Wednesday, March 30, 2011

HAM: International Space Station

I awoke this morning to a cold, nasty looking day. Wonderful; a day in the house. Northeast Ohio weather at its best. I got up, clicked on my radios and started walking out into my hall and I hear the radio crackle to life.

"This is November-krrrkkssksk-Sierra, Inter-ksssssskksksknnkk, over."

ISS floating about 200 miles over our little Earth.
I stopped in my tracks; in the 2 years I've been into HAM radio I have tried so hard to catch the Space Station. I must have left my 1802 on the worldwide downlink frequency, 145.800MHZ, when I was tuning last night. I ran back to my desk, in nothing but my boxers that do not fit right, and sat down. I hurried and opened the ISS tracking website to find the ISS was directly over Ohio; about 217 miles up. I cranked my little 1802 up to 50 watts and switched antennas to my vertical discone and fired away.

"November-Alpha-One Sierra-Sierra this is Kilo-Delta-Eight-xxx-xxx-xxx, calling the International Space station from Northeast Ohio, over! Hello hello, calling November-Alpha-One-Sieraa-Sierra, over!"

And I waited. Nothing. I called again, and got a bit of static garble. Yes! It seems they were hearing me, but I was unable to get their response. I continued to call back to them for about 10 minutes, receiving garbled responses and faint static as I watched it slowly go out of range. Damn. I did a few calculations to find out the next pass, and it seems I will have a much better chance tomorrow at 11:22AM. After doing this stupidly complex math, I found a feature on the site that does it for me. Dammit.

Now, on to some geeky gushing. Am I the only one who finds this SO COOL that HAM operators can actually talk to the ISS? In years past, NASA and the ARRL have been collaborating and sending up shuttle missions with  HAM equipment so the astronauts could talk to HAM operators on Earth. The amazing part of it all is the fact that you can contact them with a plain 2-meter radio; usually a range of 100 miles or so on the ground. But with a simple vertical antenna and even as low as 5 watts of power you can talk to the ISS. They only use 5 watts to talk to us on Earth!

So, tomorrow morning I will get up and hope they decide to fire up the radio tomorrow. Sadly, with the new expedition and new astronauts, Col. Doug Wheelock returned to Earth recently. He was one of the most active astronauts on the radio, making hundreds of QSO's during his time on the station. The activity of the radio on the ISS has dropped significantly since he returned safely to Earth, so all we can do is hope they feel like talking to some Earth geeks tomorrow!

For those of you unaware, here is a good video showing successful contacts with the ISS by some HAM's. Enjoy!


  1. That is actually so cool, wonder if I could get anything like that were I live.

  2. HHAhaha "sry about that guys, tried to take a phot of mont makimbi" xD

  3. I lol'd after reading this xD

    After doing this stupidly complex math, I found a feature on the site that does it for me. Dammit.

  4. Haha "After doing this stupidly complex math, I found a feature on the site that does it for me. Dammit."

  5. pahaha

    extremely entertaining... I wonder if I'll actually get some work done today.

  6. I always wanted to go to that station but about 2 years ago i found out they use technology from the 90's or earlier.

  7. very intersting, very entertaining

  8. Wasn't this an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation?