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Amateur Radio Aboard the International

Space Station

 Dr. Z at work in the web shack  NASA                    

 Illustration of the types of  "waves"    talked about in Ham Radio Circles 

   Click on Image to enlarge (84 K)

Courtesy of Windows to the Universe,

Ham Radio Operators are licensed by the F.C.C. to use all of the above types of  "waves". Some of the differences between Amateur (Ham) Radio Operators and Citizen Band Operators included the ham's ability to use all of the "waves" mentioned above, we as hams can use many different types of signals including but not limited to A.M., F.M., C.W., a multitude of digital modes of operation, T.V. and Microwave communications.


Those Hams that hold an upper level license, can transmit to space and from space. The Amateur Satellite System is very sophisticated. Hams can LEGALLY use much higher power that Citizen Band Operators and can transmit signals any distance that they want. C.B. operators are limited by law to very short distance transmissions. 


Every once in a while the F.C.C. cracks down on C.B. operators for rules infractions. Those infractions can cost the illegal operator (C.B. or Ham) $7,500 or more per transmission. Hams get some type of diabolical amusement from this when the F.C.C. makes this happen to "Big Bertha - the C.B. Queen".  You might hear: " 4KW into a 4-element beam". That is not acceptable for hams or C.B. radio operators. Hams that are "busted" deserve it and we are glad to see them go.


One of the most important differences between Amateur Radio Operators and C.B. Operators is that Hams can build and calibrate their own equipment. The ham is encouraged by the governments of the world to experiment with hundreds of different  types of communications. 


The main purpose of this web site is to provide Ham Radio Operators and Commercial Radio Operators with the types of information they need to effectively communicate under all types of conditions. In emergency situations, the specialized ham can provide much more reliable communications (especially early on) than any commercial service.


No commercial service is equipped or licensed to operate any mode of communication on almost an infinite number of frequencies. Many of us can roll out in less than a minute with a wide range of equipment for short distance or world-wide communications. We carry our own power supply and antennas. We can start communicating within the few seconds it takes us to turn on our radios and make frequency adjustments. 


Hams like to see C.B. operators study and become licensed Amateur Radio Operators. We always extend a helping hand - and there never is any charge for our services (except for the Federal License Fee).


The Amateur Radio Service is non-profit. We also take pride in pioneering most types of communications used today.


Initial Space Station Operations

"The initial space station operations will be mostly voice and packet, a text messaging device. The first initial radio station was flown onboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-106. The crew transferred the ham radio gear into the space station for future use by the Expedition 1 crew."

"More than 40 missions over five years will be required to assemble the International Space Station in orbit. The astronauts and cosmonauts will work hard on these missions, but they plan to take some time off for educational outreach contacts with schools. NASA's Division of Education is a major supporter of the amateur radio activity."

"The sponsoring agencies have stated that they consider access to a ham radio system a requirement for psychological support of the crews, by providing family and general contacts for people who will be in space many weeks at a time."

"As the International Space Station takes its place in the heavens, the amateur radio community is prepared to do its part by helping to enrich the experience of those visiting and living on the station."  NASA

Call Signs and Tentative Frequencies for the International Space Station

Communications are limited to 2 meter FM and 2 meter packet.  

Call Signs issued for Space Station Operation : 

  • The FCC granted vanity call signs  NN1SS and NA1SS to the International Space Station on October  11th

  • German Call sign DL0ISS

  • Russian RZ3DZR

  • Packet station mailbox callsign RZ3DZR-1

  • Packet station keyboard callsign RZ3DZR

    Individual Licenses held by:

    • William Shepherd KD5GSL

    • Daniel Bursch  KD5PNU  (Note: Expedition Four Crew Member)

    • Carl Waltz  KC5TIE  (Note: Expedition Four Crew Member)

    • Yuri Gidzenko Callsign Unknown

    • Yury Onufienko  Callsign unknown  (Note: Expedition Four Crew Member)

    • Sergei Krikalev U5MIR

    The following chart was accurate as of 15 Jan 2002 (KC4COP)


    Worldwide downlink for voice and packet 145.80
    Worldwide packet uplink 145.99
    Region 1 voice uplink 145.20
    Region 2 and 3 voice uplink 144.49
    Initial operations will only take place on the 2m band.
    Call Signs for the ISS
    Yury Onufrienko unknown
    Daniel Bursch KD5PNU
    Carl Walz KC5TIE
    Russian callsigns RSOISS, RZ3DZR
    U.S.A. callsign NA1SS
    Packet station mailbox callsign RZ3DZR-1
    Packet station keyboard callsign RZ3DZR
    For more information on the procedures used to contact the International Space Station, check out the ARISS Expedition Four home pa


Operating practices as Issued by NASA

"The Expedition One crew's activities are being scheduled around the UTC timeframe. It is expected that their working day will start around 0800 UTC and end near 1900 UTC. There may be a lunch break near 1200 UTC. Passes near the beginning, lunchtime, and end of the crew day might be good times to find a crewmember relaxing with amateur radio activities. The crew also has a "weekend" off from 1200 UTC on Saturday until the end of the day on Sunday. This might be another good time to listen for crewmembers using the amateur radio equipment. Please remember that the crew is using ham radio to relax from a very difficult job. They may, or may not, be interested in working a pile-up. They might be more interested in "rag chewing" with one or two hams on a given pass. Please respect each crewmembers different operating style."

"It is not known yet how much power on board the ISS will be available for leaving the packet rig powered during times when the crew cannot perform voice contacts. We continue to request that the packet rig be left on as much as possible. The crew has been trained in the use of the beaconing capabilities, and we hope that they will use that to share their experiences as the first permanent crew on the ISS. This is a "standard" AFSK AX.25 "terrestrial packet" rig, so it can be used for APRS and email can be sent to the crew. Please do not use the system to leave email for other hams on the ground. Use the mailbox to leave email for the crew."

"Please remember to practice good operating practices and remain courteous and patient with this crew while they establish their ham operations preferences. Listen before transmitting, to make sure you don't step upon another QSO. Wait for the crew to call for contacts before transmitting. Please let others have a chance with a rare contact, don't monopolize the crew or the packet rig. Please do not ask the crew to schedule school contacts or other schedules: this puts them in an awkward and uncomfortable position.NASA

Amateur Radio Frequencies for the International Space Station

Tentative Frequencies  NASA

Initial operations will only take place on the 2m band.

Summary of Frequencies. Correct as of 15 Jan 2002  (KC4COP)
Worldwide downlink for voice and packet: 145.80
Worldwide packet uplink: 145.99
Region 1 voice uplink: 145.20
Region 2 & 3 voice uplink: 144.49

"Region 1: Africa, Europe, Russia, Middle East (excluding Iran), and Mongolia"

"Region 2: The Americas, including Hawaii, Johnston I., and Midway I."

"Region 3: The rest of Asia and Oceania"


QSL Information:

"QSLs and SWLs will be accepted and can be processed through Radio Amateurs of Canada or the American Radio Relay League. The card design is being finalized, but should be ready for distribution early next year."  NASA


Live shuttle audio is retransmitted on the amateur HF bands by WA3NAN, the Goddard Amateur Radio Club.  Audio is retransmitted on the VHF bands in select areas in the U.S.

Frequencies used by WA3NAN :
Frequency Mode Band
3,860 kHz (LSB) 80 meters
7,185 kHz (LSB) 40 meters
14,295 kHz (USB) 20 meters
21,395 kHz (USB) 15 meters
28,650 kHz (USB) 10 meters
147.45 MHz (FM Simplex) 2 meters

  • During Shuttle flights, try monitoring the following AM voice frequencies when the Shuttle is radio view

    • 296.800 MHz Ground-to-Shuttle

    • 259.700 MHz  Shuttle-to-Suit (try during space walks)

    • 279.000 MHz  Shuttle-to-Suit (try during space waks)

    • 243.000 MHz  Suit-to-Suit (try during space walks)

  • Multiple ways to plot the position of the Space Shuttle are found on the Links page. The best program to determine when the Shuttle is in radio view and for communication purposes is STSplus.  STSplus requires installation of the program and updating of orbital elements found on the Download  page.

  • "Much of the downlink TV is on S-Band also, but is wideband FM and should be easy to copy. The frequencies are: 2287.500 MHz - Primary digital downlink 2250.000 MHz - Wideband FM with either main engine analog telemetry during launch, or TV during orbit operations. "

Equipment needed :

  • 2 -Meter FM transceiver  25 - 100 watts

  • Circularly polarized crossed-Yagi antenna ( adjustable for azimuth (N-S-E-W) and elevation )

  • Computer program to plot position of the shuttle and show when the shuttle is visible to your radio signal.  Information on using NASA's program is included on this web.  We will also post information on downloading a stand-alone program and orbital elements.

  • Packet equipment will probably be on board.

  Solar Physics made practical through Amateur Radio

Mir must be out there somewhere!


Go to Space Flight Page

Return to International Space Station main page

Go to Home page


Talk to the ( shooting ) stars


"When a Perseid meteor flies overhead the radar records a ghostly ping. You can listen to NAVSPASUR or one of our 67 MHz forward-scatter meteor radars in using the real-time audio links below:"

Credits: The Roswell monitoring sites are operated by amateur astronomer Stan Nelson. The Huntsville radar is maintained by Science@NASA and the NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. Special credit goes to Dr. Dr. Tony Phillips , editor of Spaceweather.COM

An Aside: 

04 May 2003,  02:55 UTC: NASA and the Russian space organization Energia have signed agreements that spell out the place of amateur radio on the station. A technical team, called ISS Ham, has been officially established to serve as the interface to support hardware development, crew training and on-orbit operations.


Page last updated  Tuesday, July 01, 2008 12:34 AM   CST