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Ama­teur radio and orbit­ing satellites

Since 1961, radio ama­teurs have been respon­si­ble for cre­at­ing a con­stel­la­tion of some 150 orbit­ing space satel­lites. The satel­lites are often devel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions and are launched through sup­port from space and satel­lite organisations.


Ama­teur satel­lites pro­vide inter­con­ti­nen­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion between low-pow­er ama­teur sta­tions around the world, car­ry­ing both voice, data and tele­vi­sion. Satel­lites and the ARISS pro­gramme (see below) form valu­able parts of out­reach pro­grammes in STEM subjects.

A num­ber of organ­i­sa­tions pro­vide infor­ma­tion, sup­port and coor­di­na­tion in the field of ama­teur satel­lites. These include:

AMSAT: The Radio Ama­teur Satel­lite Cor­po­ra­tion was first formed in the USA in 1969 as an edu­ca­tion­al organ­i­sa­tion. Its goal was to fos­ter Ama­teur Radio’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in space research and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. AMSAT was found­ed to con­tin­ue the efforts, begun in 1961, by Project OSCAR, a west coast USA-based group which built and launched the very first Ama­teur Radio satel­lite, OSCAR, on Decem­ber 12, 1961, bare­ly four years after the launch of Russia’s first Sput­nik. Since then, AMSAT organ­i­sa­tions have devel­oped in many countries.

Today, the “home-brew” flavour of these ear­ly Ama­teur Radio satel­lites lives on, as most of the hard­ware and soft­ware now fly­ing on even the most advanced AMSAT satel­lites is still large­ly the prod­uct of vol­un­teer engi­neer­ing effort and donat­ed resources.

For over 50 years AMSAT groups in North Amer­i­ca, Europe and else­where have played a key role in sig­nif­i­cant­ly advanc­ing the state of the art in space sci­ence, space edu­ca­tion, and space tech­nol­o­gy. Undoubt­ed­ly, the work now being done by AMSAT vol­un­teer engi­neers through­out the world will con­tin­ue to have far-reach­ing, pos­i­tive effects on the very future of both Ama­teur Radio, as well as oth­er gov­ern­men­tal, sci­en­tif­ic and com­mer­cial activities.

Read more about AMSAT in the US here or the UK here, or Ger­many here. There are oth­er AMSAT organ­i­sa­tions in oth­er coun­tries and you can find the full list here

ARISS: Ama­teur Radio on the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion (ARISS) lets stu­dents world­wide expe­ri­ence the excite­ment of talk­ing direct­ly with crew mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion, inspir­ing them to pur­sue inter­ests in careers in sci­ence, tech­nol­o­gy, engi­neer­ing and math, and engag­ing them with radio sci­ence tech­nol­o­gy through ama­teur radio.

Read more here

Satel­lite coordination

As the num­ber of satel­lites increas­es, both ama­teur, com­mer­cial and mil­i­tary, the need for prop­er coor­di­na­tion of oper­at­ing fre­quen­cies becomes critical.

The IARU satel­lite fre­quen­cy coor­di­na­tion pan­el acts as the focus for coor­di­na­tion of oper­at­ing fre­quen­cies for ama­teur satel­lites. A com­pre­hen­sive set of pages giv­ing the back­ground to IARU’s work and giv­ing guid­ance on apply­ing for fre­quen­cy coor­di­na­tion is avail­able here

Print This Page Updated on April 29, 2020

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