Tuesday, May 6, 2014

ESA Columbus Lab: Ham video premiers on space station

Ham TV equipment. 

Credit: Kayser Italia

Astronauts on the International Space Station can now talk with people on Earth with video using simple transmitters.

'Ham TV' has been set up in ESA's Columbus laboratory and already used for talking with ground control.

Amateur radio enthusiasts have been able to poll astronauts circling our planet using standard radio equipment since the Station was inaugurated in 2000.

Radio signals easily reach the orbital outpost flying 350 km above us on sets readily available to radio enthusiasts.

The new 'Ham TV' adds a visual dimension, allowing an audience on the ground to see and hear the astronauts.

A screenshot of NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins as received through amateur video transmitters on ESA's Columbus laboratory of the International Space Station. 

Hopkins had the honour of being the first to commission the unit and broadcast over 'Ham TV'. 

He had a video chat with three ground stations at Livorno, Casale Monferrato and Matera in Italy. 

Just like standard television, the video signal is one way. 

The astronauts cannot see their audience but they hear them over the traditional amateur radio on the Station. 

Ham TV will add to ham radio for space educational purposes, offering schoolchildren the chance to talk and see astronauts in space with simple equipment. 

Anybody can still hail the Station via radio and, if an astronaut floats by the always-on receiver, they might just pick up and answer the call. 

For more information on how to get involved and organise an educational event, contact the 'Amateur Radio on the International Space Station organisation' (ARISS)

Image courtesy ESA.

Contacts are brief – the connection requires direct line of sight and the Station's 28 800 km/h means it quickly passes through the field of view of amateur stations.

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