[amsat-bb] S-band on Eagle

Jim Sanford wb4gcs at amsat.org
Thu Sep 7 18:40:37 PDT 2006

Ladies and gentlemen:

I have been reading the comments regarding the Eagle S-band downlink 
decision.  I herewith respond to some.

All along, the Eagle project has put a premium on hard science, rigorous 
peer review, and dispassionate analysis.

All along we knew there might or would be some changes to what we've 
been planning.

With several other issues on the move or decided, we took a few days in 
late June to hammer out, based on science, the transponder situation.  
We did multiple, independent link analyses, and all came to the same 
conclusion.  We validated interference predictions with measurements 
that have been taken.  The conclusion is that S-band is marginally 
useful as a downlink today (unusable in many locations), and by the time 
Eagle is launched, and through it's lifetime, will be unusable. 

Personally, I do not like this decision.  I have S-band equipment that I 
was looking forward to using. 

Personally, I can live with this decision, and defend it to myself, let 
alone anyone else, because I am convinced that it is technically sound. 

As one of you commented this evening, AO-40 wasn't exactly a rock 
crusher on S-band.  It worked, and adequately, at least on CW, but was 
not great.  As I reflect on my personal AO-40 experiences, I now 
understand that there are 2 reasons for my disappointment.  Local noise 
was one, and transponder distortion was another -- the latter will be 
corrected by SDX.  S-band on AO-40, by necessity not choice, got many of 
us out of our comfort zones and convinced us that microwaves really 
aren't that hard.  Let's enter the realm of S up and C down with that 
same realization. 


You will not be left on your own to develop ground equipment.  You will 
not be asked to mortgage your house; affordability by the masses is a 
key component of the design for the entire system.

Comparison with AO-51 is an "apples and oranges" thing.  The path losses 
are much different.  FM is very unlike CW/SSB or wideband digital 
modes.  Remember that a goal of the Eagle system is that everything is 
on all the time.  No more matrix switches, no more schedules.  We need 
up and downlinks to be useful throughout the entire orbit.

Why did we "regress" to U/V?  For one reason, many of you asked for it, 
and some of us worked hard to somehow incorporate that capability in 
response to member's desires.  The foot in the door was the utility of a 
V-band beacon in case everything else goes sour.  The forcing function 
was as follows.  A goal of Eagle has always been some kind of hand-held 
or jump bag portable ground station capability for entry into the 
emergency area while the tsunami waters are receeding and the hurricane 
winds are down to gale force.  Many of us thought we could take 
advantage of the gain in small antennas to do this on the microwaves.  
Rigorous link analysis led us to the conclusion that the best place to 
do this is U/V -- both from a RF/DC power perspective, and from a link 
standpoint.     This leads to the digital and "traditiona"l transponder 
package for U/V, implemented in SDX.

Why not also include a (switchable) S-band downlink in parallel with the 
V-band?  Remember, no switches.  Also, we run into an antenna space 
problem.  We've already increased the size of the spacecraft from where 
we started, and for many reasons, do NOT want to build something as 
large as AO-40.

A couple of you have commented this evening that perusing EaglePedia has 
not revealed the details of the decisions.  That is because, while Bob 
McGwier (N4HY) and I have been working on the report of the meeting, it 
is not public.  We've been working hard on it since June, in and around 
other AMSAT, ham radio, and life events.  Shortly after I push send on 
this message, I'll begin my final look at that document prior to public 

Before I go spend time with the spousal unit TONIGHT, I will finish it 
and publish it.  I will send an announcement on the amsat-bb that it is 
public.  To read the report, go to the EaglePedia main page, and select 
project index.  From there, select Team and Meetings, and there will be 
several options, not all public.  The San Diego meeting minutes will be 
obvious and public.

Several of you have commented, "If S-band is unusable, why is it flying 
on P3E?"  Fair question, but I can't answer for AMSAT-DL.  I DO know 
that the P3E system design is considerably older and farther along than 
Eagle.  Eagle design decisions were made based on the best information 
in June of 2006.

Aspects of this discussion have been worthy of /dev/null.  More aspects 
of this discussion have raised valid points and reasonable questions, 
deserving of response, which is why I've been composing this note for 
the last four hours or so.

A few have raised the old allegation of the builders doing what they 
want, without regard to users needs.  This is not true.  While the 
desire to advance the state of the art (part of amateur radio's 
justification for existence and allocation of valuable spectrum) leads 
to enthusiasm and study of potentially useful new techniques, this 
desire had no impact on our analysis-based decisions.  We started with 
requirements and services, and explored what would deliver. 

I thank all of you for your interest and support.  Your Eagle team is 
working hard to develop a system that will serve our needs, as well as 
advance the state of the art.  As promised, we are making decisions 
based on sound, peer-reviewed science, not anybody's opinions or desires.

Please read the report, study the spreadsheets, download the excel file 
and play with it.  If you can, make your own measurements and put those 
numbers into the spreadsheet.  I think you'll understand how these 
decisions were reached.

After contemplating the report, send me your questions.  I'll either 
respond or forward to he who can best respond.  Another fundamental 
tenet of the Eagle project is openness, so you have a right to a 
response to a rational question.  Please recognize that we're volunteers 
too, and subject to the realities of day jobs, families, and a real 
life.  Response may not be instantaneous.

Thanks again and very 73,


James A. Sanford, PE
Eagle Project Manager
wb4gcs at amsat.org

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