[amsat-bb] Re: Launch Costs (was-re: AMSAT-BB Digest, Vol. 7, Issue 312)

Tony Langdon vk3jed at gmail.com
Tue Sep 25 22:38:18 PDT 2012

At 02:05 PM 9/26/2012, Daniel Schultz wrote:

>Amsat has tried to sell the emergency and disaster communications aspect of
>amateur radio but so far nobody has bitten on that bait. Getting space on a
>tower is a few thousand dollars per year, getting a free satellite launch
>represents a thousand times more money. A local ham club working with local
>public safety officials can show them directly how valuable hams can be, on
>the national level we are trying to appeal to a big bureaucracy with little
>practical experience. Most of the rest of the world regards ham radio as an
>outmoded hobby practiced by elderly white males. It has been said before in
>this forum that nobody is going to donate money so that hams can talk to Japan
>through an amateur satellite.
>Amsat is not the only worthy non-profit in space these days. We compete with
>many other amateur space groups, including the Google Lunar X prize teams.
>Education is what brings in the big bucks today. The grant makers have fully
>swallowed the phony notion that there is a "critical shortage" of engineers
>and scientists, and they donate to causes that support STEM education. Our
>ability to access space in the future depends on how well we work with the
>education community. We need to stress that a real engineering design course
>must include designing for reliability and a long lived communications

I've watched this discussion for some time, and have a couple of 
things to say.  Given what has been done in the past, and what is 
most likely practical, I don't see a lot of potential for amateur 
satellites in emergency communication.  They could be pressed into 
service for remote area messaging, but real time communication is 
more likely to take place on HF, which is open in regional areas more 
often and for longer than the typical LEO pass.  Maybe a 
geostationary satellite could be more practical for emergency use, 
though there would need to be 3 to cover (almost) all of the Earth - 
and my particular side would be at the bottom of the heap, unless it 
was the Chinese who put the bird up there.

I see a lot more potential in partnering with the education 
community.  They're seeking to train aerospace engineers, and perhaps 
working with this community - as mentors, given there's a lot of 
proven satellite expertise in AMSAT, as well as "clients" (to have 
students building to a specification).  Amateur radio itself is about 
learning - usually self learning, but education would seem to broadly 
fall in the learning side of the hobby.  Sharing that with industry 
and getting working transponders in return would seem like a 
win-win.  I do think it should be a two way street, AMSAT helps the 
students and universities achieve their educational goals, and gets a 
working bird in return, once the primary mission is completed.  From 
what was posted about Fox earlier, that sounds like a good example of 
this sort of thing.

And of someone wanted to try out a new propulsion system on a live 
satellite, I'm sure AMSAT would be more than happy to help with the 
comms side of things.

However, I also understand that times have changed, and I may never 
get the opportunity to try working a HEO in my lifetime.  I'm not 
going to bag AMSAT for that, it's just the way the industry has gone, 
and the old launch opportunities have dried up.

73 de VK3JED / VK3IRL

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