Badge Research Information


The ionosphere is the layer of the Earth's atmosphere that is ionised by solar and cosmic radiation, located between 75 to 500 kms above the Earth.

The Sun emits a constant stream of plasma and UV and X-rays that flow out and ionise the Earth's ionosphere, during the daytime.

During the night, cosmic rays originating from sources throughout our own galaxy, ionise the ionosphere. Not being as strong as the Sun, the ionosphere is not charged as much at night time.

Radio waves that travel along the surface of the earth, are called "Surface Wave" or Ground Wave". Reception of surface radio waves fades out with the curvature of the earth, such as FM radio stations.

Radio waves also travel up into the sky or space above the earth, and are called "Space Waves' and "Sky Waves". Some of these radio signals can be received by aircraft, satellites and the international space station.

Other radio waves travel up to the ionosphere and are reflected back to earth, to be received hundreds or thousands of kms away. The distance between the radio transmitter and where the radio waves return to earth, is called the "Skip Zone" or skip distance. Some of these radio waves then bounce off the earth's surface, back up to the ionosphere and then reflected back to earth. This is called a double skip or double hop.

The ionosphere above the earth's surface consists of various layers, which change between daytime and night time. Also the layers change between summer and winter time.

The layers have a different effect on radio waves, depending on the radio frequency or band. The "D" layer absorbs lower frequencies (below 10 Mega Hertz) during the daytime.  At night time the "D" layers disappears allowing lower frequencies to be reflected back to earth by the other layers above. This is why AM broadcast stations are usually only received over long distances at night time.

Higher frequency radio waves (between 10 and 30 MHz) are reflected back to earth by one of the upper layers, depending on the actual transmitted frequency.

Amateur radio operators use different frequency bands to communicate over various distances around the world, depending on the time of day, season of the year and ionospheric conditions.

Very high frequencies (VHF) and ultra high frequency (UHF) radio transmissions pass straight through the ionospheric layers, into outer space.



Amateur radio call signs are allocated to amateur radio operators around the world. The call signs are used to legally identify the station or operator, with some countries requiring the station call sign to always be used and others allowing the operator call sign instead.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) allocates call sign prefixes for amateur radio callsigns, also known as a country code.

There are over 300 different country prefixes or codes used by amateur radio operators world wide.

The amateur radio call sign prefix for Australia is "VK". This is followed by a number which indicates the location of the amateur radio station;

VK1 - Australian Capital Territory
VK2 - New South Wales
VK3 - Victoria
VK4 - Queensland
VK5 - South Australia
VK6 - Western Australia
VK7 - Tasmania
VK8 - Northern Territory
VK9 - external territories e.g. Norfolk Island
VK0 - Antarctica

Following is a sample list of country call sign prefixes used by amateur radio operators;

Japan JA to JS Brazil PP to PY, ZV to ZZ
USA AA to AL, KA to KZ, NA to NZ, WA to WZ Italy IA to IZ
Thailand E2A to E2Z, HSA to HSZ Indonesia 7A to 7I, 8A to 8I, JZ, PK to PO, YB to YH
Korea 6K to 6N, D7 to D9, HL, DS & DT France FA to FZ, HW to HY, TH to TX
Germany DA to DR, Y2 to Y9 Ukraine EM to EO, UR to UZ
New Zealand ZL, ZK & ZM Argentina AY to AZ, L2 to L9, LO to LW
Spain AM to AO, EA to EH Poland 3Z, HF, SN to SR
United Kingdom 2A to 2Z, GA to GZ, MA to MZ, Australia VK0 to VK9
Canada CF to CZ, VA to VZ, XJ to XO Netherlands PJ
Russia RA to RZ, UA to UI Sweden 7S, 8S, SA to SM


The International Space Station (ISS) is the most complex international scientific and engineering project in history and the largest structure humans have ever put into space. This high-flying satellite is a laboratory for new technologies and an observation platform for astronomical, environmental and geological research.

The space station flies at an average altitude of 400 kilometres above Earth. It circles the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of about 28,000 kph.

In one day, the station travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back.

The ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit. It is 109 metres in length, making the space station's area span about the size of a football field. The space station weighs nearly 419,500 kg's, has 2 bathrooms, a gym and more room than a 6 bedroom house. The ISS has been visited by astronauts and cosmonauts from 15 different nations. There has been a total of 352 flights to the ISS, by 211 individual people, 31 of these were women, and 7 were 'space tourists' (as of 2013).

Many of the astronauts and cosmonauts are also amateur (ham) radio operators participating in the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) project. While on a break, these amateur radio operators will spend some time communicating with "earthlings" via amateur radio, using VHF and UHF frequencies.

ARISS lets school students worldwide experience the excitement of talking directly with crew members of the International Space Station, inspiring them to pursue interests in careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and engaging them with radio science technology through amateur radio.

For 15 years, Australian amateur radio operator, Tony (callsign VK5ZAI) has facilitated amateur radio communications with orbiting space stations from his back yard station, allowing many schools to speak with the ISS.


The Parkes Observatory (also known informally as "The Dish") is a radio telescope observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales. It was one of several radio antennas used to receive live, television images of the Apollo 11 moon landing on 20 July 1969. After 50 years of operation, the telescope's scientific contributions has led to the Parkes Observatory to be described as "the most successful scientific instrument ever built in Australia".

The main dish is the 64-metre (210 ft) movable dish telescope, the second largest dish in the Southern Hemisphere.

After its completion it has operated almost continuously to the present day. The center part of the dish consists smooth metal plates, while the outer part of the dish is made of fine metal mesh. The moving part of the telescope weights 1000 tonnes – as much as two Boeing 747s – but it is not fixed to the tower, and instead sits atop it with its own weight holding it down. In this set up, it takes 15 minutes for the dish to do a 360 degree rotation, and five minutes to get to its maximum tilt of 60 degrees.

The receiving cabin is located at the focus of the parabolic dish, supported by three struts 27-metre (89 ft) above the dish. The cabin contains multiple radio and microwave detectors, which can be switched into the focus beam for different science observations.

Apollo 11 broadcast - When Buzz Aldrin switched on the TV camera on the Lunar Module, three tracking antennas received the signals simultaneously, one located in California, another at Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra, and the 64-metre dish at Parkes.

In the first few minutes of the broadcast, NASA switched between antennas searching for the best quality picture. After about nine minutes into the broadcast, NASA decided the signal from Parkes was so superior that NASA stayed with Parkes as the source of the TV for the remainder of the 2.5 hour broadcast. 

ExtraTerrestrial - In February 1995, the researchers began a six-month search for extraterrestrial intelligence by analysing patterns in radio signals of 800 nearby stars, similar to ours.

The Dish - In the year 2000, the Parkes telescope featured in a fictional movie about man's first steps on the moon. Actors played cricket on the dish, using a tennis ball to not damage the dish surface.

JOTA is an annual event in which Scouts and Guides from all over the world speak to each other by means of Amateur (ham) Radio.

During the 1957 World Scout Jamboree, held at Sutton Coldfield in the United Kingdom, an amateur radio station was operated by a group of amateur radio operators including Les Mitchell G3BHK and Len Jarrett VE3MYF.

During a discussion between the ham operators, who were also scout leaders, the idea to have an annual get together of scouts using amateur radio, was born.

1958 saw the first Jamboree On The Air (JOTA). Since then millions of Scouts and Guides have met each other through this event, experiences are exchanged and ideas are shared via radio waves.

With no restrictions on age or on the number of participants, and at little or no expense, JOTA allows Scouts and Guides to contact each other by ham radio. The radio stations are operated by licensed amateur radio operators.

Many scouts, guides and leaders hold licenses and have their own ham radio stations, but the majority participate in JOTA through stations operated by local amateur radio clubs and individual radio amateurs.

JOTA takes place the third full weekend of October, from midnight local time on Friday to midnight Sunday (48 hours).

In the 1997, Jamboree On The Internet (JOTI) officially commenced on the same weekend as JOTA.

Each year a competition is held to design a JOTA-JOTI badge. All scouts and guides who participate in Jamboree On The Air are eligible to receive the special event badge.

Les Mitchell (call sign G3BHK), one of the founding fathers of Jamboree On The Air, sadly passed away on the 6th October 2014.

In 1888 radio waves were discovered by Heinrich Rudolf Hertz. Amateur radio started in 1890 when Italian inventor Marconi started using radio waves. Many people then began experimenting with this new "wireless telegraphy".

From 1900 many Australian experimenters (amateur radio operators) started using wireless radio.

In 1905 the Wireless Telegraphy Act was passed in Australia to regulate the use of wireless. There were 398 Experimenter’s Licences listed in Australia by 1914.

Amateur radio was stopped during World War One, between 1914 and 1919. Experimenter’s licences were not issued again until 1921.

In 1910, the “Amateurs of Australia” group was formed, now called “Wireless Institute of Australia”.

In 1921, experiments were started to try and make radio contact across the Atlantic Ocean, with the first radio contact being made between the USA and the UK in December 1923.

In the following year, radio contacts between North and South America; South America and New Zealand; North America and New Zealand; and London and New Zealand were being made.

In many countries amateur radio was again stopped during World War II.

During the 1950s, amateur (ham) radio operators helped to use of single-sideband modulation (SSB) for high frequency (HF) voice communication. In 1961 the first orbital amateur radio satellite (OSCAR) was launched. 

Although still very popular, the need to learn morse code for an amateur radio licence was removed in January 2004.

October 2005 the Foundation "entry" level amateur radio licence was introduced in Australia. In 2015 there are 15,000 licensed amateur radio operators in Australia.

The NATO Phonetic Alphabet is used by amateur radio operators world wide. As the phonetic alphabet is recognised internationally, its use makes long distance (DX) communication easier especially under difficult radio communication conditions.

A phonetic alphabet or spelling alphabet is a set of words used instead of alphabetic letters in radio communication; each word stands for its initial letter. The phonetic alphabet is often used by radio operators to clearly spell out a word or sequence of letters to enhance accurate delivery of a message.

A - Alfa
B - Bravo
C - Charlie
D - Delta
E - Echo
F - Foxtrot
G - Golf
H - Hotel
I - India
J - Juliet
K - Kilo
L - Lima
M - Mike 
N - November
O - Oscar
P - Papa
Q - Quebec
R - Romeo
S - Sierra
T - Tango
U - Uniform
V - Victor
W - Whiskey
X - X-Ray
Y - Yankee
Z - Zulu 

The hobby of amateur radio has been enjoyed by millions of people around the world since the early 1900's. Unlike other radio users, such as citizen band, amateur radio operators are required to have a technical understanding of radio theory, operating procedure and safety. The ability to use morse code is no longer required for an amateur radio operator.

Amateur radio operators are regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). There are three levels of amateur radio licence in Australia, Advanced, Standard and Foundation.

The Foundation Licence was introduced in 2005, as an entry level amateur radio licence. The Foundation Licence Manual has been produced to provide information to assist in studying for the foundation licence, and is now in it's 2nd edition.

Some amateur radio clubs, such as The St George Amateur Radio Society (SGARS) also provide training and assessment weekends. On line training is also available from the Radio and Electronics School. The operating conditions for an amateur radio licence are set out by the ACMA in the Licence Conditions Determination (LCD).

The foundation licence assessment consists of 25 questions about basic radio theory and operating regulations, and practical hands on radio operating assessment.The cost of the assessment is $35 (for under 18 yo) plus a small administration charge.

After successfully completing the assessment, an application can be made to the ACMA to receive a Certificate of Proficiency and a Foundation Amateur Radio Licence and call sign. Currently the cost to apply for an amateur radio licence is $75.00 for 12 months, followed by a $51.00 yearly renewal fee.

Amateur radio Call Signs in Australia, start with VK followed by a number corresponding to the state or territory where the operator resides, e.g. VK2 = NSW, VK3 = VIC, etc, similar to post code prefixes. The number is followed by either 2, 3 or 4 letters which identifies the individual operator, e.g. VK2LE.

Scouts who hold an amateur radio licence are eligible for the Scout Amateur Radio Operator Badge.

For more information, obtain a copy of the Foundation Licence Manual or attend a training and assessment weekend, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The parts shown below can be found in a basic amateur radio station. Information on how these parts are connected can be found in the article "Setting up an Amateur Radio Station".

Antenna (or aerial) used to receive and transmit radio signals. The size and shape of antennas vary depending on the frequency of the radio waves being transmitted and received.

The antenna shown in the image is used for vertical polarised radio signals. Antennas can also be horizontally polarised, similar to most TV antennas.

Antennas are generally mounted on a mast, to raise the antennas height above the ground. The higher the antennas the better the radio signal strength.

Coaxial Cable used to connect the antenna to the radio transmitting / receiving equipment. Coaxial cable consists of a centre conductor, enclosed with a layer of insulation (dielectric), which is then enclosed in an outside conductor (shield). 

The impedance (AC resistance) of the coaxial cable must match the radio equipment and the antenna. Amateur radio equipment mostly use 50 ohm coaxial cable. 

SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) Meter - used to check that the impedance of the antenna system (antenna and coaxial cable) matches the radio equipment correctly. The SWR meter is connected to the radio transmitter and measures the ratio of radio waves from the transmitter to the antenna (forward power) and radio waves returning (reflected) from the antenna to the transmitter. 

When the antenna is matched (or resonant) at the frequency of the radio transmitter, the amount of reflected power should be minimal, the SWR of no more than 1.5:1. An SWR of more than 2:1 indicates a problem with either the antenna or coaxial cable, which could damage the transmitter.

Transceiver (Transmitter / Receiver) come in many shapes, sizes and types from large, older valve type transceivers, to transceivers designed for use in vehicles (similar to transceiver shown in the image) to portable hand held (walkie talkie) type transceivers.

Transceivers may be designed for use on only one set of frequencies (or band) or two or multiple bands, and for different types of radio signals or modes, such as amplitude modulation (AM), single side band (SSB), frequency modulation (FM), and many digital modes such as packet, ACPO25, D-Star, PSK, WSPR, SSTV, JT65, etc.


Power Cable is used to connect a transceiver to a power supply. Most amateur radio transceivers are designed to be powered from a 12 to 14 volt DC (direct current) power source, as found in most motor vehicles.

The size or cross section area of a power cable determines the ability of the cable to supply current (power) to the transceiver. The larger the cable the current carrying capacity. A transceiver with an output power of 100 watts requires a current supply of 22 Amps.

The red coloured wire is the positive polarity and the black coloured wire is the negative polarity of a DC supply.


Power Supply is used to provide power to a radio transceiver. A typical power supply (as shown in the image) converts the AC mains supply to 13.8 volts DC.

The output current of the power supply should be greater than the current required by the transceiver, to avoid overloading the power supply and distortion of the output radio signal.

Test Meter (multi-meter) can be used to make many electrical measurements such as voltage, current, resistance etc.

A meter can be used to check the output of a power supply is correct, before connecting a transceiver to the power supply, to make sure the voltage and polarity are correct.

The world's first artificial (man made) satellite, the Sputnik 1, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. Since then, thousands of satellites have been launched into orbit around the Earth by more than 40 countries.

About a thousand satellites are currently operational, whereas thousands of unused satellites and satellite fragments orbit the Earth as space debris. Of the 1000 operating satellites, approximately 500 satellites are in low-Earth orbit, 50 are in medium-Earth orbit (at 20,000 km), the rest are in geostationary orbit (at 36,000 km).

Satellites are used for a large number of purposes including military and civilian Earth observation satellites, communications satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and research satellites.

An amateur radio satellite is an artificial satellite built and used by amateur radio operators using amateur radio frequency allocations to communicate with other amateur radio operators.

Many amateur-satellites are called OSCAR, (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio). These satellites can be used for free by licensed amateur radio operators for voice and data communications.

Currently, over 5 fully operational amateur-satellites in orbit can be used to repeat radio signals from one radio operator to another radio operator, within the satellite footprint, using VHF, UHF and microwave frequencies. OSCAR satellites can also store and forward packets of digital information all around the world.

Low orbit satellites are the easiest to use requiring low power radio signals and small antennas.

A software program called Orbitron can be used to track satelittes, including the ISS, as they orbit the earth.

The BLUEsat Group is a collection of undergraduate students at University of NSW (UNSW), dedicated to creating easy-to-access space technology.

BLUEsat was started in 1997 as the Basic Low-Earth Orbit UNSW Experimental Satellite (BLUEsat) project, aimed at designing, building and launching the first undergraduate satellite in Australia.

The team aims to build a 10x10x20cm3 nano-satellite for space research, capable of performing various space-related experiments.

The current team consists of roughly thirty electrical, software and mechanical engineering and commerce students. BLUEsat members a chance to work hands-on to design, build and test the subsystems that allow satellites to survive, navigate and operate in one of the harshest environments found in engineering.

Many of the BLUEsat team are also amateur radio operators as the nano-satellites use amateur radio frequencies to communicate with the earth station.

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