Using the FUNcube satellite to learn about Space

The amazing interest in Tim Peake’s mission on the International Space Station is keeping the Hilderstone radio club busy with enquiries from schools. The pupils of Monkton C of E Primary school were thrilled to receive a message from space when they picked up the signal from a passing amateur radio satellite. They calculated the orbital period from the variations in the satellite’s temperature as it passed from sunlight into the Earth’s shadow, taking 97 minutes to orbit compared to Tim’s 93 minutes. They learned how Isaac Newton explained the orbit of objects around the Earth nearly 300 years before Sputnik was launched!

“ St Mildred’s pupils
St Mildred’s

The year 2 pupils of St Mildred’s Primary Infant school were very excited to hear Tim’s voice live when he answered the pupils’ questions from Sandringham school. They were using 3 handheld amateur radio receivers provided by the club and heard Tim’s reply to the question about the mission being named after Newton’s book Principia.

“ St Mildred’s pupils listening to Tim
St Mildred’s pupils listening to Tim

Pupils at Wellesley House school were successful in not only seeing the International Space Station 400km above the Earth go over the school grounds at 18.11 in the evening but they heard him answer the questions from the pupils of the Royal Masonic School.

“ Hearing Tim and seeing his spaceship” width=
Hearing Tim and seeing his spaceship

John Hislop provided his two handheld transceivers and the club’s two Baofeng radios tuned to the amateur radio frequency of 145.800MHz. Shrieks went up as the ISS appeared 20 degrees in the west and they heard Tim reply to the first question ‘Do you bounce around when you hiccup?’ It was amazing for the pupils to hear his voice and to see his space craft at the same time. It was all over in a few minutes as the ISS faded from view in the east but Tim’s voice still came through – ‘That’s a great question!’ The pupils loved it!

The club continues to support those schools coming to the Tim Peake amateur radio contact in April at Wellesley House school. Chartfield primary school pupils made some amazing models of the ISS and they were keen to download data from an orbiting educational satellite which had a special message just for them.

“ tracking the FUNcube” width=
Tracking the FUNcube

One of the pupils at Smarden primary school breathed on the Astro-Pi causing the humidity reading to rapidly increase.

“ Looking at the FUNcube telemetry” width=
Looking at the FUNcube telemetry

Excitement is reaching fever pitch as schools in Thanet prepare for the Tim Peake contact on Saturday 23 April. John Hislop visited Reculver Primary school and Minster primary school to speak to the lucky pupils who will be attending the event at Wellesley House school. He explained how Tim experiences 16 sunsets and sunrises in a day!

““Simulating
Simulating space-time to show gravity in space

To show how the contact will last only a few minutes John used an educational satellite called FUNcube orbiting 200 km higher than Tim’s 400km orbit. The pupils downloaded temperature data from the satellite and the pupils calculated the period of the orbit from the temperature changes as it goes into sunlight and then into the Earth’s shadow.