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Fox-1 Launch Date Slipping into Summer of 2015


AMSAT-NA has announced that its Fox-1 CubeSat likely will not launch until the summer of 2015, “due to governmental priorities.” The satellite was set to head into orbit in December 2014. Fox-1 is on the flight manifest for NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites Mission 12 (ELaNa-12). The first phase of Fox satellites are 1-Unit CubeSats that will include an analog FM voice repeater that will allow simple ground stations using a hand-held transceiver and a simple dual-band antenna to make contacts via the satellite. The Phase 1 CubeSats also can handle high-speed digital communications. Two Phase 1 Fox satellites have been accepted into the ELaNa program.

“This delay is mixed news for AMSAT,” AMSAT-NA President Barry Baines, WD4ASW, said in his latest AMSAT Journal “Apogee View” column. “While we are disappointed that this will mean that Fox-1 will not fly in 2014, it also means that we have more time to complete and test the spacecraft prior to delivery to SRI. In the overall scheme of things, it allows AMSAT to have greater confidence in the delivery of a thoroughly tested spacecraft by taking more time to allow for unforeseen contingencies and to do the ground testing.”

The ELaNA-11 mission also has slipped, Baines said, and now is set to fly in the March/April 2015 time frame, instead of next February. Because both launches are being delayed, he said, the National Reconnaissance Office-Office of Space Launch (NRO OSL) has asked that CubeSats currently scheduled for ELaNa-11 or ELaNa-12 be delivered to Cal Poly by this October 1 — 4 months later than the original Fox-1 delivery date but “with the potential for being flown on the earlier flight,” Baines said.

The downside is that the ELaNa-11 orbit is slightly different, with a lower apogee and inclination and with a shorter orbital life — 6.5 years as opposed to 11 years for the ELaNa-12 mission. “Consequently, we’re looking at the impacts of flying earlier, with the tradeoff of shorter mission duration,” Baines said.

Baines pointed out that, as a secondary payload, AMSAT “is at the mercy of decisions by those who are ‘paying the freight.’ We’re benefiting from a launch paid for by the US Air Force; their mission priorities drive the launch opportunities.”

He said that while AMSAT members may be disappointed by schedule change, he asked that they also understand that such a free ride “comes with the expectation that launch schedules may indeed be altered to satisfy other requirements. Stay tuned.”

AMSAT’s Phase 2 Fox satellites will include software-defined-transponders (SDX) such as the one tested on ARISSat-1. The Phase 2 satellites will operate on a variety of analog and digital communication modes, including linear transponders. Because of power requirements, the Fox-2 satellites likely all will be 3-Unit CubeSats, AMSAT has said. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service




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