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ISS Operations

ISS Enthusiasts:

It was six days ago when I sent out the e-mail stating that the ISS Packet 
System was turned on with NOCALL.  Since then, I have gotten a FLOOD of 
e-mails.  I am glad to see the interest and excitement in the ISS Amateur 
Radio system.

A number of you are asking really good questions on the reflector.  For 
those who do not know, we have a really great international Web page for 
ARISS with lots of good information on it.  The ARISS web page is located at:


Please review these web pages.   There are great pictures and written 
descriptions of the equipment on-board.  There is a press briefing I gave 
last summer that describes where we are going with the program in the 
future.  I think many of your questions will be answered by going through 
these pages.  If they are not answered, then pose a question to the group.

Now, I would like to answer a couple of the questions that have been 
brought up over the past few days.

Why don't we change the NOCALL to the ISS Callsign?

The ARISS Team would love to do this.  As I stated previously, the battery 
in the TNC has died.  Therefore all the parameters, including the callsign, 
were erased from the TNC RAM.  We plan to install the callsign when the 
crew has the time to install a computer on our equipment and run the WINPAC 
program and the  procedures we have given them.  Both the Expedition 1 and 
Expedition 2 crews have not had the time to accomplish this task.  To 
install a computer would require them uninstalling one from the on-board 
network.  This is a big job for the crew since they have had some problems 
with the on-board computer network.

As has been stated on this reflector, a satellite station does not have to 
ID, so we are not violating an international or national rule.  We would, 
however, like to get this fixed ASAP.  Our current stance is to leave the 
packet system on and let you digi through it instead of shutting it down.

Why don't we fly a dedicated computer for the ISS Ham radio equipment?

Prior to flight, we believed that we would have access to the ISS 
computers, similar to what occurred on the Shuttle and Mir.  Once the 
issues are corrected on the ISS computers, we are sure that we will get 
some access.  However, based on the problems we are seeing now, coupled 
with the fact that we will need a dedicated computer for SSTV ops, we are 
looking into getting our own dedicated flight computer.  Our intent is to 
fly a computer that has already gone through flight 
certification.  Otherwise it will take us 1-2 years to get one certified 
for use on the ISS.  (I know it is hard to believe that this is how long it 
would take...but believe me, NASA and Energia want to be absolutely certain 
that we do not ruin ISS operations or impact crew safety ---that is why it 
takes so long).

Can I get an ISS QSL for my unproto digi packets?

Yes!  All who digi through the ISS ham radio system can obtain 1 QSL card 
for packet on each Expedition flight.  This includes the current operation 
with "mycall" set to nocall.

What happened to the Cosmonautics Day voice operations?

The only place we heard that voice operations occurred during the 
Cosmonautics Day event was in Russia.  The crew had the times of the 
contacts on their daily timeline but must have been too busy to reach for 
the radio.  We will continue to press the crew to do random voice 
contacts.  If you have been keeping up with ISS ham radio operations, they 
have been so busy that they missed one of the school group contacts recently.

Also, I saw a thread on the reflector that speculated that it was too hard 
for the crew to switch from packet to voice.  This is not true.   We have a 
"packet enable/disable" switch on the system.  This, coupled with a 
frequency switch (a 10 second  total job) was all that was needed.

What's the ERP of my (KA3HDO's) system?

I worked the ISS last night with 15 watts into a 14 element KLM Circular 
Polarized antenna.  My antenna AZ/EL system is very sub-optimal (as many in 
my neighborhood can attest).  It was set at about a 30 degree elevation for 
a 15 degree pass.

Why can't I work the ISS Packet system?

I really think it has to do with the many people that are trying to contact 
the ISS at the same time.   There are several of you that are using the 
beacon capability in packet and are sending your packets 
automatically/unattended.  I personally have heard this in my area.  WE 
this the other day and I want to reinforce it.

Look at it if you were the ISS Packet System.  You can see a large portion 
of the US at the same time.  If one person in each city of the US is 
sending beacons, then you have thousands of packets going to the ISS at the 
same time. Remember---this is an FM system, so the capture effect is 
"capturing" bits and pieces of a packet blurp and not the whole 
thing.   Like a highway, at some point, the congestion seen at the station 
causes a packet "traffic jam" and no one gets through.

MANUALLY SEND YOUR PACKETS.  Do not send them automatically.

Parting thoughts:

Please remember that this is a volunteer activity.  We have hundreds of 
people around the world supporting this, including the on-orbit crew.  We 
want to keep this activity an active and vital part of amateur 
radio.  Let's all keep a positive attitude about where we are and where we 
are going with ARISS.

Everyone should remember that we were blessed to get the full support from 
NASA and Energia to fly this system and fly it as early as we did.  Please 
remember that we were the FIRST payload to get approval to fly and operate 
on ISS.  When you are the first, you are plowing new ground for those in 
the future.

Please be patient.  The ARISS team worked very hard for over 4 years to 
bring the initial hardware to fruition.  We were patient and it paid 
off...we are flying the initial hardware.  From an operations standpoint, 
it will take a while before things start to settle out on ISS.  They are 
*very* busy up there.  I think you see that.  Over time, I am certain that 
we will ALL have some excellent opportunities to work the crew with all 
kinds of different modes of operation on ISS.

Think of yourselves as pioneers.  Remember that while we are 
quasi-operational, we, alongside the ISS crew are plowing new ground for 
ISS and amateur radio every day of the week.

Thanks for your interest in Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.


Frank Bauer, KA3HDO
ARISS Chairman
AMSAT-NA V.P. for Human Spaceflight Programs

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