Listening to the International Space Station

A lot of people don’t realize that Amateur Radio can involve spacecraft, including the International Space Station (ISS). When it passes overhead, there’s a lot more than images you can receive!

When this blog post was written there were 7 astronauts aboard the ISS and most have an amateur radio license. There are 2 radios currently aboard and the astronauts will occasionally use them to contact people when passing overhead, although that is really pretty rare. But the radios are almost always in use, except during a spacewalk, from amateur radio operators sending radio signals up to the station which then repeats them back down to earth.

Set for receiving 2 channels at once, you can hear both voice and data audio from the International Space Station.

The ISS passes overhead an average of 5-6 times a day; anyone can track and predict when it will be passing over their exact location. You can even see the station passing by in the night time sky on a clear night. But what’s exciting to me, as the station passes overhead you can hear amateur radio operators sending voice and data traffic up to the ISS which then transmitted down to earth. That allows their signals to travel much further; I’ve easily picked up signals from Oklahoma and further with a handheld radio or scanner.

A couple of us at the makerspace are working on building an antenna to transmit up to the ISS. If you’re interested in learning more, stop by the makerspace during Open Shop time. And if the ISS is passing overhead, we can let you listen to the traffic yourself!