ARISS Celebrates 20th Anniversary, Plans for Future of Amateur Radio in Human Spaceflight

ARISS-International delegates met November 15-18 at the International Space Center Conference Facility in Houston, Texas, to celebrate 20 years of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) and to continue planning for the years ahead. More than 50 delegates and guests from Russia, Japan, Italy, German, the UK, and North America took part, and teleconferencing let individuals unable to attend in person to join the proceedings. Special guests at the conference included Astronauts Mike Fincke, KE5AIT, and Ken Cameron, KB5AWP, and Cosmonaut Aleksandr Poleshchuk, RV3DP. An international group interested in installing and operating an Amateur Radio station on the ISS first met in November 1996 at Johnson Space Center, and ARISS was born as a result of that gathering.

“The international partners celebrated the dedication and contributions of volunteers who have sustained it over the challenges of the past 20 years,” said ARRL Education Services Manager Debra Johnson, K1DMJ, who attended on behalf of ARRL. “It was clear that the vision to make the excitement of space exploration accessible to students and the challenge of participating in space activities through Amateur Radio is still very much alive.” Rosalie White, K1STO, also represented ARRL at the gathering.

The meeting agenda was divided into three categories — Hardware Development, Education, and Sustainability and Funding, with concurrent sessions in two categories. Plenary sessions attended by the entire ARISS team offered opportunities to discuss broader topics. Hardware sessions discussed finalizing designs for the Kenwood TM-D710GA dual-band radio and interoperable radio system, which includes a new power supply for the ISS.

Participants also heard a review of educational outcomes, with reports from each ARISS region. As part of the US report, Ronny Risinger, KC5EES — a government teacher at Language Arts and Sciences Academy in Austin, Texas — discussed classroom integration of ham radio and outcomes among students. Delegates also saw a demonstration of a standardized HamTV ground receiver constructed by Ciaran Morgan, M0XTD, of the ARISS-UK team. Ten units will soon be available for sale. Morgan also discussed a concept for an ARISS Raspberry Pi computer, which would be used to create new educational applications for students utilizing radio. Attendees also heard a review by aerospace engineering company JAMSS America Inc., outlining opportunities to collaborate on a new antenna for the ISS Columbus module. The current ARISS antenna on the ISS Columbus module will be removed in late 2017 or early 2018, necessitated by an update of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) antenna.

ARISS benefactors, such as the Space Communications and Navigation Office at NASA-JSC; the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), represented by Dan Barstow, KA1ARD; and JVC Kenwood, represented by Phil Parton, N4DRO, and engineer, Shin Aota, JL1IBD, also participated in meetings in person and online. Parton announced plans to include a donation offer that would benefit ARISS program with an ad in QST for its new HT.

“A vision of Amateur Radio in space exploration beyond the ISS was also discussed and action taken to develop a position statement about the program’s intention to be involved in future journeys into space,” Johnson recounted. “This position statement will be used as a basis for discussions with key industry leaders involved in projects in development for the next journeys to the Moon and to Mars.”

ARRL-designed certificates were presented to 20-year volunteers, including ARISS founders — many still on the team — as well as 15- and 10-year volunteers.

More information and photos from the ARISS-International meeting are on the ARISS Facebook page.

The next ARISS-International Face-to-Face Meeting is set for September 2017.

Contributions to ARISS also are welcome via the ARISS website (click on the “Donate to the ARISS Annual Fund” button) or via the AMSAT website (click on the “ARISS Donate” button). — Thanks to ARISS via AMSAT News Service for some information