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2009 News Releases




Three schools in a single ARISS contact

Date : 29 / 10 / 2009
Author : Jim Linton - VK3PC

A small school at Sassafras about 40km east of Melbourne is the latest to have an amateur radio contact with a crew member on the International Space Station (ISS) and in doing so achieved a notable first for this activity.

A total of 11 students from Sherbrooke Community School put questions to Astronaut Robert Thirsk, but in a spirit of friendship shared their experience with two other schools. The ARISS contact on Wednesday 28 October also included questions from Sherbrooke’s sister schools - the Jiaolun Middle School in China and the Early Learning Centre at Thimphu in Bhutan.

Seven of the Sherbrooke students involved are radio amateurs, each holding an Australian Foundation Licence (Christopher VK3FLAT, Emma VK3FERP, Sam VK3FSAM, James VK3FJAM, Oscar VK3FOSC, Callum VK3FSDP and Monique VK3FWPZ). They used their personal callsigns during the contact and will qualify for a personal QSL card when the crew returns to earth. ARISS Coordinator, Tony Hutchison VK5ZAI who helped facilitate the contact said the involvement of students who have their own amateur licence in the ARISS proram is rare. It previously occurred in 2002 with girls at the Harrogate Ladies College in the UK. had their ARISS contact.

The Sherbooke school event unfolded before an audience of parents and friends, plus the Local Member of Parliament, and State Minister for Sport, Recreation and Youth Affairs, James Merlino. With Ivy VK3IVY moderating the contract, as acquisition of the NA1SS signal occurred on Wednesday 28 October at 0713 UTC, the audience listened intently as Christopher VK3FLAT asked about static electricity and whether it was a problem when a supply vessel docked with the space station.

Static electricity is not so much a problem during docking, but it is something the astronauts are mindful of particularly during extra-vehicular activity outside the space station. Sam VK3FSAM asked on behalf one of Sherbrooke’s sister schools, what astronauts missed most while on the space station, and Thirsk replied that is was his family, not being able to be with them while six months in space. Callum VK3FSDP inquired, again for a sister school, whether the astronauts could see snow on the Himalayas.

The reply was yes, on those mountains and elsewhere on earth. Astronaut Robert Thirsk who has the Canadian callsign VA3CSA conceded that the busy work schedule and long days on the space station means he has not found a lot of time to use amateur radio or contacts other than with schools through the ARISS program.

Among other questions it was found that the ISS uses mainly fluorescent lighting but is undergoing a transition to more LED lights, the crew see a circle around the earth during daylight and a black sky when looking deep into space. The ISS orbits the earth once every 90 minutes, 16 times in daylight and 16 in darkness.

The contact was made possible through the W6SRJ telebridge at Santa Rosa, California, and lasted just over nine minutes. School Principal, Robert Shepherd who recently obtained his Foundation Licence callsign VK3FRMS was extremely proud of his students and described it as “a really successful communication. You (the students) did it perfectly.” Mr Shepherd said the school has been one of the most successful in generating new radio amateurs, some 10 students and four teachers.

Congratulations to the founder of radio amateur at the school, teacher Ed Seeto VK3FEET, Sherbrooke Community Radio Club President Jim McNabb VK3AMN and everyone involved in making this ARISS contact a huge success.

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Related Files

Audio Recording of the Sherbrooke School ARISS contact


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