[amsat-bb] I want this. I want that. Here comes another FM LEO sat.

Phil Karn karn at ka9q.net
Tue Jul 22 16:00:40 UTC 2014

On 07/22/2014 06:49 AM, Clayton Coleman wrote:
> Hi Phil,
> The new era I speak of is AMSAT-NA's foray into CubeSats.

Well, I guess I could read that as "when all you have is lemons, make
lemonade". AMSAT used to make spacecraft that, while small by
commercial/military/scientific standards, dwarfed a cubesat. So I don't
see cubesats as an advance.

Although miniaturization of electronics and improvements in solar cell
efficiency do help us cram everything into the tiny form factor, the
fact remains that we are now forced to pay far more to launch far less
than we used to.

I guess that's a "new era" in the same way that the Arab Oil Embargoes
of 1973 and 1979 launched a glorious new era in automobile transportation...

Sure, this is a fact of life that we can't do anything about, despite
the supreme irony of AMSAT pioneering small satellites so well that we
created a whole new industry with which we must now fiercely compete for
launches. Economics says that when demand outstrips supply, prices go
up. So they have. A lot.

Like it or not, we have to adapt to changing realities. We used to get
launches for free or at nominal rates, so our main investment in each
satellite was just the volunteer engineers' time and the cost of those
components we could not beg, borrow or steal.

But now that the launch cost dominates the budget of everything we fly,
it's time to take a very serious look at what we get from each one. Said
another way, it's time to look at how much MORE we could get from our
very substantial investment in each launch. Every launch of a FM cubesat
depletes a very large chunk of AMSAT funds that cannot be spent on
launching something else.

In other words, I'm encouraging people to look at the *opportunity cost*
of every additional analog FM satellite we launch. People don't yet
realize just how huge it is because they only know 1960s analog
technology. They simply don't realize how much more could be done with
21st century technology. That's what I'm trying to change, so far
without much success.


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