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AMSAT Says HuskySat-1 Paving the Way for Further Cooperation


AMSAT says it had to maneuver some regulatory challenges in establishing its partnership with the University of Washington to share the just-launched HuskySat-1. The satellite went into space on November 2 aboard a Cygnus cargo vessel, which docked to the International Space Station. HuskySat-1 will be boosted into a higher orbit and deployed in January, and once it completes its primary mission, it will be turned over to AMSAT for operation of its linear transponder sometime in the second quarter of 2020. AMSAT Vice President-Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY, explained this week that the AMSAT-UW partnership presented some regulatory challenges, but has paved the way for similar partnerships in the future.

“The [FCC] Part 97 license that AMSAT will operate under does not include or allow the use of any of the experiments on board,” Buxton explained. “As those experiments were not able to conform to Part 97’s so-called ‘educational exemption,’ including the K-band radio, two licenses were required.” UW obtained a Part 5 Experimental license to cover the telemetry downlink of the AMSAT transponder module, but the transponder must remain off during that operation. The AMSAT transponder module will operate under an FCC Part 97 Amateur Service license.

“This was the first partnership with an educational institution where an AMSAT radio was flown on a non-AMSAT (UW in this case) CubeSat,” Buxton said. “In the process of working with the FCC and NASA to obtain a single Part 97 license that was not complicated or restricted by ‘pecuniary interest,’ the experience developed an understanding with FCC as to how a mission such as HuskySat-1 could be fully licensed under Part 97.”

Buxton said delays and difficulties encountered in executing all of the requirements to qualify under Part 97 ultimately bumped up against the mission deadline to have a license in hand, so the CubeSat could be integrated on the launch vessel. “The only way forward at that time, in order for UW to make the launch, was to do the separate licensing,” Buxton said.

“It was lots of work and some good frustration along the way. I thank and commend our partners at University of Washington as well as the FCC for their work to make it happen, and our friends at NASA for giving us the opportunity to push for a path to amateur radio licensing for more of the CubeSat launches they sponsor,” Buxton remarked. “I believe that it has resulted in a known path toward fully Part 97-licensed educational (e.g., university) CubeSats. That should in turn offer more opportunities for AMSAT radios to fly as the communications package for a mission as well as an operating amateur radio satellite, in the same way as the CubeSats we produce.”

After deployment, HuskySat-1’s 1,200 bps BPSK beacon on 435.800 MHz should be active and decodable with the latest release of FoxTelem. HuskySat-1 is expected to run its primary mission for 30 days — testing a pulsed plasma thruster and experimental 24 GHz data transmitter — before being turned over to AMSAT for amateur radio operation. HuskySat-1 will feature a 30 kHz wide, 145 to 435 MHz linear transponder for SSB/CW. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service