[RAC-Bulletin] Upcoming ARISS contact with the Airdrie Space Science Club in Alberta

Second test of new Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio on Friday, May 15


The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program will be conducting a second test of its new distance-learning ARISS radio contacts with astronauts. 

The event will take place on Friday, May 15, 2020 at 15:10 UTC and youth members of the Airdrie Space Science Club (ASSC) in Airdrie, Alberta will speak to US astronaut Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR, onboard the International Space Station (ISS). 

This will be the second test of the new-style radio contact called Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio. The concept was developed for distance learning when schools closed worldwide due to COVID-19. The virus eliminated all opportunities for ARISS radio contacts at education organizations.

A new ARISS telebridge radio ground station will be used this time and will be operated by John Sygo, ZS6JON, near Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Airdrie Space Science Club

The Airdrie Space Science Club was formed by a group of space enthusiasts interested in advancing students’ interest in model rocketry and who wanted to offer ways to help them enjoy the wonders of space science. One of those leaders was teacher Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ, who is the Western Canada ARISS Mentor and the Chair of the RAC Youth Education Program.

Brian described the new ARISS concept in this way:

“During this pandemic, our opportunities to develop kids’ interest in space has been interrupted. This ARISS contact gets them looking back up, towards the sky, and imagining themselves as an astronaut one day.”

For the past 10 years, the ASSC has provided youth aged 10-14 the opportunity to build and launch model rockets, look at the universe during astronomy evenings, and participate in special events such as ARISS contacts and high altitude balloon launches. 

The group meets one Saturday every month and enjoys a short lesson in space history or construction techniques, followed by opportunities to build various model rockets. A second Saturday is spent launching those models.

Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio

As mentioned above, members will ask their questions to ISS Commander Cassidy via an adapted telebridge link which will use a multi-point system in which they are connected to the conference call centre from their own homes. The voice signal will be relayed through the South African ground station. 

The new concept requires three things:

  • the ARISS telebridge radio ground station – a satellite Amateur Radio station with special equipment that an ARISS team member uses for teleconferencing
  • the astronaut on the International Space Station using the ARISS Amateur Radio station
  • students at their homes here on Earth

The telebridge radio operator links to the astronaut at the ARISS radio mic, and each youth then connects from home via their telephones. Their families can listen along with school faculty and the public from home. ARISS invites the public to view the livestream of the upcoming ARISS radio test at: https://youtu.be/2mflSlShPHA

List of Questions for the ARISS Contact

During the contact, youth will ask as many of the following questions as time allows:

1) How has seeing Earth from its orbit affected you, in your frame of reference when moving around the ISS, or in your perspective of humanity as a whole?

2) What happens if you vomit in the space station? How do you clean it up?

3) How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you while you are in space?

4) What will be your first meal when you get back to Earth?

5) What does it feel like when the rocket lifts off?

6) What does the space station smell like?

7) Was training to be an astronaut harder or easier than training to be a navy seal?

8) What experiment that you’ve done had the most unexpected results? What was the expected and actual outcome of said experiment?

9) How successful is your 3-D printer on the station?

10) We are a model rocket building club. Did you ever build model rockets when you were young?

11) What does microgravity feel like on your body?

12) Does the Earth look any clearer or less polluted now compared to when you flew in 2009 and with Canadian Chris Hadfield in 2013?

13) Do you play any games while you are on the ISS?

14) What kind of music do you listen to?

Stay tuned to the following websites for more information on the ARISS Program:

RAC ARISS page: https://wp.rac.ca/ariss/

Main ARISS page: https://www.ariss.org

Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is a cooperative venture of the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the United States and other international space agencies and international Amateur Radio organizations around the world including Radio Amateurs of Canada. The primary purpose of ARISS is to organize scheduled contacts via Amateur Radio between crew members aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and classrooms or informal education venues.

Alan Griffin
RAC MarCom Director