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A Peek Into Eternity

by SANGAT SINGH

 

 

It was a defining moment in the history of the World.

On 4 October, 1957 at 19:28:04, the world was stunned with an eruption of blinding flames and thundering roar of R7 rocket engines, which began the Space Age.

Sputnik 1 was in orbit.

The BBC radio operator picked up the first signals shortly after midnight when he heard a strange beep-beep-beep that was rapidly fading and drifting in frequency. The conclusion - signals were coming from an artificial space satellite.

Sputnik ('traveling companion of the world') thus entered the lexicon of world languages to define Soviet's spectacular feat.

Since one of the transmitters on Sputnik I operated a tad above the 20 MHz frequency - which is used by United States and other countries for their standard time signals - hundreds of thousands of radio amateur and shortwave listeners picked up the signals from the spacecraft .

The Soviet choice of frequency was obviously deliberate. There were no ground stations and where else could you get so large a number of monitoring stations, so well spread out throughout the world? The observations of the amateurs were most invaluable.

In Malaysia, we were also a part of that history when signals were picked up by our radio amateurs, namely D. D. Devan 9M2DD, and Leslie Rao at JTM's monitoring station at Cochrane Road, Kuala Lumpur.

When this momentous news release from Russia swept around the world and teleprinters hammered out the message, the initial American reaction was more of awe than shock. They had been beaten and their skies violated, especially when they
had a smug feeling that if a satellite was going to soar into space, surely it would be launched from Uncle Sam's backyard. The rug had been pulled from under their feet.

It was a rude "Wake Up" call; the American reaction was one of shock. There was a sense of panic in the U.S., with an urgent need to recover at least a modicum of international respect. The "Sputnik Night", as it came to be called, reverberated in the public consciousness in the days that followed. The Americans had to get their act together and quickly get to the starting line.

The Space Race had begun and the world thereafter would never be same.

Sputnik 1 was the seminal beginning.

It was an aluminum 22-inch sphere with four whip antennas and weighed 182 pounds. It traveled in an elliptical orbit that took it around the Earth every 96 minutes. It carried a small radio beacon that beeped at regular intervals and could by means of telemetry verify exact locations on the earth's surface.

The road to the stars was now open.

AMATEUR RADIO SATELLITE

The launch of Sputnik provided the necessary impetus to the amateurs who had already taken an active and important part in space-related investigations.

It was on 12 December, 1961 that OSCAR 1 was launched. And to date, amateurs have launched some 110 satellites of all shapes and sizes. All these high-tech spacecraft have been financed through donations of time, hardware and cash from hams in the United States, Canada, Great Britian, Australia, Russia, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, South Korea, Finland, Israel, Mexico, South Africa and other nations.

All these Hamsats often receive free rides to space.

We in Malaysia launched our own microsat designated as OSCAR MO-46 TIUNGSAT on 26 September, 2000 and it successfully supplied hundreds of images and storeage and forward data facility throughout its expected life span of nearly 3 years.

The Command Station was situated at UKM. The back up satellite ground station was set up at the behest of Datuk Prof. Mazlan Othman, then the Director General of BAKSA.

It was jointly set up with Astronautic Technology Sdn. Bhd. (wholly owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance) to manage practical aspect of all Satellite launches and other space activities. It continues to do so under Dato Dr. Ahmad Sabirin Arshad, MD/CEO.

The Satellite Ground Station at Planetarium Negara is an amateur setup under the call sign of 9M2RPN, and continued to track Tiungsat as well as other amateur satellites in orbit. The satellite ground station also had capabilities to track International Space Station ("ISS") in all modes.

In 2007 when our own Angkasawan Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor was aboard ISS, we made five live contacts directly. Some 100 students were able to talk to Sheikh Muszaphar.

The first contact was made by Datuk Prof. Mazlan Othman herself, then the Director-General of The National Space Agency. She held a grade 1 Radio Amateur License under the call sign of 9M2MAZ. Sheikh Muszaphar and three other short-listed candidates were trained for radio communication at Satellite Ground Station and obtained radio amateur licenses, a pre-requisite for making live contact.

Since 2007, it has become an yearly affair to talk to ISS as a part of Prime Minister's Space Trophy competition when selected students are given an opportunity to speak to the Astronauts.

A brief history of voice contacts with ISS under a special programme that caters to schools to allow them to communicate directly with the ISS:

2007 - Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor 9W2MUS, 2008 - Richard Garriot, W5KWQ, 2009 - Michael Barrat, KD5MIJ, 2010 - Doug Wheelock, KF5BOC.

The backyard Satellite Ground Station at the Planetarium Negara is fully equipped to track amateur satellites in all modes. A singular merit of the amateur radio movement is that by voluntary study and experimentation, a substantial number of young people acquire competence in electronics and radio communication. This competence is of direct benefit nationally in the field of industry and communication - where radio amateurs may often be found playing a key role by virtue of their expertise. 

 

[Sangat Singh has been a licensed amateur radio operator with a call sign of 9M2SS since 1962. He has served as a Director of International Amateur Radio Union for nine years. He has been tracking satellites for 25 years and served as a member of the Malaysian Government's Space Committee under the aegis of Datuk Prof. Dr. Mazlan Othman. He continues to run the Satellite Ground Station and regularly makes radio contacts with ISS and have school children talk to the Astronauts as part of the Amateur Radio aboard ISS programme.] 

[Courtesy:

 

January 26, 2011

Conversation about this article

1: Gurbux Singh (Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), January 26, 2011, 10:04 AM.

What a pleasant surprise to know about Sangat Singh ji and his involvement with Ham radio. I am familiar with Sputnik as my late father, S. Tara Singh was a licenced ham in Rangoon with the call XZ2KN. I operated his station as second operator and we monitored the signals from Sputnik. The whole world was in awe of Sputnik. I hold the Extra class call of W6BUX and am active on most frequencies and modes. Amateur Radio is a great hobby and my father-in-law was 9V1NR in Singapore. 73,es Gurbux

2: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), January 26, 2011, 11:38 AM.

Life is full of surprises. I had made several contacts with your respected father, S. Tara Singh, the famous Ham from Rangoon. If I remember correctly, he was also a great golfer. Yes, I now do remember you and of course your father-in-law - 9V1NR Dr. Charan Singh. Great to hook up with you, OM Gurbux 73 es Sangat, 9M2SS. Be in touch.

3: Irvinder Singh Babra (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), January 26, 2011, 6:24 PM.

The Soviet Sputnik saga was just mentioned by President Obama in his State of the Union address yesterday, in awe and not in shock! And here Sangat Singh ji provided more details and consolidated the power of communications, space and otherwise. Great learning from his extraordinary article.

4: Michele Gibson (Mount.Forest, Ontario, Canada), January 28, 2011, 9:47 AM.

Fascinating to know this, S. Sangat Singh ji, but more fascinating to know this about you! You are a marvel!

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