[amsat-bb] Re: a little perspective

Phil Karn karn at philkarn.net
Thu Aug 4 19:13:10 PDT 2011

On 8/3/11 8:21 PM, Jim Jerzycke wrote:

> At least AO-40 had a usable life for some. This thing is just another 
> squawk box in space, like all the "student" satellites that are using 
> the Amateur Radio frequencies for a free downlink.


With the successful transponder tests it would seem that you spoke too
soon. Besides, I really like lemonade.

As far as I'm concerned, educational satellites carrying student
scientific experiments are a perfectly legitimate use of the amateur
spectrum as long as licensed amateurs are centrally involved and the
experimental data is in the clear and publicly documented.

I certainly have no objection to two-way transponders for open ham use.
I'm as delighted as anyone that the ARISSat-1 transponder seems to be
working well despite its damaged 70cm antenna.

But AMSAT has been flying linear transponders for over 40 years now, and
you have to admit they're pretty old hat. When I became a ham in 1971,
just hearing a satellite direct from space was pretty interesting.
Actually talking through one was totally beyond cool. You just can't
expect today's kids to feel that way when they already use the Internet,
mobile phones, GPS, Sirius/XM and DirecTV every day.

Ham radio can't possibly survive as a mere communications medium. We
must emphasize all its other uses, some of which are still unique.

At the top of that list is *EDUCATION*. Ham radio remains the only way
for ordinary individuals to learn radio technology hands-on. If you just
want to talk to people, mobile phones are great. But just try taking one
apart to see how it works!

Ordinary individuals can also advance radio technology through ham
radio. And they can use it for other technical and scientific
investigations. Although mobile phones and the Internet now provide
inexpensive, near-ubiquitous communications between any two points on
earth, they still don't go everywhere. Like near outer space, which ham
radio reaches easily.

So using a ham satellite just to link points on the earth that could
communicate much more easily over the Internet doesn't interest me as
much as using ham radio to communicate with the satellite itself. And
satellites have much to "talk" about: camera images, information about
the satellite itself (i.e., telemetry), scientific data from experiments
and human-human communications from any astronauts or cosmonauts on
board. Instead of trying to compete with the Internet, it can complement
our radio links (e.g., KA2UPW's telemetry repository). This is
especially handy for satellites in low orbits with short passes over any
one location.

Amateur satellites can be so much more than simple transponders; in
fact, they'll have to be. And I think that's a good trend.


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