Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) is hoping to adopt a concept it’s calling the “multipoint telebridge contact via amateur radio” that will allow stay-at-home students to take part in amateur radio contacts with members of the space station crew. ARISS has used telebridge stations in the past to enable contacts at times when the ISS orbit does not pass overhead to permit a direct radio contact with the school or other location. In a conventional ARISS telebridge contact, an amateur station ground station in a favorable location for an ISS pass on the scheduled day makes the contact and handles two-way audio between the station and the contact site. ARISS said its new multipoint telebridge approach will permit simultaneous reception by families, school faculty, and the public.
“During the last several weeks, efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus have resulted in massive school closures worldwide,” ARISS said this week in a news release. “In addition, the stay-at-home policies invoked by authorities initially shut down opportunities for ARISS school contacts for the near future.”
ARISS will put its multipoint telebridge scheme to the test during a contact with a group of Northern Virginia students on April 30. For the event, an ARISS telebridge ground station will link with an ISS crew member via radio, and homebound students and their teacher will be linked individually via the telebridge station. Under the teacher’s direction, each at-home student will take a turn to ask the astronaut one question on a prepared list.
“This approach is a huge pivot for ARISS, but we feel it is a great strategic move for ARISS,” said ARISS-International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO. “In these times of isolation due to the virus, these ARISS connections provide a fantastic psychological boost to students, families, educators, and the public. And they continue our longstanding efforts to inspire, engage, and educate students in STEAM subjects and encourage them to pursue STEAM careers.”
The April 30 contact, set to start around 1335 UTC, will involve 5-to-10-year old pupils. Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC, in Hollis, New Hampshire, will serve as the telebridge station, and the ISS side of the contact should be audible over the New Hampshire region on the 145.80 MHz downlink. A live stream is expected to be available.
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