Last update 16.05.2020
The space agencies entrust ARISS with the task of implementing amateur contacts for schools, allowing students to put questions to astronauts on board the International Space Station and receive their answer direct from space.
Candidate schools shall prepare a space oriented educative and submit it, together with an "Application" document, to the ARISS School Selection Manager Mr. Francesco De Paolis, IKØWGF.
Selected schools are put on a waiting list. There are waiting lists in each of the ARISS Regions: USA, Russia, Canada (extended to Central and South America), Europe (extended to Africa and the Middle East), Japan (extended to Far East and Oceania).
The Application form can be downloaded from this webpage. The list of pending applications for the European region is also available on this webpage. The waiting time is more or less 1 year, depending on the kind of contact. Indeed, ARISS School Contacts come in two flavours: "direct" or "telebridge".
Direct contact : amateur radio volunteers set up a satellite radio station in the school and the contact with the International Space Station is established during a pass of the ISS over the school.
Telebridge contact : ARISS has a dozen of dedicated "telebridge" ground stations covering the world. These highly performing radio stations are maintained and operated by experienced amateur radio volunteers. For a "telebridge" School Contact, the radio contact with the Space Station is established during a pass of the ISS over one of the ARISS "telebridge" stations and the signals are relayed to and from the school per telephone line.
Moreover, it is to be noted that ARISS School Contacts are also requested by the Space Agencies, and these requests have higher priority.
How ARISS School Contacts are prepared and planified
Crews on the International Space Station stay on board for six months. For each of these "Expeditions", the ARISS Operations Committee upgrades schools from the regional waiting lists to the "To Do" list. Several parameters are to be taken into account, such as the number of contacts authorized by the agencies, the presence onboard of licensed astronauts and then to the individual availability by ISS crew to do ARISS contacts, etc.
ARISS Operations Committee members meet weekly per teleconference. For each school on the "To Do" list a volunteering Mentor is nominated. The Mentor takes up the responsibility to prepare the school and the local radio amateurs for the upcoming radio contact. Important aspects of this preparation are detailed in the "ARISS School Contacts procedure" available on this webpage.
Schools accepting to share the ARISS radio contact take priority. European mentors invite schools to choose a partner school and to share the ARISS event with another school on the waiting list.
When an ARISS School Contact is scheduled in the European region, we circulate an announcement to the subscribers of the ARISS-Europe News Bulletin. Interested parties are invited to listen to the astronaut answering the questions prepared by the students. Radioamateurs can easily receive the radio signal transmitted from the ISS when it is in range of their station.
When a direct ARISS School Contact cannot be done, the option is to set up a "telebridge". In that case, the radio contact is performed by one of the dedicated ARISS ground stations, located in the USA, Europe, South-Africa (new one!), Australia and Argentina. The up- and downlink audio is relayed between the school and the ground station per phoneline. The audio of "telebridge" contacts is mostly distributed real time by Echolink and IRLP.
Reports of ARISS School Contacts are available on the ARISS-Europe Archive page. Some recordings and pictures are attached to the archived ARISS-Europe News Bulletins and can be downloaded.
The complete process for a successful ARISS School Contact is explained in the ARISS School Contacts procedure (see sidebar).
IMPORTANT : Please read carefully the documents available in the right column. Technical requirements for the setting up of a radio station (direct contact) are given in item ARISS School Contact Technical Requirements, which is a Zoho page. To edit this Zoho page, click button in upper left corner. There are three Zoho sheets included for checking your setup.