I am so very excited!

I worked a 15 hour shift yesterday having had to drive into work twice as at 5:30 PM, when I arrived home, I discovered that there was no power in Steinthal.  I need power to run my work computer.  Turns out the winds took out a bunch of WPS customers and they were giving me an ETA for electricity restoration sometime on Friday (48 hours later….)

I frantically made it back to work to cover my call and didn’t get home until around 11:45 PM last night.  This morning, exhausted on my day off, I was working around the house when my phone sent me an alert that AO-85, an amateur radio satellite, was currently over Russia and quickly heading towards the United States.  It travels at 16,904 miles an hour and at peak elevation over Steinthal, it was about 647 mi away from me.

Tracking software showing AO-85 to my north

The concept of satellite communication in this case is that I transmit a low power signal to the satellite on one frequency and the satellite re-transmits my signal back to the earth on another signal for other listeners to hear.  In this case, my signal traveled 647 miles to the satellite.  The satellite signal then travels anywhere from 329 miles to 900+ miles back to earth depending on where the receiving station is.    The foot print the satellite covers is huge (in this case, the entire US and Canada or about 9 million square miles).

As I fumble with my antenna and radio, I suddenly hear the AO-85 satellite and then a few others making calls on it.  When there was an opening I decided to give it a shot and see what happened, being completely unprepared at this point and having failed to even hear the SO-50 satellite a few days earlier.   To my surprise, I gave out a call and instantly heard someone reply to me!  The conversation is VERY brief with mainly an exchange of our respective calls and our grid square (an alphanumeric designation of our location on the earth).  I was able to tell the other operator thanks and that he was my first satellite contact ever and that was it.  Conversation done with the satellite barreling over the horizon at over 16,000 mph, I ran inside to look up the other operator’s call to see who I was able to contact?  Hoping for a contact many thousands of miles away and bragging to my friends and family how I was able to do that with a small hand-held radio at 5 watts would be enjoyable dinner conversation for sure.

However, as looked up the call-sign on a website,  I found out that the person I just got off the air with lived only 20 miles away in a small town called Whitehall, Wisconsin.  I found this fairly humorous at the time and was able to track down his email address so I thought I would write him a quick email thanking him.  He responded shortly afterwards and I learned that not only did he live 20 miles away from me, but his daughter and my daughter were high school classmates and friends. In fact he has been to my house in the past to pick up his daughter from a slumber party. Of course then neither one of us knew the other was an amateur radio operator.

So my Radio signal traveled over 1300 miles at 5 watts, potentially heard by anyone in the United States, but at that point in time the first person I talked to was in the same county as me. Small world…….

Looking forward to more satellite contacts later this summer when the weather warms up and enjoying company with friends and family while camping and boating.


AO-85 – the actual satellite I was able to contact