Amateur radio satellite

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This article is about a series of amateur-satellites. For other uses, see Oscar (disambiguation).

An amateur radio satellite is an artificial satellite built and used by amateur radio operators for use in the Amateur-satellite service. These satellites use amateur radio frequency allocations to facilitate communication between amateur radio stations.

Many amateur-satellites receive an OSCAR designation, which is an acronym for Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio. The designation is assigned by AMSAT, an organization which promotes the development and launch of Amateur-satellites. Because of the prevalence of this designation, Amateur-satellites are often referred to as OSCARs.

These satellites can be used for free by licensed amateur radio operators for voice (FM, SSB) and data communications (AX.25, packet radio, APRS). Currently, over 5 fully operational amateur-satellites in orbit act as repeaters, linear transponders or store and forward digital relays.

Throughout the years, amateur-satellites have helped make breakthroughs in the science of satellite communications. A few advancements include the launch of the first satellite voice transponder (OSCAR 3) and the development of highly advanced digital "store-and-forward" messaging transponder techniques.


OSCAR 1[edit]

Main article: OSCAR 1
First amateur radio satellite OSCAR 1, launched in 1961
Simple OSCAR beacon signal, 1962

The first amateur satellite, simply named OSCAR 1, was launched on December 12, 1961, barely four years after the launch of world's first satellite, Sputnik I. The beginning of this project was very humble. The satellite had to be built in a very specific shape and weight, so it could be used in place of one of the weights necessary for balancing the payload in the rocket stage. OSCAR 1 was the first satellite to be ejected as a secondary payload (with Discoverer 36 as the primary) and subsequently enter a separate orbit. By NASA specification, it could not contain any propulsion system so as not to pose danger to the expensive payload the Thor Agena launch vehicle was carrying. Despite being in orbit for only 22 days, OSCAR 1 was an immediate success with over 570 amateur radio operators in 28 countries forwarding observations to Project OSCAR.

OSCAR 10[edit]

Most of the components for OSCAR 10 were "off the shelf" and tested by group members. Jan King led the project. Solar cells were bought in batches of 10 or 20 from Radio Shack and tested for efficiency by group members (A. Sergio Torloni then a senior in high school) the most efficient cells were kept for the project, the rest were returned to RadioShack. Once ready, OSCAR 10 was mounted aboard a private plane and flown on a couple of occasions to evaluate its performance and reliability. Special QSL cards were issued to those who participated in the airplane based flights. Once it was found to be operative and reliable, the satellite was shipped to Kennedy Space Center where it was mounted in the third stage of the launch vehicle.

Other satellites[edit]

USSR postal stamp depicting amateur radio satellites, RS-1 and RS-2

Other programs besides OSCAR have included Iskra (Soviet Union) circa 1982, JAS-1 (Fuji-OSCAR 12) (Japan) in 1986, RS (Soviet Union and Russia), and CubeSats. (There is a list of major amateur satellites in Japanese Wikipedia).


The first amateur satellites contained telemetry beacons. Since 1965, most OSCARs carry a linear transponder for two-way communications in real time. Some satellites have a bulletin board for store-and-forward digital communications, or a digipeater for direct packet radio connections.


Amateur satellites have been launched into low Earth orbits and into highly elliptical orbits.


Satellite communications[edit]

Currently amateur-satellites support many different types of operation including FM voice, SSB voice, as well as digital communications of AX.25 FSK (Packet radio) and PSK-31.

Mode designators[edit]

Historically OSCAR uplink (transmit to) and downlink (receive from) frequencies were designated using single letter codes.
New uplink and downlink designations use sets of paired letters following the structure X/Y where X is the uplink band and Y is the downlink band.
Band 15 m 10 m 2 m 70 cm 23 cm 13 cm 9 cm 5 cm 3 cm 1.2 cm 6 mm
21 MHz 29 MHz 145 MHz 435 MHz 1.2 GHz 2.4 GHz 3.4 GHz 5 GHz 10 GHz 24 GHz 47 GHz

Doppler shift[edit]

Due to the high orbital speed of the amateur-satellites, the uplink and downlink frequencies will vary during the course of a satellite pass. This phenomenon is known as the Doppler effect. While the satellite is moving towards the ground station, the downlink frequency will appear to be higher than normal and therefore, the receiver frequency at the ground station must be adjusted higher in order to continue receiving the satellite. The satellite in turn, will be receiving the uplink signal at a higher frequency than normal so the ground station's transmitted uplink frequency must be lower in order to be received by the satellite. After the satellite passes overhead and begins to move away, this process reverses itself. The downlink frequency will appear lower and the uplink frequency will need to be adjusted higher. The following mathematical formulas relate the doppler shift to the velocity of the satellite.

f_d = doppler corrected downlink frequency
f_u = doppler corrected uplink frequency
f = original frequency
v = velocity of the satellite relative to ground station in m/s.
Positive when moving towards, negative when moving away.
c = the speed of light in a vacuum (3\times10^8  m/s).
Change in frequency Downlink Correction Uplink Correction
\Delta f=f\times\frac{v}{c}

Due to the complexity of finding the relative velocity of the satellite and the speed with which these corrections must be made, these calculations are normally accomplished using satellite tracking software. Many modern transceivers include a computer interface that allows for automatic doppler effect correction. Manual frequency-shift correction is possible, but it is difficult to remain precisely near the frequency. Frequency modulation is more tolerant of doppler shifts than single-sideband, and therefore FM is much easier to tune manually.

FM LEO's[edit]

Yagi antenna being used to communicate through an FM LEO.

A number of low earth orbit (LEO) OSCAR satellites use frequency modulation (FM). These are also commonly referred to as "FM LEO's" or the "FM Birds". Such satellites act as FM amateur radio repeaters that can be communicated through using omni-directional antennas and commonly available amateur radio equipment. Due to the relative ease of tuning FM as compared to SSB and the decreased distance of LEO satellites from earth stations communication can be achieved even with handheld transceivers and using manual doppler correction. The orbit of these satellites however causes the available time in which to communicate to be limited to only a few minutes per pass.

List of FM LEO satellites
Satellite name OSCAR
Uplink (MHz) Downlink (MHz) CTCSS (Hz) Status
Hope Oscar 68 HO-68 145.825 FM 435.675 FM 67.0 Beacon-Operational
Sumbandila Oscar 671 SO-67 145.875 FM 435.345 FM N/A Non-Operational
AMSAT-OSCAR 512 AO-51 145.880 FM 435.150 FM N/A Non-Operational
AMSAT-OSCAR 512 AO-51 145.920 FM 435.300 FM 67.0 Non-Operational
AMSAT-OSCAR 512 AO-51 145.880 FM 2401.200 FM N/A Non-Operational
AMSAT-OSCAR 512 AO-51 1268.700 FM 435.300 FM 67.0 Non-Operational
AMSAT-OSCAR 512 AO-51 1268.700 FM 2401.200 FM 67.0 Non-Operational
Saudi-OSCAR 50 SO-50 145.850 FM 436.795 FM 67.0
(74.4 to activate)
Saudi-OSCAR 41 SO-41 145.850 FM 436.775 FM N/A Non-Operational
SUNSAT-OSCAR 35 SO-35 145.825 FM 436.250 FM N/A Non-Operational
SUNSAT-OSCAR 35 SO-35 436.291 FM 145.825 FM N/A Non-Operational
SUNSAT-OSCAR 35 SO-35 1265.000 FM 436.2500 FM N/A Non-Operational
TechSat 1b-OSCAR 32 SO-32 145.850/145.890/145.930 FM, 1269.700/1269.800/1269.900 FM 435.225 FM N/A Non-Operational
ISS3 ARISS 437.800 FM 145.800 FM N/A Operational
AMRAD-OSCAR 274 AO-27 145.850 FM 436.795 FM N/A Non-Operational
AMSAT-OSCAR 16 AO-16 145.920 FM 437.026 DSB-SC5 N/A Non-Operational
UoSAT-OSCAR 14 UO-14 145.975 FM 435.070 FM N/A Non-Operational
LituanicaSAT-OSCAR 78 [1] LO-78 145.950 FM 435.1755 FM 67.0 Non-Operational
European-OSCAR 806 EO-80 435.080 FM 145.840 FM 210.7 Beacon-Operational
Note 1: SO-67 suffered a power board failure. The team still hopes recovery to amateur radio operations is possible.[2]

Note 2: As of November 29, 2011 AO-51 has ceased all transmissions.[3]

Note 3: The ISS FM repeater is rarely activated.[4]

Note 4: AO-27 FM Repeater is stuck on bootloader. The team is working on a fix.[5]

Note 5: The AO-16 downlink transmits in DSB-SC instead of FM, but the satellite otherwise operates like the other FM Birds.[6][7]

Note 6: EO-80 is currently completing a science mission and the FM transponder will be activated upon completion of that mission.


Past launches[edit]

The names of the satellites below are sorted in chronological order by launch date, ascending. The status column denotes the current operational status of the satellite. Green signifies that the satellite is currently operational, orange indicates that the satellite is partially operational or failing. Red indicates that the satellite is non operational and black indicates that the satellite has re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. The country listing denotes the country that constructed the satellite and not the launching country.

In development[edit]


Multinational effort[edit]

FASTRAC-A and FASTRAC-B amateur satellite, University of Texas at Austin

Currently, 23 countries have launched an OSCAR satellite. These countries, in chronological order by date of launch, include: The

Related names[edit]

SuitSat, an obsolete Russian space suit with a transmitter aboard, is officially known as OSCAR 54. In a twist of fate, "Oscar" was the name given to an obsolete space suit by its young owner in the book Have Space Suit—Will Travel, by Robert A. Heinlein. This book was originally published a year after the launch of the first artificial satellite (Sputnik).


  1. ^ "OSCAR Number for LituanicaSAT-1". 
  2. ^ "SA AMSAT". Southern African Amateur Radio Satellite Association. Retrieved 2012-08-09. 
  3. ^ "AMSAT AO-51 Control Team News". AO-51 Command Team and Operations Group. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
  4. ^ "ISS Fan Club". ISS Fan Club. Retrieved 2011-07-27. 
  5. ^ "Official AO-27 HomePage". AO-27 Control Operators Association. Retrieved 2013-01-06. 
  6. ^ "2010 AMSAT Field Day Competition" (PDF). The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation. 2010. p. 1. Retrieved 2011-07-26. ...the FM voice satellites like AMSAT-OSCAR 16, AMRAD-OSCAR-27, SaudiSat-Oscar-50, or AMSAT-OSCAR-51... 
  7. ^ "AMSAT OSCAR 16 (PacSAT)". The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation. Retrieved 2011-07-26. Mode FM Voice Repeater (Downlink is DSB. Operation is Intermittent) 
  8. ^ "VO-52 “Hamsat” end of mission". AMSAT. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  • Martin Davidoff: The Radio Amateur’s Satellite Handbook. The American Radio Relay League, Newington, ISBN 978-0-87259-658-0.


External links[edit]

  • AMSAT Corporation a nonprofit corporation that coordinates construction and launch of the satellites
  • Project OSCAR organization that built "OSCAR-1"
  • NASA J-Track Amateur Track amateur satellites in real-time
  • SSTL Builders and operators of the UoSat series satellites
  • Work-Sat Work the FM satellites - with equipment most hams already own!