[amsat-bb] Re: dreamer

Bruce Robertson ve9qrp at gmail.com
Tue Sep 15 17:45:43 PDT 2009

Jerry --

I share your nostalgia, and I've never even been able to work a HEO satellite!

 But if you are asking this question in earnest, it has to be said
that even if we amateurs could compell the universities launching
cubesats to do as you ask, the resources would not equal one HEO
launch. Say a cubesat costs $80,000 to launch. If current HEO cost
estimates are correct, and we're looking at over $10,000,000 for that
launch cost, then we would need to harness the wealth of 125 cubesat
teams just for the launch cost. I don't think any university is going
to wait for that.

There is an oft-repeated misapprehension lurking under here, too, and
that is that the wealth going into the cubesat launches is money that
would otherwise be spent on a HEO amateur satellite. Cubesats are (in
large part) university projects aiming to give students access to the
process of designing, launching and controlling a satellite. They are
attractive to granting agencies (and even launch agencies) because of
their eduational potential. To my knowledge, during the design and
launch of previous amateur HEOs, professors did not line up to apply
for grant money to hand over to AMSAT-NA or -DL, as they are now
lining up to apply for money to build cubesats. Contrarywise, I don't
believe many of these cubesats have made any demands at all from the
(hobby) amateur community to defray their costs. (Perhaps this is not
the case in countries where the cubesat represents one of the
country's first forays into space, such as Turkey.)

In short, there is no evidence that cubesat activity is in any way
reducing our opportunities to go to HEO again. Other, currently
overwhelming, factors are doing that all by themselves.

What the cubesat platform has done, though, is offered a regular,
affordable launch opportunity for low LEO. We members of this list
could probably muster enough money to launch our own satellite,
designed here, and controlled by us, if we so wished! (I think at one
point JoAnne tried to start a thread along those lines.) You mention
RS birds: could we deploy a 10m antenna from a 10 cm^3 volume?  Maybe
a spooled-out wire? What kind of propulsion can we make to get from
cubesat LEO to something with a better footprint? In my opinion, if we
really are the descendents of the garage-engineers of OSCAR-1, we
should be buying up pumpkin cubesat spaceframes and posting videos for
each other of the cool things we've achieved in that limited, but not
impossible, space.

Here's some other ideas:

1. CW robot (a la RS) in a PIC. Can you do it in a single atmel
atmega328? At 20 MHz? At 4?
2. PIC code so that the bird turns itself off over unpopulated areas.
(I love my solo passes over the Atlantic when I have VO-52 all to
myself, but I'd be willing to give them up for the greater good :-)
Extra credit: have one chip do both of the above under a operating system
3. Antenna testing: hang a cubesat model up 50' in a tree with some
funky antennas on it. Can you make them have the pattern you (we)
4. Propulsion. How much thrust can we safely get into a cube?
4. This one is completly impossible, but boy it would be nice to have
a U/V transponder on a 10 cm^2 board. We'll have to wait years for
someone to do that, though :-)

We really, honestly, still can have fun. Maybe not the fun that some
of you had back in the day, but there's lots of cool stuff to be

Finally, in that spirit, can I encourage everyone to join in on the
cubesat launches in a few days? Watch the launch, get on internet chat
and eavesdrop on the excited conversation of these young people. Join
the global hunt for the proper keplerian elements for these birds, and
copy what telemetry you can. We almost all of us have the skills and
equipment to be part of a remarkable event. I can't tell you the
thrill of letting these people know their baby is alive and beeping in

73, Bruce

On Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 4:07 PM, Jerry <W0SAT at msn.com> wrote:
>       Hi :  I guess you could say I miss AO-10   . RS birds   AO-40
>               FO-20  .
>                 I could go on and on.
>              When I see all the cube sats launched and FM birds  I say to
>              Myself why didn,t they pull all the resources together to
> launch
>              One HEO.
>               I guess I will have to keep dreaming that this might happen.
>                     The Dreamer
>                       Jerry w0sat
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