[amsat-bb] Re: 22% votes
daleh at alaska.net
Fri Sep 21 09:55:57 PDT 2012
Very well said.
On 9/20/2012 9:48 PM, Daniel Schultz wrote:
> Amsat is living in a brave new world where launches are fully commercialized
> and nobody gets a free ride anymore. We will either adapt to that paradigm
> shift or we will cease to exist.
> Things were a lot different in the 1960's and 70's. In 1961 an Air Force
> general had enough authority to allow Oscar 1 to be bolted to the side of his
> launch vehicle. It is like this in the early days of all new technological
> ventures. The internet in the early 1990's was a lot more free-wheeling before
> the "suits" took notice of it and started to regulate it.
> In today's world the bean counters are fully in charge, and nobody rides for
> free. When you have commercial companies offering $10 million to place 100 kg
> in orbit, that becomes the market price, and the only way to lower that price
> is to expand the supply of launches.
> This development is especially ironic because Amsat created the entire small
> satellite industry. There was a time when industry and government experts
> laughed at us and our little toy satellites. We proved that small satellites
> are valuable and now everybody wants to launch them. A little company called
> Surrey Satellite Technology grew out of Amsat endeavors.
> AO-40 was a once in a lifetime opportunity. ESA offered us a 600 kilogram ride
> on one of the first Ariane 5 vehicles and we voted to go for it. The reasons
> for AO-40's failure have been covered before, and further analysis will not
> add to the discussion. It is not a mistake to throw deep sometimes. If AO-40
> had worked as designed, it would have revolutionized amateur radio. We gambled
> and lost and we will most likely never see another 600 kg launch opportunity.
> The Eagle project was started about a decade ago in hope of launching a more
> modest HEO replacement for AO-40, and to be able to do so on a regular basis
> so that a single satellite failure would not ground the entire program. This
> effort was overtaken by the tidal wave of cubesats. With every single
> university on Earth launching a cubesat all of the available launch
> opportunities are filled with pea-pod launchers and there is no room for
> Eagle, unless someone writes a check for $10 million.
> Since cubesats are the only available launches, Amsat has started the Fox
> program to participate in the cubesat trend. Amsat can help its case by making
> Fox the best engineered cubesat ever built, which should not be too hard
> compared to some of the other cubesat designs that I have seen.
> The university cubesats use amateur radio frequencies as inexpensive data
> downlinks, but they do not otherwise contribute to the basis and purpose of
> amateur radio as defined in part 97. Education is mentioned in part 97 but
> many of these cubesat programs just barely touch on the communications aspects
> of space flight.
> I also don't think that most of the student built cubesats are teaching proper
> engineering techniques, I wonder how many of them have gone through thermal
> vacuum or radiation testing. Some cubesat groups are still purchasing off the
> shelf ham HTs and simply removing the plastic case before mounting it in the
> satellite, because they "don't know how to design an RF system". I doubt that
> the students are learning the engineering and career skills that they will
> need to survive in the real world when they get entry level jobs at Boeing or
> Lockheed Martin after graduation. Nevertheless there is substantial financial
> support for student built satellites which are perceived to be training and
> inspiring the next generation of engineers, while ham radio has a public image
> of being the last century's technology, a hobby of elderly men using Morse
> code and vacuum tube radios, and nobody with money to donate cares if hams can
> use a satellite to work rare DX countries. Our link to education is likely to
> be one of our only ways to secure low cost launches in the future, so we had
> better find ways to work with and direct the student groups toward building
> well engineered, long lived satellites with a real communications mission in
> We can also look around and take notice of what other groups are doing in
> space. Many different forms of electric propulsion are in development or are
> now flying, and this technology has the possibility to enable some of the HEO
> missions that we desire. What if we had been able to propel ARRISSat into a
> higher orbit instead of helplessly watch it reenter a mere six months after
> deployment from the ISS? What if we had been able to nudge AO-13 away from its
> destructive resonance and prevent it from reentering far too early?
> Another area where Amsat has failed has been in the news media. When Amsat
> does not receive credit for its accomplishments, others are free to rewrite
> history and claim that they were the first to accomplish every new thing,
> sometimes claiming credit for things that Amsat first did three decades ago.
> The universities have professional public relations staff who know how to
> plant favorable news stories in the media. When Amsat launched AO-40 some of
> us tried to get the mainstream news media interested in the story, but not
> having professional contacts in the media, our efforts fell flat on the floor.
> The funding follows the publicity, and when Amsat misses out on the publicity,
> the money goes elsewhere. How is it that we launched AO-40 with barely a
> mention in the popular press or in space industry publications?
> Those of you who are lapsed Amsat members and will not rejoin until a HEO is
> launched really should reconsider. The membership dues are not that high, and
> we still need your active participation if any of this is to come to fruition.
> Giving up on Amsat by lapsing your membership pretty well insures that we will
> never again have a HEO satellite.
> Dan Schultz N8FGV
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