JLG Boom Links School Children to International Space Station

A boomlift provided by JLG Industries helped a group of school children in Brisbane, Australia, hoist an amateur radio into the sky to facilitate communication with an astronaut on the International Space Station.

The JLG 600AJ articulating boom played a key role as children from St. Thomas Catholic Primary School in the inner Brisbane suburb of Camp Hill recently helped the children make contact with the astronaut 350 kilometers away.

School principal David Cashman received confirmation from NASA’s education division over a year ago that the small school had been selected to take part in a live link with the ISS, which is orbiting above earth. The program, which is sponsored by NASA, has been running since 1996, but less than 20 schools in Australia have had the opportunity to take part.

According to NASA, with the crew of the ISS working in a very isolated environment, the contact with young children back on earth through schools like St. Thomas’ helps boost their morale.

Confirmation of the school’s chance for a live link set off a huge burst of excitement among the students who vied for the opportunity to ask a question directly to United States Air Force Colonel Mike Fincke, expedition commander aboard the ISS.

For the school’s parents and teachers the more immediate challenge was to rig amateur radio equipment with an aerial positioned to receive the signal from the space craft. The 600AJ articulating boom was provided by JLG’s Brisbane branch. With its up-and-over capability, the knuckle boom managed to elevate the sending and receiving antenna so that it functioned as required. Positioning the antenna high enough to ensure a clear line to the ISS throughout the link-up with the students was essential for the long distance question and answer session to be successful.

Although it is in orbit only 350 kilometers above the earth, the ISS travels at a constant speed of 27,000 kilometers per hour, presenting a moving target for the aerial to track.

The ground-level controls of the 600AJ enabled the amateur radio team to fine tune the antenna's position to assist with the tracking.

Aside from organizing the radio link, the school staged lunchtime demonstrations to teach the children about amateur radio, ran test connections with weather satellites orbiting the earth, mounted displays and staged a space themed art contest and a weekly space trivia quiz.

The link-up took place successfully on Nov. 4, allowing 20 children to step up to the microphone and have their questions answered by Colonel Fincke before the International Space Station passed out of range.

JLG Industries is based in McConnellsburg, Pa.

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