We Have Contact

Contact was made with the International Space Station. More details soon!

… And what a contact it was! Initial impressions from KS1G:

Everyone did a fabulous job delivering a quality radio and audio and visual experience and dealing with the last-minute (and TOO last minute!) crisis, including having to reboot the entire video streaming system just before contact, and my own fighting SatPC32 for the longest 2 minutes 54 seconds of my life to get the antennas pointing correctly. (I know what happened, why, and how to NOT LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN (he hopes)).

Once underway, the contact went quite smoothly. The school (thank you Sandy and Amy) did a great job shepherding the students to the microphone and cuing them to ask their questions. And there were some EXCELLENT questions. WE received great feedback from the school about the audio and video quality, particularly how clearly everyone could hear Astronaut Dr. Drew Morgan. Thirteen students were able to ask and get their questions answered; unfortunately we could not make up for the lost time upfront (ISS doesn’t have “park” on the gearshift) so we lost contact around the end of that answer. The students and staff (and all of us) gave out a loud cheer and congratulations all around. We followed the contact with a short Q&A by myself and John, N0JSD before the assembly concluded.

Afterwards, there were interviews by media; I know Loudoun Now, LCPS Public Affairs, and NBC4-TV were present. Brice Hilliard (who deservers huge credit for instigating this idea in the 1st place) and N0JSD were interviewed by NBC4, and LCPS PA chatted with me as well. After a quick pizza lunch in the library, it was time to pack up and depart. Loudoun Ashburn Fire Station arrived again with the tower truck and made quick work of getting our larger items off the roof. N0JSD got an added bonus – a ride in the tower to it’s maximum height! (that’s TWO “bucket list” items in ONE DAY, maybe 3 if NBC4 airs the video).

Social media was ablaze, I know there were several posts on Twitter from the school and the associated elementary schools. And a great behind the scenes shot (WA4TXE did a masterful job of directing the cats and managing backstage so everything went sufficiently smooth out front!)

I’d like to personally thank everyone for the help today. This was a team effort and it took a lot of people over many days to make it a success, including making a clean and safe departure this afternoon. So besides Jeff K0ZR, Paulson KG4TIH, Dave WA4TXE, John N0JSD, and me KS1G, our helpers for contact day included:

Kevin AK2M, Denny KF4TJI, Paul N4PD, John W0MPM, Kurt KI4FWB, Paulson’s colleagues Gary Walker, Dave Denison, Michael Parker, Cory McHale, Martin NV3H, Bruce KN4TS, and WA4TXE YL Cheri.

(Again, if I left anyone off or messed up a name or callsign, please tell me or Paulson and we’ll make the corrections)

So after all that, who wants to help another school talk to an astronaut on the ISS? I DO! (ARISS is taking applications for the 2nd half of 2020 through November, the window for 1st half 2021 is in May….)

Paulson is working on final edits of the contact and full program videos and photos, and we plan to have another post and a full report for the November LARG meeting. We will also get video from the school. If you have photos, please provide to Paulson (an upload folder link was emailed to the ariss list earlier this evening)

73s de KS1G

ARISS Final Set-Up

Today was a busy day finalizing the video production, re-checking audio levels, and practice, practice, practice with the full radio & production crew and FSMS faculty. A big thank you to everyone who helped today, including LARG members WA4TXE, KG4TIH, K0ZR, N0JSD, and N4PD (my apologies if I missed anyone) and Paulson’s friends Dave, Gary, and Parker.

We made a QSO via AO-91, and monitored a successful school contact with a ground station in Maryland using the primary and backup stations. My home SATNOGS station captured much of the transmission from the ISS. You can listen to it here. (Use the audio tab. The full contact was closer to 11 minutes; the audio becomes decent about 90 seconds in. I’m sure other SATNOGS stations did as well or better.)

Tomorrow (Tuesday 10/29) is CONTACT DAY! The main crew will be arriving at the school ~7:00 AM. If you are planning on helping (we can use a few more ham-hands and friends of hams backstage) please arrive at Farmwell Station MS by 9:00 AM and check in at the office to get your visitor badge. The program starts around 10:00. CONTACT TIME is currently 11:00:41 (may change a little by tomorrow morning). Contact will finish about 11:11, and students will be dismissed before 11:30.

Live Stream:  https://live.myvrspot.com/player?udi=bG91ZG91bg==&c=ZmFybWlzcw==  starting about 10:25AM for the pre-contact program. [The program may be several seconds up to 30 seconds delayed from live radio.]
Listen from home:  145.8 MHZ, FM.  An HT (orient sideways to the ISS location) can receive much of the pass.  You may need squelch off.  More info at ariss.org, amsat.org. https://www.heavens-above.com/main.aspx and https://www.n2yo.com/?s=25544&live=1

RF QUIET REQUEST:  If on school grounds, please, avoid transmitting on 2M, particularly anywhere near 145.80 MHz, during the contact period to not impair our reception of the ISS.  We are using UHF simplex for local coordination.  

We will need help with tear-down. If you can help with tear-down, please try to arrive about noon. (Later arrivals welcome!) If you cannot arrive until later, we can probably still use your help to remove the equipment and get it back to the KS1G or KG4TIH QTHs. In particular, a pickup that can handle the antenna base (a 6x6x1 angle iron frame, can be stacked on-edge) is needed.

I’d like to thank again everyone for their assistance. This has been a big effort, and we getting a huge amount of publicity for LARG and amateur radio!

73s, de KS1G

ARISS Scheduling Update

The ARISS contact for LARG and LCPS has been scheduled for Tuesday at 1101 EST.

If you’re able to help with any of these periods please contact Steve KS1G or Paulson KG4TIH ASAP.

DateStartEndDescription
2019-10-221530TBDTransport equipment
2019-10-231530TBDSetup – Wiring & Radio
Must end before 2000
2019-10-2409001530Setup – A/V
2019-10-2415301700Dress Rehearsal
2019-10-28TBD1130Final preparations
2019-10-281151Monitor contact with other school
2019-10-290700TBDFinal setup and preparations
2019-10-29TBDProgram Start
2019-10-291101Contact!
2019-10-291111Estimated LOS
2019-10-291200TBDTear down and pack up

ARISS Scheduling Update

An urgent EVA to repair a broken power module on the ISS was performed on 2019-10-18. This work has caused the ARISS schedule to be moved back and is currently in flux. At this time the LARG ARISS team doesn’t know when the new window will be. Although based on orbital predictions it should be in the morning between 9a and 12p.

Setup is still targeted for the week of 2019-10-21.


Date StartEndDescription
2019-10-223:30pBefore 9pMove Hardware To School
2019-10-233:30pBefore 9pMove Antenna To Roof
&
Setup
2019-10-24TBD3:30pAny Pre-Rehearsal Setup
2019-10-243:30p5pDress Rehearsal
TBDTBDTBDISS Contact Day

LARG/ARISS/LCPS/FSMS – Test Setup v2

Steve (KS1G), Paulson (KG4TIH), Dave D, and Parker met early in the morning of Saturday, Oct 5th to setup all of the radio and A/V gear for the Farmwell Middle School Amateur Radio International Space Station contact occurring during the last week of October.

The setup shown below is a full radio, antenna, audio (radio operation, question students, and video computer), video, and streaming system.


Steve KS1G’s primary and backup radios plus a headphone amp (it’s total overkill) for him to control his headset monitor levels.
Main mixer, UPS, and a monitor for the streaming PC.

LARG/ARISS/LCPS/FSMS – Test Setup v1

Steve (KS1G), Paulson (KG4TIH), and Jeff (K0ZR) met early in the morning of Saturday, Sept 14th to setup all of the radio and A/V gear for the Farmwell Middle School Amateur Radio International Space Station contact occurring during the last week of October.


Paulson KG4TIH’s A/V gear and Steve KS1G’s radios setup and operational in a configuration similar to what will be used in late October for communication with the International Space Station.