Amateur Radio has maintained a presence in space since 1961 with the launch of OSCAR 1 (OSCAR is an acronym for Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio). Since then, amateurs have launched some five dozen satellites, most of the low-earth orbit variety and a small number in the high-earth orbit category. The history of Amateur Radio satellites and information on which ones are in operation is available on the AMSAT Web site, www.amsat.org.
Amateurs have pioneered several developments in the satellite industry, including low-earth orbit communication “birds” and PACSATs — orbiting packet bulletin board systems. Operating awards, such as VUCC (VHF/UHF Century Club), WAS and DXCC, are available from ARRL and other organizations specifically for satellite operation.
Satellite operation is neither complex nor difficult; it’s possible to work through some satellites with nothing more than a dual-band (VHF/UHF) handheld transceiver and perhaps a small portable antenna. More serious satellite work requires some specialized equipment. You may be able to work several Amateur Radio satellites (OSCARs) with the equipment that’s now in your shack!