AMSAT and ARISS Designing Amateur Radio System for Lunar Gateway

As announced at the AMSAT Forum at the Dayton Hamvention, AMSAT and ARISS are working on the design of a ham radio system for NASA’s Lunar Gateway. The Gateway will be a small spaceship in orbit around the Moon that will provide access to more of the lunar surface than ever before with living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and research, ports for visiting spacecraft, and more. First sections of the Gateway are scheduled for launch in 2022.

To make this happen we are leveraging the work and expertise of the world-wide AMSAT organizations and the international ARISS community in this endeavor. We have an international team working this and are meeting 2x a month to mature the concept. In May we presented our solid concept to NASA and got great, positive feedback. This was followed up a few weeks later at the ARISS-I meeting at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in Montreal where we received great feedback from the CSA Gateway Program Manager after he saw our presentation.

The AREx (Amateur Radio Exploration) team have done some really good work. The challenge for amateurs will be on the order of a 30 dB signal path loss as compared to LEO. But the link margins on our design seem to close.

AMSAT NA, UK & DL and ARISS-together — are working this phenomenal ham radio challenge. Come to the AMSAT Symposium in DC to hear more.

Lunar Orbit Gateway Configuration

To help make this project a reality, please consider a one time or recurring donation to ARISS today.

Longtime AMSAT Area Coordinator, Net Control Operator, and ARISS Mentor Keith Pugh, W5IU, SK

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of ARISS team member Keith Pugh, W5IU. Keith spent his life on Earth as a true gentlemen…serving others, enjoying friendship and relationships, and supporting his passions…amateur radio, flying and most importantly his love of God and all the great things on this Earth.

Those that knew Keith considered him a Texan through and through. But truth be told, he was born and raised in Dodge City, Kansas. After college, he left Kansas and settled permanently in the Fort Worth, Texas area where picked up that Texas accent and welcomed us into his world. And it is in Texas where he passed away on May 24, 2019.

Active with AMSAT and Amateur Radio satellites since the 1980’s, Keith jump-started his passion for amateur radio on human spaceflight missions in 1991, when the Space Station Mir was in orbit and Soviet ham radio operators were talking to the world-wide amateur radio community. Keith helped install a Soviet Space Exhibit in Fort Worth in 1991 and he hosted Musa Manarov U2MIR’s visit to the USA. Ultimately, Keith joined the ARISS team in 2004, where he has provided support as one of our operations leaders, technical mentoring numerous schools and ARISS contact organizations and providing his warm friendship and guidance to all in our team. Keith also attended several of our ARISS International meetings, including our 2008 ARISS-I meeting in Moscow and Kaluga.

Keith Pugh. W5IU, conducting a satellite demo

Many of us were aware of Keith’s cancer. But, Keith being Keith, he kept most of his pain and suffering to himself. He remained joyful and humble until his death. In fact, just a few days before his death–this past Tuesday, Keith signed into the ARISS International teleconference, apologizing that he came in late. None of us knew this would be our last dialog with such a close friend and outstanding member of our team.

As I stated, one of Keith’s passions was flying as a private pilot. In fact for one of his vacations he flew a Cessna aircraft around Australia. As a fellow pilot, I know that Keith must have been an avid fan of the poem “High Flight” written by John Gillespie Magee Jr. Paraphrasing this poem:

While we mourn the loss of our good friend, Keith Pugh, let us joyfully reflect on the fact that Keith has

Slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Topped the windswept heights with easy grace

And, while with silent lifting mind, Keith has trod

The high unsurpassed sanctity of Space,

Put out his hand and touched the face of God.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Keith Pugh, W5IU SK as he touches the face of God.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, in the Sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church with a reception following. First Presbyterian Church is located at 1000 Penn St, Fort Worth, TX 76102.

Keith operating the AMSAT demo station at the Dayton Hamvention


Keith manning an AMSAT booth at a hamfest

Keith with AMSAT Vice President of Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY

First Ham in Space, AMSAT Life Member, Owen Garriott, W5LFL, SK

It is with great sadness that the ARISS team recognizes the passing of our great friend and colleague Astronaut Owen Garriott, W5LFL (SK). Owen Garriott died at his home in Huntsville, Alabama on April 15, 2019.

A passionate amateur radio operator and ionospheric physics researcher, Owen inspired the amateur radio community to reach for the stars. His multi-decade vision to bring amateur radio with him as part of his journey in space was realized in 1983 on the STS-9 Space Shuttle Columbia mission, where hams the world over for the first time heard a fellow ham call CQ from space. As the first to operate ham radio in space, Owen blazed a trail that has enabled countless people from around the world to experience what it is like to journey into space and explore our universe. As a result, he inspired the international amateur radio community to extend his modest ham station on STS-9 into an international human spaceflight ham radio program that has spanned the Space Shuttle, Mir Space Station, and International Space Station.

Owen Garriott, W5LFL, aboard Columbia

A member of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, Owen Garriott was a pioneer and innovator in all his endeavors…including amateur radio. Selected as a NASA scientist-astronaut in 1965, Garriott was the science-pilot for Skylab 3, the second crewed Skylab mission. Skylab was the first U.S. space station, housing 3 different crew expeditions from May 1973-February 1974. Owen spent approximately 60 days on Skylab, doing solar physics research, human physiological research and conducting 3 spacewalks to repair Skylab and extend its research capabilities.

Owen’s next flight into space, as part of an international crew on the STS-9 Space Shuttle Columbia mission, cemented amateur radio’s future as part of the human spaceflight experience. STS-9 was launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on November 28, 1983. Onboard Columbia was an internationally developed space laboratory, Spacelab-1, which pioneered international spaceflight research with over 70 separate experiments—a precursor to the research currently being accomplished on the International Space Station (ISS). Onboard also was a Motorola 2-meter handheld radio with a window mounted antenna to facilitate ham radio contacts between W5LFL and hams on the ground. On December 1, the third day of his mission, Owen donned his headset and made history by communicating with Lance Collister, WA1JXN, in Frenchtown, Montana. In W5LFL’s own words, here is an excerpt of his first contact: “W5LFL in Columbia is calling CQ and standing by. Go ahead. Hello WA1JXN, WA1 Juliet X‐ray November, this is W5LFL. I picked up your signals fairly weakly. I think our attitude is not really the best as yet, but you’re our first contact from orbit. WA1 Juliet X‐ray November, how do you read? Over.”

STS-9 Launch – From the cover of AMSAT’s Orbit magazine No. 17, January/February 1984

Owen’s ham contacts on STS-9 were trailblazing for many reasons. They represented the first ham radio contact from a human in space to someone on Earth. They allowed the general public to directly listen and communicate with an on-orbit crew where, prior to this, only NASA mission control personnel or heads of State (U.S. Presidents, etc.) could talk to astronauts from space. And the mission also demonstrated that a group of volunteers could successfully build a ham radio station for a human spaceflight vehicle and get it formally approved by a space agency.

The first draft of the W5LFL Log (from AMSAT’s Amateur Satellite Report, No. 69, Jan. 9, 1984)

Owen spent decades attempting to carry out ham radio on one of his missions, employing gentle assertiveness and steadfast patience to realize his dream. In 1965, when NASA was considering Owen for a planned lunar flight on Apollo 18, 19 or 20, Project MOONRAY was proposed by the Project OSCAR team. Project MOONRAY would support amateur radio operations from the surface of the moon. This initiative was scuttled when Apollo lunar expeditions ended at Apollo 17. Prior to his flight on Skylab, AMSAT submitted a proposal to NASA called SKYLARC (Skylab Amateur Radio Communications). Unfortunately, this proposal was turned down. But, as they say, the 3rd time was a charm on STS-9 and ham radio is now a human spaceflight reality. Also, it should be noted that an AMSAT/ARISS International team is pursuing Owen’s plans to fly ham radio to the moon via several lunar proposal initiatives, including the Lunar Gateway.

Owen inspired legions of amateur radio operators, world-wide, to support human spaceflight amateur radio endeavors and for countless individuals to become ham radio operators. This includes his son, Richard, W5KWQ, who together with Owen became the first multi-generational American ham radio operators to communicate from space.

On behalf of the ARISS International Team, we would like to extend our sincere condolences to the Garriott family, including Owen’s son Richard, W5KWQ and Owen’s wife Eve. As Owen has inspired the amateur radio community to reach for the stars may we wish Owen Garriott Godspeed and a wonderful journey amongst the stars.

Ad Astra!

73, Frank Bauer, KA3HDO
ARISS International Chair
AMSAT V.P. for Human Spaceflight Programs

Owen Garriott, W5LFL, AMSAT Life Member #2030, SK