[amsat-bb] Re: AMSAT Symposium News Posted to the Web

Tim - N3TL n3tl at bellsouth.net
Wed Oct 14 13:47:33 PDT 2009


Thank you for this thoughtful post. Like many others using today's current roster of available satellites, I wasn't around for AO-40 or many other satellites that are recalled her so fondly by those who were.

If I could build, launch and select the orbit for an amateur satellite, I believe it would be something along the lines of what we've been told about the Chinese satellite known as XW-1. As I recall, it has an FM repeater, a linear transponder and a flying mailbox. A satellite with those capabilities in an AO-7-ish (or, actually, slightly higher) orbit would be one I would really enjoy. 

Even that, however, will take significantly more fundraising than what we have before us now. I applaud the Board of Directors and AMSAT's officers for accepting the Engineering Task Force recommendations and moving forward. 

My interests - and the challenges and satisfaction I find - in the amateur satellites are different from many others'. I recognize that the Board and AMSAT-NA officers inevitably walk a tightrope when faced with decisions because they won't ever make everyone happy. Consider just what the AO-51 operations team faces regularly when scheduling various modes on her - that's a very small taste of the dynamic interests that AMSAT worldwide faces in considering - then acting - on how best to move forward for the future. 

Sumbandilla Sat operation is on the horizon. I presume plans continue to move forward to XW-1 to be in orbit and available in the not-too-distant future. We all hope FO-29 will be back to her old self in no more than a few months. We now have ARISSat-1, the 1U cube sat and the amateur communications package in the rideshare opportunity. Even excluding FO-29, that is a significant increase in operating opportunities on the way fairly soon. I find that very exciting.

73 to all,

Tim - N3TL

From: Mark VandeWettering <kf6kyi at gmail.com>
To: amsat-bb at amsat.org
Sent: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 3:54:31 PM
Subject: [amsat-bb] Re: AMSAT Symposium News Posted to the Web

> The funding solution will go by an international funding campaign and by a fixed minimal contribution per amateur who want's to have an
> HEO. I am member of a local marina and each new member should pay a one time Dredging Fee of 250$. The marina is open here from May 15 to
> October 4 about 5 months. I can used a satellite 12 months am i willing to pay 250$ a year YES and could be more if a sound international
> structure with well defined planning and objectives can demonstrate a serious will towards the next HEO.

Well, it's nice that you have an amount in mind for how much you would
pay.  Frankly, I'd probably be willing to spend 4x as that much.  It
probably would take that level of funding to get purchase a launch.
As far as I know, the terms of the bid that Arianspace quoted AMSAT-DL
were never released, but we get hints of the it in presentations like:


which suggests that 20,000 euros per kilogram isn't absurd, and they'd
be lucky to get a launch for half that price.  This would yield a
price for P3E of only (!) 1.7 million euros, or 2.5 million dollars
U.S.  AMSAT-DL didn't think such a launch was feasible, and claims
that the costs were (in ttheir words) "one order of magnitude too
expensive".    As they say, "bitter" reality of their funding efforts
is that the attractiveness of amateur radio has dropped significantly,
and that funding a P3 satellite from amateur resources alone "seems
not to work now and probably never again?".  In light of this,
AMSAT-DL has pursued tax money from their covernment to pursue a 20M
euro effort to fund launches for P5A and P3E.  I wish them luck, but
in the current economic environment, as well as past experience, I
think there is some reason for skepticism, or at least, no expectation
for a quick resolution to this issue.

> There is already a lot of dedicated peoples around the amateurs radio satellite business who are only making their own small things in
> their small backyard. Why not regrouping their energies and money towards "ONLY ONE SINGLE" big project? In the amateur satellite world we
> called that a HEO satellite as AO-40  and as AO-07 AO-10 AO-13 generation who where the first steps towards AO-40.

I think the reason against such a strategy is quite simple, and it is
absolutely personified in AO-40.  Yes, AO-40 was a remarkable,
amazing, revolutionary amateur satellite.  But radio amateurs put all
their eggs in one basket, and that basket had a hole in it, and all
the eggs tumbled out, and now we are left not only with no eggs, but
with an environment where people might (reasonably in fact) ask why
they should put all their eggs in one basket again, particularly
because these baskets have rocket motors filled with hydrazine and
nitrogen tetroxide inside.  Even if we could fund an HEO launch, I
still think it is a matter of debate as to whether launching these
kinds of expensive, heavy satellites is a project which provides the
greatest utility toward the amateur service.

> Just to be clear my opinion is not against the collective effort and people works but against some of the objectives they carry. Volunteers
> motivation should be the best interest of all not the few.

I find this statement a bit disingenous.  The simple truth is that
satellites in HEO are usable by fewer, not more hams.  If we really
were trying to provide a satellite which benefitted most hams, it
seems pursuing a strategy which minimizes their personal investment in
ground stations is entirely reasonable.  Despite your assertion that
AO-51 is a mistake, I would counter that it's been enormously
successful: a long-lived versatile satellite that provides interesting
opportunities for people not just on VU but on L and S band.

Bruce (I think it was Bruce) suggested that the cost ratio between a
cubesat launch and an heo launch was around 125/1.  To compare apples
to apples, we'd have to compare the benefits of having 125 cubesats
(perhaps carrying full V/U transponders like the ones designed by
PE1RAH) versus one satellite in HEO.

AMSAT's strategy is I think an entirely reasonable strategy.
Cubesats are a reality: they will continue to be launched.  As yet,
they have not been of enormous utility to radio amateurs because they
carry only the kind of radio payloads that they need to support their
scientific objectives.  But miniaturization has resulted in the
possibility for a solar cell carrying cubesat to carry a full V/U
transponder..  The trick is getting these university and scientific
projects to carry them for us into space, so we can make use of them
when their scientific missions are over.  We can do that by providing
them with a tested radio module that integrates the functions they use
as a standardized item..  This allows them to concentrate on their
mission and not have to design custom radio modules for their cubesat.
This allows them to get to orbit cheaper and quicker.  And, it puts
hardware we can use in orbit.  And here's the best part: we don't pay
for it, they do (modulo our one time costs for developing the hardware
in the first place, which is very minimal compared to the launch

We'd all like an HEO launch.  But until you can figure out how to
raise several million euros to accomplish the goal, it doesn't seem to
be a worthwhile endeavor to complain about spending a few tens of
thousands on this project.

73 Mark K6HX
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