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Possible P3-D launch dates, other future opportunities?

[Resending due to mailer errors.  I hope this isn't a dup.]

    An official start-date has not been announced yet, but our chances for an
    early one are pretty good after the last successful Ariane-5 launch. AMSAT
    P3-D becomes the first secondary payload for an ARIANE 5 rocket launch. The
    next launch: ARIANE 505 takes place in March with thwo satellites; the
    "AsiaStar and Insat 3B."
                                                [Peter DB2OS, AMSAT-DL]

_Florida Today_ reports in its extended launch schedule:

    March: Arianespace Ariane 505 on its second commercial flight with the
    Insat-3B and Asiastar communications satellites from ELA-3 at Kourou,
    French Guiana. Launch Time TBD.

    To be determined: Arianespace Ariane 506 with payload to be announced from
    ELA-3 at Kourou, French Guiana. Launch time TBD.

So things might be very soon.  Ariane 504 went up in December, so one might
speculate that early summer is a possibility, assuming Ariane V flights are
being launched at a vaguely equal intervals.

Somewhat further down on the same page, we find:

    March: Second test flight of the Starsem Soyuz-Fregat with replicas of the
    Cluster-2 satellites from Complex 31 at Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakstan.
    Launch Time TBD.

Whether these are working models or mass simulators is not clear from
what's given there.  Now, we came close to getting a similar launch for 
an APRS satellite, but alas, that one get mired in red tape.  But those
short-lead time amateur birds are potentially good opportunities.

What does seem clear to me is that launch vehicles are being tested from
time to time, and this could provide us with launch opportunties.  JAWSAT,
et al. appear to be going up under just a test situation.  Both parties
benefit; we get a ride, and those doing the launch have working satellites
to demonstrate that their vehicle works under real-world conditions.

It seems that we might have more such opportunites if we can be prepared
for it.  For example, what if we already had designs ready, perhaps parts
of it already built up, so that when we hear about a dummy satellite being
launched, we can call them up and say, "Hey, how would you like us to give
you an equivalent mass simulator that provides useful communications to 
the amateur and/or scientific community, and demonstrates that your launch
vehicle really works.  We can get one of these to you in N months [weeks?]
if you think you can give us a ride."  We may have to supply 'concrete' 
and who cares if we can only use 30% of the lift capacity they can offer 
for a given missions, at least we're putting something into space and they 
are getting good publicity for doing such.

And likewise for providing ballast for routine launches; if we can be set
up to provide a mass configuration that accurately matches their needs and
that we can stuff some useful electronics into, hey, we all win.

Myself, i'm excitedly looking forward to the JAWSAT launch, hopefully this
coming weekend.  And that includes some important higher speed packet
experiments as well as several J-FM birds.  But there are lot more things
we can do, especially in terms of APRS and emergency communications, and
approaches such as described above may help us get those launches.

		         -- KD6PAG  (Networking Old-Timer, Satellite QRPer)
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