AMSAT-NA Board Approves Technology Development Seed Funding

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The AMSAT Board of Directors met on December 2, 2014. As a part of AMSAT’s “Design The Next AMSAT Satellite” challenge, the Board of Directors approved $5000, within the 2015 engineering budget, to be used as seed money for future satellite development. Additional fund raising sources will also be investigated and pursued.

AMSAT President Barry Baines, WD4ASW, said, “We’re prepared to return to space starting in 2015 with a fleet of satellites that will equal, if not exceed, the performance, and availability to the average ham, of our previously popular AMSAT OSCAR 51. Meanwhile, we are preparing for the future looking to potentially leverage new technologies, to provide the best opportunities for enhancing amateur radio’s presence in space.”

Director Tom Clark, K3IO, noted the need for a defined future systems program. Tom said, “We saw a significant number of both new and old members who want to see the development of critical system elements for future opportunities by 2018-20. As I see it, critical ‘tall poles’ in applying potential technologies require significant work to begin now to ensure success.”

AMSAT is interested in supporting technology ideas that enhance the utility of using the CubeSat form factor to support more robust amateur satellite capabilities.   The scope of potential interest in not limited; some examples of  technology enhancement might include:

+ Microwave technology suitable for use in amateur spacecraft. This   includes the need to identify optimum frequency bands.

+ Complementary, low-cost ground systems, including an effective ~1º antenna pointing system.

+ Define and develop optimum coding and modulation schemes for low power microwave use.

+ Attitude determination & control systems to point the spacecraft   antennas towards the user while maximizing solar panel production.

Individuals interested in learning more about this initiative should contact AMSAT Vice President-Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY (n0jy at amsat.org).

Meanwhile, the development of AMSAT’s current series of the Fox-1 cubesats continues on schedule. AMSAT Vice-President of Engineering, Jerry Buxton, N0JY reported during the Board meeting that construction and testing of five Fox satellites is on schedule:

+ Fox-1A will launch on a NASA ELaNa flight during the 3rd quarter of 2015 from Vandenberg AFB,

+ Fox-1B will fly with the Vanderbilt University radiation   experiments expected in 2016.

+ Fox-1C will launch on Spaceflight’s maiden mission of the   SHERPA multi-cubesat deployer during the 3rd quarter of 2015.   This flight was purchased by AMSAT.

+ Fox-1D is a flight spare for Fox-1C. If not needed as a spare   it will become available to launch on any open launch slot which   becomes available and be submitted in a CSLI proposal in 2015.

+ Fox-1E is built as a flight spare for Fox-1B but has been   included in a student science proposal as part of the November,   2014 Cubesat Launch Initiative (CSLI) for an ELaNa flight slot.   If selected the Fox-1B spare will fly as Fox-1E.

More details of the “Design The Next AMSAT Satellite” challenge can be found on-line at:
http://www.amsat.org/?p=3395 – and – in the November/December 2014 AMSAT Journal, currently in-transit to your QTH.

[ANS thanks the AMSAT Board Of Directors for the above information]

Design The Next AMSAT Satellite!

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At the 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium AMSAT Vice President – Engineering Jerry Buxton announced the plan for the next generation of AMSAT satellites. “The door is open for everyone, to submit their ideas. AMSAT Engineering has a long term strategy and this is the first step.”

The Engineering long term strategy includes the following goals

  • Advancement of amateur radio satellite technical and communications skills
  • Enhance international goodwill
  • Grow and sustain a skilled pool of amateur radio satellite engineers
  • Establish and maintain partnerships with educational institutions
  • Develop a means to use hardware common to all opportunities

With respect to the last goal Jerry said “Within the bounds of the type of satellite it takes to achieve any of the various orbit opportunities, let’s consider in those plans the possibility of developing a platform that can suit any and all orbits.  Perhaps a modular CubeSat, using a common bus as we did in Fox-1, which gives great flexibility in building and flying different sizes and configurations of CubeSats with simple common-design hardware changes.”

Submissions should be thorough and contain the following information.  The purpose of the proposal is not just in suggesting an idea; being an all-volunteer team AMSAT needs your help in carrying out the idea.

  • Design
  • Implementation – CubeSat platform
  • Estimated timeline
  • Cost – volunteer resources, commercial (COTS) units
  • Launch – how does it get to orbit
  • Strategy – how it fits into AMSAT’s Engineering long term strategy

As mentioned above the idea should be based on the CubeSat platform. This is the standard through which we will look for launches in the foreseeable future.

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New Challenge Coin Premium for AMSAT Fox Donations

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AMSAT is excited to announce that a new premium collectable is now available for qualifying donations to the Fox satellite program. AMSAT has commissioned a unique challenge coin for donors who have contributed at the $100 level or higher. This challenge coin is shaped as an isometric view of a Fox-1 CubeSat, complete with details such as the stowed UHF antenna, solar cells, and camera lens viewport. Struck in 3mm thick brass, plated with antique silver, and finished in bright enamel, the coin is scaled to be approximately 1:4 scale, or 1 inch along each of the six sides. The reverse has the AMSAT Fox logo.

10665294_827617400594275_1401063514767949235_nThe coins are scheduled for delivery just prior to the 2014 AMSAT Space Symposium, and will be first distributed to donors attending the Symposium. Coins will also be made available to qualifying donors that have contributed since the Fox-1C announcement on July 18, 2014 upon request. Donations may be made via the AMSAT website, via the FundRazr crowdsourcing app at http://fnd.us/c/6pz92/sh/561Zd, or via the AMSAT office at (888) 322-6728.

The Fox program is designed to provide a platform for university experiments in space, as well as provide FM repeater capability for radio amateurs worldwide. Fox-1A and 1C are set to launch in 2015, and Fox-1B (also known as RadFXSat) is awaiting NASA ELANA launch assignment. Further information on the Fox project can be found at http://www.amsat.org/?page_id=1113.

You may donate here via PayPal. Donations will be marked specifically for Fox-1C. Note that PayPal usually allows you to donate with a credit card, even if you do not have a PayPal account. However, PayPal requirements differ depending on your country. We have no control over this issue.

Successful Fox-1 Battery Test

APIC Safety Lead for the GRACE mission and the LSP Range Safety required AMSAT Engineering to demonstrate the safety of the Sanyo KR-1400AE cells used in the Fox-1A satellite, in light of the cells having no UL listing nor available manufacturer documentation on the cell case pressure and venting pressure.

After a few weeks spent on planning, obtaining components, construction, and rehearsal (there are no “do-overs” once the circuit is closed!) a small team consisting of Bob Fitzpatrick KB5SQG, Shura Buxton KD5FCQ, and Jerry Buxton NØJY performed the test on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 2014.  The cell was subjected to a direct short circuit and the current, temperature, and physical behavior were observed, logged, and captured on video.  While the report to APIC is For Official Use Only, the video is not and so you are invited to view the raw footage (minus a couple of spots where audio has been muted for expletives or chatter unrelated to the test) on YouTube.

The test was successful, as it was demonstrated that the cell did not burst nor greatly deform, there was no fire or damage, and no liquid leakage.  There was quite a surprise, though!

The multimeter is reading mV DC across a .001 ohm current sense resistor, so the reading you see directly corresponds to current.  Temperature is in degrees Celsius.

And Murphy was of course present, as a natural part of anything involving amateur radio activities.  Fortunately, the stopwatch wound up almost exactly 10 seconds behind so translation of the readings was pretty simple!

New Format Coming for AMSAT 20 Meter Net

edit_microphoneKeith Pugh, W5IU and Larry Brown, W7LB, Net Control stations for the AMSAT 20M International net have announced changes to the net operation. Keith wrote, “The AMSAT 20 Meter Net will be changing format effective 9 November 2014. It will start with check-ins at 1900 UTC on 14.282 MHz and proceed with Satellite Q&A and other topics.”

Continuing, he adds, “The weekly AMSAT Bulletin Titles will be read and an offer will be made to read or discuss specific bulletins by request. We encourage check-ins from operators who are very active on the satellites, and especially, operators that are new to the satellites and/or ham radio. The activity will generally be over by 2000 UTC. We realize that not everyone has 20 meter capability but we need more activity to continue running this net. Dust off your HF gear, put up a 20 meter dipole, and join us or let the net die a natural death.”

November 15 is AO-7’s 40th Anniversary – W7O Special Events Station

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AO-7 40 years on-orbit. W2GPS archive. Click to enlarge.

40 years ago: AMSAT-OSCAR 7 was launched at 1711 UTC, November 15, 1974 from the Western Test Range at Vandenberg AFB in California

AO-7 became the second AMSAT-NA constructed and Phase 2 amateur radio satellite launched into Low Earth Orbit. It remained operational until a short circuit in a battery in 1981. On 21 June 2002 the satellite was heard again on its 2 meter beacon (145.9775 MHz CW) after 21 years of silence, and 27 years in space. AO-7 remains semi-operational with reliable power only from its solar panels. The restoration of service was due to the short circuited battery becoming an open circuit allowing the solar cells to power the spacecraft. When the satellite eclipses it powers down. It is operational while the solar panels are illuminated by sunlight.

Read the original AO-7 launch announcement in the 1974 AMSAT Newsletter: AMSAT-Newsletter-1974-AO-7Launch.

W7O Special Event Station

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