Amateur Radio has many interesting facets; one of the most challenging concerns amateur radio satellites. Astonishingly, since 1962 over 30 amateur radio satellites have been built and launched, including the first non-military, non- governmental and non-commercial satellite. Another in 1965 provided the first satellite communications of any sort between the USA and USSR.
Currently about a dozen of these satellites are operational, and are being added to at a rate of about 2 per year. They are used daily by thousands of radio amateurs. Many satellites include equipment and facilities that are technically years in advance of commercial practice.
All this is achieved at a price. While individual radio amateurs will contribute their time and skills free of charge, nevertheless real costs also have to be met, chiefly for electronic and mechanical hardware. Thus, over the years Amateur Satellite (AMSAT) organisations have evolved to attend to this.
One such is called AMSAT-UK which was born in the early '70s as an occasional newsletter. But this modest start created great interest and therefore more and more demand on the time of the handful of volunteers then involved, until in 1978 the whole ad hoc arrangement was swept up into a coherent whole by Ron Broadbent G3AAJ who agreed to take on the job of an Honorary Secretary.
During his first year it became apparent that AMSAT-UK had been blessed with real worker. During the next sixteen years (1978 - 1994) he steadily, and virtually single handedly, built the organisation up into a world respected body dedicated to fund-raising for amateur satellites. Amateur radio is an international hobby, and a substantial proportion of Amsat-UK's several thousand members are also from overseas.
Ron Broadbent's voluntary activities include:
All this was done in his spare time from home when the day job was with Trinity House attending to the UK's lighthouses and lightships. He retired from Trinity House in 1985, and since then has worked full-time 12 hours/day, 7 days/week, more or less for free, furthering the amateur satellite movement.
At the heart of most worthwhile public endeavours can be found one or two hard working, unsung personalities. Ron Broadbent G3AAJ is undoubtedly one of these selfless individuals, and the award of MBE (Member in the Order of the British Empire) in the Prime Minister's Civil Honours List fittingly recognises these achievements.