How To Call The International Space Station And Speak With Astronauts

Apparently, calling the International Space Station is possible, as proven by an amateur radio enthusiast in England last week.

According to Sky News, Englishman Adrian Lane used his ham radio to call and contact the International Space Station from his garden shed in Coleford, Gloucestershire. Lane reached the International Space Station and spoke with astronauts for about 45 seconds before the spacecraft drifted out of range of his transmission.

Mr. Lane’s nifty trick isn’t unique, according to experts. If you have a basic knowledge of radio waves and the right equipment, you too can give the International Space Station a call, but it’s not easy. For one, there is less than a four-minute window to make contact, as the International Space Station is flying overhead at 17,500 miles per hour. Another complication is the other ham radio operators trying to do the exact same thing you are, complicating the bandwidth.

Other things to consider when you’re attempting to give the International Space Station a ring? You’ll need to figure out when the International Space Station will be overhead and in range, and you’ll also need to go online to figure out the working schedules of the astronauts — because they’re not going to answer if they’re not awake. They’re also not going to answer if they’re in the midst of working. (What do you think they’re doing up there, floating around waiting for you to call?) According to the ARISS website (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), the best time to contact the astronauts is about an hour before they go to bed or shortly after they wake up, before and after meals, and on the weekends when they’re not working. A list of what the astronauts on the International Space Station are doing and when they’re doing it can be found via NASA.

If you’re just starting out in the ham radio biz with hopes of calling the International Space Station, you’re going to need to select the proper radio equipment. The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) offers a fantastic primer for a ham operator with a newly acquired license to pick his basic equipment.

The call signs for the International Space Station are as follows: The Russian call sign is RS0ISS. The American call sign is NAISS, and the European call sign is DP0ISS, OR4ISS, and IR0ISS. The packet station mailboxes for the International Space Station are RS0ISS-11 and RS0ISS-1.

So what are you waiting for? Give the International Space Station a call!

[Photo by NASA / Getty Images]