[amsat-bb] Why do hamsats? (Or anything else...)

Mark VandeWettering kf6kyi at gmail.com
Fri Oct 16 11:55:06 PDT 2009

I'll limit my comments to two issues:

> Ham radio is about communicating.  If we want to turn its primary task into
> "education" then it will look very very different.

Part 97.1 tells us what the intended (not always realized, it must be
said) purpose of amateur radio is.   it certainly is intended to be a
communication service, but the regulations also recognize the
importance of education in Part 97.1(c):

(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules
which provide for advancing skills in both the communications and
technical phases of the art.

Education (particularly self-education) has always been a principle of
amateur radio.    Indeed, from 97.3(a)(4), the definition of amateur

 (4) Amateur service. A radiocommunication service for the purpose of
self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried
out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized persons interested in radio
technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

It does list "intercommunication", but it also lists "self-training"
and "technical investigations", which certainly have a clear
educational mandate.  I admit that most hams don't seem to take this
educational mandate very seriously, but it is there, and I applaud
AMSAT in their educational efforts.   In the grand scheme of things, I
think having school kids talk to astronauts in orbit probably does
more social good than allowing hams work DX.

Secondly, regarding the chances of success of ARISS-Sat-1, first, I
hope you are wrong.  I hope it is successful, and that the SDX
transponder provides some unique opportunities for radio amateurs.
As to whether flying such a payload is a reasonable use of this rare
launch opportunity, I think it clearly is.   Yes, we could kick a very
basic linear transponder out of the ISS, and it would float around in
LEO and allow you to make some contacts, but so what?  What purpose
would be served?   To get to _affordable_ amateur satellites, we have
to find a way to actually pay for launches.  This means (among other
things) limiting mass, and that means relying on the benefits that
digital control can in controlling and minimizing power consumption.
 You can't just run a bent pipe transponder on a 1U cubesat and expect
anything useful to develop.   We need to think

Robert also mentioned the decreasing satellite population.   It isn't
decreasing because satellites are becoming more expensive: indeed, as
Bob Bruninga has pointed out, the actual hardware costs of satellites
have fallen dramatically.  The problem is that we can't get people to
donate free launches to get our stuff into orbit.    AO-10 had a mass
of about 90kg.    Arianspace wants 1.8 million euros to launch that
into HEO orbit.   The cost of the development and construction of the
satellite is just the smallest fraction of that cost.   To make
satellite launches affordable, we need to figure out new ways to
shrink the mass, provide careful power control, and either accept
lower orbits or figure out new ways to boost satellites to higher
orbits (I find the micropropulsion work to be very interesting).

It's a pity we can't harness the power of complaining to boost things
to orbit...

73 Mark K6HX

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