Amateur Radio Satellites

This is a fascinating aspect of the amateur radio hobby, and one that you may want to explore once you have your licence.

There are a number of orbiting amateur radio satellites up above us – some transmit beacons that operators can tune in to, and some are repeaters that hams can use to bounce signals off, to make long distant contact

If you’re interested in finding out more about amateur radio satellites, take a look at www.uk.amsat.org

Our first experiences

In November 2011, our team tried to pick up our first signals from space – after some trial and error, we found that we could do this very easily and cheaply.

We picked the ARISSat-1 ham radio satellite which was launched in August 2011. From launch, the satellite transmitted a strong beacon containing an audio announcement, a slow-scan TV image, a greetings message, and telemetry data from the satellite. With clear line-of-site, getting the FM signal from over 300km felt like quite an achievement.

Here’s a recording of the ARISSat-1 satellite, received on 145.950MHz with a standard 2 metre rig and basic antenna:


How to receive satellites

Essentially, you need to take a look at a list of the available satellites, and see which ones are operational and which ones you’re able to receive. Then, you need to work out where they are. In the case of the ARISSat satellite we mentioned earlier, this only passed overhead two or three times a day, and for around 10 minutes per pass. It’s a case of using some online tracking software to find out when the satellite you’re after is passing overhead.

This site offers a handy tool for checking passes: www.amsat.org/amsat-new/tools/predict – If you’re in Essex, try entering  JO01fr (which is the Maidenhead locator for Chelmsford).

For a basic guide and some pointers, go to www.uk.amsat.org/about/how-do-i-start

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