FCC 97.113 Prohibited transmissions reads:

(e) No station shall retransmit programs or signals emanating from any type of radio station other than an amateur station, except propagation and weather forecast information intended for use by the general public and originated from United States Government stations, and communications, including incidental music, originating on United States Government frequencies between a manned spacecraft and its associated Earth stations. Prior approval for manned spacecraft communications retransmissions must be obtained from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Such retransmissions must be for the exclusive use of amateur radio operators. Propagation, weather forecasts, and manned spacecraft communications retransmissions may not be conducted on a regular basis, but only occasionally, as an incident of normal amateur radio communications.

It is also a test question on the Technician license, that the only time that music can be transmitted using an amateur radio license is incidental music transmitted as a part of an authorized rebroadcast of a manned spacecraft and an Earth Station on a US Government frequency, when NASA has given permission for such. I have a few questions about this:

  1. Why does this exception even exist?
  2. Has this been used for significant events, such as the Apollo Moon Landing? Or ever, to anyone's knowledge?
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, I feel three questions rolled into one makes for a poor question, especially as the expertise to answer all three of them is dissimilar (particularly, your questions 1 and 3 are only barely related). There is plenty of precedent cases for such multi-questions being closed. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Oct 24, 2013 at 12:19
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling: I'll remove the one question that is quite a bit different than the others. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2013 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with @Michael. And you will find people will generally only answer the title. But the key word in the passage you quoted is "incidental" music. Like if I am on a repeater while my stereo is playing in the truck. That's allowed. $\endgroup$
    – SDsolar
    Jun 13, 2017 at 22:49

2 Answers 2


Prior to the internet getting a continuous stream of audio from a manned space mission was difficult, even when the mission was overhead, but, of course, due to orbital mechanics it often isn't overhead.

Amateur Radio enthusiasts would request and often gain permission to retransmit audio of space flights, and with some coordination and planning you could listen to space transmissions without having particularly expensive radio equipment - a few users would do the heavy lifting, and broadcast it as it passed overhead for them, and you'd simply tune into their retransmission.

However, licensed amateur radio users aren't permitted to use their station for general broadcasting, and specifically restricted from playing music over the air. These two rules prevented space mission broadcasts (which occasionally did feature music), and so a special rule was provided that, with permission, users could retransmit such transmissions for other enthusiasts.

It's not commonly used now because NASA itself provides continuous broadcast access to most of their missions live via the internet, but in the heyday of the Apollo and similar space race programs Amateur Radio was often the only way to tap into these transmissions which were rarely broadcast via more general methods such as radio and television for exceptional events.

In fact, it would be surprising to me if they gave specific permission now unless good reason was provided as to why the internet streams couldn't be used. Keep in mind that this rule is an exception.

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    $\begingroup$ FWIW: Some stations local to KSC did still rebroadcast manned spaceflight mission audio, particularly during launch events, even late into the end of the Shuttle program. Been awhile since we've had one, though. $\endgroup$
    – KJ4JTN
    Oct 27, 2013 at 4:45

Several reasons exist, maybe some i don't even know. But some i have heard include: NASA uses amateur radio as back up and emergency communications, and uses music to wake up the astronauts each day, as a sort of alarm clock; This naturally needs to be protected, as hams may be listening, recording and/or retransmitting these transmissions for various reasons. NASA also broadcasts a lot of space flight video footage on NASA TV, and Amateur TV is authorized to use NASA TV for filler between transmissions, while the station is in automatic control; Allowing the retransmission of in-flight music protects this use.


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