Author Topic: McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center Station KA1SKY Is On The Air!!!!!!  (Read 15195 times)

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Offline W1RC

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In memory of Sharon Christa McAuliffe,  1948 - 1986,
Social Studies Teacher Concord High School, Concord NH, Astronaut, Teacher in Space Program.  The inscription in the upper right corner, "from one educator to another" is to Dale, AF1T, a fellow teacher and friend.

When NEAR-Fest was started in 2007 we made a commitment to use the proceeds from our hamfest to promote, preserve and protect amateur radio and to "attract newcomers to the hobby with a special emphasis on young people."  As part of that promise NEAR-Fest has funded and constructed an amateur radio station which has been presented to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (formerly the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium) in Concord NH. 

This is the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center located on the grounds of the NH Technical Institute in Concord NH.

The equipment is a gift to the young people of New Hampshire and all others who visit the Discovery Center.  This station, capable of working orbiting satellites and the International Space Station (ISS), is given in the memory of two amateur radio operators first licensed in their teens who tragically passed away far before their time; Gregory J Mumley, KA1FJ (SK) and Kenneth S. Rust, KB1PRV (SK).  The radio station is officially known as the Mumley-Rust Memorial Station and is reflected on their QSL cards and stationery. 

This station was initially dedicated and presented to the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium, as it was known then, on May 3rd, 2008.  Greg's XYL Lisa and their children, Nickolas and Jessalyn were present and participated in the dedication.  However, the construction of the new Shepard Discovery Center building delayed regular station operation for over two years.  KA1SKY is now located in the new building at the entrance to the original Planetarium building.

Jessalyn (at the mic), Lisa and their children at the inauguration of the station held at the Planetarium May 3rd, 2008. While Planetarium staffer Kate Michener, K1KTE, operated the controls of the station's Kenwood TS-2000, Lisa and Greg's nine year-old Nickolas and his sister Jessa made the station's first contact with K1CKL, a station in Hillsborough NH.

With Kate, K1KTE, operating the Kenwood TS-2000, Nick takes a turn at the microphone with his sister, Jessalyn, and CVRC club president John, N1FOJ, delightedly look on.

The station was formally inaugurated and dedicated on Monday February 14th 2011.  KA1SKY is now fully operational and on the air on a regularly scheduled basis.

We at NEAR-Fest who envisioned this Project are very fortunate to have had the opportunity of working with the Contoocook Valley Radio Club (CVRC) of Hopkinton NH and in particular, John, N1FOJ, its' President.  John and I brokered a partnership with the CVRC and the Discovery Center to organize and coordinate a pool of volunteer radio operators as well as set up and maintain the station equipment provided by NEAR-Fest and others.  Without their support and cooperation this project would simply have not been possible.  The CVRC has also generously donated several items in addition to many hours of their members' time. 

CVRC President, John Moore, N1FOJ, addresses invited guests and visitors at the Dedication held February 14th 2011.

NEAR-Fest Director of Operations Mike, K1TWF presented the Discovery Center with a plaque on behalf of NEAR-Fest thanking all who helped us make this project a reality while NEAR-Fest Director of Commercial Exhibits John K1JJS read the text of the plaque to the assembled audience.

View the plaque and a comprehensive list of all the donors who helped make this happen.

I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank Ken Rust, KB1PRV (SK) for taking on the position of Project Manager in the summer of 2009 to accomplish this task.  He unfortunately passed away in January 2011.  It is therefore only fitting that this station also be given in his memory.  The station is officially known as the "Mumley-Rust Memorial Station."

At the Dedication ceremonies Kenny's XYL, Chi, presented the station with his photograph that will always remind us of his major contribution to this Project.

Twelve year-old Yettive, (and Amateur Extra Class licensee K1YTV) making the first CQ on 20 meters.

Since we first embarked on this project in January of 2008 a great deal has happened.  In 2009 work commenced on a new building, known as the Alan Shepard Discovery Center so it is now called the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center.  Work on the station had to be postponed until the new building was completed which is why it has taken three years to reach the stage at which we are today. 

You can read the article in the September 2011 issue of CQ MAGAZINE about the history of this amateur radio station.  Visit the official Discovery Center KA1SKY Web page detailing the station. The club name is The Sky is Not the Limit Amateur Radio Club.

This is the station.  It consists of a Kenwood TS-2000 transceiver, a 30A Astron power supply.  The antenna system consists of M2 VHF and UHF circularly-polarized Yagi antennas and a Yaesu M5500 AZ-EL antenna rotatoras.  Since February 2011 an ICOM IC-7600 HF transceiver and a homebrew 40 meter vertical antenna generously donated by Woody, WW1WW and a Hygain rotator, a gift from Fred, KK1KW, were added to the station.  A three-element Cushcraft MA5B HF Yagi beam antenna on top of a non-penetrating 17' rooftop tower were special gifts from NEAR-Fest in 2013 and we are adding an ICOM ID-880 D-Star VHF/UHF radio in the Fall of 2014.

This is the station as it looked in February 2011.  Since the station is in a public area NEAR-Fest has provided a special locking cabinet in which to keep the equipment so the equipment may be secure when it is not being used. 

Sandt, KB1QGJ, and Christy, KB1TYX are two of the twelve Discovery Center staff members who hold amateur radio licenses as a result of the classes conducted on site by the CVRC in 2008 and 2010 by the CVRC. 

Some major additions and structural alterations took place in 2013.  This is how the station appears in March 2014:

Heading outside for a look at the antenna system.

The antennas for working satellites are M2 144 MHz and 432 MHz circular-polarized Yagis.  They are aimed by a Yaesu AZ-EL rotator controlled by a desktop computer in the station's operating position especially designed for aiming and tracking antennas at satellites and other orbiting objects.

Now that this station is "live" it is is by no means the end; in fact it is only the beginning.  I am hoping that NEAR-Fest will be able to provide more "goodies" in the future including a 1960s vintage amateur station which will fit right in with the Alan Shepard early NASA exhibits. 

I wonder how many future hams are in this audience of 8 year-olds whose school was visiting the DC that day?  The proceedings seems to have gotten their attention.  Now, if we can only maintain it.

All of us who are involved are very excited at the prospect of introducing the magic and wonder of radio communications to a whole new generation of young people, some of whom will hopefully see there's more to life than the Internet/cell phone texting/gaming culture and will develop a strong interest and choose to learn more about it as we did so many years ago. 

In a time where everything is governed by and totally dependent on infrastructure, (remember September 11th?) radio is the only mode of communications that can still operate on a stand-alone basis so that people can talk to each other reliably especially in a time of emergency and crisis.   WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS RADIO PREVAILS.

We all must do our part NOW to attract new people to amateur radio.  Otherwise there is the very real danger that our hobby will die with us.


Mister Mike, W1RC