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Re: Future Sats: L/U

On Tuesday, Jun 17, 2003, at 20:08 America/Chicago, sco@sco-inc.com 

> I got into ham radio because as a kid I could "listen" to other hams 
> on my old SW radios. That got me hooked and many many years later I 
> became a ham.

As like many of us.

> The problem with AO-40 in my opinion is that I can not listen to it 
> without a lot of new gear. Although that was not too expensive the 
> "idea" of S band was the problem.

The term "S" band is intimidating to people, but it shouldn't be.  Most 
probably use S band every day with their cordless phone or WLAN - they 
just don't know it!  :-)

And AO-40 was originally much more than a single S band downlink.  It 
would have been usable w/o all the new gear except for the accident.

> Most new highend base radios today are all mode. Most have the ability 
> to go upto L Band (1.2ghz) but not to S Band (2.4ghz). Maybe someday 
> they will but now they don't. Most of these rigs do NOT come with the 
> L band module installed because of price and limited use to a ham 
> today. But if there was a sat up there in space with a high orbit 
> (easier to track) that TRANSMITTED on U Band (70 cm) where all these 
> rigs could "LISTEN" to it ... hams could use their existing radio and 
> antenna to LISTEN to the new satellite. THEN if they got hooked and 
> could see that they could HEAR it, then they might opt to buy the L 
> Band module so they could TALK to it.

The problem is that most non-hams have no idea about our satellites.  
It is one thing to have a SW radio and listen to VOA or BBC or Radio 
Moscow and then stumble across hams.  Many casual SW listeners become 
hams that way.  It's the way it happened to me.  Some become hams by 
listening to ham repeaters on scanners.  But satellite is a different 
story.  In order to even hear the most basic of satellites (say an FM 
bird), you need a relatively decent antenna setup that is generally not 
a whip on the back of a portable radio.  OK, OK, so when AO-40 first 
went up, I copied the beacon on my 2m HT with a rubber duck.  Anyhow, 
in general, it takes more equipment than the casual radio listener has. 
  And most casual listeners don't have SSB radios.  Then add tracking 
the satellite, etc. and it becomes potentially too much for a casual 

Now as for hams, I know many like to listen to the bands, but I don't 
know a lot who would go through the trouble of tracking a satellite, 
etc. just to listen.  You are correct that most new rigs have all mode 
capability which is a plus.  And you are also correct with the idea 
that a high orbit bird makes casual listening a lot easier.  I suppose 
if AO-40 never had its accident then your dream could possibly have 
been realized!  But who knows if there will ever be another AO-40 class 
bird in our lifetimes.  I hope so, but with the gun shy attitude 
towards propulsion and lack of funds, the idea in the short term is to 
get something up that works and get it up quickly and safely.  Can't 
say I disagree with that idea either.

The biggest problem, I think, with ham satellites in general is that we 
have an abysmal track record of working birds to be perfectly honest.  
In the last 30 years, we've managed to get up something around 50 
satellites.  Not bad - over 1 and a half per year.  But how many are 
still working?  Very few.  AO-40 is the only high orbit bird working 
right now and it's not at full capacity and never will be due to the 
event.  AO-10 is slumbering and may never wake up.  AO-13 was 
vaporized.  RS-12/13 is dead and the FO birds are dying.  AO-7 
sometimes works after its miraculous resurrection.  Even the FM birds 
have problems.  The German Safir-M (AO-49?) worked for just a couple 
months.  Experiments like JawSAT with ASUSat, StenSat, etc. were 
launched but nothing worked.

OK, I'm sounding too negative!  My point is that we ARE indeed amateurs 
when it comes to space.  But space is very costly.  In the 30 years or 
so of ham sats, we are still crawling.  We have yet to successfully 
launch and orbit a major bird into a proper Molinya orbit w/o problems. 
  Costs are just so prohibitive in a volunteer fashion to learn and grow 
much faster.  And mistakes in space are not easily corrected!  And it's 
not just problems with us being "amateurs."  If AO-40 would have gone 
on that original Arianne V rocket, it would be sitting at the bottom of 
the Atlantic Ocean at best.  Please don't think that because I think we 
have a marginal track record, that we should just cash it all in.  We 
are learning and it's good.  Any bird up is a successful bird.  Any 
great effort is fraught with failure (look at the explorations of the 
New World 500 years ago).

Now top that off with the extra cost and expense of equipment for hams. 
  Based on the track record, a lot of hams don't want to even think 
about buying sat gear.  AO-40 had a LOT of people excited and rightly 
so.  But a lot of people spent a lot of money and were horribly 
disappointed when things went south.  Many wanted a simple bird with 
DSS type dishes or even patch antennas.  If AO-40 would have been able 
to be fully deployed, then this could have worked.  But we know that 
didn't happen.  So now these people don't want to invest all over again 
in new antennas that are larger, have more windload or rotor 
requirements, etc.  So they pack it in.  Even with new birds, they are 
skeptical.  They don't want to invest in either donating to the cause 
or in buying equipment.  So they stay away.  As a result the sat ops 
that exist are the die hards and the ones that really want to mess with 

I imagine that if we can launch either or both Eagle and Phase 3E in 
the next few years and have them be successful and working, then I 
think people will start buying the equipment, etc.  It's the old "Build 
it and they will come." theory.  FM birds were supposed to provide this 
"easy" concept, but the single channel ability of FM limits their 

> I will contribute to a new Amsat sat project BUT only to one that does 
> the above, as its primary mission capability. I believe it will be the 
> best way to get hams to join the SSB part of amateur satellites in the 
> future... and to join AMSAT. I contributed a good deal to AO-40.
> Could Project Eagle be reworked to do this?

At this point, who knows.  I thought Eagle was going to have a U band 
downlink.  Maybe that has changed.  But Eagle is also a very small 
satellite compared to the likes of AO-40 and it's still a bit smaller 
than the AO-10 spaceframe that P3E is being launched on.  There's a lot 
of people out there now with S band equipment and a new HEO bird is 
needed as quickly as possible (unfortunately, "quick") in space is 
measured in years.  If AO-40 were to RIP (God forbid), then we are 
hosed!  So we need something soon.  Maybe P3E will have more of the 
capabilities you want as it's a larger bird.

If it could be done, I think your idea has merit.

Sorry for the LONG post.



Jon Ogden
NA9D (ex: KE9NA)

Citizen of the People's Democratic Republik of Illinois

Life Member: ARRL, NRA
Member:  AMSAT, DXCC

Ham Radio Webpage: http://www.qsl.net/na9d   <- Updated on 1/12/03!!!
Digital Photography Page: 

"Try not to become a man of success.  Rather become a man of value."
                 - Albert Einstein

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