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,

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!

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