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I think many of you know that I am very much in favor of University-built 
satellites.  As a matter of fact, my team at NASA Goddard have supported 
the development of two series of University nano-satellites.  I am also 
working very closely with the Naval Academy on the next PCSat....an 
external payload that will soon fly on ISS.

But I do have a big concern.  One that I know is shared by the FCC.  One 
that I have seen the AMSAT community talk about extensively.  AMSAT is 
concerned about it too.  NASA is so concerned about it that they have 
developed policy on it.  It has to do with keeping our space environment 
clean for all to use in the future.  In other words, orbit debris.

I have applauded Bob Twiggs work on the Cubesats.  However, it has been my 
understanding that these satellites would be placed in a very low 
orbit...allowing the university to utilize these satellites for about their 
expected lifetime (<1 year, maybe more) and then they would burn up in the 
atmosphere.  I must tell you that I was very upset to learn that these 
first cubesat satellites were going to be placed in an 820 km orbit.

The concern I have is that these very small satellites are getting deployed 
in a very important orbit regime.  Once the useful life of these satellites 
are gone, they will be space debris projectiles that can wreak havoc on the 
world's precious Earth observing satellites.  They have the potential to 
impact the satellites that help predict your weather, the satellites that 
determine if we are using our Earth resources wisely and the satellites 
that save lives every day.

How long do you think the cubesats will be up there?  Well, here are some 
predictions for various orbits:

800 km -- 285 years
700 km -- 66 years
600 km -- 15 years
500 km -- 3 years
400 km -- 0.5 years
300 km -- 0.1 years

So the latest cubesats will be there for probably more than 300 years!!.

It is my understanding that there are over 50 universities working on these 
satellites.  I think that we (universities, AMSAT, and all space 
enthusiasts) all need to pause and think about how to effectively utilize 
the two important precious resources we have in our possession----the 
frequency spectrum and the precious space orbits.  If we squander these 
away or get organizations upset with us (remember I am using the collective 
we here), then everyone will lose.

Something to think about.

Frank Bauer, KA3HDO

---These opinions are my own and may not reflect the opinion of those 
organizations for which I am associated---

Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
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