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Re: Re: ICBM Conversion for Civilian Launch

At 03:12 PM 08/11/2003 -0500, Timothy J. Salo wrote:
> > Date: Sun, 25 May 2003 16:10:24 -0400
> > From: Daniel Schultz
> > Subject: [amsat-bb] Re: ICBM Conversion for Civilian Launch
> >
> > US Government policy to date has been that converted ICBM's can
> > only be used to launch government-owned payloads, to avoid competing
> > against the commercial launch industry. Amsat would need to petition
> > the government to allow non-profit groups to use the converted missiles.
> > Someone would then need to cover the cost of integrating the amateur
> > payload onto the rocket.
>Based on limited information, my understanding is slightly different.
>I think the requirement is that the payload must be "sponsored"
>by the government.  It appears that the implementation of the policy
>is the DoD's Space Test Program:
>         http://www.smcdet12.plk.af.mil/stp/stp.html
>It also appears that just about anybody can be sponsored.  See:
>         http://www.smcdet12.plk.af.mil/dodserb/dodserb.html
>I assume that scientific merit greater than "I want to fly
>an amateur radio transponder" is required.  On the other
>hand, because I seem to spend most of my time writing research
>proposals, this doesn't seem like an unsurmountable barrier.

Greater merit is indeed required.  While the 'dodserb' link above describes 
the process it says little about the concept behind that process.
The purpose of the SERB is to provide a way to filter and rank DOD related 
science experiments for funding and rides.  Each experiment idea has to 
compete with other ideas first from an institution or research center, then 
from all those in a service, then with all those from the entire DOD 
community.  In the end the SERB ranks those brought before it for merit.  A 
high ranking means support will be forthcoming.  If your experiment is 
unranked it is for all intents dead.  A low ranking means you may beg a few 
dollars from someone to do more study work but probably won't ever get into 
Note the criteria is for 'experiments' which are of value to the DOD.  That 
does not include the typical ham transponder.
The Naval Academy has successfully used this process to get a bird into 
space that was of interest (to one extent or another) to both the ham 
community (APRS) and the DOD (some science value + education at the academy).

It is the job of STP to work with high ranked experiment idea sponsors to 
find a way to get them a ride.  They are pretty good at it given the costs 
involved and the dirth of US launches available.  Occasionally they are 
able to purchase an entire launch and put several SERB ranked payloads on 
it.  Note that STP is not allowed to fund the experiments, only the rides 
and satellites that carry them.

The chances of getting an amateur satellite on one of these STP sponsored 
rides (dedicated or secondary with some big bird) is exceedingly small 
unless the satellite is first and foremost carrying a SERB ranked science 
payload.  This gives rise to the notion of a dual use satellite.  It 
carries the SERB experiment and is operated on govt. frequencies for the 
nominal duration of the science mission.  It also carries an amateur 
receiver/transmitter and after the DOD mission is over it is switched to 
amateur use and turned over to some amateur group to operate till it dies 
or they tire of it.  It's an idea being actively pursued in various 
places.  (That kind of satellite was of course pioneered by SSTL with 
several that operated in commercial service for a while then were switched 
to amateur use.)  Note that adding an amateur payload to a SERB ranked 
experiment carrying satellite is often non-trivial and usually impossible 
due to mass, volume and antenna real estate constraints, plus perceived 
increased risk.  Essentially the success of efforts like this depends on 
the good will of the sponsor.

>I suspect that this policy originated from some Clinton-era
>Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) policies,
>the 1994 "National Space Transportation Policy" and the 1996
>"National Space Policy".
>Of course, if anyone has better information, I would love to
>hear it.

At the Air Force Academy we routinely participate in the SERB process as a 
way of both getting experiments from the Physics Department (space weather 
experts, now a separate research center) flown and getting the satellites 
we build in the Small Satellite Research Center funded and launched.  The 
value is both in the returned science and cadet education ("...training a 
cadre of space professionals.")


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