AMSAT’s Tom Clark, K3IO, Receives ARRL President’s Award


ARRL photo, Tom Clark, K3IO (right), Kay Craigie, N3KN (left).

Congratulations to Tom Clark, K3IO, AMSAT Board Member, and long time pioneer involved with amateur satellite development. In an announcement from the ARRL we learned they honored “veteran AMSAT personality and Amateur Radio digital pioneer Tom Clark, K3IO (ex-W3IWI), with its President’s Award. ARRL President Kay Craigie, N3KN, presented the award plaque to Clark at a January 10 meeting of the Potomac Valley Radio Club in Blacksburg, Virginia.” (Read the ARRL announcement here.)

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Fox-1Cliff and -1D Matching Contributions Offer

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to AMSAT members and satellite enthusiasts everywhere!

In this season of giving, we’ve had a generous offer for matching funds up to $1,000 for those that contribute to the Fox-1Cliff and -1D crowdsourcing campaign at between now and December 31st. Make your donation twice as valuable by taking advantage of this opportunity and contributing before the end of the year, and help AMSAT fund the launch of the next two satellites in the Fox-1 series.

Slated for launch in 2016 on the inaugural Spaceflight SHERPA mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, Fox-1Cliff and -1D carry university experiments from Pennsylvania State-Erie, Vanderbilt, University of Iowa, cameras provided by Virginia Tech, as well as amateur radio voice repeaters capable of U/V or L/V operation.


Donations of $100 or more are eligible for a special AMSAT Fox challenge coin, and $1,000 or more qualifies for a plaque with an actual solar panel cover from Fox-1Cliff or -1D. (We’ve nearly exhausted our coin supply and are waiting on resupply from the mint. Plaques will be distributed sometime after spacecraft integration. Please be patient for delivery of either premium.)

AMSAT is a 501-(c)-(3) not-for-profit educational and scientific organization of amateur radio operators whose purpose is to design, construct, launch, and operate satellites in space and to provide the support needed to encourage amateurs to utilize these resources. Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to AMSAT to help underwrite the development and launch expenses of our Fox satellite program.

Donors wishing to provide additional matching funds please contact Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA at

AMSAT Ground Terminal Development Expands to Texas

Hardware consisting of Ettus Research USRP X300 SDR, USRP B210 SDR, UBX40 USRP Daughterboard, GPDSO Kits, and antennas have been ordered from National Instruments Corp. for delivery to Bill Reed NX5R in Dallas TX to equip a second community for development of the AMSAT Ground Terminals. These terminals will be used for the Phase 4B and other digital/microwave satellites being developed by AMSAT and in partnership with Virginia Tech.

Michelle Thompson, W5NYV, has been leading the effort in the San Diego CA area, which started up when the P4B project was announced earlier this year. Amateur radio operators in the Southern California area from AMSAT, Palomar Amateur Radio Club, and the San Diego Microwave Society have been implementing a terrestrial system to mimic the ground and space segments of a digital satellite communications link and developing code and hardware techniques for use in the P4B and future HEO opportunities that AMSAT is pursuing. Expanding the system to the Dallas area will allow more collaboration, development, and testing by AMSAT and North Texas Microwave Society amateurs with San Diego and other regions. The investment in equipment and community building will increase the number and quality of ideas in developing this next generation system of amateur radio satellite communications.

Another development system is being planned for the east coast. AMSAT is actively recruiting individuals and groups that want to work together to establish increased regional technical activity in support of satellite service goals. Rick Hambly, W2GPS, has campaigned for the creation of this very type of activity on the east coast for many years. Successful east-coast expansion will add even more variability and expertise to the project.

By involving amateurs who have expertise in both microwave and digital communications and in varying terrain and conditions, as well as including people with various backgrounds and experience, AMSAT plans to produce a ground terminal that will be useful with a variety of next generation satellites including Phase 4B, Phase 3E, the Heimdallr Lunar Cube Quest CubeSat, and an AMSAT developed HEO CubeSat. These are all projects currently being pursued by the AMSAT Engineering and ASCENT (Advanced Satellite Communications and Exploration of New Technology) Teams.

“The development of a ground terminal along with satellite projects is part of a plan to offer a way for amateurs to buy, build, or access ideas to develop their own ground terminals which will be useful for many future AMSAT satellite mission for years to come” said AMSAT-NA Vice President of Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY. “The concept of common uplink (5 GHz) and downlink (10 GHz) frequencies with software defined transponders allows many different experimentation and communications opportunities ranging from simple texting to voice, streaming video, data exchange, and reliable EMCOMM access in remote areas, with bandwidths to support many satellites and users.”

If you are interested in supporting the effort please click the link to complete the on-line Contact AMSAT Engineering form to submit a request. While those who live in the San Diego, Dallas, or Maryland areas may find it easier to participate, volunteers from other areas are welcome to join and contribute remotely.

AO-85 Commissioned, Handed Over To AMSAT-NA Operations

AO-85 has been formally commissioned and turned over to AMSAT Operations, who are now responsible for the scheduling and modes.

The following guidelines are provided for users:

  1. Uplink power should be on the order of minimum 200 W EIRP for full quieting at lower antenna elevation angles. Your mileage may vary. With an Arrow, 5 W has been used successfully to make contacts.

  2. Polarity is important. The satellite antennas are linear. So, if you are using linearly polarized antennas, you will need to adjust throughout the pass. Full duplex operation facilitates these adjustments while transmitting and is highly recommended.

  3. The downlink is very strong and should be heard well with almost any antenna.

  4. Downlink audio is 5 kHz deviation, as expected. Many will perceive that the audio is “low.” This is an effect of the filtering below 300 Hz, which provides for the DUV telemetry, coupled with any noise on the uplink signal resulting from lack of full quieting or being off frequency. That makes for less fidelity than a typical receiver in terms of audio frequencies passed.

  5. Transmit (downlink) frequency varies with temperature.  Due to the wide range of temperatures we are seeing in the eclipse cycle, the transmitter can be anywhere from around 500 Hz low at 10°C to near 2 kHz low at 40°C.

  6. Receive frequency has been generally agreed to be about 435.170 MHz, although the AFC makes that hard to pin down and also helps with the uplinks that are off frequency.

Probably the most notable observations about AO-85 are an apparent lack of sensitivity and difficulty in turning on the repeater with the 67 Hz CTCSS when it is not yet activated, or holding it on by the presence of the CTCSS.  We have determined a probable cause for the sensitivity issue and while that can’t be fixed on AO-85 we are taking steps to prevent similar issues on the rest of the Fox-1 CubeSats.  The tone detection threshold along with the receive sensitivity issue makes it hard to bring up the repeater.  This is being addressed by adjusting the values for a valid tone detection in the other Fox-1 CubeSats now that we have on orbit information about temperatures and power budget.  Full details will be in the Nov/Dec AMSAT Journal.

It is important to remember that science is the reason behind the Fox-1 satellites. Not only does science help with the launch cost, it provides a great amount of educational value both from the science payload and in amateur radio itself. The data-under-voice (DUV) telemetry is an excellent way to provide the science without sacrificing the use of the satellite for communications, which would be the case if higher speed downlinks were needed. DUV provides constant science as long as the repeater is in use, which in turn provides more downlink data for the science – a mutually beneficial combination.

Fox-1A is AMSAT-NA’s first CubeSat. Many new techniques are incorporated and lessons will be learned, as with any new “product.”  The Fox-1 Project is a series of CubeSats. A total of five will be built and flown. Launches are scheduled for three more, and a new NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative proposal will be submitted for the fifth. We will incorporate changes from what we learn in each launch, to the extent possible, in subsequent Fox-1 CubeSats.

Of the four NASA sponsored CubeSats on the ELaNa XII launch October 8, we are sad to report that ARC1 was never heard from and BisonSat was lost after a few weeks of operation. AMSAT extends our deepest sympathy to the people who worked so hard on these projects. To our members, we want to say that the Fox Team is very proud and pleased that our first CubeSat is very successful and hopefully will be for some time.