The “Ham TV” digital Amateur Radio television system onboard the International Space Station was used for the first time ever this week for an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) school contact. UK and ESA Astronaut Tim Peake, KG5BVI, inaugurated the system as he spoke on February 11 with students at a school in Rickmansworth, England. The DATV system in the Columbus module of the ISS allowed students at Royal Masonic School, home of GB1RSM, to see as well as listen, as Peake, operating as GB1SS, answered their questions about life in space. The one-way DATV downlink took place near 2.4 GHz, while the two-way FM audio component was maintained on 2 meters.
“It was a historic event,” enthused Past ARISS-EU Chair Gaston Bertels, ON4WF, who helped shepherd the DATV system into existence after it was first proposed more than 15 years ago. “The radio contact was enhanced with video! Tim Peake activated the Ham Video transmitter on board Columbus.” The IK1SLD ground station received the Ham TV signal.
As students at the all-girls school looked on, Peake’s image appeared on a large viewing screen before a fully packed auditorium. The contact took place on the UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Peake’s Principia Mission has been aimed at engaging students on Earth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Seven-year-old Isabella asked Peake what space travel will look like when she is Peake’s age. “I think it’s going to be really exciting then,” Peake responded, predicting that 35 years from now there will be people on Mars, a colony on the moon, and shorter transit times in space. Responding to the other students’ questions, Peake said that his leg muscles seem to be the ones most affected by his time on the space station. He explained that the ISS crew manufacture their own oxygen through electrolysis of water.
The Ham TV video system was commissioned during a number of live tests in 2014, but it had never been used for an ARISS school contact before this week.
“Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) President John Gould, G3WKL, remarked, “Tonight was a truly historic moment, not only for the school having their contact with Tim, but, for the first time ever a school received amateur television from the ISS. I hope this event gives all the students at the school, and everyone watching, a sense of inspiration in terms of STEM subjects, which have been brought so vividly to light in a fun way through Amateur Radio.”
Said ARISS International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, “Congratulations to the Ham TV Team! This day has been long coming. My thanks to all who made this first operational contact happen.”