In the spirit of this year’s space theme, I was thinking it’d be a fun experiment to try to pick up the International Space Station on radio.
While technically you can talk directly to an astronaut if they’re not busy – usually around breakfast or dinner, their time (around midnight or noon, our time) – it’s really random whether they’ll be listening at any given time. So not so good for a group event. But we can listen anyway. We should at least be able to pick up the automated packet data link – and with a lot of luck maybe even try to send a packet signal back up.
(Sadly we just missed the Apollo-Soyuz docking anniversary event a couple weekends ago – they were sending down slow-scan images from US/Russian space history to celebrate!)
- The schedule can be a bit odd, because of the way it orbits. You have to catch the ISS when it’s directly overhead, and a pass only lasts for ~5 minutes.
- The probability of receiving anything “interesting” is low. But there’s a good chance we’ll at least be able to hear the packet data link (sounds kinda like a modem).
- The antenna I have with me probably isn’t strong enough to transmit back up to the ISS. But again, we can try and see what happens.
- I’ve never done this before, so I have no clue if we’ll be able to actually pick it up. We might just get silence. But I’m told it’s technically possible with the equipment I have.
I ran some orbit predictions here:
(The ones with a high elevation are best. Color coding indicates how likely you are to see the ISS.)
It looks like some good options are Thursday night (10:28 pm), maybe Saturday night (10:13 pm), and a great window on Sunday night (9:20 pm).