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Re: ArcJet Updates Etc

> Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2001 12:13:07 +1000
> From: Matt Donohoe <m_donohoe@dingoblue.net.au>
> Subject: [amsat-bb] ArcJet Updates Etc
> 	[...]
> I must ask, with the stuff that's gone "wrong" with AO-40.... Has AMSAT
> incorporated any new routines/regulations to prevent failures like those
> that have occured on AO-40 ? 
> 	[...]

I couple of thoughts follow, most of which are based on a model of AMSAT-NA
as an R&D funding agency.  Note that I don't speak for the AMSAT-BoD, nor
do I have a clue about what the AMSAT-NA BoD views to be their role in
supporting amateur satellite projects.

First, I understand (rightly or wrongly) that there is no such thing
as "AMSAT".  Rather, there are a number of autonomous country-based
organizations (e.g., AMSAT-NA, AMSAT-DL, etc.) that are united [only] by
a common name and [hopefully] a common mission.  If my understanding isn't
correct, I would love to be enlightened.

Second, it is not clear to me that AMSAT-NA actually "runs" any projects.
Rather it supports projects through a variety of means.  One of these means
is funding.  Others might include [or potentially include, I forget]
assistance with amateur satellite frequency allocations.  As such,
AMSAT-NA has only a limited ability to specify or impose detailed
regulations.  To some extent (as qualified below) AMSAT-NA only has
(I think) the opportunity to say "We like your project, here is some money"
or "We don't feel that your project is the best use of our limited funds."
(I believe that the AMSAT-NA BoD and its Strategy Committee were
struggling with the question of what role AMSAT-NA should play in
furthering amateur satellites.  Did the Strategy Committee ever publish
a report?  Did the BoD reach some conclusion?  Is all of this documented
in some issue of AMSAT News that is sitting in my to-read pile?)

Third, I would like to believe that any time any significant amount of
money is turned over to a research/development project (e.g., AO-40),
that the funding agency (i.e., AMSAT-NA) has an active program manger
involved with the project.  Using successful research funding agencies
as a model (e.g., DARPA, NSF, NIH, and other US government agencies),
the program manager can't and shouldn't micromanage the project.  He
or she can't say "I will review your software code".  On the other hand,
he can say, as appropriate, "You will have a software design review and
document the results in your quarterly report [if you are going to
continue to spend my money]".

Ideally, an active program manager will have a view of how to make
the world a better place.  For example, the program manager might ask
an organization requesting funds such questions as:

o	Please describe your approach to disseminating project status
	information to funding agencies (e.g., AMSAT-NA) and to other
	important constituencies (such as the people who provided the
	funds that AMSAT-NA is managing, namely the AMSAT membership).

o	Please write an annual status report.

o	Please write a final report.  Please include a section on
	"lessons learned".  (If I were the program manager, I would
	would want the final report to draw conclusions about IPS as
	an appropriate language for embedded systems or amateur satellites,
	but that is a topic for another, as-yet-unwritten e-mail.)

o	Please describe how your project will develop a larger pool of
	amateur satellite developers (if I, as program manager, thought
	this was a worthy goal).

Note that a program manager has only a limited ability to say "you must
use this particular procedure".  Furthermore, a good program manager
realizes that the world is usually a better place if he provides only
broad requirements, such as those above, and lets the, presumably highly
talented, researchers go about their work with a minimum of program
management overhead and interference.

Having said all that, can anyone tell me if AMSAT-NA tries to provide a
program management function?  Do they simply say "You look like smart
guys, here is some money, we hope it works", are they trying to figure out
what their role ought to be, or some other thing I haven't listed?

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