector x or system y”.

These setups required day long setup and testing sessions on a few different weekends by Steve KS1G, Jeff K0ZR, Paulson KG4TIH, Dave Denison, and Gary Walker. A special thanks to Steve KS1G and his wife for letting the team use their garage for this.

The photos from the staging and testing setup at Steve KS1G’s house.

John N0JSD’s Third Bucket List Item

The Ashburn Volunteer Fire Dept gave John N0JSD a quick ride on the ladder after helping LARG members get the antenna and other gear off the roof.

Press & Social Media

Event Links