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A heck of a story re: ISS from ARRL (via N1ORC)

ARISS "Contingency Network" Impresses NASA

When Russian flight controllers encountered difficulties during a recent
International Space Station cargo rocket docking, NASA called on a
special -- although little-known -- Amateur Radio team to stand by if
needed. Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Ops Team
"ISS Ham Contingency Network" volunteers around the world immediately swung
into action. Within 15 minutes of receiving the call from Johnson Space
Center, Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, reported the ISS Ham Contingency Network was
ready to provide any necessary communication support.

"The ARISS teamwork was very effective," ARISS Secretary-Treasurer Rosalie
White, K1STO said. "Its members learned a great deal, and they impressed
NASA with how quickly the system was brought up."

During the October 26 Progress docking, NASA says, Russian flight
controllers were unable to confirm whether an automated antenna on the
rocket had retracted as commanded. If still extended, the antenna could
interfere with the final latching of the supply ship to the ISS. To avoid
disturbing the softly docked cargo ship and to aid the crew with docking
maneuvers, the ISS orientation was allowed to drift freely.

During free-drift mode, however, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite
System (TDRSS) -- which handles communication between the crew and Mission
Control in Houston -- can be lost. That's because the station's solar arrays
may not directly face the sun, causing a drop in onboard power.

Awakened at 2 AM, ARISS Australian team member Tony Hutchison, VK5ZAI, put
out a blind call on VHF to the ISS crew, although no answer was needed at
that point. Others available to cover later passes included Gerald Klatzko,
ZS6BTD, in South Africa; Gaston Bertels, ON4WF, at ON4ISS in Belgium; Dick
Flagg, AH6NM, and Nancy Rocheleau, WH6PN, at Sacred Hearts Academy in
Honolulu; and Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, and Mark Steiner, K3MS, at the Goddard
Space Flight Center's WA3NAN. Each of these Earth stations has a track
record of being able to sustain reliable communication with the ISS.

The call-up marked the first time that NASA had asked for such Amateur Radio
assistance since the initial crew came aboard the ISS in November 2000.
Ransom says that by remaining available to ensure solid communication while
Mission Control staff dealt with the docking issue, the ISS Ham Contingency
Network provided Mission Control with an additional layer of security.

Once the antenna retraction problem had been resolved, the contingency
network was able to stand down, ARISS said, but NASA's request and the
ensuing ham radio activity did serve as a valuable drill.

NASA says Expedition 14 Commander Mike Lopez-Alegria, KE5GTK, and flight
engineers Mikhail Tyurin, RZ3FT, and Thomas Reiter, DF4TR, opened the hatch
to the supply ship last Friday to unload supplies. The Progress carried
food, fuel, oxygen and air, clothing, experiment hardware and spare parts,
as well as personal items from the crew's families. The new Progress joins
the Progress 22 supply ship that arrived at the ISS in June.

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