The unofficial MIR amateur radio FAQ

kc4yer@amsat.org (Philip Chien)

Version 1.2

September 5, 1997

This information was complied by Philip Chien, KC4YER who is solely responsible for its content. It has not been sanctioned by the Russian Space Agency, NASA, or any other entity responsible for Mir's amateur radio activities. Corrections should be e-mailed to kc4yer@amsat.org or sent to the author's address in the callbook.

[formatting / html-ing / comments by NH6YK - the ones in green]

Mir, the Russian space station, has been in space since February 1986. The word 'Mir' is usually translated in to English as 'peace', but also means 'world' or 'an autonomous community'. A popular Russian greeting is 'Mir o Mir' - Peace on Earth. In 1988 a handheld amateur radio was added to Mir for crew recreational use, and it's been a popular activity. Many other pieces of amateur radio hardware have followed, and Mir now has an extremely impressive ham station. Ham radio is a popular activity for many of the Mir crewmembers, and there's additional interest with a full-time American presence aboard Mir. The Mir Amateur Radio EXperiment (MAREX) has turned out to be one of Mir's most visible activities, and an enjoyable leisure time activity - both for the cosmonauts and the hams who have the opportunity to talk to them.

Who are the key parties responsible for Mir's amateur radio activities?

The head of the MAREX (Mir Amateur Radio EXperiment) is Sergei Samburov, RV3DR. His official title is Chief of Cosmonaut Amateur Radio Department, RSC Energia. Boris Stepanov, RU3AX, is the Soyuz Radioyubitelej Rosii president, the organization for Russian amateur radio operators. R3K.

International amateur radio groups in Germany and Austria have provided some of the hardware and other forms of assistance.

The Mir International Amateur Radio EXperiment (MIREX) was formed to handle prescheduled Mir school contacts. The head of MIREX operations in the U.S. is Dr. Dave Larsen N6CO/K6MIR (ex N6JLH). G. Miles Mann, WF1F, is the US Activities Manager and also assists in scheduling contacts worldwide.

It's important to note that the MAREX activities are _NOT_ identical to the SAREX (Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment). However the MAREX and SAREX teams do work together in many cases. For example the SAREX team gives amateur radio training to the American cosmonauts, and schools with SAREX applications may have their scheduled contacts accomplished via MIREX.

What is the wake/sleep cycle for Mir's crew?

Mir's crew follows the same wake/sleep cycle as its ground controllers in Korelov (formerly Kaliningrad), a suburb of Moscow. Times are occasionally adjusted slightly for operational reasons (timing shuttle rendezvous, scheduling EVAs, Earth or space observations, etc.) but for the most part the crew is on a Moscow timetable. Decreed Moscow Time (DMT) is UT + 3 hours and does not change during the summer for daylight savings. The official sleep period for Mir's crew is 23:00 to 8:00 DMT, which equates to 20:00 to 5:00 UT. It's important to note that this is just the official sleep period, some cosmonauts get by on much less sleep.

My simple trick is to use my satellite tracking program's terminator indicator (the line which indicates sunrise/sunset). If Moscow is in the daylight portion of the world the crew is _probably_ awake. If Moscow is near the terminator then the crew is probably in their presleep/postsleep time (or whatever the Russian terms are) and more likely to be available on the radio. It isn't perfectly accurate, but it's simple.

Which American astronauts are scheduled to spend long duration stays aboard Mir, and what are their call signs?

(Dates from launch through landing. Projected dates for upcoming Mir astronauts)

 

Astronaut

Launch

Landing

Callsign

Duration

Norm Thagard

1

03/14/95

07/07/95

R0MIR

115 days

Shannon Lucid

2

03/22/96

09/26/96

R0MIR

188 days

John Blaha

3

09/16/96

01/21/97

KC5TZQ

128 days

Jerry Linenger

4

01/12/97

05/24/97

KC5HBR

132 days

Mike Foale

5

05/15/97

09/27/97

KB5UAC

142 days

Dave Wolf

6

09/18/97

01/24/98

KC5VPF

121 days

Andy Thomas

7

01/15/98

06/07/98

TBD

143 days

TOTAL

970 days

(note: Andy Thomas is expected to be the final American astronaut aboard Mir, but that has not been officially announced.)

The NASA headquarters worldwide web page http://www.osf.hq.nasa.gov/mir/ has a history of each cosmonaut crew which has occupied Mir.

Biographies of these astronauts and cosmonauts connected with the joint U.S. - Russian programs can be found at the Johnson Space Center web page http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/.

 

How was it legal for Dr. Norm Thagard and Dr. Shannon Lucid to use Mir's amateur radio, even though they didn't have valid U.S. amateur licenses during their stays aboard Mir?

The Russian amateur radio regulations permit anybody who is a member of an amateur radio club to use that club's station, whether or not they have their own call sign. Mir is considered a 'club' and the Russian government has granted any person aboard Mir the privilege to use the amateur radio equipment with the club call sign R0MIR.

It's important to note that any person aboard Mir, whether they use a Russian call sign or a call sign from their own country, is bound by the Russian radio regulations since it is Russian territory.

Currently the United States does not have a 'third party' agreement with the Russian Federation. So while it's legal for hams in the United States to talk to cosmonauts aboard Mir, it is _not_ legal to pass third party traffic for non-hams (e.g. unlicensed friends or relatives cannot talk on the radio to the Mir crewmembers unless specifically authorized).

The MAREX team and SAREX Working Group have obtained special waivers to the third party regulations for the U.S. astronauts aboard Mir to talk to friends and students. However these waivers are only in effect for the period of an individual astronaut's stay aboard Mir. Once a new U.S. astronaut arrives the entire approval process for the waiver has to be gone through again. Currently third-party waivers have been approved through Dave Wolf, Mir 6. The waiver only applies to the U.S. astronaut aboard Mir, not the Russian cosmonauts or any guest visitors. These rules apply to all U.S. licensed amateur operators. In other countries check with your local radio authorities about third-party agreements with amateur radio operators on Russian soil.

In summary -

a) It's always legal for any licensed U.S. ham to talk to anybody aboard Mir.

b) While the third party waiver is in effect it is legal for a licensed U.S. ham to permit somebody who isn't licensed to talk to the American astronaut aboard Mir, but not his Russian colleague who may be floating right next to him!

c) When U.S. astronauts are exchanged during shuttle missions the waiver expires until the official announcement is made that the waiver is in effect for the next astronaut.

d) These rules are in effect on any day of the week which ends in a "Y".

[Comment from NH6YK -->> :-) :-) :-)]

It's the goal of the SAREX Working Group and MAREX team to ultimately try to get a blanket third party rule for any ham space travelers but this has not been achievable yet. The AMSAT Bulletins include notices whenever third-party agreements applicable to Mir change.

 

How can I determine when Mir's going to be over my location and when the cosmonauts are available?

Finding out when Mir is going to be over your horizon is fairly easy if you've got almost any microcomputer. There are dozens of satellite tracking programs which predict when a satellite will be over your location. The AMSAT Worldwide Web site http://www.amsat.org/amsat/ftpsoft.html includes satellite tracking programs for a variety of different computers.

A tracking program is only as good as its data. The classic 'Keplerians' are the six mathematical values which determine a spacecraft's orbit around the Earth. In practice there are additional values which are required because the Earth isn't a perfect sphere, and other anomalies. There are many different web sites, FTP locations, and automatic E-mail servers which will provide up-to-date keps.

Predicting when the cosmonauts are going to be available is a different story. The most likely times to find the crew on the radio are during their free periods when they wake up and before they go to sleep, during meals, or on weekends or holidays. Cosmonaut work days are much less structured than the precise minute-by-minute timelines which shuttle crews use. So cosmonauts have a bit of flexibility in when they take their rest breaks and other free periods. If a cosmonaut wants to be on the radio to talk to a particular person then it's easy enough for them to adapt their schedules. Some cosmonauts will adjust their schedules to try to get some free time while they're making favorable passes over areas of the world where they've got a special interest (e.g. U.S. cosmonauts often try to be at the radio over U.S. passes, especially ones which go over the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas).

The simple solution is to listen to the downlink frequency, and if you hear a cosmonaut's voice - then it's a good bet that they're using the radio!

 

Where can I obtain the latest Keplerian elements (keps) for Mir, and how often should I update them?

One of the best sources of Keplerian elements is the Celestial BBS web site at http://www.grove.net/~tkelso/NORAD/elements/mir.txt Note that this site actually includes separate elements for each of Mir's modules - even though they're all physically connected! The easiest system is just use the keps for the Mir core module.

AMSAT members who are subscribed to the Keplerian elements mailing list receive the keps for Mir and other satellites of interest to the amateur radio community automatically on a weekly basis. During shuttle missions the shuttle's elements are sent out fairly often.

As a rule I tend to update my Mir keps about once a week. Mir is a fairly stable spacecraft and only maneuvers occasionally. However it is useful to update your keps as soon as practical after any major maneuvers (e.g. orbital altitude adjustments). While older keps will still be fairly accurate after the maneuver, they'll gradually get more and more inaccurate over time. On flights when the shuttle docks with Mir it changes its orbit several times as part of the rendezvous sequence. For those flights it's highly desirable to update your keps after each orbital maneuver. As a general rule when the shuttle is physically docked to Mir the keps for the two spacecraft are the same.

 

What are the current frequencies for Mir's primary amateur radio equipment?

Mir has been using 145.985 Mhz. simplex for both voice and packet. This frequency has turned out to be an excellent choice which is usable by hams around the world with minimal interference to other amateur radio activities.

Earlier Mir frequencies caused problems in at least some portion of the world. The previous frequency pair 145.800/145.200 Mhz. was recommened by IARU region 1 (Europe) although representatives from region 2 (Western hemisphere) expressed their reservations about the potential for interference from terrestrial sources. Those concerns were real and these frequencies were almost completely useless. Besides complaints from hams on the ground the cosmonauts aboard Mir complained about the difficulties in making good contacts. Hams in many regions had to compete with dozens of repeaters using the same output frequency as Mir's input. Clearly the 145.800/145.200 pair was _not_ an acceptable pair of frequencies. The original 145.55 Mhz. frequency was unacceptable in Europe due to its use for other purposes.

Normally 2 meter radio is considered a short-range form of communications since it's limited to line-of-sight communications and normally doesn't travel over the horizon. So there's been little need to cooridinate frequency sharing on anything more than a local level. The only portions of the 2 meter amateur band which are coordinated on a worldwide basis are 144.0-144.1 Mhz. (for moonbounce) and 145.80 to 145.99 Mhz. for satellite work. Mir is a spacecraft and it travels around the world over every populated continent. Clearly Mir belongs in the satellite band. There have been concerns about Mir's higher power interfering with other satellites and the potential for interference on UOSAT-22 which uses the same frequency. However theses concerns have not been backed up by any cases where interference has occured. Contrary to some myths there are no regulations or agreements which prohibit operations from crewed spacecraft or using FM in the satellite band.

The Mir crew can reset the frequency of their radio whenever they please, and have the option to use 145.800 Mhz. (space to ground) and 145.200 Mhz. (ground to space) over Europe but have not chosen to do so.

 

How do I compensate for doppler?

Doppler shift is how the frequency of a transmission appears to change, due to the relative speed between the transmitted and receiver. The most common everyday example of doppler is hearing a siren or train horn change tone as it goes by. For radio waves doppler is a function of the speed of light, the orbital velocity of the spacecraft, and the frequency. For a relatively low altitude spacecraft like Mir and 2 meter transmissions the maximum doppler is 3.3 Khz. In effect not adjusting for doppler is the equivalent of using a radio which is slightly off frequency. That isn't too bad, and many folks don't even bother compensating for doppler. If you do compensate for doppler your signals will be clearer, and easier to understand.

At the beginning of a pass your doppler will be up to 3 Khz higher than the normal (rest) frequency. At the middle doppler is insignificant. At the end of the pass the doppler will be lower than the rest frequency.

The best solution is to use a computer tracking program which calculates the doppler shift for you, and a radio with continuous tuning.

Most FM radios are tunable in 5 Khz steps, although some models can tune in 2.5 Khz steps. The simplest solution is to set up your radio's memories for three different frequency pairs.. At the beginning of the pass set your transmit frequency to 145.980 Mhz., change to 145.985 Mhz. in the middle of the pass, and transmit at 145.990 Mhz. at the end of the pass. The receive frequencies should be set up in the opposite order.

If your radio has independent memories for transmit and receive frequencies you can store 3 consecutive memories as follows:

memory 1 memory 2 memory 3

receive 145.990 145.985 145.980

transmit 145.980 145.985 145.990

Use memory 1 at the beginning of the pass, memory 2 towards the middle, and memory 3 at the end. It isn't precise, but Mir's radio has a fairly wide bandwidth, so your frequencies don't have to be exact.

 

[Comment by NH6YK - for 2M, the doppler shift is a maximum of 3kHz above and below the center frequency. This is not much of a problem for voice and packet connects. I've had Horizon to Horizon contacts on voice with no doppler compensation. To be totally accurate, you could track the TX/RX.... For 70cm it is more serious, and you must adjust for Doppler shifting]

What type of license do I need to contact an astronaut in space?

In the U.S. a no-code Technician is all you need. As a general rule anywhere in the world, if you can communicate on 2 meters (144-146 Mhz.) with at least 45 watts of power you have enough privileges to contact Mir.

 

What ham hardware do I need to make a successful contact with Mir?

Not very much. A handheld radio with a rubber duckie can easily hear Mir's signal.

Mir is currently running on 5 watts due to power limitations. The radio can operate at either 5 watts or 45 watts, but uses too much power on the high setting for the 6 amp power supply.

It's possible to talk to Mir using a 5 watt handheld radio with a ground plane antenna. Of course that only works when you are the only one trying, so it takes quite a bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time.

[Comment by NH6YK -- like in the middle of an ocean :-) :-) aloha!]

A minimal Mir setup would be a 2 meter mobile radio (e.g. about 45 watts) and some ground plane antenna (magnetic mount, J-Pole, eggbeater, etc.) A better setup would include a directional antenna which can be aimed towards Mir and moved (either by hand or under computer control) to follow Mir across the sky.

One excellent way to calibrate a motorized antenna setup is to pick a visual pass (e.g. when you're in relative darkness and Mir is still lit by the sun) and watch Mir cross the sky. Watch to see how accurately your computer commands your antenna to follow Mir as it goes over your location. Some lucky hams have successfully contacted Mir while watching Mir go across the sky - a simultaneous visual and radio QSO!

[Comment by NH6YK -- it is WAY Cool!!!!]

 

I've heard Russian voices from Mir on 143.625 Mhz. What's the deal here?

Mir uses a VHF radio for voice communications with its ground stations. Most of the ground stations are located in Russia. In the glory days of the Soviet Union there were many remote stations around the world in Socialist countries, and tracking ships at sea. They've all been closed as a money savings measure. In 1996 NASA agreed to set up ground stations in the U.S. to supplement the Russian communications network in exchange for better communications for the U.S. crewmembers on Mir. Stations were set up at Wallops Island Virginia, Edwards Air Force Base California, and White Sands New Mexico. These stations use fairly simple Yagi motorized antennas with medium power VHF radios - at first glance they look like typical ham radio satellite setups! The U.S. ground stations relay communications to the Russian mission control (Tsup) in Korelov Russia.

143.625 Mhz. is _NOT_ a ham radio frequency, and you cannot transmit to Mir on this frequency unless you've been authorized by the Russian Space Agency. But you can listen in, many 2 meter ham radios can monitor that frequency and it's easy to pick up on a VHF scanner.

There is a desense problem whenever the VHF radio is used which interferes with the 2 meter ham setup. Consequently the cosmonauts do not try to do voice QSOs with their 2 meter rig when they're using the VHF radio and it's difficult to make a packet contact while the VHF radio's in use. The MIREX team is building a filter to minimize the interference but it isn't known when it will be shipped to Mir.

 

What type of antenna does Mir use and how is it polarized?

Mir has a simple dual band (2 m/70 cm) ground plane external antenna which was installed by the cosmonauts during a spacewalk. It's linear polarized, however Mir's orientation changes as it passes over your location. So it's hard to predict which way it will be aimed - towards you, away from you, or at an angle. In addition Faraday rotation tends to twist the polarity of signals to and from space. Experienced hams prefer circular polarized antennas since they give the best overall performance. It doesn't matter whether your antennas are left hand or right hand circular, but most ham setups are right hand circular for compatibility with other ham radio satellites.

What is the proper procedures to contact the cosmonauts aboard Mir by voice?

First listen to several Mir voice passes to get a 'feel' for how the QSOs go. Remember that you're only going to hear the downlink portion of the QSOs, and Mir's altitude makes it accessible by hams in a very very large region.

Be careful not to interrupt the cosmonaut while they're talking to somebody else. Let them control the flow of the QSOs. When the cosmonaut announces 'next station' transmit your call sign in clear international phonetics. There's probably many folks trying to get through at the same time, so the cosmonaut will try to pick out a call sign, possibly only hearing a portion of the call sign.

Congratulations if the cosmonaut responds with your call! Give your correct call if necessary, and go ahead and talk with the cosmonaut. As a rule they'll be happy to answer your questions about life aboard Mir or what's happening, and may even ask you what life's like at your location. When the cosmonaut says 'next station' let them go on to somebody else, you've had your opportunity and they're very conscious that others also want to talk to them.

Unlike the relatively short SAREX flights where the object for the astronaut is to try to talk to as many folks as possible in a one or two week shuttle mission, the Mir cosmonauts are up there for a much longer time, and life goes at a somewhat slower pace. The cosmonauts are more interested in actually chatting with hams, rather than the quick 'hi/bye' contacts on shuttle flights. They may be interested in the latest news or sports scores, or just want to talk.

Do _NOT_ try to interrupt the cosmonauts while they're talking with their family or friends, or in the middle of an educational contact. This is the most certain way to make sure they won't want to talk to you.

The key rule to remember is to let the cosmonaut control how the conversation goes -- remember that he's the person on the rare DX expedition which everybody else wants to talk to.

 

How come the cosmonauts always respond to the same call signs each time?

Shuttle astronaut Dick Richards KB5SIW put it best when he commented 'he who has the biggest guns rules the airwaves'. Certainly the ham operators with the highest power equipment and highest gain antennas have the best chances of getting through.

If you have gotten through to Mir many times - let somebody else get a chance. Some of the cosmonauts aboard Mir get so frustrated just talking to the same high power hams each time that they'll ignore them when they call - just because they're sick of talking to the same calls each time and would like to give somebody else a chance.

But in many cases the cosmonauts will make friendships with hams on the ground and be interested in keeping up conversations. Or you may be listening to the cosmonaut talking to his family or personal friends.

Why are the cosmonauts talking to everybody else besides me?

Make sure you're using the correct frequencies, and correct operating modes for your transceiver. Is your tracking program up to date? Is the time on your computer's clock set properly? Do you have recent Keplerian elements? Are your antennas properly calibrated? Since Mir is in a relatively low orbit it moves very quickly through the sky and a slight mismatch which you'd never notice on another satellite could mean the difference between a successful contact and no contact with Mir.

Try to avoid the prime times when you're competing with more hams. Weekends and holidays (both Russian and U.S.) are when Mir's radio is busiest. The best voice times for a low power station are weekdays from 1200 to 1900 UT.

Are you stating your call sign clearly? Imagine that you're on a stage before a large audience of hams - and each person in the audience shouts out his call sign. The person who annunciates the clearest has the best chance of being heard.

[Comment by NH6YK -- Russian Phonetics help with limited English Cosmonauts -- "nikolai hariton shest y-grek kilovatt "]

Did you do something which would cause the cosmonauts to avoid you - like interrupt their family contacts, or talk over other hams? This is practically a guaranteed method to assure that they won't return your call.

Also remember that the cosmonauts choose how much they want to use the radio. It was put aboard Mir as a _recreational_ activity for them -- not for the pleasure of individual hams on the ground. If using the radio isn't fun then the Mir crew can always turn it off and go read a book or watch a movie instead.

Remember that as a rule astronauts and cosmonauts are not very experienced ham radio fanatics, although there have been a couple of exceptions. For the most part the cosmonauts appreciate having the ham radio aboard so they can make informal contacts with their families, and to have a sense of bonding with the planet below. Norm Thagard talked about using the ham radio when he was bored because he didn't have enough work to keep busy. Shannon Lucid liked to just chat with folks. John Blaha used the radio to keep up with sports scores, especially the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Linenger used the radio primarily for his scheduled school contacts and spent very little time chatting with hams. Mike Foale wanted to chat with folks and find out about their lives and where they lived. Different people have different interests.

None of the NASA Phase 1 astronauts lists ham radio as one of their hobbies, but they have learned to appreciate it over their long term stays aboard Mir.

As much as anything else many of the Mir cosmonauts (Russian and American) have used the ham radio setup just because it's there and available as a leisure time activity, and wouldn't miss it if it wasn't there.

In any case it's the person aboard Mir which is the one who decides who to talk to and who to avoid. And certainly their own choice to make.

Why are some cosmonauts very active on Mir's ham radio equipment while others barely use it at all?

Different people have different interests. Some folks enjoy using the amateur radio more than others. In some cases Russian cosmonauts enjoy using the amateur radio to practice their English skills by talking to amateurs around the world. In other cases they may not feel at ease speaking with somebody who speaks rapidly in a foreign language. (Yes, English is a foreign language!)

If you do speak any Russian - even a little - it doesn't hurt to use it if you are talking to one of the Russian cosmonauts.

Some of the Americans aboard Mir have enjoyed using the amateur radio to talk to hams in the United States and around the world, others have used the radio primarily to talk to their family and personal friends. It's up to them to choose how much they want to use the radio, and who they want to talk to.

What are the proper procedures for packet contacts with Mir's BBS?

The most important thing to remember before transmitting *any* packet to Mir is to listen and make sure that Mir is *NOT* operating in voice mode. Most of the cosmonauts have complained about having their QSOs interrupted by uncourteous hams on the ground who transmitted packet before first listening to the downlink frequency.

For this and other reasons automated packet contacts (e.g. computer-controlled attempts without a control operator present) are highly discouraged.

The packet system was put aboard Mir solely for the purpose of communications to and from the cosmonauts. It should *NOT* be used as a packet E-mail box for other hams, for digipeating of any kind, APRS, or any other purpose. The U.S. MIREX team allow unproto packet (non APRS) when the mailbox is in a timeout loop.

The Mir packet radios is a standard off-the-shelf AFSK 1200 bps AX.25 packet modem., the same packet protocol used for normal VHF terrestrial packet nets. So any inexpensive TNC can be used to communicate with Mir. Only one packet station can be in contact with Mir at any given moment so you have to be careful about following courteous procedures.

The packet call sign on board the shuttle is R0MIR-1 (SSID=0). Your TNC should be in half-duplex mode (FULLDUP OFF) with CD active just like you do for normal VHF packet operations. You should turn on MCON to monitor all packets. If you can compensate for doppler shift it is worth the extra effort. The bandwidth of the Mir radio is +/-4 Khz, maximum doppler is around 3.3 Khz. If you can't compensate for doppler your best chance for contact is when the Mir is at peak elevation at your site.

Remember that only one station can connect to R0MIR-1 at a time, if you see packets indicating that another station is connected you must wait until that station logs off.

 

Hey - why are you telling me what I should and shouldn't do with Mir's packet system? Who made you boss?

This information was provided by the MIREX team, and verified by the MAREX control operators in Russia. Not me.

If you do see other amateurs in your area who are using Mir improperly it would certainly be proper to inform them that they are abusing Mir, and may be causing interference.

As with any other abuse of amateur radio frequencies anybody who is causing intentional interference and refuses to stop should be turned in to the FCC, with a log of the infraction.

 

Where is the amateur radio equipment located aboard Mir?

Most of the Mir amateur equipment is located in the core module, Mir's original component which was launched in February 1986. The equipment is fairly close to the control station and the cosmonauts's sleeping bunks.

Matt Bordelon KC5BTL's web pages http://www.phoenix.net/~mbordel/jscarc/ has excellent digital photos of the astronauts and cosmonauts using Mir's radio, and an external photo of Mir's antenna.

The German-Russian SAFEX experiment is located in the Priroda module which arrived at Mir on April 26, 1996.

 

Where can I send in a request for a QSL card for my contact with Mir?

 

Germany only:

Amateur Radio Station DF0VR at GSOC control center, Oberpfaffenhofen, Munich, Germany

Thomas Kieselbach, DL2MDE

Joerg Hahn, DL3LUM

DLR Amateurfunkstation Oberpfaffenhofen

P.O. Box 1116

82230 Wes, Germany

Russia only:

Sergej Samburov, RV3DR

P.O. Box 73

Kaliningrad-10 City

Moscow Area, 141070, Russia

All other countries:

Dave Larsen N6CO/K6MIR (ex N6JLH)

P.O. BOX 1501

Pine Grove California USA 95665

N6JLH@N0ARY.#NOCAL.CA.USA.NOAM or doc@volcano.net

Is there an official MIREX web page?

A MIREX web page is under construction. When it's open there will be an announcement in the AMSAT News Service (ANS) and via other channels.

Where can I find out more information about Mir's amateur radio activities?

Here's several worldwide web sites with information:

http://www.phoenix.net/~mbordel/jscarc/ - the Johnson Space Center amateur radio club. Includes photographs of the Mir hardware, excellent background and historic information, and the only place I've seen which identifies where the Mir antenna is located on the core module!

http://www.op.dlr.de/~df0vr/home.htm - the official web site for the German-Russian SAFEX experiment aboard Mir's Priroda module. Also includes information on previous German space travelers and their use of amateur radio aboard both the shuttle and Mir.

http://www.grove.net/specfeat2.html - Satellite Times magazine. An excellent magazine if I may say so, especially since they publish this FAQ author's professional articles. But this particular URL is for John Magliacane's description of Mir's amateur radio activities.

http://165.248.121.94/MIR.html - ah, to be in Hawaii and talking to space travelers via ham radio. Could anything else be closer to paradise?

[Comment from NH6YK -- hmmmmm, hard to say.... OK, I'd like more visual passes where the cosmonauts are talking, so I could sit on the beach, sipping a cool coconut, and talk-story with them while I was watching them go by.... :-) :-) :-)

I should put in a picture of me trying to do that from KH4.... Alas, I never caught MIR on voice from Midway..... but did see them! I caught KB5SIW instead!]

 

http://stuwww.kub.nl/~pe1rhp - a web page which calculates Mir passes based on your location.

http://www.aball.de/~pg/ - German ham Peter Guelzow DB2OS's visits to the Mir control center and Star City. Includes plenty of non-ham info on Mir too. Mostly English pages. *plenty* of photos of Peter's trip.

http://oit1.iusb.edu/~kthews/MIR.html - Michigana Mir page

http://www.cyberportal.net/dhend/dave1.html - N1PPP's page, including voice files of sample Mir contacts, and other information.

http://infothuis.nl/muurkrant/mirmain.html - Mirnews, an amateur newsletter published in the Netherlands

 

Where can I find out more information about Mir itself?

http://www.osf.hq.nasa.gov/mir/ - excellent information, references, and links

http://shuttle-mir.nasa.gov/ - the Johnson Space Center's Phase 1's office's online public reference.

http://shuttle-mir.nasa.gov/shuttle-mir/ops/mir/mirheritage.pdf - an incredibly detailed, and long (220 page!) reference on Mir generated by the Johnson Space Center. A bit dated, but still very useful. A broad brush history of Mir including some comments about amateur radio. WARNING - the file is 3.9 Mbytes. Requires Adobe Acrobat or another PDF reader.

http://shuttle-mir.nasa.gov/mir24/status/current/ - the NASA public affairs weekly status reports. Mir24 should be updated with the proper Mir crew's designation as required.

http://godzilla.lerc.nasa.gov/ppo/mirinfo.html - NASA Lewis's info on Mir, including their cooperative solar array experiments.

http://www.op.dlr.de/wt-rm/mir.htm - information on European activities aboard Mir

http://www.skypoint.com/~benhuset/mw-new.html - Mir Watch, not up to date, and not as much amateur radio news as Mirnews, but still interesting.

http://www.races.sandiego.ca.gov/elements/ - another good source for Keplerian elements, and tutorials on how Keplerian elements work.

 

How can I, as an individual, support Mir's amateur radio activities?

One of the best ways is to contact a local school which has no interest in ham radio or the space program and get them interested in both via a MIREX educational contact. It's a long term commitment, but worth it for the results. Select any school you wish - it can be the school which you graduated from, one where a child or friend attends, or even just the school closest to you. You don't have to have a direct connection with the school.just talk to the head of the science or geography department and it would be hard to find a teacher who isn't enthusiastic about the possibility of letting students talk to somebody aboard a space station. A SAREX/MIREX school application is available electronically at http://www.arrl.org/sarex/sarex-ap.html. If you don't have electronic mail then contact the ARRL educational department at the address in this FAQ's appendix.

You can inform local astronomical groups or the local press about visual Mir passes. Most of these folks are aware that some satellites are visible to the naked eye, but not when they're visible. Most satellite tracking programs will let you calculate when a satellite will be visible over a given location. (e.g. while the satellite is lit by the sun while the observer is in relative darkness.) Many astronomical groups have scheduled 'Mir-watch' parties for early evening visible passes when the weather cooperates.

You can inform local amateur radio and scanner enthusiasts about how easy it is to listen to Mir's downlink. Play an audio tape at a local meeting of a Mir voice pass - and then astound everybody by telling them Mir's distance when you recorded that pass -- using your handheld radio!

 

Addresses of some useful organizations:

For satellite tracking programs for a variety of microcomputers:

AMSAT

850 Sligo Ave.

Silver Spring, MD 20910-4703

301-589-6062

301-608-3410 fax

http://www.amsat.org/

For more information on Mir and shuttle school contacts:

American Radio Relay League

attn.: Education Activities Department

225 Main St.

Newington, CT 06111

860-594-0301

860-594-0259 fax

http://www.arrl.org/

For information on the schedule of upcoming SAREX missions and astronaut activities:

NASA Headquarters

attn: Educational Activities

mail stop: FE

Washington, DC 20546

202-358-1977

http://www.nasa.gov/

 

Special thanks to:

Sergei Krikalev U5MIR

Maggie 'Rita' Iaquinto VK3CFI

Lou McFadin W5DID

Matt Bordelon KC5BTL

Frank Bauer KA3HDO

G. Miles Mann WF1F

Future updates -

tutorial on Mir's packet BBS

SAFEX II

Mir amateur equipment history

common Russian phrases

acronym list

Notes on syntax.

As a general rule the term 'astronaut' refers to U.S. citizens, or folks who have traveled on U.S. spacecraft, and the term 'cosmonaut' refers to Soviets and Russians, and those who have flown aboard Soviet/Russian spacecraft. But there are few individuals who have flown aboard both - so what should they be called? I will more often than not use the terms interchangeably, but usually use 'cosmonaut' to indicate anybody who actually lives aboard a Soviet/Russian spacecraft - even if it's a U.S. astronaut. The terms Soviet and Russian are also confusing, and usually used interchangeably - and often incorrectly. For example - no human being has _ever_ been launched in to space from Russia (the Russian and other cosmonauts are launched from the Republic of Kazakhstan which has never been part of Russia.) There are quite a few ex-Soviets who are _not_ from Russia, including many of the cosmonauts. But as a rule the term 'Soviet' applies to anything before the (recent) revolution. English spellings for Russian names vary from source to source, whenever that individual has expressed a particular preference I will use that. While the vast majority of people to fly in to space have been male, many have not. The terms 'he', 'him' etc. should be considered gender neutral. 'American', in general means of the United States or United States extraction, even though I'm quite aware that every single person in North and South America has just as much right to call himself an "American".

 

Philip Chien, KC4YER

Earth News - space writer and consultant

pchien@digital.net

 

 

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