Tim Peake and Amateur Radio

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A few weeks ago I read an article in ‘Practical Wireless’ about the school contacts with Tim Peake on the ISS, I thought I might share some of my own experiences. My letter was printed in Practical Wireless the following month!

I have been a teacher for 23 years at SS Osmund and Andrews RC Primary School in Bolton, I am now semi-retired and teach part-time to children throughout the school. As part of my lessons this year I have used Tim Peake as a role model for the children, particularly with the older children. We watched the launch live in the classroom and talked about the technology involved, explaining to the children how difficult it was to communicate by radio with spaceships that are traveling very fast. When Tim Peake established communications with Sandringham School, I brought into school my Baofeng UV5R to show a class how Radio Amateurs can make contacts using repeaters as well as simplex on 144Mhz. The first reaction from the children when I asked them what they thought it was came “it’s a mobile phone”, “it’s a Walkie-Talkie” When I told them that I could use the Baofeng to listen directly to Tim Peake from the ISS talking using his own callsign on a certain frequency the children were quite impressed!

We watched a video of the contact with Sandringham School and were really impressed with the way Jessica used her callsign and was able to talk with Tim. I explained to the children how the school had set up Amateur Radio equipment, with quite big aerials to track the ISS in order to make the link with Tim.

The final school link with Ashfield Primary School fell at a perfect time for me to really demonstrate the power of Amateur Radio. It was 9.00am on a Thursday morning and I was teaching a class of 8 year olds. I first set up a live feed from the school which was displayed on the large Interactive Whiteboard. I brought in my Baofeng again. The children at the school were very similar to our school and the questions being asked were by young children. During the build up to the QSO, the children were able to see the equipment that they were using at the school and I was able to tell them more about Amateur Radio and how Tim Peake was a ‘Radio Ham’ traveling at 17000 MPH above our heads. As we approached acquisition the atmosphere in the classroom was electric, I switched on my Baofeng to 145.800Mhz so that a group of children would be able to stand outside and listen live to Tim Peake answering the questions.

When communication was established, it was fascinating watching the children’s faces and listening to their reactions, even more so when Tim started to come through on the Baofeng and could hear him directly. The children were amazed! At the end I was asked lots of questions about Amateur Radio and the ISS, they were very keen.

On another note…

In February I was experimenting with Packet and UISS Software in order to make a Packet link with the ISS for the first time. After making my first ever contact with ISS, I told my granddaughter, Melissa, about how I did it. She was eleven years old and has been quite interested in Tim Peake’s links with some schools. I decided to show her how to make a Packet link and waited for a high pass of the ISS.

Melissa wanted to send a message to Tim Peake at the ISS using Packet Radio. The ISS was due to make a very high pass that we could see from my shack window while operating my radio equipment. I explained to Melissa how it works and showed her the screens on the computer with UISS, we tried a few practice packets to check that everything was working, then waited for the ISS to appear from my window. Wow! an extremely bright pass…now we can see the ISS and set about sending a packet message. Melissa wrote “Hello to Tim Peake from Melissa” in the message window and as soon we heard the sound of packets arriving on my FT857D she started to send her message along with the APRS info. After a couple of attempts we heard the acknowledgements from the ISS and other stations in the UK and Europe. Melissa was amazed that we had contacted the ISS and at the same time she could see it moving like a bright star heading Eastwards.


Melissa pointing to the contact with the ISS.

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