Friday 11 September 2015

SSTV images found from Space Shuttle Challenger, 1985

I had a really big surprise this week. My local club - Norfolk Amateur Radio Club - were having a retro technology evening. This involves people bringing in equipment like Sinclair Spectrums, BBC Bs, old calculators etc - even an Oric Atmos showed up this year.

The highlight for me was a 1982 Betamax video recoder and Sony UHF telly, complete with videos of the news and BBC's "Multi-Coloured Swap Shop" with Noel Edmonds, thanks to Robert G4TUK.

Anyway, I took my Sony Walkman Professional, a couple of old Macintosh computers and a 1978 Russian Vega Selena shortwave radio - still working. While I was looking for the Walkman I found an old box of cassettes with one marked "Space Shuttle August 1985".

This turned out to have 2m SSTV signals on it from Tony England W0ORE's STS-51-F mission.

The recording was a bit noisy as I think I used a Slim Jim, and in those days I used a Sinclair Spectrum to decode the images. But what could I do with it in 2015 - 30 years later.

I researched this and he used a Robot 1200C to encode the SSTV images. I was able to use RX-SSTV to decode some of the black and white 8-second images and the Robot 36 ones. They won't win any awards but you can definitely see what they are - one is Tony himself and the others are of the Shuttle's cargo bay, with the telescope it was carrying, and the earth.

The most chilling thing is the Morse ident in between the images which reads "W0ORE/CHALLENGER".

Less than a year later, in January 1986, Challenger was no more after exploding shortly after launch.


  1. I participated in the Challenger mission STS-51F SAREX venture in 1985 as part of the University of Cincinnati College of Applied Science amateur radio club. I have a nice snapshot of the SSTV image of an astronaut in the cockpit. The world seems to be regressing in some more SST and no more space shuttles

  2. I was fortunate to record W0ORE on 3rd August 1985 using the Robot 400 and Icom rig and antenna. I could have sent Challenger SSTV images but was aware that they had a sched. with GB3RS so just monitored.

    You can find the details at