OSCAR-I Newspaper article

Ham-Built Radio Orbiting Earth

by Neil Corbett

(article circa 1960)

SUNNYVALE, Calif (UPI) – A 10-pound transmitter, hand built by a group of amateur radio enthusiasts, orbited the earth today broadcasting a coded “hi” around the world.

The box-like transmitter, known as Oscar (orbiting satellite carrying amateur radio), rode piggy back into orbit Tues-day on Discoverer XXXVI satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Oscar’s message to the world, four dots followed by two dots (H-I in Morse Code), climaxed the work of a small group of ham radio operators who call themselves the “Project Oscar Association”


Association charman Mirabeau C. Towns Jr., a rocket engineer from Saratoga, Calif., witnessed the launching at Vandenberg. He said the satellite was designed and built by San Francisco Bay area ratio amateurs, most of them associated with electronics firms.

“The idea was conceived a little more than a year ago,” Towns said. “Getting government approval proved to be pretty simple.”

A volunteer effort was needed to absorb the cost of the trans-mitter, estimated at about $18,000. Pieces of equipment were donated by amateur radio operators from throughout the country.


“It was built by amateurs in garages using their own time and equipment,” Towns said., “so radio amateurs throughout the world can contribute to the knowledge of space radio propagation.”

As soon as the Discoverer was in orbit Tuesday, Oscar separated and began operating as a separate little satellite. The gold plated transmitter began sending out its message 10 times a minute, using Mercury batteries for power expected to last three weeks.

Amateur radio operators throughout the world had been alerted in advance to listen for the signal on a two meter band on a frequency of 145 megacycles.


It was first heard by station KCRVSB at the South Pole. One hour later the second contact was made by statio KL7EBM in Kodiak, Alaska, nearly half-way around the world.

Towns said reports from hams throughout the world could help determine doppler recordings, signal strength, orbital deter-mination and various receiver experiments.

“This is a group effort,” he said. “Each amateur sending us a report makes it (the experiment) that much more worthwhile.”

Indicentially, Discoverer XXXVI also carried the usual 300-pound instrument capsule, which Air Force scientists hope to recover over the Pacific Ocean.



  1. […] points me to a 1962 article by United Press International that highlighted the success of the first crowdfunded, crowdsourced satellite ever launched, […]

  2. You may appreciate knowing that I cited you in a recent Make Magazine blog post entitled; Makers in Space: What Was Old Is New Again


    If there was any way to learn more about the OSCAR-1 team, perhaps even interview anyone if they’re any chance anybody is still alive, I would love to figure that out. Thanks!

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