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

AMSAT Academy to be Held Prior to Dayton Hamvention

Come join us the day before Hamvention, for AMSAT Academy – a unique opportunity to learn all about amateur radio in space and working the FM, linear transponder, and digital satellites currently in orbit.

AMSAT Academy will be held Thursday, May 16, 2019, from 9:00am to 5:00pm, at the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) Clubhouse, located at 6619 Bellefontaine Rd, Dayton, Ohio.

Registration Fee includes:

Full day of instruction, designed for both beginners and advanced amateur radio satellite operators, and taught by some of the most accomplished AMSAT operators.
Digital copy of Getting Started with Amateur Satellites, 2019 Edition ($15 value)
One-Year, AMSAT Basic Membership ($44 value)
Pizza Buffet Lunch.
Invitation to the Thursday night AMSAT get together at Ticket Pub and Eatery in Fairborn.

AMSAT Academy 2019 Registration Fee: $85.00. Registration closes May 10, 2019. No sign ups at the door. No refunds, No cancellations.

Registration may be purchased on the AMSAT Store.

Details about AMSAT’s other activities at the 2019 Hamvention, including the TAPR/AMSAT Banquet may be found here.

FoxTelem Version 1.07 Released

I’m officially releasing version 1.07 of FoxTelem. A test version has been out for a while, but it had several issues, including a lower decode rate than 1.06. That prevented release for a while. Those issues (and something like 65 other defects) are now all fixed and this decoder performs better than 1.06. Feel free to test them side by side and report back if that is not the case for you. We are always interested in any comparative results.

In addition to defects in FoxTelem 1.06 and earlier versions of 1.07, this also introduces Doppler calculation with automatic adjustment of the decoder frequency. This is especially useful for decoding beacons and has been helpful in testing for Fox-1A / AO-85 and Fox-1Cliff / AO-95 which are both in SAFE mode. Decoding from Doppler takes a bit of configuration to get right. Have a read of the new sections in the manual or ask for help if you want to give it a try. There are pros and cons vs “Find Signal” for sure.

Version 1.07 changes the core SDR within FoxTelem to use a Numerically Controlled Oscillator (NCO) rather than an FFT Filter for the conversion to base-band. This produces better decodes and will allow the support of wider bandwidth SDRs in the future. The old decoder is available still if needed from the settings screen. Read the manual for details.

Version 1.07 also introduces two new BPSK decoders in advance of the Fox-1E launch. (I have no inside information about when that will be, but I have the decoder ready 🙂 I also wrote some notes on the comparison between the two decoders, which you can read if you are interested in BPSK decoding performance, or just wonder what I do with my time in the evenings:

The releases are here:

* Ability to add a new spacecraft from the menu. You can also remove them.
* Doppler calculation and tracking as an option instead of “Find Signal”
* A better SDR based on a Numerically Controlled Oscillator, ready for wider SDRs
* Two new PSK decoders – Costas Loop and Dotproduct
* RTL dongle implemented for testing, though more work to do
* Stops downloading keps when position calc is off
* Allows toggling of high speed / DUV display when in auto mode
* Fixed plotting issues for Earth plots
* Fixes several crashes and bugs
* Fixes copy paste issues with tables
* Respects left/right audio preference when processing wav files
* Implements formats for later spacecraft – Fox-1E and HuskySat
* Linux and Mac launch script updated to locate the JVM (especially on Mac). Please report if when this works/does not work
* MEMS gyro calibration updated
* Fixed a bug where AO-85 data from the server could not be stepped through

And many other bug fixes. Full list of changes here:

Let me know any feedback.


AO-85 Status Update


As you probably know, AO-85 has had issues recently with the batteries dropping precariously low during eclipse. We think it’s likely the batteries suffered degradation due to heat during previous periods of no eclipses. This has made it difficult to keep the satellite available for use without endangering the batteries. Today the nominally 3.6v pack was down to 2.8v at the end of the eclipse. That is dangerously low.

In an effort to extend the usable life of the satellite, this evening we turned both the IHU and the transmitter off. This ceases all transmissions, including the beacons every two minutes in both sunlit and eclipsed parts of the orbit. We will periodically turn the satellite back on for an orbit or two, in order to gather telemetry. If all goes as planned, we will turn the repeater back on during the next period of no eclipses beginning around January 24th. In the meantime, it is important to leave AO-85 tracked in your FoxTelem setups, in order for us to gather telemetry and keep tabs on the situation. If you do happen to hear a Veronica beacon, or either the normal repeater or the COR/no telemetry repeater, please let the AMSAT-BB know, or send me an email or message directly.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we try to make the most of the situation. Please consider supporting the AMSAT GOLF project with your membership, and one-time or recurring donations at or

73, Drew KO4MA
AMSAT VP Operations