Amateur radio, Digital Modes, News, Satellites

What Will We Do Next?!


ISSA blurb in the News and in the ARRL weekly newsletter caught my attention concerning an interesting reception report involving the ISS (International Space Station). As I have noted in other posts one of my favorite things to do in amateur radio is the send and receive messages using the ISS repeaters, both APRS and voice. I have logged many APRS signals (including several DX stations!), as well as a dozen or more states.

I simply find it fascinating to think a signal I send up into space can be heard and repeated by something orbiting our planet and have my reflected signal heard by someone back here on earth. The most exciting thing is when we can hear each other and have a true QSO.

Several hams have taken this one step farther and they have bounced signals off of the ISS and been heard across the Atlantic Ocean! I have heard of bouncing signals off the moon ( a dream of mine for someday!), bouncing signals off an airplane (more common than one might expect), and even bouncing a signal off of Venus (yes, the planet!).  But bouncing a signal off the ISS?! I mean, look at the thing – that’s a hard target to hit! Here is the news release as posted in the ARRL Newsletter:

Signal Bounced Off ISS Heard Across the Atlantic

A 2 meter signal from the UK, reflected off the structure of the International Space Station (ISS) on May 2, was heard across the Atlantic. Following 2 weeks of preparation, Tim Fern, G4LOH, in Cornwall (IO70jc), and Roger Sturtevant, VE1SKY, in Nova Scotia (FN74iu) attempted a FSK441 contact.

Both stations aimed at the calculated grid HO11nl for a 144.175 MHz contact attempt with a mutual window of less than 1 minute. VE1SKY was able to copy G4LOH at a distance of 4441 kilometers (approximately 2753 miles). This was the first signal received via ISS bounce from Europe to North America, and the first intentional signal heard via ISS reflection in any direction across the North or South Atlantic.

While two-way communication did not happen, the reception is being verified as a possible DX record for satellite reflection.

Later in May, Fern, operating as GK4LOH and transmitting in CW, was received twice in the much-closer GN37 grid by VO1HP at VO1FN in Newfoundland.

In 2014, RSGB VHF Manager John Regnault, G4SWX, received a 2 meter signal from VC1T, where a team was trying to win the Brendan Trophy for the first transatlantic contact on 144 MHz. Upon investigation, it was determined that the VC1T FSK441 signal that G4SWX heard also had bounced off the ISS rather than via terrestrial propagation and would not qualify for the Brendan Trophy, offered by the Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS).The Brendan Trophy will recognize the first “traditional mode” two-way contact (ie, SSB or CW) capable of being copied without machine assistance.

This is one of those events which really makes me proud of amateur radio folks, and proud to be a part of such a group of inventive people. Things like this inspire me to try new things, to push my own limits, and invigorate me in the hobby. Who even tries to bounce a signal off the ISS? Maybe someone has already done this, but would it not be interesting to try to bounce a signal off of a geosynchronous satellite? Talk about an interesting DX Award!

Of course bouncing a signal off the ISS is in a class by itself, but I can just imagine other hams being inspired to try for an award for bouncing signals off of 50 satellites, or some such feat. (I will leave the logistics of the award to others <grin>!)

What will amateurs try next? Somewhere there is an amateur radio person dreaming up the next big challenge, and they are doing it for the love of the hobby. There are no cash prizes to motivate folks as in some other fields. To me this makes it all the more special.

We have yet to realize all the potential of amateur radio and the magic of RF in general, and I believe if humans are around another 1000 years on this planet they still will not have completely exhausted its potential. What will you be inspired to try?! It doesn’t have to be anything new to the world, just new to you. Every milestone in our hobby encourages us to move forward, and this is what makes this such a great hobby!  73, Robert


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