[amsat-bb] ANS-199 AMSAT News Service Special Bulletin - AMSAT Fox-1C Launch Opportunity Announced

Phil Karn karn at ka9q.net
Mon Jul 21 04:26:28 UTC 2014

On 07/20/2014 10:00 AM, Paul Stoetzer wrote:

> A good number of
> amateur radio operators are only vaguely aware of the amateur
> satellite program and consider it to be quite esoteric.

Precisely. Huge az/el yagi arrays don't help that image either.

Nor does an occasional, brief, noisy pass of an FM voice-only satellite
carrying 1 QSO at a time do much to impress a young person with a mobile
phone in his pocket that he can use to talk or message anywhere in the
world. The term "easysat" doesn't seem appropriate when said FM voice
satellite requires pointing an ungainly-looking 2m antenna at the sky
even if that antenna is very small by usual ham satellite standards.
Most mobile phones don't even have visible external antennas anymore.

I'm not trying to make ham radio into a utility to compete with either
the Internet or mobile phones. That's not what it's for. But for those
who'd like to learn, hands-on, about modern communication technology --
for which ham radio *IS* still uniquely suited -- you have to offer
something that's actually halfway modern!

I can't do anything about the occasional, brief passes of a LEO without
going to a higher altitude orbit. But I certainly *can* do far better
with a LEO satellite and a ~1/2 meter ground antenna by:

1. Adding 3-axis attitude control to the spacecraft.
2. Moving up to the microwave bands.
3. Going digital.

Instead of one voice conversation (interrupted by deep, noisy fades) you
could support many. Although the LEO passes would still be occasional
and brief, alternatives to real-time voice would be available. Bulk data
(including recorded and possibly lengthy voice messages) could be sent
up and delivered to an entirely different part of the globe. For those
who don't really care to talk, satellite-generated data (e.g.,
telemetry, imagery) can be multiplexed with the downlink data.

> The bottom line is that AMSAT-NA needs a significant boost in
> membership and visibility and that boost needs to be soon. Putting two
> satellites into orbit that nearly every single ham will be able to
> easily hear (even a $30 Baofeng and it's stock duck should hear high
> passes of the Fox-1 satellites) along with the accompanying publicity
> should provide that boost.

Suppose it were just as easy and cheap to build or buy an amateur
digital microwave satellite earth terminal? In this age of mobile
microprocessors that would at one time have been considered
supercomputers; handheld GPS receivers; Sirius/XM receivers with
postage-stamp antennas; and direct broadcast satellite dishes -- just to
mention a few now-widespread consumer items -- do you really think it so
impossible to set our sights as hams just a little higher than 1960s


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