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AMSAT Invites Ideas and Suggestions for Next-Gen Satellites


AMSAT has invited the Amateur Satellite community to submit ideas and suggestions for the next generation of AMSAT satellites. AMSAT Vice President-Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY, announced the plan at the recent 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium in Baltimore. AMSAT asked that ideas be based on the CubeSat platform, as “this is the standard through which we will look for launches in the foreseeable future,” its announcement said.

“The door is open for everyone to submit their ideas,” Buxton said. “AMSAT Engineering has a long-term strategy, and this is the first step.” He outlined the goals of that strategy:

  • Advance Amateur Radio satellite technical and communications skills.
  • Enhance international goodwill.
  • Grow and sustain a skilled pool of Amateur Radio satellite engineers.
  • Establish and maintain partnerships with educational institutions.
  • Develop a means to use hardware common to all opportunities.

“Within the bounds of the type of satellite it takes to achieve any of the various orbit opportunities, let’s consider in those plans the possibility of developing a platform that can suit any and all orbits,” Buxton said in reference to the last goal. “Perhaps a modular CubeSat, using a common bus as we did in Fox-1, which gives great flexibility in building and flying different sizes and configurations of CubeSats with simple common-design hardware changes.”

Buxton pointed out that the purpose of the proposal is not just collecting suggestions. “Being an all-volunteer team,” he said, “AMSAT needs your help in carrying out the idea.” He asked that submissions be thorough and contain the following information:

  • Design
  • Implementation (CubeSat platform)
  • Estimated timeline
  • Cost -- Volunteer resources, commercial (COTS) units
  • Launch -- How does it get to orbit?
  • Strategy -- How does it fit into AMSAT’s Engineering long-term strategy?

Buxton encouraged those considering submitting proposals to contact him for additional details on the criteria. Anyone planning to include a university as a partner to provide experiments or other support but who does not representing that university should contact him for assistance in working with AMSAT’s existing educational partners or in establishing a new partnership.

“Being Amateur Radio operators, it is easy for us to fall into a particular trap because of our history of communicating with other amateurs throughout the world,” Buxton said. “Specifically, most people who are not already involved in the world of satellite technology are unaware of, or simply overlook, the provisions of the current ITAR (soon to be EAR) export rules.” (International Traffic in Arms Regulations — ITAR — and the Export Administration Regulations — EAR — are US export control laws that affect the manufacturing, sales, and distribution of technology.)

Buxton said these can come into play particularly in “deemed export” situations that may require US Government permission to discuss a satellite project with a foreign national. A deemed export is defined as the release to a foreign national in the US of technology or source code that is subject to ITAR/EAR requirements.

This could affect collaborations that involve citizens of other countries. As AMSAT explained, it’s permissible to receive ideas and proposals from outside the US, but it is not okay for US citizens to export or share design ideas with other countries unless they have taken the proper steps to ensure compliance with ITAR and deemed export rules.

AMSAT also advised those wishing to work on proposals to use care in representing themselves in their contacts with other. AMSAT said that while it’s the organization’s goal to build and launch the satellite, it is not an AMSAT project until it is accepted by the AMSAT Board of Directors. “It is acceptable to represent yourself as members of a project team that plans to submit a proposal to AMSAT for a future satellite project, as the AMSAT name is well known,” AMSAT said in its announcement. “It is not our intention that ideas be submitted to AMSAT-NA which would be more appropriately handled by an AMSAT organization in a country where AMSAT is established. AMSAT-NA is seeking ideas from amateurs in North America and will certainly consider ideas from amateurs in countries which do not have an established AMSAT organization or relationships with an existing AMSAT organization.”

The deadline for submissions is May 30, 2015. Ideas then will be screened for completeness and reviewed by a board consisting of the AMSAT Engineering Team, AMSAT Senior Officer and Board of Directors representatives, and aerospace industry members. The review board may modify or consolidate ideas and will consider which meet the criteria to become a project based on feasibility, cost, and ability to bring value to the Amateur Satellite community. The review process is expected to be completed in September 2015.

In order for selected ideas to become projects that satisfy the requirements for a NASA Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) launch, submitters will be asked to work with the AMSAT Engineering Team on an ELaNa proposal. The Engineering Team will then work on execution details for selected project(s) and present proposals to the AMSAT Board of Directors in October 2015 for final approval. ELaNa proposals that are approved will be submitted in November 2015, and the project(s) will move forward. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service




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