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Re: Orbital vs. CATS

Hello Cliff,

To begin, NEOSci is a small organization originally formed to research the
ability of one or two individuals with reasonable skills in constructing and
orbiting a small amateur radio satellite. As I've mentioned before, I have
been very involved in Ham radio, and satellites in particular. I have built
and launched several balloon payloads, and helped others assemble satellite
ground stations. I don't have much in the way of brochures or writen
material. But here's why I'm giving this a try.

I am also interested in amateur rocketry. I am a member of Reaction Research
Society, the leading amateur/experimental rocketry association in the
western US. Members of RRS have often gone on to work for NASA, Thiokol,
Boeing, and others in the industry. It has existed since the early 50's, and
has its own launch range in southern California. I'm also a member of
Tripoli Rocketry Association, a major mover/shaker in the high power and
experimental rocketry field.

I have examined the problems over the past few years, and come to some
conclusions concerning the various routes to space we amateur satellite
builders/operators have.

First: NASA/ESA/Energia. These organizations, often owned or provided
funding by governments, should be the first line in getting our payloads
into space. But for all of out taxes, this route is no longer commonly
available. In this day of cost-cutting and reduced taxes, these agencies are
forced to turn to private industry for funding to maintain their various
projects. We amateurs cannot afford the exhorbitant costs for launch and
insurance that major industry can absorb and redirect to us when we use
their services, i.e. DirecTV, Orbcomm, etc.

Occasionally, a chance to launch arrives when testing new technologies. But,
quite often, these slots are given to the highest bidder, even though there
is considerable risk. Look what just happened to P3D.

Second: Pegasus, Kistler, Sea Launch, and others (Private industry). Many
amateurs think that the future of launching OSCARs is with the up-and-coming
private industry launch vehicles. But, these organizations have one thing in
mind: Profit. They'll give us a ride, for a price. This probably would be
cheaper than NASA and its ilk. But with required insurance costs, and paying
customers going first, it will be very difficult to get a ride.

On top of this, very few of these upstarts will survive. They have great
ideas. But they have to have the money to start up, pay insurance, and dance
with NASA, which has no plans of giving up paying customers. On top of this,
most companies, like Boeing/Sea Launch have to go out on the open ocean or
outside the country to get away from government interference.

Third: The small guy. Various teams presently involved with such project as
the CATS prize are a reasonable way to go for small payloads to LEO. These
organizations are very similar to early AMSAT and the original Project
OSCAR. They are at the threshold of being able to launch 10-20kg to orbit.
Many of these teams are involved professionally in the launch industry, such
as manufacturing sounding rockets, and sub-contracting parts for major
industry. They are very willing to launch our payloads for cost, to gain the
experience needed to further the technology at the amateur level. They are
involved with the CATS prize to get the funding necessary to approach
industry and universities with launch opportunities.

The major obstacle they face is NASA and the FAA. Seen as a bunch of crazies
with big firecrackers, or oversized hobby store toys, its been hard to get
permission to launch sub-orbital, much less orbital. But the consensus is
that if they can convince these agencies that they are able to safely and
professionally launch, that future launch opportunities will be easier to

As a member of AMSAT, I wish to further the amateur satellite program. I
want to assemble a satellite that I can get orbited before I'm an old man. I
feel that, as I'm not a part of the upper echelons of AMSAT, the chances of
my project being funded or gaining assistance from AMSAT are nil to none.
The primary focus is on P3D. And I'm not a university, with funding and
assistance from industry. If I can assist another amateur program while
getting to my goals, all the better.

I approached the amsat-bb to get assistance with my plans, not to get AMSAT
to change direction or scrap P3D. (I've worked too hard on my shack getting
ready for it to want that!) If anyone wants to give me some help, or provide
assistance, I'm happy to accept, with much gratitude. I just get a little
irked when folks that don't know exactly whats going on jump all over an
idea. I don't believe in the current concept of "constructive criticism".
Criticism is criticism. If you don't want to help, just don't.

I hope this helps illustrate where I and NEOSci are coming from. I have a
dream: to be the first amateur radio operator to assemble and launch a
satellite with amateur rocketry assistance. If you can see that dream, too,
please contact me at (509) 927-8931 between 7pm and 10 pm pacific, and we'll

Ken Shock, AB7UP

-----Original Message-----
From: Clifford Buttschardt <cbuttsch@slonet.org>
To: Ken Shock <donaldkent@email.msn.com>
Cc: Brad Wyatt <bwyatt@arrl.org>; Ed English <eenglish@slonet.org>; Fried
Heyn <wa6wzo@arrl.org>
Date: 1998-Aug-11, Tue 15:23
Subject: Re: [amsat-bb] Orbital vs. CATS

>Ken.  I've watched with interest your request for help and some of the
>replys your getting.  I've put a group together to try and understand
>what is required for an orbital launch.  As you can appreciate, this would
>not have been done unless there were some devoted people involved.
>We need to know more about NEOSCI and any other amateur rocket programs
>that might lead to amateur involvement in satellites.  Is there any
>promotional or other written material that we might have or obtain?  Our
>group does not want to intrude on rocket science but rather aid the
>AMATEUR satellite program.  With the failure of phase IIID launch, I
>suspect we both have similar views about government and big business
>sticking noses into what in the AMSAT case, is obviously is a direct steal
>from out low orbiting AMATEUR satellites.
>Can you help or direct us in the proper direction??
>Cliff Buttschardt  K7RR  Morro Bay, Calif

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