How To Speak To An Astronaut In Space With Just A Ham Radio


If you wanted to make a call to a space station, one would think you would need some serious tech. How else are you supposed to be able to contact someone in the vacuum of space, if not with the most modern, and powerful telecommunication devices? Actually, the answer is pretty simple: you just need a ham radio.

That’s what Adrian Lane, a resident of Gloucestershire, England discovered a few weeks ago, after repeated attempts to contact the International Space Station (ISS) actually went through, reports the BBC. Not only did the astronauts aboard the ISS receive the call, they even answered with “Receiving you – welcome aboard the International Space Station.”

This wasn’t some stroke of luck, nor did Lane somehow hack into a special Earth-to-space frequency, the ISS just happens to have a basic ham radio on-board. Typically, the old school radio is used when astronauts need to field questions and interviews.

In fact, ISS astronauts are known to make random calls and chat with Earth-bound citizens regularly. According to the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) organization’s website, astronauts are free to make ham radio contact during their free time, though the most common time period you’ll find a crew member taking calls is one hour after waking up (0830 UTC) and one hour before bed (1830 UTC).

Apparently ISS astronauts are using an Ericsson MP-X handheld radios, a Kenwood TM D700 and a Kenwood D710 model radios, but if you want to make a call to them, here’s what you’ll need, as the ARISS lists out:

  • A 2-meter FM transceiver
  • 25-100 watts of output power
  • A circularly polarized crossed-Yagi antenna which can be pointed in every cardinal direction and elevated (Note: contact has been made with just vertical and ground plan antennas)

To ensure your call actually gets out to the space station, however, you need to plan ahead in terms of time. Specifically, you need to call when the ISS will be 250 metres above you. You can find your personal calling window with the satellite tracking tool found here.

For everything else you may be wondering about talking to folks in space via radios, head to the ARISS website here.

Featured image courtesy of: Wikimedia

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