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AMSAT is the international Amateur Radio Satellite organisation.

There have been OSCARs (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) since 1972, most of them drifting in orbit but some of them equipped with small jets or rockets to change their orbit.  Some OSCARs have failed over the years, but 3 are still active.

As well as unmanned satellites, the Russian space craft, Mir, had crew members who were also Radio Amateurs and with permission to use their equipment when their duties permitted.  The ISS (International Space Station) also often has crew members who are licensed Radio Amateurs.

In a recent experiment called SuitSat1, an old unwanted Russian space suit was hand launched from the ISS air lock.  At a set time after launch, its Amateur Radio transmitters turned on and transmitted a synthesised voice beacon message.  It also sent data telemetry giving measurements of conditions inside the suit, including temperature and battery voltage.  Its initial orbit was the same as the ISS.  Eventually, after about 100 days, either the batteries died or the orbit decayed and the suit burned up in earth's atmosphere.

Radio Amateurs and some schools with an interest in the project logged the times and messages received and sent them to NASA, who provided certificates for those accurately reporting the correct words of the beacon.

The synthesised voice message was programmed to give different code words as it passed over different countries on different days.  Although SuitSat1 seemed to be virtually dead after 100 days and with very weak signals, one Radio Amateur in Canada on day 105 recorded a strong signal 22 second transmission including the secret word.

The ISS contains a digital VHF repeater for relaying data signals of Radio Amateurs using the Amateur Position Reporting System.


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Page updated on 09 January 2017

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