Thursday, September 07, 2006

I Hit a Bird! Hooray!

After you've read that subject line you're probably thinking I'm some sick sadistic person with a grudge against flying fowl! Actually the reason I am excited is that I reached a satellite on my little walkie-talkie! AO-51 is a sophisticated amateur radio satellite in low earth orbit and it retransmits radio signals from one frequency and sends them back down on another.

My friend Hank (KH6HAK) and I stepped outside for a few minutes today to try to hit the "bird". My measley 5 watt signal on a sub-par rubber antenna had to travel 765 kilometers (or so) to get to this little satellite, which would then rebroadcast my signal back to earth over a much larger area. We stood outside and we could tell when the satellite was in-range by how the static noise "quieted". I pressed the button and gave my call sign and Hank excitedly said "I heard you!". Wow! I couldn't believe it! I gave my call sign several times hoping to raise someone else since I was now transmitting to the entire state via satellite! Although no one else came on, it was good to have the confirmation of Hank to know that I hit the bird.

Satellite contacts only last a few minutes, and soon the noise returned and the satellite was gone, but what an amazing feeling to be able to access a satellite for free from a little device in the palm of my hand.

Tonight at 8:00pm will be an even better pass of AO-51, and then at 9:00pm the International Space Station will be overhead! If I (ever) talk to the space station, you can bet you'll hear about it here!

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