[amsat-bb] Re: status
burns at fisher.cc
Sun Jan 26 15:00:23 PST 2014
Here is my few cents worth:
My perspective is as someone who has always been interested in space,
satellites, etc, as well as the down-and-dirty parts of the techno-marvels.
I'm also someone who played with a Part15 broadcast band transmitter as a
kid, always assumed I would be a ham someday, but somehow never quite got
my ticket till a few years ago. And finally I'm volunteering for AMSAT as
a flight software developer. (Cool! I'm doing something that will go into
I think we ALL need to remember (AMSAT leadership, AMSAT members and
volunteers, and BB contributors who are none of the above) that we cater to
a very diverse crowd of users. But that one particular group is closely
tied to both part of AMSAT's mission and to our way of getting a ride to
orbit; that group is STEM students and educators. And even that group is
diverse since we are talking about Kindergarten through college! But let's
talk about the middle-to-high school crowd. They (and their teachers) are
less interested in the mechanics of making a ground station work, and more
interested in the data they can get: Telemetry, doppler (yes, you CAN
certainly see and measure doppler on an FM bird, even though you don't need
to correct very much), signal strength vs distance, orbit prediction (even
if it is only 'we can hear the satellite when we predicted that we could).
So these guys want inexpensive and hands off (unless the hands are part of
the experiment and pointing a handheld would be kind of cool for some of
Then we have "young" (i.e. new) hams like me. (Not young in age
necessarily :-) My MO for learning something is to start off simple and
work on more and more sophisticated. For example, I started listening to
sats with an HT/rubber ducky. Then I upgraded to a Kenwood station with a
couple of omni antennas, one homebrew. Then I added the Funcube Dongle.
I'd love to build a beam with a rotators, but first I want to build
another homebrew omni which I will try in my attic. Etc etc.
And finally (and I'm sure I have missed some 'stakeholders') we have the
far more sophisticated guy like some of you who want to build more and more
complex stuff in order to do more and more complex things. I'll include
those who want to have more time to talk (HEO), and who want more channels
and more doppler correction (linear) in this group. By the way, this is
partly true for the builders too...a software define transmitter would be
FUN! I understand! I really do!
Now to the next step: we don't have a satellite if we don't have a ride to
orbit. For getting a ride, it seems that Cubesats have by far the most
available launch slots these days, so we need to figure out how to build a
cubesat. Further, we STILL need to get some sort of grant to cover the
launch costs. The way we are doing that is by catering to the educational
group, at least in some form. It happens the way we are catering to the
first group is probably good for the second group too, at least for a
while. We don't want to ignore the third group either, but it's hard (read
takes longer, and more $$) to build a single satellite that keeps everyone
happy, especially when we are also learning as we go how to write grants,
partner with educational institutions, and build a cubesat. So as Jerry
said, we decided first to replace Echo/AO51 with another FM bird, in the
meantime learning about the technology required for cubesats, writing
grants, etc. Again for reasons Jerry said, we have at least two Fox-1
satellites in the pipeline. Admittedly these are not doing much to help
group 3, but there a lot more linears up there than there are FMs, so it's
a good place to start.
We hope to take advantage of what we have learned for Fox-1 to do Fox-2
(maybe we should call it Golf instead of Fox-2 to avoid confusion) as a
software defined radio probably with a linear transponder. Maybe multiple
modes...who knows, it has not been defined yet! No one thinks that we
should NOT look for more fun, fancier, harder, etc project. We just know
that we had to move back on the learning curve in the new cubesat world and
*get something up there* to try, experiment with, and most importantly show
potential partners and fund sources that we can do it!
If you actually read this long piece, thank you. I only ask that everyone
understand that we can't keep everyone happy with a single satellite, and
that it takes years for AMSAT to build a satellite. That means that we
won't be talking about a new type for a while. Since ARISSat, you have only
heard about Fox-1 because that is the current thing that we are working on,
and it takes up most of our mindshare. It does not mean that is all that
we care about! Please cut us a break before attributing motivations and
future plans to us. And by "us" I mean developers, members and (though I
am not one of these) AMSAT leadership.
Thanks and 73,
Burns Fisher, W2BFJ
AMSAT President's Club Member
On Sun, Jan 26, 2014 at 3:39 PM, Michael <Mat_62 at charter.net> wrote:
> Patrick asked.....
> We're listening... what do you suggest? Sophisticated home stations like
> what you described in an earlier post don't work well for those of us at
> hamfests or other events, even if we have videos that can show that off.
> The sophisticated home station may even scare off some, who fear that it
> would take a lot of time - and more $$$ - to get on the satellites.
> Well I don't know but it seems like to me that same handheld antenna
> mounted on a tripod and using small DC motors to track the satellite in
> both the azimuth and elevation planes ( something like Mark Spencers latest
> creation) along with full blown doppler correction being provided along
> with it from some type of "black box" transceiver and/or interface which
> was assembled from a reasonably inexpensive kit and is being run by an
> iphone , droid or tablet with an app or possibly by a laptop and the whole
> shebang being powered from a reasonable sized cluster of li poly batteries
> is much more impressive than a guy with an HT pointing an antenna in the
> air with his hand. IMO that also would not seem unattainable and
> monetarily out of reach to the average joe ham who has somewhat bothered
> to keep up with the technology available to him or her today. I know I
> would love such a system. You could also have a demonstration of the
> simpler hand held station going and let people make up their own mind which
> had more appeal and "cool" factor. My idea isn't so complex that it
> overwhelms but is not so simple that it totally takes away the "wow" factor
> Unfortunately, I can dream such a system up but don't have the technical
> savvy to bring it to fruition. I wish I did. I could build it from a kit
> if the SMD's were kept to 1205 size and larger. I find hand soldering
> anything smaller a bit difficult. Think of the fundraising abilities of
> such a " black box system" as well...... Anyway...I got to run and perform
> some family obligations, you asked the question so I thought I'd do my best
> to answer it...
> Michael, W4HIJ
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