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P3D launch delay



J. Dave Mayfield KB9BNR writes:        

>I guess I made the right choice two years ago, upgrade my ticket so I can
>get on the low bands.

>This news is very disappointing to those of us that have invested in the
>Phase III D project. But it also was totally expected on my part. And that
>is why I have let my Amsat membership lapse, call me a quitter if you wish,
>but there comes a time when you have to stop pouring good money after bad.

I am sorry that you have decided to leave Amsat. I for one will be glad to
welcome you back as a member once P3D is in orbit. I expect that we will get
many new and returning members when that day comes. 

It always seemed like we had two kinds of people supporting Amsat. The first
group wants satellites to communicate with, the second group supports Amsat
just because they think the idea of amateurs building satellites is so very
neat (or perhaps "counterintuitive" is a better word). It will be up to the 
second group to keep the fires burning until P3D is in orbit. 

Delays and setbacks are part of the space business. The Hubble Space Telescope,
Galileo, and Mars Global Surveyor are just a few examples of missions that 
were long delayed but eventually successful. Amsat survived the loss of 
Phase 3A into the ocean, we will survive this setback also.


Richard W L Limebear G3RWL writes:

>My interpretation of this is "tough luck, Amsat; we are gambling on
>making pots of money instead of honoring previous commitments"

>I won't say what I hope happens to the W1 spacecraft.

In the real world, a $40 million dollar customer always beats out a
$1 million dollar customer. Why is that so surprising? The bottom line
is that ESA and Arianespace have poured the equivalent of several 
BILLION dollars into the Ariane 5 project and they need to finish 
the test program and start making some money REAL SOON NOW. Phase 3D
and its puny $1 million budget is below the noise level for them right
now, it is simply not their biggest problem. They will deal with us
after they have a working booster and some downpayments from commercial
customers. 


Tom Boza wrote:
 
> I propose AMSAT needs to pull together a strategic long range
> plan on what they are now going to do under the new circumstances, 
> listing milestones with dates, including funding required
> to accomplish each milestone.
 
> AMSAT then needs to regularly publicly post this information
> on their web site so everyone can clearly see progress and where all
> the funding is needing and going.

If you want to have milestones and dates, you need to have enough
money to be a paying customer. Since we are just poor hitchhikers
trying to bum a ride in return for a little bit of gas money, we
can't really afford to set dates and milestones. We will fly when
somebody in the goodness of their heart and the emptiness of their
launch shroud decides that they can carry us. 

And if the word gets out that Arianespace (or any other launch agency)
launched our 600 Kg satellite for $xx dollars, then all their other 
customers will demand to be launched for the same rate. They can't 
afford to appear overly generous to Amsat or they risk alienating 
their paying customers. Whatever negotiations will happen between Amsat
and Arianespace will necessarily be very very hush-hush. I would advise 
keeping quiet and letting the negotiations play out behind closed doors.  

If we can't get a deal from Arianespace, there will be future ESA-
sponsored scientific missions using Ariane 5. ESA might be disposed 
to allow us to fly on one of those missions. But if I recall, it was
Arianespace that launched AO-10 and AO-13. It's not like they have
never heard of Amsat before. 


Andrew Reynolds WD9IYT, wrote:

>I hate to say it, but I am inclined to agree. Maybe we aren't the biggest
>customer Arianespace has, but it might be time that we voted with our
>feet and took our business elsewhere.

That would be a good plan, if not for the fact that we are beggars looking
for an almost free ride. "Taking our business elsewhere" is not really an
option. Sticking our thumb out at every passing truck (P3D is too big
for a car) is a more apt analogy.


Robin Haighton VE3FRH, wrote:

>If we need anything right now it is just a few extra dollars from all
>P3D potential users - World Wide   so that we could buy our own flight!
>Just think what $100 per potential user world wide would bring in.....
>How about it.... everyone send a cheque for $100 US (or more) to their
>Local Amsat designated for P3D All clubs send $500 U.S. and all National
>Societies send $2000 U.S.   I have Just written my first Cheque.

To meet the $10 million figure quoted in Karl's message for buying our own
flight, we would each need to contribute between FIVE to TEN TIMES the 
amount that we have already given.


Tom Boza NE7X also wrote:

>Now that P3D has been set back, possible for one year or more,
>how does this affect the current technology of the satellite itself?

>As time marches on, the current hardware/software of the satellite
>will become obsolete. Is the current satellite going to be mothballed
>until a launch become available or will newer hardware/software
>be continued to be developed, upgraded and added to the frame?

Hopefully they will use the time to test and burn-in the satellite, to
uncover any possible flaws that can be corrected before launch.

>I would hate to see an obsolete satellite launched when a ride becomes
>available.

I wouldn't worry about it. P3D is more advanced than the equipment that
most hams have in their shacks today.

As Peter Guelzow pointed out a couple of weeks ago, there is a new 
advanced IHU design that was recently installed on the spacecraft, 
you can read about it at http://www.aball.de/~pg/amsat/yahue.html

Bottom line is that P3D is probably more up to date than a lot of 
other satellites. The Hubble Space Telescope still relies on 1970's
technology (lots of TTL circuits) and it works OK. Most NASA
satellites rely on obsolete technology by the time they get launched.

>Another concern I have is all the investment everyone has made with
>today's home ground station hardware/software equipment. As time 
>marches on, this investment will also become obsolete. When P3D finally 
>is launch  (which I'm sure it will some day), will all my current 
>investment be adequate or will I need to acquire a second mortgage 
>on my home in order to purchase all new ground station equipment?

P3D carries mode B. Your existing equipment will not be too obsolete 
to work the satellite whenever it does get launched. 

>AMSAT needs to now come up with a plan for if and how the P3D
>satellite will be upgraded so all the users can plan our ground 
>station equipment (and budget) accordingly.  I'm sure this is
>one of the major frustrations many are feeling, besides just
>not enjoying a satellite to utilize for the hobby.

P3D also carries equipment for the microwave bands and an advanced 
digital communications experiment. As time goes by, more and more 
hams will acquire equipment for these newer modes, and there will 
be more demand for operating time for these modes. As the satellite 
ages the solar cell efficiency will eventually drop off, and we 
might need to cut back on mode B operating time to accommodate the 
demands of the microwave and digital users, who will eventually 
outnumber the mode B users. But that won't happen for several years 
after launch. 

But still, if I were starting from scratch, I would look at 
something other than mode B to equip a new satellite station.
Something like S-band downlink (use the Drake converter) and 23cm
uplink. Those should be smaller and cheaper than a mode B station.
If you find mode B gear for sale cheap at a hamfest, then go for it.
But don't buy it new out of the box.

Dan Schultz N8FGV



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