No, I’m not talking about the Academy Awards. Amateur radio has it’s own Oscars, but they’re not awards given to glamorous movie stars, directors and writers. In radio terminology an Oscar is a satellite.
OSCAR stands for Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio. These satellites allow amateur radio operators all over the world to communicate with each other.
The world’s very first satellite – Sputnik 1 – was launched in 1957. It was the opening event and defined the start of the space age. An age when the final frontier was named and then explored. The most exciting event was of course the Moon Landing, but although travel to the moon stopped after only a few flights, there have been more and more satellites and the vast majority of these are designed for communication.
OSCAR-1 was launched on th Twelfth of December 1961 – only four years after sputnik and was a huge hit with ham radio operators all over the world. So far there have been at least 70 OSCARs launched by twenty three different countries. In many cases these are small scale projects built by Universities and similar institutions and the satellite is available for use by the amateur radio community free of charge.
Amateur Radio and Space exploration go hand in hand. A large number of astronauts hold amateur radio licenses and many enthusiasts enjoy contacting the International Space Station using two meter radio equipment. Shuttle Atlantis carried the first radio equipment to the International Space Station in 2000 leading to the first amateur radio contacts by Commander William Shepherd in November of the same year. Since then there have been a huge number of calls between organisations such as schools and colleges and astronauts and cosmonauts on the ISS. In 2010 this has averaged over 1 per week.
Working with NASA, AMSAT and the National Association for Amateur Radio (ARRL) have formed ARRISS (Amateur Radio and the International Space Station) which co-ordinates contact between the Space Station and school assemblies, science museums, space camps and other similar public forums. The objective is to foster interest in science, technology, space and amateur radio.
Today the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (usually known as AMSAT) publishes information about the OSCARs available on its website at http://www.amsat.org . To encourage amateur radio operators, AMSAT has a number of certificates and awards available to those who make certain numbers and types of radio communication. The organisation also holds a number of symposia and conferences, usually open to all amateur radio operators with an interest in space and space exploration.
A large number of OSCARS operate on the ten meter waveband, making ten meter radio an ideal introduction to this fascinating aspect of radio communication. Operating on 10 meter bands does require a license from the FCC. You can get help in pursuit of your license from the ARRL. The Amateur Radio Relay League can offer testing information, studying supplies and a variety of other aids to help.
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