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RE: The University <-> AMSAT relation, was: _ube sat pay load


To answer your questions:

1. I believe that if AMSAT had a package the universities could buy and
install as a communications module - they would. But I think our and their
perception of a comm module is a bit different. They want a telemetry
command and control system (low power, low mass, low cost) and we want a
transponder with 73 modes :-) that will take 90% of the spacecraft's power.
This is a conflict of interests.

2. I love your second question, and I think it is an additional
misunderstood point. Universities just like other large organizations are
highly political.
When one department / prof takes on a project it becomes his own "turf" and
it is rare to see collaboration of professors and even more rare to see
cross department collaboration. Keep in mind that universities are economic
microcosms, and as such they need to chase the money - where ever it is.
Therefore, universities are usually affiliated with the local industry -
because that's where the money is. In current days most EE/Communications
departments are into wireless communications - cell phones and wireless LAN.
There is no money in satellite communications. BTW, this phenomena is not
typical only to universities, lets take NASA as an example. JPL and Goddard
are two different entities within NASA. Both work independently and both
rarely collaborate on projects. Why? same answer.

The satellite ham radio community has been in a bind for more than a decade
now. As with all technologies, we started out with great stuff but then we
locked ourselves into a paradigm because we refused to change. Only to get
left behind by the industry. Look at SSB voice, 1200/9600 baud packet and
more. All those technologies were innovative when they came out and now the
community refuses to go into newer technologies because "it won't work with
my all-in-one radio".
In addition, as stated by AMSAT-NA board and supported by the annual report
the membership base is enough to keep the doors open, not really to build
all the great stuff everyone wants. This situation is similar with many
international AMSAT organizations. AMSAT NA is amongst the top three AMSAT
clubs in strength and membership and it still and will have a budgetary
problem for the foreseeable future. Even if membership is increased by 100%
it won't allow us to properly fund all the space missions we want. While
there is no crystal ball, I do think that if we want to get back into what
we were licensed to do, we need a radical change within our mode of
operation. The best way to do this in the USA is to become a National Lab or
a part of a National Lab. As such, we would be able to develop satellite
technologies, sell to generate revenue, and have a legal liaison to
experiment. Look at the current national labs and mode of operation. This is
a huge undertaking and I wouldn't even know where to begin, but one thing is
for sure, the past two decades of amateur radio in space proved without a
doubt that every group that looked for funding internally eventually faded
into history (fact!), the only (two) groups that survived and continue to
flourish are those that went commercial or receive the bulk of their funding
from the government.


-----Original Message-----
From: owner-AMSAT-BB@AMSAT.Org [mailto:owner-AMSAT-BB@AMSAT.Org]On
Behalf Of Lee
Sent: Sunday, March 28, 2004 8:43 AM
To: amsat-bb@AMSAT.Org
Subject: Re: [amsat-bb] The University <-> AMSAT relation, was: _ube sat
pay load

Hello Assi,

Thank you for posting a well constructed analysis.  I can see you're point
with the first group.  I am left with some questions about your perspective
on the second group.

> The second group consists of the universities that want to build
> spacecraft
> for sake of building spacecraft. These universities put technology and
> education as their goal and therefore want to build their own spacecraft.
> They don't want a kit spacecraft, and don't want standard capabilities -
> they want to develop their own - that's why they do it.

Why wouldn't providing an amateur transponder fill the need to do
"something"?  Lots of other projects could then be designed to take
advantage of the generic communications capability in addition to supporting
the general goals of the amateur radio service.

> In an unnamed event with a
> government sponsor several years ago, there was an attempt to suggest the
> universities use a "standard bus" with standard core components. The
> universities all objected to it for the simple reason that it voids their
> space-research efforts (can't blame them).

But in effect they are using standard blocks by stripping down HTs and TNCs
for their communications systems.

> important note is that most departments sponsoring spacecraft projects are
> not EE or Communications departments, but Mechanical and Aerospace!
> Therefore, their prime interest is in aerospace technologies - i.e.
> attitude
> control, bus structures and mechanisms - not communications protocols. To
> date, I don't know of a single EE department sponsoring a spacecraft in
> order to perform radio communications experiments.

I think you may have hit on the main, previously unrecognized disconnect
between the two organization's efforts.  Why don't the Mechanical and
Aerospace departments seek out the support of their own Communications
department?  Is the lack of EE department construction due to the fact that
they haven't identified or been suggested a "communications" oriented
mission to fill?

> We can't align ourselves
> with the second group as well because the don't want a design shoved down
> their throat, and they are not interested in communications experiments!

Is there a third group, an EE college perhaps, where we could find common
goals to work toward?

> An excellent example of this is the attached correspondence. A student
> asking for ideas, hams responding with "sure, just provide us with xyz
> SERVICE" and the student coming back to say "come on, give me REAL
> research,
> not just an FM repeater".... Last, hams coming back with how important
> this SERVICE is for hams.

Actually the initial inquiry was extremely open-ended with no mention of
research at all:
  >>A School in my area is thinking about building a cube sat . This is a
  >>satellite that is 4 inches cube weighting < 2 pounds. The size and
  >>constraints implies a power budget of < 4 watt-hours per orbit max. The
  >>questions for the group is what kind of pay load could you suggest to

> Do you folks get the idea? Universities want thesis
> opportunities, not to become service providers for the ham community. A
> bent
> pipe FM repeater, linear transponder, APRS, PSK31 hardly falls into
> research
> category. The funniest thing about this going back and forth is that the
> students initial email proves my thesis here. Note that in his initial
> email
> he asked us for a "reason" to build a spacecraft. Easy to tell which
> university group he falls into - isn't it?

After the initial round of inputs, the question was clarified a little which
probably puts the project that started this thread into the second group.
However, don't  people in the communications departments need thesis
material too?  Some ideas along those lines are starting to float up now
that the requirements are better known.

Thank you again for your post Assi.  You're observations are quite helpful
to me and have opened up some new lines of thought to pursue.


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Sent via amsat-bb@amsat.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.
Not an AMSAT member? Join now to support the amateur satellite program!
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