My first QSO via the ISS

August 16, 2023
2 minute read

After obtaining my amateur radio license at the ham cram back in November last year, taught by Warren Harris, ZL2AJ, I had a goal of making a QSO through the International Space Station Amateur Radio repeater.

In recent months, I was attempting this with my Baofeng UV5R that was kindly donated by Aidan Kirk, ZL2ABK. I had upgraded it from the standard rubber ducky antenna it came with, to a longer Nagoya whip antenna from Techoman. After numerous attempts over several passes, I still wasn’t able to get into the repeater, but I was able to hear other radio operators crystal clear.

I decided to upgrade from the 5W UV5R to an 8W UV82, thinking maybe a little extra power would help as I’d heard other radio operators were able to get through on an HT with a whip antenna. However, this was not the case for me…

I’ve been keeping an eye on the Satellite Tracker app on my phone which sends notifications when the ISS is about to rise and pass over Gisborne, New Zealand. On my way to the radio direction finding course that was being taught at the local club, I received a notification from the app saying the ISS was about to rise. Since I was already grabbing my equipment and heading out, I decided to have a go at getting into the repeater with the new DIY Yagi antenna, made from tape measures and PVC pipe that Steve Main, ZL2RI had shown and helped us to build over the previous weeks.

Within a few moments of powering on my radio and pointing the Yagi antenna into the sky, and seeing the glowing white dot, known as the space station flying across the sky, I was able to hear Charles, ZL1RKO calling over the ISS. I put out a reply, “ZL1RKO from ZL2DEV”. A few moments later, I heard “ZL2DEV” coming back from ZL1RKO.

Success! I had achieved my goal, and made my first contact via the International Space Station Amateur Radio repeater!

This clearly reinforces the fact that you don’t necessarily need more power, you probably just need a better antenna!

Charles sent me a follow-up message via my email listed on, confirming the contact and this also included that he was located in Waiheke Island, near Auckland, New Zealand.

I’m looking forward to making more contacts via the ISS, and hopefully next time I’ll be able to make an international contact, potentially to Australia? Who knows!

73, Liam ZL2DEV