Recently the Charles County Amateur Radio Club was advised of a unique opportunity to listen in on some radio signals beamed down from outer space.
From the International Space Station to be exact!
On March 20th, 2014 students from the Forest Knolls Elementary School in Silver Spring had the privilege of having a live chat with astronaut Koichi Wakata aboard the ISS via ham radio. The short duration QSO was hosted as part of the ARRL’s ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) program, which is a cooperative venture of NASA, the ARRL and AMSAT and other international space agencies that organizes scheduled contacts via Amateur Radio between astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the ISS and classrooms and educational organizations.
While it is not possible to have heard the signal beamed out from the Forest Knolls school in Southern Maryland, it was quite possible to listen in to the signal beamed back from the ISS on 144.800 Mhz. Tuned up with an Arrow 4-element yagi aimed at the sky and an Icom IC-R7100 receiver I was ready to try my not-so-steady hand at satellite chasing! Starting at the horizon in the North West, I was able to quickly fix onto the origin of the signal. I slowly panned across the sky, passing through the zenith, and then falling quickly to the horizon in the South East. In total the QSO only lasted about 10 minutes, but with this particular satellite whizzing around at nearly 5 miles per second, its no wonder that the ISS makes almost 16 revolutions of the earth each day! Take a short listen to the QSO recorded from Southern Maryland. The clip has been edited to remove the static during the schools transmission. You will notice the signal fade in and out as I attempted to track as best as one can by hand. At the end, it is clear to hear ‘NA1SS’ Signing off. Most definitely a unique experience!
The event even turned heads on a local news outlet, and a short clip from the actual QSO can be found on The Fox News Website