The UK Operations team for ARISS carried out a full scale practice run on Wednesday 9th December at a Basingstoke church hall in preparation for the first ARISS contact with Tim Peake from the UK.

The day started early for many of us and once we had assembled, had the obligatory cup of tea/coffee, we divided ourselves into the three separate teams as follows:-

  • VHF/UHF Team – Ciaran/M0XTD, Graham/G3VZV
  • Video Streaming Team – Noel/G8GTZ, Frank/M0AEU
  • HamTV/Computing – Noel/G8GTZ, Phil/M0DNY

Whilst Ciaran and Graham set about sorting the antenna system out first, Noel started the process of securing the Land Rover, setting the dish and raising the mast.  The process is now refined such that within one hour from arrival on site, Noel can have the Land Rover setup, configured and correctly aligned.

Whilst that is ongoing, Phil and Frank set about starting to build the local network for the ARISS team and the video mixing desk for the web streaming.  We are using a secure network to link all our various computers, both local and remote, as well as the feed from the Goonhilly 3.8m dish that will be also tracking the ISS.

After a superb lunch break kindly provided by Sally, Noels XYL, the rest of the station was finalised and tested. HamTV reception from both Goonhilly and the Land Rover where established and proved with a couple of ISS passes over the UK that occurred late into the afternoon.  Both the VHF and the HamTV antenna systems went into auto-tracking mode and worked as planned.

After a review of the days activities and a “lessons learnt” session, the team were satisfied that all major issues had been covered.  A few problems (e.g. a loose coax connector on the UHF part of the station) did crop up and have been assigned to individuals within the team to resolve.

All in all, a very worthwhile if not exhausting day, but we have completed another major milestone on the preparations for Principia.