HAM Radio 101

Ham Radio History—OSCAR 1, the First Amateur Radio Satellite

Amateur Radio satellites have come a long way since the early days, but none are more important than the first—OSCAR 1.

As the seminal Amateur Radio satellite to be launched by Project OSCAR (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio) into low earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, California, the rectangular-boxed device transmitted “HI” in Morse code for three weeks until it faltered on January 3, 1962—58 years ago and light years from where we are today in terms of satellite technology.

Built by amateurs only four years after Sputnik fired the starter pistol on the Space Race, Oscar 1 (30 x 25 x 12 cm and weighing 22 pounds) is recognized as the world’s first private non-government spacecraft. Today, many enthusiasts simply refer to Amateur Radio satellites as OSCARs—a tribute to the satellite project which vice president Lyndon Johnson called, “symbolic of the type of freedom for which this country stands—freedom of enterprise and freedom of participation on the part of individuals throughout the world.” OSCAR 1 also launched Ham Radio operators’ fascination with contacting Amateur Radio satellites. Read more about this fun and challenging part of Ham Radio in these blogs from Sean, KX9X:

Satellite Basics

Making QSOs Via Satellite


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