The Amateur Satellite
Soon after the launch by the former Soviet Union of Sputnik 1, the world's first man-made orbiting satellite, radio amateurs entered the space age with the OSCAR (Orbiting Spacecraft Carrying Amateur Radio) series of satellites.. International contacts are possible by sending a signal to a satellite and having it relayed back to earth providing communications over many thousands of kilometres.
Amateur Radio Satellites allow the amateur operator to greatly increase the range of communication through the amateur station. Some Amateur Radio Satellites carry FM, SSB or CW transponders. Others will allow you to communicate using digital store and forward ,to swap pictures or messages, much like e-mail. You may wish to run modes such as Slow Scan TV (SSTV) or PSK, or perhaps talk to Astronauts on the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station (ISS). Amateur radio bands from HF to Microwave have been flown on amateur satellites.
The first question is often, “But isn’t it expensive?”. Some satellites can be worked with a hand-held transceiver and a small hand-held Yagi beam antenna The ISS and the Space Shuttle are examples where contacts have been made using handheld radios. Some satellites operate like digital bulletin boards and these require a computer. You will need high gain antennas and tracking to reliably work the high orbiting birds.
The tradition of designing and building amateur satellites continues today. They are being launched as a piggyback load when major communications satellites are put into orbit. Over 50 amateur radio satellites have been launched over the years. More are on the drawing board and in the workshops of amateur groups, including in Universities, around the world
Regular information about Australian activity with amateur satellites is contained in the pages of the WIA magazine Amateur Radio. The amateur satellite group AMSAT-VK contributes material that are always informative and give many links for those interested in this exciting technology