Radio Waves: First Transatlantic Signal 120 Years Today, 100 Years of German Radio, NASA Laser Communications, and Ham Transmitter on the Moon

Marconi watching associates raising the kite (a “Levitor” by B.F.S. Baden-Powell[47]) used to lift the antenna at St. John’s, Newfoundland, December 1901 (via Wikipedia)

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Trevor R, Andrea Bornino, Wilbur Forcier, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:

First radio transmission sent across the Atlantic Ocean (

Italian physicist and radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi succeeds in sending the first radio transmission across the Atlantic Ocean, disproving detractors who told him that the curvature of the earth would limit transmission to 200 miles or less. The message–simply the Morse-code signal for the letter “s”–traveled more than 2,000 miles from Poldhu in Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada.

Born in Bologna, Italy, in 1874 to an Italian father and an Irish mother, Marconi studied physics and became interested in the transmission of radio waves after learning of the experiments of the German physicist Heinrich Hertz. He began his own experiments in Bologna beginning in 1894 and soon succeeded in sending a radio signal over a distance of 1.5 miles. Receiving little encouragement for his experiments in Italy, he went to England in 1896. He formed a wireless telegraph company and soon was sending transmissions from distances farther than 10 miles. In 1899, he succeeded in sending a transmission across the English Channel. That year, he also equipped two U.S. ships to report to New York newspapers on the progress of the America’s Cup yacht race. That successful endeavor aroused widespread interest in Marconi and his wireless company.

Marconi’s greatest achievement came on December 12, 1901, when he received a message sent from England at St. John’s, Newfoundland. The transatlantic transmission won him worldwide fame. Ironically, detractors of the project were correct when they declared that radio waves would not follow the curvature of the earth, as Marconi believed. In fact, Marconi’s transatlantic radio signal had been headed into space when it was reflected off the ionosphere and bounced back down toward Canada. Much remained to be learned about the laws of the radio wave and the role of the atmosphere in radio transmissions, and Marconi would continue to play a leading role in radio discoveries and innovations during the next three decades. [Continue reading at…]

How radio became a cult in its early years in Germany (DW)

A century ago, the age of radio began in Germany. Cultural broadcasts made radio popular before the Nazis appropriated it for their propaganda.

On December 22, 1920, the first radio broadcast in Germany hit the airwaves. “Attention, attention — this is Königs Wusterhausen on radio wave 2700.” This was how a Christmas concert by the employees of the German Reichspost was announced. Featuring a clarinet, reed organ, string instruments and piano, they played in the broadcasting building of the city of Königs Wusterhausen.

Modest sound quality
Transmission quality was poor: static and crackling accompanied the musical performance. Only official agents of the German Reichspost could listen to this transmission since in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, private citizens in Germany were forbidden from listening to radio signals.

Society on the move
Nonetheless, radio in Germany was born. Society at the time of the Weimar Republic was in transition. Painters were no longer merely depicting the natural worlds — Cubism, Dadaism and abstract art were unearthing new dimensions of the imagination that had no direct reference to reality. Musicians and composers were creating hitherto unheard-of sounds with jazz and twelve-tone techniques joining familiar rhythms and keys. Writers and poets were creating parallel plots and stories. Consumer products were being mass-produced. Aviation was connecting people over thousands of kilometers — and radio was booming.

The first official radio entertainment program in Germany was broadcast on October 29, 1923. The Allies had by then lifted the ban on listening to radio waves. The fact that we even have an acoustic record of it today is due to a coincidence: a few months after it was broadcast, the program was re-enacted and preserved on disc. [Continue reading…]

NASA’s Laser Communications Tech, Science Experiment Safely in Space (NASA)

NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and a NASA-U.S. Naval Research Laboratory space weather payload to study the Sun’s radiation lifted off at 5:19 a.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

The payloads launched aboard the Space Test Program Satellite-6 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida as part of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Test Program 3 mission.

LCRD will demonstrate NASA’s first two-way laser relay communications system, sending and receiving data over invisible infrared lasers, which can enable data rates 10 to 100 times greater than radio frequency systems traditionally used by spacecraft.

“This launch introduces an exciting new technology for space missions,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Demonstrating this innovative way of communicating with spacecraft will open the door for this technology to expand the horizons of future space missions.”

The other NASA science payload that launched aboard the satellite was the Ultraviolet Spectro-Coronagraph Pathfinder (UVSC Pathfinder), a joint experiment with the Naval Research Lab that studies the origins of solar energetic particles, the Sun’s most dangerous form of radiation.

“We’re thrilled to welcome UVSC Pathfinder to the heliophysics observatory fleet,” said Daniel Moses, chief technologist in the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. “This collaboration has the potential to develop a new, high-impact tool with predictive capability for energetic solar particle storms that will enable future space missions, helping us explore farther and travel safer.”

NASA’s LCRD will demonstrate the benefits of space-to-ground laser communications, also called optical communications. LCRD will send and receive data at a rate of 1.2 gigabits per second from geosynchronous orbit to Earth. At that speed, you could download a movie in under a minute. Laser communications systems are smaller, lighter, and use less power than radio frequency systems. These advantages, combined with laser communications’ higher bandwidth, can advance robotic and human exploration across the solar system.

“LCRD is NASA’s key milestone for the buildup of the ‘Decade of Light’ initiative, which involves the infusion of optical technology into space communications and navigation,” said Badri Younes, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program at NASA Headquarters. “By the 2030s, we expect optical technology to play a critical role in enabling an interoperable, reliable, and robust space communications infrastructure, providing seamless operations and roaming capability between government and commercial users and providers.”

After launch and confirmation that the payload is working well in space, LCRD will begin to transmit and receive data from its location in geosynchronous orbit – about 22,000 miles above Earth – with ground stations in California and Hawaii using infrared lasers.

LCRD will spend two years conducting experiments, assessing how weather and other changes in Earth’s atmosphere can impact laser communications, and measuring link performance to refine its operational capabilities and processes. Some experiments will simulate relay scenarios between the Moon and Earth to inform how laser communications could one day be used in NASA’s Artemis missions. The experiments and simulations will inform the development of future NASA and commercial missions hoping to utilize optical communications in Earth orbit and for exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Later in its mission, LCRD will serve as a relay between an optical communications terminal on the International Space Station and ground stations on Earth. NASA’s Integrated LCRD Low-Earth Orbit User Modem and Amplifier Terminal will allow for the first demonstration of a fully operational end-to-end laser communications system from the space station.

LCRD’s mission, vision, design, and development will be covered in depth in the new season of NASA’s The Invisible Network podcast. Over the course of five episodes beginning on Dec. 7 and each Wednesday thereafter, the podcast will highlight the future of the laser communications technologies this mission is proving in space and the people that are making it happen.

LCRD is led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. LCRD is funded and managed through NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate, and the Space Communications and Navigation program at NASA Headquarters.

UVSC Pathfinder was designed and built at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It was funded through NASA’s Heliophysics Program and the Office of Naval Research. It is managed by the Heliophysics Technology and Instrument Development for Science program office at NASA Headquarters.

STP is operated by the United States Space Force’s Space Systems Command. STPSat-6 was built by Northrop Grumman.

To learn more about LCRD and laser communications, visit:

World’s smallest moon lander from Japan will put ham radio transmitter on the moon (ARRL via Southgate ARC)

The ARRL reports Japan’s OMOTENASHI, the world’s smallest moon lander, will have an X-band and UHF communication system, although it will not carry an amateur band transponder.

OMOTENASHI is a 6U CubeSat set for launch via a NASA SLS rocket as early as February 2022. It will have a mission period of from 4 to 5 days. The name is an acronym for Outstanding Moon Exploration Technologies demonstrated by Nano Semi-Hard Impactor. Wataru Torii of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Ham Radio Club, JQ1ZVI, said radio amateurs can play a role in gathering data from the spacecraft.

The spacecraft is made up of two separable components, both having independent communication systems — an orbiting module and a surface probe. The orbiting module will take the surface probe to the moon. It will transmit beacon or digital telemetry data on UHF (437.31 MHz). The surface probe — the moon lander — will transmit digital telemetry or three-axis acceleration analog-wave with FM modulation on UHF (437.41 MHz). Transmitter power will be 1 W in both cases.

“If we succeed in receiving the UHF signal from the surface probe, we could know the acceleration data on the impact on the moon and the success of the landing sequence,” Torii explained.

“We already have a station for uplink and downlink at Wakayama in Japan — used as an EME [moonbounce] station. However, if the satellite is invisible from Japan, we cannot receive the downlink signal. So, we need a lot of help from ham radio stations worldwide.” Torii noted that the RF system on the lander only operates on UHF.

The orbiting module beacon will transmit on 437.31 MHz using PSK31. The surface probe beacon will transmit on 437.41 MHz using FM, PSK31, and PCM-PSK/PM.

Contact Torii for more information

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3 thoughts on “Radio Waves: First Transatlantic Signal 120 Years Today, 100 Years of German Radio, NASA Laser Communications, and Ham Transmitter on the Moon

  1. TomL

    So Thomas, it looks like I will have to join the Space Force in order to get my hands on one of those laser communications systems for my QTH! Maybe then I will be able to get rid of all this local Noise 🙂

  2. Michael Black

    December was a good month for radio. 1901, Marconi spans the Atlantic. 1921, hams span the Atlantic with shortwave, proving the value of higher frequencies. 1961, OSCAR 1 goes up, the first ham satellite, actually the first non-government non-military satellite in orbit.

    In the late sixties, there was talk of putting a ham repeater on the moon. It was never ckear how developed it got, a major player died, and of course the Apollo program was cut short. Project Moonray


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