Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Students Call Space Station With Home-Built Radio

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the prince-albert-in-a-tin-can dept.

Communications 330

Pizzutz writes "Four Toronto college students have accomplished a technological feat that their teachers are calling a first. The Humber College seniors made contact with the International Space Station Monday with a radio system they designed and built themselves. School officials say that, to their knowledge, that's never been accomplished by students at the college level." Somewhat disappointingly, the students actually did have permission to make contact.

cancel ×

330 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

no kidding (5, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710117)

Somewhat disappointingly, the students actually did have permission to make contact.

No kidding. But this does open the door to prank calls to the ISS. I can't wait for some of those to get posted to YouTube. Or shown on NASA TV.

Re:no kidding (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710189)

Disappointingly? Heck, that makes it three times cooler, IMO :)

Re:no kidding (-1, Offtopic)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710297)

This is offtopic. Mod accordingly. I was reading a story about how Google executives were going on trial in Italy over a you tube video. I refreshed to see what new comments were in the story. Suddenly, the story was not there any more.

I have never seen Slashdot pull down a story before, even if it turned out to be factually incorrect. Anyone know why this story got yanked off of the front page?

You screwed up (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710403)

You screwed up, twit, you posted anonymously in other discussions but left yourself open on this one.

Re:You screwed up (-1, Offtopic)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710461)

Actually, I did post one other time anonymously because I wasn't logged in at the time. Why should I care if I ask this question under my real user account? Will you and the rest of the GNAA come after me?

Re:no kidding (5, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710247)

Somewhat disappointingly, the students actually did have permission to make contact.

Yes, it is truly disappointing when youngsters act responsibly.

I understand how the story would be more romantic if they contacted the ISS out of the blue (imagine how surprised those aboard the station would be!). But the fact of the matter is that living in space is precarious at the best of times. Unexpected events, especially those that tie up communication channels, are unsafe and not welcome. Thus the students did the right thing by clearing permission first, and they should be applauded for that.

Also, the students probably wanted their signal to actually be answered, rather than ignored or (even more likely) simply not noticed!

Re:no kidding (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710573)

Somewhat disappointingly, the students actually did have permission to make contact.

Yes, it is truly disappointing when youngsters act responsibly.

I am much older then them but I still wouldn't call them youngsters. From TFA:

Operation First Contact is the graduating project for 34-year-olds Gino Cunti and Paul Je of Toronto, Patrick Neelin, 25, of Welland, Ont., and Kevin Luong, 21, of Mississauga, Ont.

They are all legal age!

Re:no kidding (5, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711129)

Yeah, I read that part too and I'm trying to figure out what kind of radio they had to build that was 'way over their heads' kind of technology? Freq-hopping with 1024 bit encryption digital radio? If ham operators normally talk with the ISS and their story sounded like it was HAM radio they used, why was it such a feat? Is there something special we need to know about students in Canada? Did anyone find a link to technical details of the radio system they built?

Re:no kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710775)

Yes, it's truly disappointing when Slashdotters can't detect sarcasm.

Re:no kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710835)

Yes, it is truly disappointing when youngsters act responsibly.

Actually, yes it kinda is.

There really is some value to rebelling against authority. All youngsters should do it. Being responsible is a burden that comes after graduation.

Re:no kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26711227)

Umm...I believe the youngsters in questions here are both 34 years of age.

Re:no kidding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710359)

this does open the door to prank calls to the ISS.

Hello? This is Nicolas Sarkozy calling ... I liked that movie you did "nailin' paylin", that was real edgy.

Re:no kidding (2, Interesting)

atomicthumbs (824207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710777)

It's amateur radio. Anybody with a license, a radio, and a good enough antenna has permission to contact the ISS.

Re:no kidding (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711211)

Guess what I can contact the ISS WITHOUT PERMISSION. and do it regularly. I also talked to astronauts on the Columbia Shuttle, and cosmonauts in the Mir when it was in the sky. all on my home made radio. You don't need permission.

It's called HAM RADIO. and I designed and built my own 2 meter radio and antennas when I was 16. I also built a radio from my own design and talked to people on the OTHER SIDE OF THE PLANET!

If these "college kids" are extra special then we as a nation are completely and utterly doomed.

College level should be designing stuff that a kid with some surplus electronics in his basement cant do.

Re:no kidding (5, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711319)

But... They're art majors.

Still it's awesome. (5, Insightful)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710153)

Somewhat disappointingly, the students actually did have permission to make contact.

I imagine one could get in a lot of trouble prank calling the ISS. Though it it some what difficult to come up with space themed prank calls akin to "Is your refrigerator running". Still though, they got a good grade in the class I'm sure and likely had a lot of fun doing it. I'd say that's a grand accomplishment even if they did have permission to do it.

Re:Still it's awesome. (2, Funny)

EvolutionsPeak (913411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710889)

"Is your toolbag secure?"

I guess it doesn't really work. :(

Re:Still it's awesome. (4, Funny)

LanMan04 (790429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710897)

"Is your CO2 scrubber running? Better go catch it!"

Har har har.

Re:Still it's awesome. (4, Funny)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711065)

Though it it some what difficult to come up with space themed prank calls akin to "Is your refrigerator running".

I suppose calling them and telling them to stay up there since Earth has been wiped out would be in bad taste ;)

Not a first (5, Informative)

scsirob (246572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710159)

HAM radio amateurs including students have been in contact with ISS many times over, using voice and digital connections (Packet Radio)

Many of the astronauts on board are HAM radio operators and make frequent contact with schools, institutions and individual amateurs. On the ground, many of these individual amateurs have designed built their own rig.

Read TFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710263)

...While school contacts with the space station are routinely made through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program, many of those contacts are made using a traditional ham radio.
They did not use HAM radio.

Re:Read TFA (1)

fotbr (855184) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710425)

They didn't use an off-the-shelf Yaesu/Icom/Kenwood/Alinco/whatever, but it still could have been amateur radio.

Re:Read TFA (4, Insightful)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710567)

Yes, they did. They did not use a commercially manufactured radio, however. From TFA:

While school contacts with the space station are routinely made through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program, many of those contacts are made using a traditional ham radio.

They made their own radio that used Amateur Radio frequencies (nitpick: Amateur Satellite Service [itu.int] freqs) as opposed to using a Yaesu or Kenwood radio on Amateur freqs. To hams like me, this isn't a big deal. Designing software-defined radios and protocols [princeton.edu] that can span Virginia->New Zealand using 1W [wsprnet.org] of power is cool, but making an 5W VHF or UHF radio is so 1970's.

Re:Read TFA (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26711317)

well, no.

According to their blog (http://www.operationfirstcontact.com/index.html) they purchased the radio (Icom IC-V8000 2M ham transceiver) the antenna (Hy-Gain Oscar yagi) and the antenna rotator (Yaesu G-5500). The blog is kinda sketchy but they may have designed and built a microcontroller-based rotator controller to keep the antenna pointed at the ISS. The frequencies used are smack in the middle of the 2 meter ham band (~145 Mhz). The students put together off-the-shelf, commercial ham gear and contacted the ISS.

My issue isn't with the students, it's with the disparaging way Ham radio is presented in TFA: the student's contact with the ISS was not only PURELY using "a traditional ham radio", but a commercial ham radio at that. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but some of us hams still enjoy homebrewing our own equipment and TFA specifically says the radio was "home-built" and implied it was somehow different and superior to "tradtional ham radio".

Here's hoping the students will go on to be active hams!

73!

Re:Not a first (1)

malloc (30902) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710267)

I think the emphasis was "with a radio system they designed and built themselves".

Re:Not a first (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710971)

I think the emphasis was "with a radio system they designed and built themselves".

Not really. It's pretty easy to design and build a VHF transceiver that will allow you to talk to people on the ISS.

Re:Not a first (3, Funny)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711073)

I think the emphasis was "with a radio system they designed and built themselves".

Define "designed and built themselves"... did they mine the copper ore using handbuilt tools and smelt it into wire using fire struck from flint? Was the design derived in a "clean" environment from first principles?

I thought not... posers ;-)

Re:Not a first (4, Funny)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710277)

HAM SPAM?

Re:Not a first (5, Informative)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710329)

Indeed, it's sad how little knowledge there is of amateur radio among nerds these days. Part of that is the medium itself, where you're often essentially talking with bored middle-aged men about nothing (international regulations arguably forbidding interesting discussions). However, there's no better way to gain an understanding of electronics than through studying for an amateur radio license. If you start with a guide like the ARRL intro [amazon.com] , electronic gadgets become a lot less mysterious and it gets better as you proceed up the license classes. You can diagnose television or mobile phone problems, repair simple devices, or build your own for cheap like audio amplifiers. I haven't used amateur radio in over a decade now, but I'm still really happy that I got into it.

Re:Not a first (3, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710539)

Part of that is the medium itself, where you're often essentially talking with bored middle-aged men about nothing

So it's basically like IRC was back in the day? ;)

Re:Not a first (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711361)

I tried to get some kids interested in ham radio.

Problem was, when I started teaching theory and rules I lost half the class when they found out you could not swear or use profanity.

Tell them they have to self censor themselves and they lose interest.

saying SHIT is more important than knowledge to them.

Re:Not a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710503)

It's "ham" (or "Ham" if the first word in a sentence). "HAM" is NOT an acronym, but a nickname for 'amateur'.

And this whole article is nothing but ignorant sensationalism. There is a lot of information online that the original article author could have studied if s/he could have been bothered to use her/his journalism skills in a meaningful way.

Re:Not a first (1)

tist (1086039) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710535)

34 year old college seniors doing a capstone project of building a radio?

Re:Not a first (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710599)

I was going to point out that myself! And most likely this was also via amateur radio. Ham radio operators have been doing this for about 26 years now, it's definitely not a "first".

The SAREX (Space Shuttle Amateur Radio EXperiment)Program started in 1983 when Mission Specialist Owen Garriott W5LFL operated from the shuttle for the first time. Since then there's been an established program of scheduling contacts with school students and the astronauts. First on the shuttles and now on the ISS.

Also, Mir was quite active on amateur radio as well. They would be on voice from time to time and there was also a packet radio system aboard Mir.

Any amateur radio operator in the world is free to attempt a contact with the ISS. In fact, NASA even has a page about amateur radio aboard the ISS.

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/station/reference/radio/ [nasa.gov]

In fact, any school can apply to have a chance of a scheduled contact between students and the ISS.

Re:Not a first (1)

CaptainAx (606247) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711219)

But, they (SAREX) want you to have an "Oscar class" station when you participate on these prearranged events. I think it would be much cooler if I could use a small portable radio that costs $400 to make the contact rather than the $3000 "Oscar class" station.

Re:Not a first (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710623)

Designed and built themselves. Did you miss that part?

-Peter

Re:Not a first (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710713)

That's what I was thinking. This is news to a degree but to call it a first is a bold and unsupported claim. What radio tech did they use that is so unique? What band, what encoding, etc did they use? They mention it is in fact amateur radio but not HAM. That could be anything.

A little more detail would actually make the article more news worthy for /. Not just "ZOMG they made a l337 radioz and talked to space men." Details please, we aren't retarded.

Re:Not a first (2, Funny)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710945)

"we aren't retarded."

Do you only read with a +8 comment threshold or something?

Re:Not a first (1)

kent_eh (543303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711055)

A little more detail would actually make the article more news worthy for /. Not just "ZOMG they made a l337 radioz and talked to space men." Details please, we aren't retarded.

Maybe we aren't, but the general public (for whom TFA was written) are probably quite impressed that someone who isn't a professional space radio engineer can actually do something like this.

Which is kind of sad.

Too many people have forgotten that making something with your own 2 hands is extremely rewarding, and not that daunting. Most seem to want to consume mass quantities of whatever the magic box tells them they need.

Re:Not a first (1)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710927)

Allow me if you will, to pick you brain.
When I was about 10, I was graced the friendship of a local ham. I setup an ancient FT-7 transceiver, a long wire antenna in a semi-random direction, and was fascinated by the world that it opened up.

Sadly, at the time, my brain couldn't wrap around the requisites to get a license, and it all fell into obscurity.
Now, I live in a city, so my dreams of building vast antennas is kind of over.

To get to the point: I've still got a large attraction to the world of ham and packet radio.
What are, do you [or anyone else] consider the best/better resources to get a starting point on everything again.

I'd love to get a simple rig up, if possible. I've got a very solid computing background, but not much of an electronics background. I know the difference between and NPN and a PNP transistor, if that counts.

Thanks in advance!

Re:Not a first (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711151)

Go check the ARRL website. Lots of ways to get into Amateur radio - even in cities. On low budgets. Only downside is you do have to talk to boring middle age men most of the time. Can't have everything.

The FCC even dropped the Morse code requirement for General class, so if that was the kicker for you, it's gone.

73, KL1SA

Re:Not a first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26711093)

If anyone is interested, you can read their blog which details their project.

http://www.operationfirstcontact.com/blog.htm [operationf...ontact.com]

Sadly the Globe and Mail got the story very wrong. They didn't even build the equipment, they bought much of it off the shelf.

As you can see in this entry they bought a common commercially made 2m mobile transceiver.

http://www.operationfirstcontact.com/blog/episode16.htm [operationf...ontact.com]

"Today, Mr. Rector, Paul, and I went out to Radioworld and purchased a transceiver. After much research, we decided to go with the ICOM Ic-V8000. For the cost, it has exactly what we need. On Friday, we're going to be integrating it into our setup, and doing all the necessary testing."

Disappointing? (4, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710161)

"Somewhat disappointingly, the students actually did have permission to make contact. "

And why is that disappointing? I think it's incredibly cool that they had permission to do something like this and would love to see officials (both school and space) take similar steps to encourage students to push the boundaries. I don't see how this is disappointing at all.

Hey you BALL LICKING MODERATOR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710295)

Whoever modded this guy troll deserves to be hanged and left hanging without the neck break so that he is actually choking. Or, he should be dropped from 40 feet so that his head pops off like Saddams, but they have machines to keep the brain alive. With Saddam, the heart stopped beating, so he was legally dead, but they were able to bypass the legal process by pumping blood through his head to keep him alive, and he is currently in Guantanamo. Obama knows this but wants to discontinue the project.

Re:Hey you BALL LICKING MODERATOR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710541)

Here's a video [youtube.com] confirming it. Now you don't see the decapitation in the video, but I did also hear this theory that he is still alive, as convoluted as it is.

Even the MI6 confirms it...Saddam probably alive! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710987)

Check out this article: from an Australian news source [smh.com.au] which claims that Saddam may still be alive.
 
Think there is any truth to this?

Re:Disappointing? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710327)

It was tongue and cheek in that he was hoping it was a prank call. Look at the "from the x dept." line.

Re:Disappointing? (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710617)

Yea I don't get it, why would this be bad? Why would we be proud/happy if they didn't have permission and contacted them anyhow? Life in space, while cool, is very dangerous. The people up there need to know who they are speaking with - especially IF it is a prank caller trying to make themselves come off as NASA.

Re:Disappointing? (1)

xch13fx (1463819) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710837)

Yea I don't get it, why would this be bad? Why would we be proud/happy if they didn't have permission and contacted them anyhow? Life in space, while cool, is very dangerous. The people up there need to know who they are speaking with - especially IF it is a prank caller trying to make themselves come off as NASA.

because they didn't claim to be God or aliens. ...that's what I would have done.

Not one to be one upped... (4, Funny)

Fx.Dr (915071) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710171)

...Cap'n Crunch responded by saying "tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet", and subsequently found out that, yes, the fridge on the ISS is in fact running.

Re:Not one to be one upped... (1)

genner (694963) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710481)

...Cap'n Crunch responded by saying "tweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet", and subsequently found out that, yes, the fridge on the ISS is in fact running.

But do they have prince albert in a can?

Re:Not one to be one upped... (1)

wjsteele (255130) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711043)

Fantastic... not many of today's kids would understand that reference! Thanks for the memory!

Makes me wish modern cereal boxes had good toys like back then!!!

Bill

Nothing new here - A School PR Stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710187)

ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) program has been around for years. Probably hundreds of schools have built radios to talk to the space station for 10 minutes and ask whatever questions they want. If any of you want to talk to the space station here is the link. http://www.arrl.org/ARISS/ [arrl.org] I think it is mostly a high school program though, I am glad to see Humber students are doing what high school students around the world are accomplishing.

Re:Nothing new here - A School PR Stunt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710601)

And, relating your post to earlier comments in the thread, from the ARISS website:

"CAN HAMS MAKE AN UNSCHEDULED ARISS CONTACT?
Yes. The ISS crew has not lost sight of why ARISS has been so successful. It is the Amateur Radio community that has brought astronauts voices into schools. Crew members make random contacts with earth-bound hams. They make contacts during their breaks, pre-sleep time and before and after meal-time. Astronauts have contacted thousands of hams around the world. Computer software allows the crew to operate the 2-meter packet gear radio in unattended mode, and hams can make contacts when the crewmembers are working."

So... while it's good that the students got permission, and consequently a guaranteed person waiting on the other end, it's apparently not a big deal. The ISS doesn't give a crap if you radio them up without warning.

Re:Nothing new here - A School PR Stunt (1)

Arivia (783328) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711335)

The sad thing is that Humber is the college attached to my university. This is really embarrassing: we should be able to do better, y'know?

Wayback Machine... (1)

Cadallin (863437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710191)

Jeepers.

Students built some sort of radio which they used to communicate with someone at distance?

Will the wonders of this modern era ever cease?

Your first radio (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710215)

It's going to be considerably more difficult for the next generation to build their first radios, once it's all gone digital.

There won't be much left to listen to on a simple crystal set.

Re:Your first radio (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710405)

It's going to be considerably more difficult for the next generation to build their first radios, once it's all gone digital.

People can build their own digital equipment. I hear some people even build their own computers.

Of course, if the digital format is proprietary, that makes things take a different turn. But that's because the format is proprietary, not because it's digital.

Re:Your first radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26711221)

The first amateur communication was digital (CW morse code) over 100 years ago.

Then we regressed to voice. Now were back to all sorts of digital hotness.

http://www.hamsexy.com/cms/?page_id=75

Re:Your first radio (4, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710691)

It's going to be considerably more difficult for the next generation to build their first radios, once it's all gone digital.

You mean "write their first radios", since the era of hardware radios is essentially over? With the availability of very high speed/very high dynamic range ADCs and FPGAs capable of doing MPEG-4 decoding on the fly, I doubt you'll see much "building" and a lot more "writing" going on. Wanna get involved? Start Here [hpsdr.org] .

Unlicensed Broadcasts (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710219)

Somewhat disappointingly, the students actually did have permission to make contact.

You shouldn't be encouraging readers to attempt broadcasts without permission. Unlicensed broadcasts with power sufficient to reach the International Space Station can be a safety hazard; potentially interfering with or jamming legitimate transmissions. At the very least, one might distract the ISS crew during an important maneuver/space walk when the entire crew needs to be focused.

(Think of it a bit like having the phone ring when you're in the middle of moving heavy furniture. Not exactly opportune.)

These kids did the right thing by having official permission to make the broadcast. Especially because it meant that there was an astronaut available to speak with them. If it was an unlicensed transmission without prior approval, they would have gotten "hung up" on. ;-)

Re:Unlicensed Broadcasts (3, Informative)

fotbr (855184) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710355)

Slight nit-pick. It doesn't take a whole lot of power to do VHF/UHF line-of-sight to (or from) low-earth-orbit. Especially if the receiving end has a) a good receiver b) a good antenna (or antenna system) or c) some combination of both, which, IIRC, the ISS does.

Re:Unlicensed Broadcasts (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710913)

I was going to pounce on the same point (that of the fact that there's no RF danger at typical Earth-to-LEO power levels), but then I realized he was thinking along the lines of jamming/busting in on NASA comms with a fake message and making them lose their concentration.

Slightly off-topic: there was an article about a guy at Arecibo that was going to attempt to radar map an asteroid. The article provided the power level, frequency, and gain of the dish. I plugged those numbers into an RF exposure limit calculator and found that the uncontrolled exposure zone extended past low Earth orbit! I warned him to take that into account before he nuked the astronauts on the shuttle and/or ISS.

It's called Amateur Radio... or "Ham Radio" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710667)

What are you talking about?

Many people build the own radios, have since the turn of the last century. www.arrl.org will help you understand how to do that, and how to get a license. The very sad thing is that Humber doesn't realize just how many Amateur Radio clubs there are, of students organized by the university or college, even in Toronto. There is nothing special about what has been done here, at all.

"Broadcast" is not what we are talking about, that's something else.

Re:It's called Amateur Radio... or "Ham Radio" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710833)

Many people build the own radios, have since the turn of the last century.

Last I checked, they still have to be licensed.

(Unless they're in a public band, broadcasting below a specific power, blah, blah, blah.)

Re:Unlicensed Broadcasts (1)

BigGar' (411008) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710801)

I call bullshit on this. The power required to reach the ISS is fairly low and easily within what is the allowed Maximum transmitting power (Typically 1500 Watts, but depending on the frequency may be lower). In any event you can bounce a transmission off the Moon and pick it up on about 100Watts on the low end.

Depending on the antenna they probably wouldn't have required any more than 5-10 watts to do the transmission. Though with a smaller antenna power power would have been required.

An unlicensed transmission is an FCC, or the Canadian equivalent, violation and would have gotten them in trouble with that organization.

Here's a guide from the AARL on contacting the ISS http://www.arrl.org/news/features/2004/10/06/1/ [arrl.org]

Re:Unlicensed Broadcasts (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711069)

An unlicensed transmission is an FCC, or the Canadian equivalent, violation and would have gotten them in trouble with that organization.

Is there some part of this I was unclear on? Why do you think the FCC doesn't like unlicensed transmissions if not because they can interfere with other public transmissions?

My presumption is that if they're transmitting without permission to the ISS, they're doing so without proper licensing. Which is a relatively safe assumption considering that the ISS does not (to my knowledge) normally monitor ham radio bands except when expecting ARISS communications. Thus in order to contact ISS, you'd need to transmit on one of NASA or Russia's frequencies [zarya.info] . Which I'm fairly certain is going to require a bit more power than the ARISS transmissions. (Though I could be wrong on that point.)

Re:Unlicensed Broadcasts (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711075)

I call bullshit on this. The power required to reach the ISS is fairly low and easily within what is the allowed Maximum transmitting power

I've not spoken to the crew of the ISS, but I have used their radio as a repeater when it was in that mode. I needed around 5W transmit power into a simple homebrewed aerial that took about an hour to make. It's not exactly difficult.

Re:Unlicensed Broadcasts (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711191)

Contacting a receiver that's only 200-300 miles away with clear line of sight is not a major feat, nor does it require "dangerous" levels of power. There's a little doppler-shift trickery if you want to be slick about it, but the ISS is a relatively easy target for a radio signal.

And, yeah, if they didn't have permission no one would know about it because the receiver would have ignored them.

its a radio!!! (1)

mcarp (409487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710251)

Oh Em Gee! College students built a radio?!? What a surprise. What is the world coming to when some news article thinks building a radio is amazing. Is everybody that stupid?

Re:its a radio!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710467)

--- -- --. slashdot filter error won't let me post a sentance written entirely in Morse code.

So much for the humor factor.

Re:its a radio!!! (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710653)

Oh Em Gee! College students built a radio?!? What a surprise. What is the world coming to when some news article thinks building a radio is amazing. Is everybody that stupid?

It's a sign of a dying era. These days, everyone gets all worked up over "wireless Internet technologies," without having the slightest clue about the 150 years of radio history behind it. I'm lucky to be 28 years old and know a fair bit about the topic; this is partly because my father is an AT&T engineer, and partly because comms are my job in the Navy. Today's college kids don't get nearly the education in applied sciences they used to.

I'm sorry to say... (5, Insightful)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710259)

Yawn. While not just anyone can do what they've done, I'm saddened by the fact that an Amateur Radio hobbyist making a simple FM transceiver is considered news-worthy by the masses. What happened to the spirit of 'Experimentation and Advancement of The Radio Art'? Have we as a species lost our curiosity and drive to learn about and then do new things? I guess the TV has won. 8-(

Re:I'm sorry to say... (5, Informative)

mikewren420 (264173) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710399)

Indeed... I was able to contact the ISS twice using low power (10 watts) and a simple vertical antenna. This is hardly newsworthy, as any Amateur Radio operator with a 2 meter radio (they start at $100) and a small vertical antenna can make contact, with a little luck.

Audio from my contact and others, as well as digital stills received from the ISS are at my website: http://mikewren.com/iss-21oct08 [mikewren.com]

I wiash I still had mod points (2, Insightful)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710437)

Because you are just too right. Forty years ago before personal computers, to get any brownie points for this kind of thing at school you had to wind the coils yourself or bake your own resistors, because hobbyist magazines were full of designs. Ah, the great days of acorn tubes and bending aluminum chassis plates. Or the day I accidentally jammed the TV signal in a quarter mile radius, owing to the amazing bandwidth of some ex-mil tubes and misreading a capacitor value. But, sadly, that's why the authorities discourage experimentation nowadays. It's so much easier to cause problems.

Re:I'm sorry to say... (2, Insightful)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710673)

I'm saddened by the fact that an Amateur Radio hobbyist making a simple FM transceiver is considered news-worthy by the masses.

A fair point. But on the other hand, what better way is there to ignite enthusiasm for amateur radio among the masses than by showing them what it can do?

What happened to the spirit of 'Experimentation and Advancement of The Radio Art'? Have we as a species lost our curiosity and drive to learn about and then do new things?

Evidently these students have curiosity aplenty, which is what drove them to build their system and try to call the ISS. If this is the behavior we want to see more of, then we need to encourage said behavior: by applauding it and publicizing it, which is what this news item is doing.

I understand your point, which is that this kind of experimentation should be so commonplace that we take it for granted (hence not newsworthy). On the other hand, if we want to encourage curiosity, experimentation, and a "hands-on" approach to using technology, then any news or publicity is a good thing.

Re:I'm sorry to say... (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711097)

You're correct about needing to encourage curiosity - perhaps I'm a bit pessimistic about the future. I'd love for it to be part of a 'real' science and technology curriculum in high school instead of teaching to the SOL test (such a deliciously ironic acronym).

Don't kids these days wonder at all how the world around them works? I couldn't read/experiment enough when I was young; hell, I still can't find enough time to investigate everything I want to. I want to know how everything works from the electrons up.

Re:I'm sorry to say... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710769)

I know you can't RTFA, but can you at least RTFS? They didn't just build a kit.

Re:I'm sorry to say... (3, Informative)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710817)

Well, add to that the fact that they didn't even build their own radio. Here's their website:

http://www.operationfirstcontact.com/blog/episode16.htm [operationf...ontact.com]

They bought an ICOM Ic-V8000 as the transceiver. Basically all they did was build an antenna.

Freedom to learn (1)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710859)

For my parents' generation:
They got free time in high school if they were well behaved and interested to play with this kind of stuff. Maybe they didn't go at this level but it was available. My generation: For us we didn't get that level of freedom till senior level courses in college, and that was obviously slipping towards graduate courses. Otherwise it is really up to the kids on their own or with their parents help to pursue hands-on learning. Of course, I don't blame any school offical for being extra-careful when everyone has a lawyer at their hip.

Re:I'm sorry to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26711173)

What happened to the spirit of 'Experimentation and Advancement of The Radio Art'?

The internet, and cell phones.

You can send a radio signal from point A to point B? Cool. I can send a video transmission, without any knowledge about how it works even.

Re:I'm sorry to say... (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711259)

It's getting relatively hard to advance the art after so many decades of development. Today's ham spirit lives on in P2P network protocols and similar experiments on the global network.

The project's blog (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710431)

http://www.operationfirstcontact.com/blog.htm

NB... Designed and Built Their Radio (3, Insightful)

codesmith.ca (251628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710443)

Ummm, folks? They're Canadian college students, tech school level, not university. They designed and built a 2m band 5 watt transceiver.

When I was in college in the 90's, designing and building a low power FM transceiver from the ground up was considered a good third year project. I'm guessing that they had to design everything from power supply to antenna, and probably fabricate it themselves.

Good on you, guys!! I'm da*ned proud of you. especially the adult student who went back for more schooling.

Re:NB... Designed and Built Their Radio (1)

furby076 (1461805) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710697)

Ummm, folks? They're Canadian college students, tech school level, not university. They designed and built a 2m band 5 watt transceiver.

Dude..."They're Canadian" is enough. All they have to do to impress the world is manage to breathe!

Re:NB... Designed and Built Their Radio (5, Informative)

codesmith.ca (251628) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710733)

Oops, my bad. They didn't design or build the transceiver. But....

1) They did mod and deploy an antenna with homebrew tracker to keep alignment to the ISS

2) They're first year students. Not at the end of the program, the very beginning.

So, my praise still stands. Good work guys!

Re:NB... Designed and Built Their Radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26710795)

Depends upon whether the designed it using vacuum tubes, transistors or nowadays
a couple of IC chips! More difficult if they used vacuum tubes besides the difficulty
in finding them. It's pretty simple to connect the (dots) pins between a few
analog and digtial logic chips. Just connect the read pin of IC1 to the read pin of IC2
etc. No designing required..... They didn't mention if they bought off the shelf
transmitters, receivers, FM/AM modulators/oscillators, antennaes
and just connected them together.

What is ISS? (1)

Terrorwrist (1376873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710477)

ISS= International Space Suckers

Slow learners (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710669)

"The Humber College seniors made contact with the International Space Station Monday with a radio system they designed and built themselves."
 
Ummm... so what? It's not like radios are hard to build, or the information to build them is hard to find, or the parts are hard to obtain.

Bad article (5, Informative)

vitaflo (20507) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710753)

These kids did not build their own radio. The bought an Icom Ic-V8000 radio and a Yaesu G-5500 rotator and built their own antenna. One of the kids got a ham license and they were able to get some time with the IIS.

http://www.operationfirstcontact.com/blog/episode16.htm [operationf...ontact.com]

The only thing they did was build an antenna basically. I'm happy for them (we could use more kids getting into Ham radio) but this story is sensationalizes on something that many people have done before.

Re:Bad article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26711015)

What do you mean they "built their own" antenna... that looks like an antenna kit they assembled to me.

There is nothing at all interesting about that. I started doing that when I was 17. Wake me up when they actually Build something. Hell, even when someone gives them a copy of the ARRL handbook and they build a simple circular polarized antenna from it or something.

Kids->Amateur Radio, sure. But there are supposed to be Engineering Seniors.

Re:Bad article (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711295)

These kids did not build their own radio. The bought an Icom Ic-V8000 radio and a Yaesu G-5500 rotator and built their own antenna. One of the kids got a ham license and they were able to get some time with the IIS.

http://www.operationfirstcontact.com/blog/episode16.htm [operationf...ontact.com]

The only thing they did was build an antenna basically. I'm happy for them (we could use more kids getting into Ham radio) but this story is sensationalizes on something that many people have done before.

Yeah, but that reporter had never heard of it before (and obviously can't be bothered to do any research that might spoil their headline.)

Wow, college-level engineers can build a radio? (2, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710819)

FTA: "While school contacts with the space station are routinely made through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program, many of those contacts are made using a traditional ham radio."

Seriously people - We should feel pretty damned scared that this counts as some sort of "achievement" to crow about on the Slashdot FP. These guys built a home-brew shortwave radio as their senior project?

Sorry if this sounds like "playa-hatin'", but gimme a break! Even as a "first", this doesn't sound like anything to brag about.

Re:Wow, college-level engineers can build a radio? (1)

atomicthumbs (824207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26710885)

It's a VHF radio, not a shortwave radio. Anyway, lots of amateur operators do this all the time. I'm surprised that this was accepted as their senior project, let alone a news story. Hey, maybe I could build radios for credit when I get out of high school.

Re:Wow, college-level engineers can build a radio? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711339)

Get in the right program and they will give you credit for weaving baskets, hardly groundbreaking technology, but a worthy endeavor if you want to spend your life hawking wares at craft-show booths.

while neat, not really new.. (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711041)

While school contacts with the space station are routinely made through the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station program, many of those contacts are made using a traditional ham radio.

Well, hams contacted Skylab when Owen Garriott was onboard (he's a ham) and many hams build there own radios. So while it's a neat project for college students and they deserve a round of applause for doing it, it's not like people haven't built their own radios to contact astronauts in space.

firs7? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26711101)

is th3 group that

Got put on hold... (2, Funny)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26711213)

Sorry, the Iranian kids called first. We have to put you on hold.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>