Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment

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The Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX), later called the Space Amateur Radio Experiment, was a program that promoted and supported the use of amateur ("ham") radio by astronauts in low earth orbit aboard the United States Space Shuttle to communicate with other amateur radio stations around the world. It was superseded by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program. SAREX was sponsored by NASA, AMSAT (The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation), and the ARRL (American Radio Relay League).[1]


Shortly after the launch of STS-9, On November 28, 1983 Owen Garriott (W5LFL) became the first amateur radio operator active in space. Garriott had already flown on Skylab 3, but did not operate radio equipment on that trip. On STS-9, he used a handheld 2-meter radio, provided by the Motorola Amateur Radio Club in Fort Lauderdale, to talk to his mother, senator Barry Goldwater (K7UGA), King Hussein of Jordan (JY1), and many others. Garriott made approximately 300 calls and convinced NASA that amateur radio was useful to get students involved in space. Thus began the Space Amateur Radio Experiment, also known as SAREX.[2][3]

The second successful use of amateur radio in space was carried out by Anthony W. England (W0ORE) on Challenger flight STS-51F in 1985. He completed 130 contacts and sent 10 images via slow-scan television. In 1991, STS-37 became the first voyage to space on which the entire crew were licensed amateur radio operators.[4]

After these flights, amateur radios were often taken on the shuttles, as many as twenty-five before the program became known as ARISS. Licensed hams were able to participate during their free time.[5]

Shuttles that Participated and Licensed Astronauts [needs update]
Mission Year Licensed Astronauts
STS-9 1983 Owen Garriott (W5LFL)
STS-51F 1985 Anthony W. England (WØORE)
STS-35 1990 Ron Parise (WA4SIR)
STS-37 1991 Kenneth D. Cameron (KB5AWP), Steven Nagel (N5RAW), Linda Godwin (N5RAX), Jay Apt (N5QWL), Jerry L. Ross (formerly KB5OHL)
STS-45 1992 Dave Leestma (N5WQC), Kathy Sullivan (N5YVV), Brian Duffy (N5WQW), Dirk Frimout (ON1AFD)
STS-47 1992 Jay Apt (N5QWL), Mamoru Mohri (7L2NJY)
STS-50 1992 Unknown
STS-55 1993 Jerry L. Ross (N5SCW)
STS-56 1993 Kenneth D. Cameron (KB5AWP), Mike Foale (KB5UAC), Ellen Ochoa (KB5TZZ), Kenneth Cockrell (KB5UAH)
STS-57 1993 Brian Duffy (N5WQW), Janice Voss (KC5BTK)
STS-58 1993 Richard Searfoss (KC5CKM), William S. McArthur, Jr. (KC5ACR), Martin J. Fettman (KC5AXA)
STS-59 1994 Linda Godwin (N5RAX), Jay Apt (N4QWL)
STS-60 1994 Charles Bolden (formerly KE4IQB), Ronald Sega (KC5ETH), Sergei Krikalev (U5MIR)
STS-64 1994 Richard N. Richards (KB5SIW), Blaine Hammond, Jr. (KC5HBS), Jerry Linenger (KC5HBR)
STS-65 1994 Donald A. Thomas (KC5FVF), Robert D. Cabana (KC5HBV)
STS-67 1995 Stephen S. Oswald (KB5YSR), William G. Gregory (KC5MGA), Tamara E. Jernigan (KC5MGF), Wendy B. Lawrence (KC5KII), Samuel T. Durrance (N3TQA)
STS-70 1995 Donald A. Thomas (KC5FVF)
STS-71 1995 Richard Searfoss (KC5CKM), Linda Godwin (N5RAX), Ronald Sega (KC4ETH), Shannon Lucid (R0MIR)
STS-74 1995 Kenneth D. Cameron (KB5AWP), Jerry L. Ross (N5SCW), William S. McArthur (KC5ACR), Chris Hadfield (VA3OOG), James Halsell (KC5RNI)
STS-76 1996 Richard Searfoss (KC5CKM), Linda Godwin (N5RAX), Ronald Sega (KC5ETH), Shannon Lucid (R0MIR)
STS-78 1996 Charles Brady (N4BQW), Susan Helms (KC7NHZ)
STS-79 1996 Jay Apt (N5QWL), John Blaha (KC5TZQ), Carl Walz (KC5TIE)
STS-83 1997 James Halsell (KC5RNI), Janice Voss (KC5BTK), Donald A. Thomas (KC5FVF)
STS-94 1998 James Halsell (KC5RNI), Janice Voss (KC5BTK), Donald A. Thomas (KC5FVF)
STS-93 1999 Eileen Collins (KD5EDS), Cady Coleman (KC5ZTH), Michel Tognini (KD5EJZ)

Educational uses[edit]

Most amateur radio operators used SAREX to speak with licensed astronauts during their down times. SAREX, however, has been very educational for young students from kindergarten to fifth grade involved in a program similar to young astronauts, in which elementary school children learn about astronauts' daily activities and what it is like in space. Students also have had the opportunity to communicate via video when the shuttles have had suitable equipment. Teachers have found out about how to link their classes with the SAREX program through the Amateur Radio in Space Guide distributed by NASA.[6]


An amateur operator license is needed before operating an amateur station.[7] The license can be obtained from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Amateur Radio Service.[8] No special SAREX license is required for operation, but certain regulations come into play for space communications.[9]


  1. ^ Kelley, Mark. "Radio in Space: In the Beginning There Was SAREX". DXCOFFEE.
  2. ^ Kelley, Mark. "Radio in Space: In the Beginning There Was SAREX". DXCOFFEE.
  3. ^ Netting, Ruth. "Ham Radios in Space". NASA. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  4. ^ "SAREX". Space Today Online. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  5. ^ Petty, John. "International Space Station Reference". NASA. Archived from the original on 27 January 2001. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  6. ^ "Amateur Radio in Space-- A Teachers Guide with Activities in Science, Mathematics, and Technology" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
  7. ^ "SAREX Field Operations Guide, Draft Version 2.1a: Technical and Engineering Reference: FCC Rules and Regulations". January 28, 1999.
  8. ^ "Amateur Radio Service: Licensing". Federal Communications Commission: Wireless Telecommunications Bureau. Retrieved 19 March 2012.
  9. ^ "SAREX Field Operations Guide, Draft Version 2.1a: Technical and Engineering Reference: FCC Rules and Regulations". January 28, 1999.