Mir Space Station- Amateur Radio: PACKET, SSTV and VOICE

The MIR Space Station was "deorbited" into the South Pacific Ocean and is now just a memory. This information was left on website as tribute and to provide links to various informational sources. It is anticipated that in 2004 , SSTV pictures will be sent from the Interenational Space Station (ISS).

UPDATE 2008- CLICK HERE- Recent 2008 International Space Station Ham Radio activity- Lots of LINKS


MIR Earth

Amateur Radio In Orbit

WB6FZH SSTV - Packet - Voice Communications


Slow Scan Television Images

The MIR Amateur Radio Experiments are joint project involving the cooperation of Russia, USA, Germany, and many other countries, groups and individuals. It provides many benefits to the people on each end of the radio transmissions.

While in orbit the MIR Crews could see their families, and images of people and places they contacted via Slow Scan Television (SSTV). We on the ground could see out the window, inside the modules and the the members of the Crew themselves, as they moved the camera periodically from one location to another.

Imagine the impact to classrooms full of students and many individuals bringing the daily activity of an orbiting Space Station into their lives. Chatting with Cosmonauts by voice or computer keyboard or exchanging TV pictures.

"I know my life will never be the same, having made the MIR Space Station connection". Greg Greenwood, WB6FZH, 9/10/99

These color SSTV images show what simple video camera mounted next to the window of the MIR Space Station connected to an off-the-shelf Japanese 2 meter Amateur FM Transceiver can bring to thoasands of Amateur Radio Operators and Experimenters around the world as it orbited 400 miles above.

Amateur Radio Equipment on Earth

The Terrestrial "Ham" stations and equipment were from the very exotic expensive multi-mode Transceiver with tracking Antennas interfaced to a Pentium Computer to a simple hand held Transceiver and whip antenna with a laptop computer connected plugged into the speaker. MIR's orbital postition data was usually provided by computers running Orbital Tracking Programs, on PCs near the radio or from printed information. There are orbital tracking software programs that range in price from "free" to fairly expensive. Some DOS programs will run on old and slow 386 computers, others require Win98 and high speed machines.

In the Pacific from near Honolulu, WB6FZH used a simple 10 watt power level Kenwood model 251a 2 meter transceiver, connected to a Kantronics model KPC-3 .AX25 TNC unit for packet, voice and SSTV operation. The antenna was generally an "Eggbeater", omni-directional circular polarized antenna 20' above the water.

From Northern California, the radio dedicated to the MIR SSTV reception and PACKET operation was an older Icom Hand Held radio that when 12 volts was connected to it, would provide about 5 watts output. It was connected to an old AEA Isopole 2 meter antenna that had been sitting in the same spot 10" above ground for the last 20 years.

The link section of this article has several websites carefully organized to provide pictures and technical information. These SSTV images were received at many different places around the world, my thanks to all those that shared their SSTV images with us on their websites or individually.

Voice & Packet Communications from Space Station MIR

FM Voice communications was primarily done with a off-the-shelf 10 watt 2 Meter Transceiver made in Japan using a 5/8 wave American Made Larsen Antenna installed on a "space walk" to MIR. I still have the same model antenna, a few years older, mounted on the roof of my '83 Dodge Van.

The same radio was connected to a laptop computer and an American TNC (Terminal Node Controller) that allowed Keyboard communications with the MIR and unattended PMS (Personal Message System) activity in the form of a computerized Bulletin Board. Messages could be left, picked up and viewed as the MIR orbited.

Another interesting feature of the AX25 1200 packet TNC was the "Digital Repeating" Feature, or "DIGIPEAT" mode. Usinmg this technique Earthbound Ham Radio Stations could send a digital message or beacon and be instantly repeated by the MIR Packet Radio Station.

From the Hawaiian Islands WB6FZH sent his digital beacon signal to MIR while it was about one degree above the Northwestern horizon from his Kaneohe Bay location and N6CO in Northern California received it and replied immediately with his transmission while MIR was less than one degreee above his horizon,looking West. The window of opportunity for this earth-space-earth activity was approxiamately 20 seconds long. The distance covered was about 2400 miles point-to-point on the earth.

Another use of the " MIR Digipeater" was to send short packet transmissions with callsigns, latitude and longitude, name, e-mail address, and short message as MIR would go by. This would mean that stations sharing the "footprint" of MIR's radio coverage could see one another's signals on their computer screens.

From Northern California's Shasta-Triniity Forest, WB6FZH was able to exchange greetings and read transmissions from Canada in the North, Mexico in the South, and Iowa to the East, as MIR orbited. Signal reports were recieved via the e-mail address on the beacon transmission. "wb6fzh@arrl.net"

Out in the Pacific Ocean, in Hawaii, where there were only a handful of Amateur Radio Operators using MIR, it had other uses that were not practical over the highly populated parts of the world. MIR was used to deliver digital messages to individual Electronic Mail Boxes. One such message was sent by NH6RZ in Milliani to WB6FZH in Kaneohe, both on the island of Oahu separated by the Koolau Mountain Range. The message went 400 miles up, and 400 miles down connecting the two stations that could not otherwise communicate point to point. While this only took a few seconds, it is not an activity that was practical over North America or Europe where the number of users and colliding signals would make it difficult. Imagine the suprise to WB6FZH at the keyboard and watching his Satellite Tracking Program to confirm the position of MIR when he heard the burst of packet signal and a Red LED illuminated telling him that a message was waiting in his packet mailbox. His first [and likely last] mail via a Space Station orbiting above him!

The MIR Space station is scheduled to be "mothballed" on June 15th, 2000 for about 5 months and then will be re-visted by another crew that will either occupy it again for a while, as private funding or the condition of the aging space station. The "final" solution for MIR is to alter it's orbit by remote control and let it burn up in the earth's atmosphere with the larger pieces landing hopefully in the Pacific Ocean.

Our next opportunity to contact a Space Station will be the International Space Station (ISS) that is being assembled for habitation in the year 2000 and beyond. Amateur Radio Equipment is already under test for use on the ISS. Stay tuned... NOTE- Voice and Packet contact has been established with the International Space Station from Weaverville Information including Real Audio Player with voice contact located on TCARC Homepage


1st Image

This is WB6FZH's first image received from MIR Space Station with the simple SSTV receiving installation in Kaneohe. On February 1st MIR was 1021 Miles North of Hawaii at an altitude of 358 miles. Complete information on this technology thru links from WB6FZH's SSTV over HAWAII page.

over MIR
This striking image shows the Solar Panels that turn sunlight into electrical energy to charge the batteries that power the 28 volt DC electrical system. "Moonlight over MIR" is the romantic title of this SSTV image. Ofcourse, it is most likely sunlight...but none-the-less interesting.

MIR Exterior
This image shows some of the MIR experiments and other exterior equipment in the foreground, with the North Pacific in the background.

MIR Ham Radio
This view is another that shows the view from 400 miles up, the "Blue Marble" is looking good from Mir's window, giving us earth-bound space travelers a good view. I have used this image to promote Ham Radio recently please feel free to use it to interest others becoming licensed Amateur Radio Operators.

SSTV over Hawaii KH6/WB6FZH- Updated:2003


MIR Space Station
This NASA photo taken by the US Shuttle Endeavor shows in great detail the MIR Space Station. The extensive solar panels and modules with their exterior experiments,etc. can be clearly seen.

Mir & Shuttle
This ENERGIA photo shows a US Shuttle docked at MIR taken by an approaching Russian Russian replacement crew.


This image was recorded by AH6HH, Sid, in Kailua, Hawaii as the MIR contacted the Pearl City High School near Honolulu. NH6YK, Ted, and his student group spoke to the 2 Russian and 1 French Cosmonaut.

Coming Home
This is probably the last portrait of the crew broadcast to Earth via amateur radio SSTV using Robot 36 format. A few hours later they entered their capsule and safely made the return home.

INTERNET SITES OF INTEREST- More listed soon to help you.

MIR SSTV IMAGES- USA NOTE- Some of these older MIR sites are disappearing, please report dead links.







Last Updated: January 22, 2003