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HAMing It Up with the Astronauts

350 reviews


Areas of Science
Time Required
Short (2-5 days)
You'll need to an amateur radio license (or work with someone who has one) to complete this project. Details on getting a license can be found at the American Radio Relay League's website.
Material Availability
This project requires access to HAM radio equipment and a amateur radio license.
Very High (over $150)
No issues

Amy Cowen, Science Buddies

Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies

*Note: For this science project you will need to develop your own experimental procedure. Use the information in the summary tab as a starting place. If you would like to discuss your ideas or need help troubleshooting, use the Ask An Expert forum. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions and offer guidance if you come to them with specific questions.

If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk (*) at the end of the title.


Have you ever wished you could talk to an astronaut on board the International Space Station? You're probably thinking "yeah, like NASA would ever let you do that!" Actually, they will! The International Space Station (ISS) is equipped with its own HAM radio station. The ISS HAM radio station allows astronauts, cosmonauts, and space mission specialists from different nations who are on board the space station to talk to people back home on Earth. Anyone with an amateur radio license is welcome to try contacting the astronauts there. If they aren't busy with other activities, they'll answer!


Photo of the International Space Station in orbit above the EarthImage Credit: NASA / Public domain, government website

A man on the International Space Station using a radioImage Credit: NASA / Public domain, government website

Figure 1. The International Space Station (top) is equipped with a HAM radio station (bottom) where astronauts, cosmonauts, and other space mission specialists can communicate with people back on Earth. (Photo on top NASA, May 2006; photo on bottom: NASA, June 2009.)

Making contact with the ISS requires some careful planning and logistics, though. The ISS is traveling approximately 240 miles above the surface of the Earth at a speed of nearly 17,000 miles per hour! To make contact, you'll need to carefully monitor the space station's trajectory and calculate your window of opportunity. The good news is, the ISS's high speed means it orbits Earth approximately 16 times a day, which gives you plenty of tries to get it right.

With a little bit of reading about the space station, you'll be ready to get your radio equipment in order and talk to the astronauts. For more suggestions on getting started, read the Science Buddies blog entry Making Contact with the Space Station and consult some of the resources in the Bibliography, below. Just make sure you document it all so your friends and your teacher don't think your project is just a piece of science fiction!


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Ask an Expert

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Global Connections

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) are a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

This project explores topics key to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.


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General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "HAMing It Up with the Astronauts." Science Buddies, 11 Sep. 2020, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Phys_p080/physics/ham-radio-contact-space-station. Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2020, September 11). HAMing It Up with the Astronauts. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Phys_p080/physics/ham-radio-contact-space-station

Last edit date: 2020-09-11
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