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AMSAT Announces Plans for 2008


Over the weekend of October 26 through October 28, 2007, amateur satellite operators enjoyed a weekend in the mountains of western Pennsylvania with the autumn leaves at their peak color. The Wireless Association of South Hills, Skyview Amateur Radio Club, Breeze Shooters Amateur Radio Club and Washington Amateur Communications clubs in the Pittsburgh area teamed up to host the 2007 AMSAT

Space Symposium at the Pittsburgh Airport Marriott Hotel.

Here are the highlights of AMSAT's plans for 2008:

• Geosynchronous Satellite Announcement (Phase IV Lite)

• AMSAT-DL Phase 3 Express High Earth Orbit Satellite Nears Completion

• AMSAT Eagle High Earth Orbit Satellite Construction and Testing Started

• AMSAT Satellite Integration Lab in Maryland Comes Online

• New Space Education Opportunities

Geosynchronous Bird Means Around the Clock Coverage

At the Symposium AMSAT President Rick Hambly, W2GPS, along with Vice President of Engineering Bob McGwier, N4HY, were able to make public the results of their recent work, which will change the face of Amateur Radio going forward. AMSAT has been in consultation with Intelsat regarding an application of Intelsat communications satellites carrying our Amateur Radio satellites into geosynchronous orbit.

Bob described changes in Department of Defense (DoD) policies that will require DoD-subsidized launches to allow secondary payloads to fill in excess launch capacity of the primary mission. During his talk, "Where's the Launch," Lee McLamb, KU4OS, explained that factors such as the increased size and efficiency of launch vehicles results in excess lift capacity. Gone are the days where adding a pound to the payload meant removing a pound of fuel from the booster. Lee described how current missions on the schedule have 1000 to 1500 pounds of excess capability. These are slots AMSAT can fit into.

Bob, N4HY, made the following observation about the Phase IV Lite project, "There is enough in place at this time that AMSAT needs to begin planning engineering work and possible construction of a geosynchronous payload so we are ready if Intelsat says they have a ride for us."

Phase IV Payload

The Phase IV Lite Geosynchronous Payload is planned to consist of transponders already under development for the Phase 3 satellites, P3E and Eagle. AMSAT plans to develop an earth station attainable by the average ham so that users can immediately take advantage of the audio, digital messaging and video services offered by the Advanced Communication Package (ACP).

A New Era for Emergency Communications?

The ACP will be a self-contained earth station that could be sent with Amateur Radio communication teams or delivered to disaster areas for 24/7/365 emergency communications. These teams would be able to point a small dish at a predictable spot in the sky and immediately begin delivering disaster communication support without depending on HF propagation.

Educational Opportunities are Mind Boggling

A Phase IV payload could also be used to provide TDRSS-like (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System) relay of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) communications. The 10 minute school contact could now be expanded to an hours-long contact with the International Space Station. This opens possibilities for student involvement with experiments aboard the space station.

Let's Get Started!

The Intelsat geosynchronous platform will be able to provide the AMSAT Phase IV Lite payload with approximately 400 W of dc power for 15 years. The primary payload would also perform the geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) boost phase as well as perform station keeping and antenna pointing once it has arrived on station. Bob, N4HY, summarized," The Intelsat team would be doing all the things nearly impossible for amateurs and that enables AMSAT to do what we do best ... build a communication system that changes Amateur Radio for the better!"

AMSAT-DL Phase 3E Update

Hartmut Päsler, DL1YDD, Vice President and Board Member of AMSAT-DL discussed the current status of the P3E and P5A missions. Hartmut explained that P3E is nearing completion for assembly and testing with international cooperation from AMSAT-NA and AMSAT-UK. The ZEL laboratory may be closed by early 2008 as P3E is completed and will be ready for launch.

AMSAT-DL is currently investigating launch opportunities with Ariane and Soyuz-2 from the ESA Spaceport in French Guiana. Additional launch opportunities may arise with Intelsat as was disclosed during the Symposium.

AMSAT Eagle Update

The current baseline plans for Eagle's linear transponders are being expanded into dual use for Phase 3 and Phase IV application:

  • UHF uplink / VHF downlink linear transponder using Software Defined Transponder (SDX).
  • L-band 1269 MHz uplink / S1-band 2400 MHz downlink linear transponder (also SDX).
  • The details of the Advanced Communication Package planned to be used on Eagle and Phase IV are to include these capabilities:
  • S2-band 3400-3410 MHz downlink and C-band 5650-5670 MHz uplink (10 MHz segment TBD).
  • Phased array with up to 22.4 dBi gain is under study.
  • Uplink and downlink would be accessible to hams not already on satellites or facing antenna restrictions. 60 cm dish would work for all users.
  • Simultaneous development of earth-station package accessible to the average ham.
  • Earth stations available for EMCOMM teams and educational outreach.
  • Probable capacity of 500 text rate, voice grade channels and video -- scalable data rates depending on the class of the communication application.

Educational Outreach Expands

Educational outreach, at all levels from elementary through university, continues to be one of AMSAT's primary missions.

Rick, W2GPS, shared the second educational opportunity arising out of AMSAT's cooperation agreement with the University of Maryland -- Eastern Shore. This compact already provides the laboratory facilities for AMSAT's new satellite integration lab in Maryland. The educational outreach is planned to begin during the summer of 2008 when AMSAT, the Hawk Institute for Space Sciences and the University of Maryland initiate the AMSAT Institute. The initial focus of the Institute will be to train a team of educators in space education and satellites. These educators would then branch out and train more teachers to bring AMSAT and Amateur Radio into their classroom.

A hands-on educational project at the symposium was led by Richard Crow, N2SPI. Richard led student satellite workshops. A group of eager middle school and high school students were mentored in building their own satellite downlink antennas, which were successful in receiving SO-50.

AMSAT Maryland Lab

Robert Davis, KF4KSS, AMSAT Lab Manager and Assistant Vice-President of Engineering showed photographs and discussed the progress of building out the new AMSAT Satellite Integration Laboratory in Pocomoke City, Maryland. This laboratory is a collaborative effort between AMSAT and the Hawk Institute for Space Sciences (HISS) also located in Pocomoke City, Maryland, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

The clean room is currently being assembled. The office walls have been completed and the laboratory, electrostatic workstations, soldering equipment and machine shop have been constructed.

The 8500 square foot facility containing office, laboratory and machine shop space will also include a satellite earth station scheduled to be installed in February, 2008. The laboratory will begin to be used with a university Cubesat project in accordance with AMSAT's agreement. The Eagle satellite will be built and integrated at this facility also.

SuitSat-2 Announced

Lou McFaddin, W5DID, described the ongoing design and construction of the communication and experimental payload for SuitSat-2, which will hopefully be deployed in 2008. The SuitSat-2 project will feature:

  • Expanded educational outreach
  • Linear software defined transponder
  • CW ID
  • Voice messages
  • FM crossband repeater
  • SSTV images of the earth from four cameras
  • Temperature sensors
  • Room to accommodate four experimental packages
  • CD-ROM containing student art and messages

Human Space Flight - ARISS Reaches More Students

ARISS International Chairman Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, discussed 7 years of continuous operation of the ARISS program. As of this time the ARISS program has made over 330 school contacts by 16 consecutive amateur licensed crews. The program touches over 15,000 students per year. AMSAT is a key partner in the ARISS program.

Classroom contacts and Amateur Radio operations aboard the ISS are planned to continue and to grow in 2008 as the workload aboard the space station permits.

In Conclusion

The AMSAT Board of Directors announced that the 2008 AMSAT Space Symposium will be held in the October timeframe in Atlanta, Georgia. This Symposium will be named the "2008 Harry Yoneda JA1ANG AMSAT Space Symposium" in memory and honor of JA1ANG -- Silent Key. Harry was a former AMSAT Board Member and close friend of many in the group. Harry also was a founding member of JAMSAT.

It was a special weekend. AMSAT's news on new opportunities and the technical discussion charged up everyone who attended. They realized they were there on the weekend that changed Amateur Radio.

All photos courtesy of JoAnne Maenpaa, K9JKM.

JoAnne Maenpaa, K9JKM, was first licensed in 1973. Her main Amateur Radio activities include working the low orbit satellites, ISS packet, learning software defined radio and building a microwave-capable station.

She has enjoyed a 20+ year career in the telecommunications industry working as a communications systems engineer for FermiLab, Motorola and Northrop-Grumman. Her second career is as a registered nurse in a hospital cardiac unit. She is Senior Editor of the AMSAT News Service and prepares news for the AMSAT Web pages.

JoAnne Maenpaa, K9JKM



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