ARRL Interview Explains Background of Ham Radio in Space Film Short

Josh Tanner, the Australian filmmaker who produced the thriller Decommissioned 

by Perception Pictures, has explained how he came up with the idea to develop the movie short. In the approximately 6-minute film, a SuitSat returns in the future to haunt International Space Station commander “Diaz,” played by Joey Vieira, who spots SuitSat, the surplus Russian Orlan spacesuit-turned-amateur-radio-satellite several years ago by Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS).

An exclusive ARRL video interview 

premiering on Saturday, February 27, brings together Tanner, who directed the sci-fi horror film about an eerie ham-radio-in-space reencounter, and ARISS-International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO. In the interview, conducted by ARRL volunteer Josh Nass, KI6NAZ, of the popular YouTube channel Ham Radio Crash Course, Tanner described the uniquely creative and technical aspects of the filmmaking involved in Decommissioned and its connection with the real-life SuitSat-1. 

“My wife Jade, who is also a co-writer of this short film, and I are really both really both obsessed with space, and we discovered SuitSat on Wikipedia,” Tanner said in the interview. “It was an initial sort of two-pronged reaction. One, this is genius. It’s amazing that they did this; I’d never heard this before. And the second one was, this is kinda creepy…that they had what looks like a stranded, dead astronaut floating around the earth…and there were voices of children being transmitted from it.”

SuitSat-1 transmitted a voice message, “This is SuitSat-1 RS0RS!” in several languages, plus telemetry and a slow-scan TV image on an 8-minute cycle as it orbited Earth.

Tanner said a lot of the films he produces “take pieces of history that are rather quite odd or interesting that maybe a lot of people don’t know about.”

Bauer described the background of the 2006 SuitSat project, which involved ARISS’s relationship with Sergey Samburov, RV3DR. Samburov was “the initial brainchild” behind the SuitSat-1 concept, and ARISS ran with it, Bauer recounted.

“We had 3 weeks to pull it all together and get it ready for launch,” Bauer said, and that included getting safety approvals. SuitSat-1 operated for about 2 weeks, and a contest of sorts evolved to guess when it would burn up in the atmosphere, which wasn’t until about 6 months later. A SuitSat-2 was launched from the ISS several years later.

Tanner said the Decommissioned script was written about 3 years ago, but creating the realistic atmosphere and sets involved a number of complexities, which was “very expensive,” he revealed. A big push toward using video game engine technology in feature-film development made it possible. Decommissioned was produced using a game engine called Unreal Engine, which also was used to produce the feature film The Mandalorian.

Grab your popcorn and avoid a spoiler. ARRL recommends viewing the short film before watching the 45-minute interview. The interview premiers on ARRL’s YouTube channel, Saturday, February 27, at 1600 UTC.

ARRL reminds interested schools and educational organizations in the US that the latest window to submit proposals to host scheduled ham radio contacts with an ISS crew member opened on February 15. Contacts would be scheduled January 1 – June 30, 2022. Proposals are due to ARISS by 0759 UTC on April 1. 

In the US, ARRL is a partner in the ARISS program, along with AMSAT, NASA, and the ISS National Lab which has kept amateur radio on the air from the International Space Station for 20 years.





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