Amateur radio operators and more will track NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission

an orion spacecraft firing its engines above earth with solar panels deployed
An illustration of the Orion spacecraft traveling through space towards the moon. (Image credit: NASA)

Amateur radio operators will join a powerful international network tracking NASA's Orion spacecraft after it launches toward the moon this month.

NASA officials announced that a network of 18 volunteers, organizations and space agencies will assist with tracking Artemis 1, which will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft to orbit around the moon after blasting off from Earth atop a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. Launch is set for no earlier than Nov. 14.

The selected volunteers, including two individuals in the amateur radio community, will "demonstrate whether they can receive Orion's signal, and use their respective ground antennas to passively track and measure changes in the radio waves transmitted by Orion," NASA officials said in a statement (opens in new tab) on Monday (Oct. 31). 

"These measurements will be made during three distinct phases of Orion’s approximately 25-day mission: the journey to the moon, its orbit above the lunar surface and the journey back to Earth," agency officials added.  

Related: NASA's Artemis 1 moon mission explained in photos

NASA collected the proposals in a Request for Information (opens in new tab) released in August. Data the participants pick up will be sent to the agency's Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program. The goal is to improve tracking information for future deep-space missions, NASA officials stated. (NASA will also gather its own tracking data on Orion.)

"We received dozens of calls from antenna owners and operators around the world asking, 'How can we get involved?'" John Hudiburg, SCaN's mission commitment manager, said in the statement. "This was our answer: Show us what you can do while supporting the next big thing in human space exploration."

Participating government space agencies include:

  • Canadian Space Agency, Canada
  • Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), France
  • German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt), Germany
  • Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), Republic of Korea
  • National Space Centre, Elfordstown Earthstation, Ireland

Commercial companies include:

  • Clearbox Systems Pty Ltd., Australia
  • Goonhilly Earth Station Ltd., United Kingdom
  • Intuitive Machines, U.S.
  • Kongsberg Satellite Services (U.S. office)
  • Leaf Space LLC, U.S.
  • Swedish Space Corporation (U.S. office)
  • Telespazio, Italy
  • Vambrace Inc., U.S.
  • Viasat, U.S.

The other volunteer groups or individuals are:

  • Non-profit: CAMRAS, Netherlands
  • Academic institutions: Space Systems Design Laboratory, Georgia Tech Research Institute, U.S.
  • Private citizens: Scott Chapman, U.S. and Scott Tilley, Canada

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace