[amsat-bb] Re: HEO naivete

Jim Sanford wb4gcs at amsat.org
Sat Feb 7 17:27:56 PST 2009


I've watched this discussion with some interest, and some pain.  I'm 
over a year removed from involvement in AMSAT leadership and what was 
then Eagle, so what follows is MY opinion; responsibility for errors or 
inaccurate conjecture are all mine.


In no particular order:
1.  A driving force behind the move to microwaves was to provide 
innovate SERVICES that could be versatile, and attractive to the 
"computing" generation.  (I spent today judging a regional science fair; 
the 30-something teacher spent the entire deliberative period texting on 
her cell phone.  3 weeks ago my 30-something son ran the Goofy challenge 
[half-marathon on Saturday followed by full marathon on Sunday thru 
Disney World].  His friends got his splits by text message, and for the 
next 2 days he got text congrats -- not cell calls.)
2.  A driving force behind the move to microwaves was to provide 
services that would be EASY TO USE and enable the apartment dweller or 
antenna-restricted ham to work DX with something the size of a DirectTV 
3.  A fundamental principle of the microwave package was that we'd 
develop the ground segment in parallel, and using common hardware, with 
the space segment.  No more, "If we build it, they will [hopefully] 
come."  And of course, building more drives cost down .. . .
4.  A fundamental principle of the microwave package was that we'd drive 
the ground segment to be affordable, as defined by the number of people 
willing to shell out over $500 for the latest FM dual-bander with APRS 
built in.  (I've no idea where the cost estimate is today, but a few 
years ago, we thought this possible.)
5.  There are varying interests at work here.  Many (me included!) want 
to continue to use their legacy equipment.  Many (me included!) want the 
challenge of doing something new and innovative  . . . and live up to a 
reason for amateur radio existence, technical innovation.  It's all 
about balance . . ..which led to the U/V/L package, (legacy) implemented 
in Software Defined Radio (innovative) which added some neat new 
capability -- backpackable low data rate emergency communications.  Gee, 
looks like a win-win!
6.  FULL DISCLOSURE:  I was the Eagle Project Manager for a couple of 
years.  I had to back away about 18 months ago because commitments of 
the day job and some new family commitments prevented me from doing it 
right.  One of the most painful decisions I've made in my life, but it 
was the right one for me and I think for AMSAT.  I do regret having to 
back away, and regret whatever role that had in subsequent events.
7.  AMSAT technical communithy went through a tough time. Rick Hambly 
and Barry Baines have documented that in several issues of the Journal.  
13 years ago, when my Command was going through some tough times, my XO 
and I would remind each other, "The true measure of a man is how he 
responds when things are not going well."  So it is with organizations.  
AMSAT has gone through some tough times but will recover.
8.  The current leadership is working the problem.  See 2 Journals ago, 
Barry described what Bill Ress is doing to reconstitute an engineering 
organization -- both in vision and in resources (volunteers).  This will 
take a while, but from my infrequent LONG conversations with both Barry 
and Bill, I think it is heading in the right direction; give it a 
chance, and help all you can. 
9.  One concept that I've discussed with Barry and Bill (was not my 
idea, but I do not remember whose) is developing an operational concept 
==> functional requirements ==> definition of capabilities needed ==> 
discrete modules with common interface that can be built generically, 
put on a shelf, and be available on short notice to adapt to whatever 
orbit/power/thermal opportunity pops up.  I have professional experience 
with "generic" building blocks, and it is all positive, leading to 
enhanced capabilities, and the ability to adapt to previously 
unconsidered applications, leading to higher volume, leading to lower 
costs, leading to more sales, leading to higher volume . . . .
10.  I honestly believe that launches and financial support will be 
difficult to obtain until we have something to show.  Para 9 might give 
us something to show; could be demonstrated terrestrially -- which was 
one of the orignial peripheral goals of the microwave package.  Once we 
demonstrate that we have HARDWARE ready to take advantage of 
opportunities, I really think it will be easier to cultivate those 
11.  Two journals ago was a very thoughtful article about the data 
architecture of the ACP.  Read it.  Some good people have done some good 
theoretical work and concluded that the Earth Space Earth segment can be 
made to look like a long range TCP/IP connection -- with infinite usage 
possibilities.  This is the kind of capability that going to the 
microwaves and digital data concepts brings to the table.  This kind of 
work should be encouraged and continued.  I've fantasized for many years 
of "CAT-5 to the antenna box".

So, what's my bottom line? 
I think AMSAT is moving in a good direction away from some painful 
organizational challenges.  I think AMSAT is reconstituting an 
engineering organization that can produce innovative payloads, for 
whatever orbit is available.  AMSAT  needs our support.

So, keep the discussion going -- honestly, dispassionately, and 
impersonally.  The discussion should be about process and things, not 
individuals.  It should be about looking ahead, not criticising actions 
of the past.  Yes, the past should be studied to learn and not repeat 
errors, but there is no value in pouring smoldering embers on smoldering 
embers.  Then support AMSAT however you can.  ESPECIALLY if you have 
some technical talent to offer, but if you don't, toss in some $$.  If 
the generic hardware concept evolves and moves to completion, funds will 
be needed to test and build the modules.  THEN, we can seek 
demonstrations and launch opportunities, and THEN we can worry about 
getting funded to support the launch.  The key is being ready to flex on 
short notice.

Hope this is of some value.

wb4gcs at amsat.org

Rocky Jones wrote:
> Bob...Your "rant" strikes me as pretty close to right on the money.  I read the missive in the latest journal about 3.3 and 5.6 ghz links and thought "thats nice, It will never happen".
> A baseline requrement  for ANY Amateur satellites should be that they work on frequencies and modulation methods which are consistent with radios that are already commercially manufactured for the bands in question...or can use some very easily (think the MDS converters) commercial gear for other services.  
> The instant the "bird" is designed with some type of radio in mind that does not exist now and is limited to that bird...then the entire adventure is nice but has little practical value.  
> Why on earth is the AMSAT community wasting time on a design which requires a ground station that is (by the latest Amsat Journal) "beyond the scope of most hams".  Instead of spending time working on  making an 'acp capable earth station within the reach of most radio amateurs".
> Because if the equipment has little value beyond a satellite which could do an Oscar 40 at any time how many are going to shell out the money?
> I dont have a clue why the AMSAT design folks seem to think that it isnecessary to drive up into the microwave frequencies.  They never seem to answer the question why a 2meter 70cm translator is not a good solution...and the one that we really need.
> Meanwhile AO-7 flies on.
> Robert WB5MZO life member
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