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Phase 3D Thermal Vacuum Test Ends



Amsat's Phase 3D spacecraft is one step closer to being ready for
space after it completed its thermal vacuum test on the morning of 
October 29. After nearly a week under vacuum and five cycles of 
alternately broiling and freezing the satellite, the temperature 
was allowed to stabilize and the test chamber was brought up to 
atmospheric pressure. On initial inspection, the satellite does 
not appear to be any worse for its ordeal. 

Before returning to Germany, Karl Meinzer, DJ4ZC, president of
Amsat-DL, said that "The test has been extremely successful at this
stage. We identified a few things that need to be corrected- that
was the purpose of the test- to find things before the satellite is
launched into space. There were no major failures, no irreversible
problems. It really is a spacecraft now, it has its personality and 
its quirks- before it was just a collection of parts."

A thermal vacuum test is an intense experience in which a lot of
work must be accomplished in a short period of time. Amsat's 
engineering team will be analyzing their test data over the next 
few weeks to fully understand the spacecraft's performance during 
the test. This effort will ultimately insure that Phase 3D will 
be a more reliable spacecraft when it finally does reach orbit. 

The RUDAK team reports that most of their test objectives have been
accomplished and that they consider the test to be a "resounding 
success". RUDAK's command center was set up in their hotel room
about one mile from the Orbital Sciences facility, and all of their 
testing was accomplished via line of sight radio links to and from 
the antennas on OSC's rooftop, just as it will be done when P3D is 
in space. RUDAK successfully collected data from the SCOPE camera, 
the RF monitor experiment, and the CEDEX cosmic ray experiment during
both the hot and the cold parts of the temperature cycle. Improvements 
were made in the software which RUDAK will use for experiment control,
telemetry, and whole orbit data collection. Both of the SCOPE cameras 
took pictures inside the vacuum chamber, these can be seen at: 
http://www.jamsat.or.jp/scope/index_e.html

Steve Greene, KA1LM, and Eric Rosenberg, W3DQ, reported successful
reception of P3D's beacon signal from Northern Virginia and Washington, 
D.C. 

Local Amsat volunteers spent most of Thursday assisting the Phase 3D 
team in packing several hundred items of equipment into dozens of 
boxes and shipping containers for loading onto the rental truck, with 
all items carefully inventoried for easier unpacking upon return to 
Orlando. (wish I had done that when I moved a few months ago, I still 
don't know where my HT is....)  The satellite and a fair portion of 
the Orlando lab will be returning to Florida this weekend. 

In the coming months, the electronic modules will be potted to increase 
their vibration resistance, wire bundles will be "finalized", antennas 
and solar arrays will be attached, and the satellite will be buttoned 
up for flight. It will return to Maryland in a few months for the 
vibration test, which will verify its ability to survive the stress 
of launch without falling apart and possibly damaging the rocket and 
other payloads. This is a necessary and important certification that 
will assure a potential launch agency that the satellite is fit for 
flight and will not pose a threat to the launch vehicle or its primary 
payload. The local Washington area Amsat members are looking forward 
to another chance to see and work on this remarkable satellite.

Dan Schultz N8FGV

---------------------------------------------------------------
The above writing represents my personal observations as a
volunteer present during the P3D thermal vacuum test and should
not be considered an official status report from Amsat.
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