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Part 2, AMSAT has another SECRET!



Thank you for the wonderful open-ended discussion of wants, needs, and
expectations on part 1 of this series on AMSAT issues. I have enjoyed the
vast majority of the discussion the sharing of ideas and the parry and
thrust of debate - good stuff. Please remember, vigorous debate is never
personal, each idea is as valid an idea as any other idea, there are rarely
any right or wrong answers.

AMSAT has another SECRET!

What business is AMSAT in?

If your a senior management type who knows the issues of focus and the
limits of organizations to cope with variety you have to see a problem with
the ISS/SAREX activity within AMSAT. Should this organization within an
organization be set free to fly its own way? Can AMSAT survive with this
split roll of interests? Does the split roll of interests allow some
internal AMSAT organizations to operate without a focused management
approach to their activities? (Hint - the answer is "Yes"). Is this the way
to run the business?

>From my analysis of AMSAT membership interests I have a strong sense that
the members want AMSAT to be both a mentor and incubator of amateur space
projects and technology development, regardless of how a project would "fit"
within the AMSAT business model.  This interest is very strong and
consistent over a long period of time.  Should AMSAT have a formal policy on
this type of activity that would guide those with bright ideas?  Should a
possible policy include a requirement for how the organization will
eventually leave the incubation process?  Explicitly what services should
AMSAT bring to a mentor and incubation process?

Focus is critical to any organization. AMSAT is an amateur satellite
organization; it would be great to know that every single launch
organization in the business has regular contact with AMSAT officer level
people and that every possible launch opportunity is under active
development within AMSAT. If there is not a separate line item in the AMSAT
operating budget for this critical and essential activity, doing this right
is not cheap!, then just maybe this item needs some additional focus and
attention.

There is a user faction that strongly represents a keen interest in 146/28
type of satellite. Should AMSAT be responding to this interest, or should
AMSAT help those who are keen on such satellites be on their way to a new
organization? AMSAT, despite the comments from some about low earth orbit
satellites, has not been in the low earth orbit business for many years, is
it now the time to move the low earth orbit segment along to a new
organization? Is it possible that AMSAT has taken a decision, with or
without realizing that a decision was in fact taken, to abandon the low
earth orbit amateur satellite business to the Russian space program? Are the
Russian's doing the job of keeping the low earth orbit community happy and
well supplied with satellites?

The previous "AMSAT has a SECRET" memo was intentionally left "open ended".
The responses to that email have clearly shown that there is a strong
interest in the subject, so let us now focus the discussion a little bit.
Does this memo have a lot of question marks in it?

The AO-40 type of amateur satellite.
Were the high demands made on AMSAT, AMSAT resources of People, Time, and
Money a good AMSAT investment? Were there alternatives that were not
considered? Is AO-40 as a single satellite platform a wise investment? Is
the complexity of AO-40 in the best interest of AMSAT? Should AMSAT be
focusing on technology and high complexity rather than service
considerations and optimized life cycle objectives?  Is the balance between
these polarizing positions the right balance?

Some of these points go right back to the beginning, What business is AMSAT
in?

Last but by know means least, the management of a volunteer organization is
a challenge beyond many other challenges. Organizations that operate in the
"for paycheque" business model have a somewhat easier challenge in moving
the organization along a given path. AMSAT as a volunteer organization
carries the additional obligation of achieving performance with a volunteer
work force. This is not easy.

A valid question may well be, is the organization really a "volunteer work
force" or is the close association with organized academic organizations a
comfortable cover that could be called having your cake and eating it as
well? This is a challenging area, one in which AMSAT is not alone in
struggling with the effects of the maybe "semi volunteer work force". There
are certainly cross impacts, the issue really is - are the checks and
balances in the AMSAT organization in balance? Do some of the relationships
need examination and a restructuring before new projects go forward? Is
there a need for some new relationships?  Does AMSAT need an "end game" for
their relationships, should this be on a project by project basis?  It is
now common to have "sunset laws" that die after a specific time period -
does AMSAT need such a sunset process for their organizational
relationships?

Some of these questions are of direct interest to both Members of AMSAT and
to those who are part of the AMSAT worker groups and the AMSAT management /
leadership. Some of these questions should of direct interest to some of the
affiliated AMSAT organizations. There are some serious points that I suggest
need examination and refocusing of objectives as part of moving forward.

AMSAT is now very nearly 30 years old. The time has come for a serious
tune-up of the organization, time for really knowing where we are going and
why we are going there. Time for expectations to be focused and to walk the
talk. AMSAT has come a long way, looking forward the only real issues are -
do we know where we are going and how we will know when we get there, and
will we know when we have arrived?  Remember any road will get you there
when you have no idea where you are going.

When you can read the AMSAT business mission on page 1 or 2 of the Web site,
you will know that AMSAT has a pretty good idea of what business AMSAT is
in.

Enough!

Larry
VA3LK / WA3ZIA

for non AMSAT-bb replies, va3lk@arrl.org or wa3zia@amsat.org

Note: The AMSAT has a SECRET! Memos are written to stimulate discussion and
to ask some of the questions that an AMSAT current insider might feel can
not be asked in public and further to respond to what the writer, me, sees
as confusion within the membership and active users of AMSAT satellite
resources. I feel free enough to ask the questions that I have a sense need
asking. If you feel a little bit uncomfortable with this series of memo's
then maybe some good will come of it. lk



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