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AMSAT to Celebrate 50 Years in Space at Annual Space Symposium


The AMSAT 2011 Space Symposium will be held on Friday, November 4-6 in San Jose, California. This year’s Symposium coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of OSCAR 1, the first Amateur Radio satellite. The Symposium will feature presentations on amateur satellites, operating techniques, news and plans from the amateur satellite world, as well as an AMSAT General Meeting and a meeting of AMSAT’s Board of Directors.

While the final schedule is still being worked out, AMSAT has announced that Lance Ginner, K6GSJ, will be speaker at the banquet. Ginner helped build and develop OSCAR 1 and OSCAR 2. His involvement with Amateur Radio spacecraft continued with OSCAR 3, OSCAR 4, OSCAR 5 (the first for the newly formed Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation in 1970), OSCAR 6, OSCAR 7 and OSCAR 8.

ARRL Laboratory Test Engineer Bob Allison, WB1GCM, will also be speaking at the Symposium, accompanied by a refurbished prototype of OSCAR 1. With help from Ginner and other AMSAT members, Allison and W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, refurbished the prototype. They began tinkering with the satellite, one of three made by Project OSCAR. One of the satellites went up into space in 1961, one is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC and the other, until recently, was sitting in a display case in the downstairs hallway at ARRL Headquarters

“We really wanted to make this work again,” Allison said. “So we looked in the February 1962 issue of QST that was dedicated to OSCAR I, the first-ever Amateur Radio satellite to go into orbit. But the schematic we published didn’t quite mesh up with what we were seeing when we opened up the satellite we had here at Headquarters.” [Editor’s note: You must be an ARRL Member to access the link]

According to Carcia and Allison, this could be that back in the days of the Cold War and the space race, the US military did not want the correct schematic falling into improper hands. “I tried for days, tracing components on the board and it just wasn’t working,” Carcia said. “So I called up Lance Ginner, one of the original Project OSCAR people. He kind of laughed and said that he didn’t think they would do that, but you never know.”

After much trial and error, Carcia finally got OSCAR I to transmit a signal on 145 MHz, just as the original satellite did. Since specific technical literature on the satellite was unavailable, information taken from 1962 QST and CQ articles assisted in the reconstruction of the transmitter in the ARRL unit. Much care was given to salvage the original components, although time had taken its toll on most of the circuitry. As such, although the transmitter functions, the actual keying of the transmitter is performed using a PIC beacon keyer. Power is supplied using a standard wall-cube providing 12 V dc.

For more information on the AMSAT Space Symposium, including how to register online, please visit the AMSAT Space Symposium web page.



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