International Amateur Radio Union - Region 1


Gaston Bertels, ON4WF - ARSPEX WG Chairman a.i.

Avenue Paul Hymans 117/29  -  B-1200 Brussels - Belgium

Tel  : +32.2.771.67.74     Fax : +32.2.771.49.89     E-Mail :





February 18, 2008




  1. ARISS working group

Presently the main activity of the ARSPEX working group is related to ARISS, Amateur Radio on the International Space Station.

IARU Region 1 societies and AMSAT societies are invited to join the ARISS-Europe working group. Presently ARISS-Europe’s  member societies are:



AMSAT France













  1. ARISS School Contacts

ARISS has developed a privileged relationship with the Space Agencies: NASA, ESA and Roscosmos/Energia.

Astronauts and cosmonauts – most have an amateur radio licence – use the amateur radio VHF station on board the Russian Service Module for contacts with amateur radio ground stations worldwide.

The main activity is educational outreach, which is most appreciated by the Space Agencies. ARISS international has developed an efficient system for organizing school contacts: students prepare questions and have the possibility to put their question to an astronaut onboard the ISS over amateur radio, and get his/her answer from space real time. These ARISS contacts are integrated in the workload of the astronauts. ARISS has no access to their free time. 

Every year ESA sets up two educational events in primary schools. ARISS-Europe has an arrangement with ESA for providing an ARISS School Contact for such events.

Moreover, when ESA astronauts perform a space mission on the ISS, ESA asks ARISS-Europe to provide radio contacts with the astronaut for schools in the country of the astronaut. These events are highlighted in the media and the educational role of the amateur radio service is officially recognized.

ARISS mentors work with local amateur radio clubs (mostly by e-mail and phone) to set up an efficient satellite type station in the schools selected for a contact. In Region 1, ARISS-Europe has mentors in UK, Belgium, France and Italy.

When a direct radio contact cannot be set up, the radio contact with the ISS is established by one of the ARISS dedicated ground stations and from there, the signals are relayed by phone to the school. This solution is called a “telebridge”. The phone link generally involves up to ten hams: the astronaut, the ground station operator, the operator in the school, the coordinator, a moderator and the hams in charge of broadcasting the audio of the space talk over EchoLink and IRLP.

In 2007, sixteen ARISS School Contacts were performed in Region 1:

-          2 in Belgium

-          5 in Italy                      (2 ESA organized events)

-          3 in Germany              (2 ESA organized events)

-          1 in Hungary

-          1 in the Netherlands   (ESA organized event)

-          2 in Portugal

-          1 in Spain

-          1 in UK


  1. Columbus

November 2002, I submitted a request to ESA's Directorate for Manned Space Flight and Microgravity, asking for ham radio facilities on the European Space Laboratory Columbus. In 2003, ESA's Columbus division agreed on the principle.

I took five years to solve the many issues related to the installation of amateur radio antennas on Columbus. Technical constraints are extremely severe, due to the intense vibrations the antennas have to withstand during launch in a Shuttle bay.

The patch antennas have been developed by the Technical University of Wroclaw, Poland.

The L/S-band antennas have been fixed on the nadir of Columbus November 2007.

The Columbus module has been delivered to the International Space Station by Atlantis Shuttle Mission STS-122, February 2008.

ARISS-Europe has collected 72.000€ for the construction of the antennas. All donations are published on ARISS-Europe’s website. See

The initially estimated cost was 80.000€, but the total bill amounts to 86.000€.

The UBA has paid the final bill to the Technical University of Wroclaw. This means that the UBA has advanced 14.000€ cash.

A contribution from the Region to alleviate UBA’s financial burden would be most welcome.

ESA also contributed to this project, supporting the installation cost (installation of feedthroughs, coax cables, fixation on the module). From an inside source, I was told that ESA’s financial involvement in ARISS antennas is about 1 million Euro.

Presently, I have set up weekly teleconferences for the ARCOL technical working group which is planning the onboard equipment for Amateur Radio on COLumbus.

This will be the first ever amateur radio station on European territory in Space.


  1. ARSPEX website

An ARSPEX website has been installed. See




Respectfully submitted


Gaston Bertels, ON4WF

ARSPEX WG chairman a.i.