St Richard’s Catholic College STEM Space Conference & ISS Contact

Hastings Electronics & Radio Club was delighted to be asked to participate in St Richard’s STEM Space Conference and witness their ARISS contact with Major Tim Peake on the International Space Station on Monday 18 April. Whilst the ARISS team prepared for the ISS contact, HERC participated in the Space Conference alongside exhibits and activities by the Herstmonceux Space Centre’s astronaut led Destination Earth workshops, East Sussex Astronomical Society [IMG_1734], University of Sussex with their inflatable planetarium [IMG_1735] and University of Brighton with Maths Challenges. The RSGB stand, manned by Youth Committee Secretary James Monahan, included an example of the RSGB Rodway II Receiver which 25 pupils had built at a Build-a-thon a week earlier, supervised by 7 Club members and Region10 Manager, Mick Senior. The Club’s stand [IMG_1733] included a live HF Station, operating mainly CW on 40 & 20m using the Club callsign G6HH with a full-size G5RV hung high above the school, and a game for pupils to send their name in Morse, which is always popular with children. One laptop showed the 3 latest RSGB videos about amateur radio whilst another showed the current amateur satellite passes, including the FunCube and ISS both of which were being used by the ARISS team to set up for the ISS contact. The display board exhibited reprints of news reports of the very first satellites, a history of amateur radio satellites, and the emergency and community support role of amateur radio by the local Raynet group. It also included information on the Licence training available through the Club, who have now been asked to follow up the Foundation Licence training which was given to 10 pupils by the Hersmonceux QRZ Group in preparation for this ISS contact.

The ARISS team had erected their massive Yagi array on a 50 ft mobile mast that towered over the school [IMG_1732]. Carlos G0AKI, who had brought the RSGB mobile station GB4FUN to 5 Hastings schools in July 2006, was at the control console [IMG_1742] with a Kenwood TS2000SAT as the main radio and had  the facility to select the best combination of antenna and circular polarisation, and a monitor to view the antenna in case of tracking problems. Unfortunately the video feed from the ISS, which had recently been commissioned, was not available but the team had alternative audio feeds from Goonhilly and the Netherlands so they could select the best audio to play to the audience during the pass.  This was important because, as Ciaran the ARISS Operation Lead explained, the amateur radio antenna is on the Columbus module at the front of the ISS but there were currently no less than 6 transport capsules docked below and behind it which might obstruct the signal as the ISS passed overhead and moved away.

Over 300 pupils, mostly from neighbouring schools as part of the College’s outreach program, had assembled in the main hall to witness the ARISS contact by GB4SRC with Major Tim Peake on the International Space Station. After an introduction by a massed choir of St Richard’s pupils singing David Bowie’s Starman, we were entertained with videos of the College’s cross-curricular participation to the College Space project with contributions from all departments including Drama, English and Modern Foreign Languages as well as the science team, before 2 members from the European Space Agency’s education outreach program outlined how Tim Peake had been selected and his scientific experiments on the ISS. The ISS Dashboard from the ARISS website, displayed for the audience on a large screen, showed the approach of the space station in real time and,, as the AOS counted down, Lucy, one the successful Foundation Licence students, stepped up to the microphone to call GB1SS.  At her sixth call, Tim Peake responded “GB4SRC I hear you loud and clear, over”. For the next 10 minutes, under the supervision of Ciaran, a succession of 14 St Richard’s pupils stepped up to ask a series of very interesting questions before the contact was terminated to a huge cheer and applause from the audience. The whole of the contact, recorded by BBC South East Today and available via the link on the St Richard’s website (, is well worth viewing. All in all, a memorable day and one we’re all proud to have been involved in. Well done St Richard’s and the ARISS team.

73 Phil, G3MGQ


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