ARISS Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio Concept Proving Successful

05/21/2020

Judging by the outcome of two tests so far, the new Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio concept appears to be a winner. ARISS completed the second test of the new-style radio contact called Multipoint Telebridge Contact via Amateur Radio on May 15, when Airdrie Space Science Club members in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada, interviewed International Space Station Commander Chris Cassidy, KF5KDR, via ham radio.

“What makes this contact a little different from the usual ARISS contact is [that] everyone involved will be speaking from their homes in Canada, as we all shelter in place,” said the contact moderator John Kludt, K4SQC, in introducing the event. The multipoint telebridge concept was developed to make it possible for students — now at home and engaged in distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic — to take part in scheduled ARISS contacts. An ARISS telebridge ground station operated by John Sygo, ZS6JON, near Johannesburg, South Africa, made direct contact with NA1SS onboard the ISS, then passing overhead. Sygo then patched two-way audio into the telebridge network for distribution to each student’s home by telephone.

Each student then took turns asking questions of Cassidy, and their families, faculty members, and the public could also listen from home. One of the participants, Lucas, wanted to know how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected life aboard the space station.

“The pandemic has affected us because it’s affected our families,” Cassidy responded. “Our daily life here on the space station is largely the same, with or without the pandemic.”

The initial multipoint telebridge contact earlier this month, while successful, suffered from some issues on the space station that were unrelated to the new multipoint system. During the more-than 11-minute contact on May 15, some of the students got to ask more than one question.

Prior to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian students had engaged in lessons about space and radio communication, such as launching balloons carrying ham radio payloads and building model rockets to launch.

One of the Airdrie Space Science Club leaders — Brian Jackson, VE6JBJ — said the pandemic had interrupted opportunities to develop the students’ interest in space. “This ARISS contact gets them looking back up, towards the sky, and imagining themselves as an astronaut one day,” he observed. — Thanks to ARISS 

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