OSCAR 1 (Orbiting Satellites Carrying Amateur Radio) – Key Facts

December 12, 2021 marked the launch date of first amateur radio satellite called OSCAR 1, which stands for “Orbiting Satellites Carrying Amateur Radio”.

About OSCAR 1

  • OSCAR 1 is the first amateur radio satellite launched by Project OSCAR.
  • It was launched into low Earth orbit on December 12, 1961.
  • It was launched by from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Lompoc in California, by a Thor-DM21 Agena B launcher.
  • The satellite is a rectangular box, measuring 30 x 25 x 12 cm and having the weight of 10 kg.
  • It was launched as a secondary payload (ballast) for Corona 9029, which is the eighth and final launch of KH-3 satellite.
  • It was not only the world’s first non-governmental satellite but also the first satellite constructed by a collection of private individuals.
  • Satellite was designed and constructed using limited resources.
  • It operated for around 20 days.

Features of the satellite

OSCAR 1 satellite comprises of a battery-powered 140 MW transmitter, that operate in the 2-meter band. It employed a monopole transmitting antenna, which was 60 cm long and extended from centre of the convex surface.

Operating Time

OSCAR 1 operated for 22 days, ceasing operation on January 3, 1962. It re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on January 31, 1962, completing 300 revolutions.

Project OSCAR

The idea to launch an amateur radio satellite was put forward within the months of Explorer 1’s launch. It was formed by a group of radio amateurs. Under this project, OSCAR 1 was built in the garages and basements of the members forming group.  OSCAR 1 was gold-plated and comprised of black metallic strips across the casing for regulating internal temperature.

Charging system

OSCAR 1 didn’t have any solar cell charging system. Operations of the satellite were set to last till the batteries discharged completely. The expected battery life of the satellite was 28 days.

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