ISS VHF Backup, Sat Show in ARN 05/04/2018

Clint Bradford

Amateur Radio Newsline covered two satellite stories in their current mediacast. The entire broadcast / script available at ...


JIM/ANCHOR: When you're DXing - really DXing - in space, you need a reliable backup plan. NASA is taking care of that, as Paul Braun WD9GCO tells us.

PAUL: NASA's VHF backup communications system for the International Space Station is getting a backup of its own.

The two-frequency VHF system is built from a system of ground stations. One frequency is used for Soyuz communication when Soyuz is out of the range of ground stations in Russia. The other frequency is used for emergency communications. NASA said the improvements will include new software installations and an upgrade of electronic components as well as new antennas. These antennas will permit both frequencies to operate simultaneously.

The Goddard Space Flight Center manages two VHF ground stations in the U.S. -- one at at Wallops Island in Virginia and another at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

NASA's Mark Severance said in an agency announcement in late April [quote]: "The purpose of [the ground station] upgrades is to ensure the VHF ground stations remain a robust capability for backup and emergency communications." [endquote] 

The space station has two VHF antennas located 180 degrees apart.

The good news is that most of the time, NASA talks with the ISS via its primary means - the NASA Space Network - which utilizes a group of tracking and data relay satellites. The Space Network allows for data transmissions at a much higher rate, accommodating high definition video and other means of communication. The backup VHF system, while critical to the mission, permits only audio. Still, when all else fails there is once again ham radio - even in space.

For Amateur Radio Newsline, I'm Paul Braun WD9GCO.



JIM/ANCHOR: Speaking of space and communications, what's it like to work a satellite with your HT? With this report, we find out - and we welcome the newest member of the Newsline family: Andy Morrison K9AWM.

ANDY'S REPORT: The Desert Radio Amateur Transmitting Society of Palm Springs, California is best known by the shorthand "RATS" - its initials - but on May 15 the club will be more likely known for its association with SATS - that is, satellites.

The club is hosting ARRL instructor Clint Bradford K6LCS during its regular monthly meeting and Clint's talk will focus on how to use an HT to work amateur satellites. Clint is also optimistic that this presentation won't be all talk: He's anticipating more than a few satellite passes during the session and they're expected to be workable.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. local time at the Palm Springs Fire Department Training Center and hams in the region can get talk-in via the 146.940 repeater using a PL tone of 107.2

Meanwhile, hams wanting to program their radios for the scheduled satellite passes should visit his satellite website for a tutorial and frequency list. That website is work hyphen sat dot com (

For Amateur Radio Newsline, I'm Andy Morrison K9AWM.