Association members this week held a demonstration at the Oregon center for the $4,300 system, which will be expanded with more capabilities if students are interested, said Steve Michalski, a mentor and control operator for Amateur Radio on the International Space Station. The association plans to hold licensing classes at Challenger, he said.
"They can come in, learn amateur radio," Mr. Michaelski said.
Added Steve Bellner, vice president of the Toledo Mobile Radio Association: "The wonderful thing is, you don't have to be 18 years old to hold an amateur radio license."
The partnership between the association and Challenger has been in the works for about two years, after members first brought in a portable ham radio for a demonstration three years ago, Reed Steele, Challenger's coordinator and flight supervisor, said.
Students at the time were impressed that they could make contact with the International Space Station, Mr. Bellner said. The station orbits Earth several times a day, he said.
Mr. Michalski said that because astronauts have to be certified amateur radio operators, one of the program's goals is to have students ask them technical questions while in training.
The radio station will help educate students about math, science, engineering, technology, and other topics, radio buffs said.
Besides the ability to talk with astronauts at the International Space Station, the permanent radio station will allow licensed students and other operators to communicate through orbiting amateur radio satellites to very distant stations.
Licensed operators not only will be able to communicate with area stations, but will be able to exchange photos and text as well.
Challenger, meanwhile, will provide lesson plans and activities on amateur radio, Morse code, and at International Space Station events.
It also will use the system during camps, workshops, and special events.