May 5, 2002

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May AMSAT-NA President's Letter

Several times each year ANS will feature information from AMSAT-NA President Robin Haighton, VE3FRH. This feature is known as the President's Letter. The following is the May 2002 installment:

A lot can happen in the short space of one month. As I promised in my last President's Letter, I will now provide you with the latest up-to-date information on the April Board of Directors meeting, as well as the status of our two new satellite projects.

First, let me say that a full set of the BOD minutes will be published in the AMSAT Journal later this year, which is our normal custom.

The Board of Directors met on Saturday, April 20, 2002 - with the principal aim of reviewing the status of our ongoing satellite projects. The first part of the meeting was held at the offices of SpaceQuest in Fairfax, Virginia - where we were shown their facilities and their ideas for manufacturing the basic satellite bus for our new OSCAR-E (Echo) satellite. A similar satellite to Echo had already been manufactured at SpaceQuest, and was laid out on a bench for test purposes.

A satellite model space frame had also been constructed for demonstration purposes and we now tentatively plan to have that model available for viewing in our AMSAT booth at Dayton.

The amazing thing about Echo is the size reduction that has taken place by combining two of the main boards. Had Echo been built in the earlier days of amateur satellites, the overall size would have been far greater because of larger component sizes and the lower efficiency of the solar cells. Put another way, the satellite would have needed a much greater surface area to produce the same amount of onboard power.

After viewing the SpaceQuest facilities, the Board met again in Washington, DC, where we were given a full technical briefing on the Echo satellite. I will not repeat the briefing here, but, rather, will refer you to the next issue of the AMSAT Journal where a complete technical article about the satellite (by Rick Hambly, W2GPS) will be published. We are also making tentative plans to place at least some of this material on the AMSAT web page for more immediate viewing.

In the afternoon, the BOD re-assembled in Silver Spring, at the AMSAT Offices. At this time a lengthy discussion took place on the Eagle project, including a detailed review of both the available and anticipated resources (people and funding) for that effort. What follows are some of the major points of that discussion:

  1. Since September 11, 2001 donations and funding for not-for-profit charities has slowed down considerably, and AMSAT, too, has "felt the pinch". The slowdown has been particularly true for donations of money, time and effort from technical people and organizations. And, as you well know, donations from these sources have traditionally been the lifeblood of AMSAT.
  2. In spite of a continuing search for a near-term, affordable launch for Eagle, we have yet to find one. However, we shall keep looking and will continue to negotiate.
  3. During the past year, various innovative ideas have come to light among AMSAT's experimenters which would enable Eagle to be smaller in size, lower in weight and thus easier (but not necessarily lower in cost) to launch. These improvements could all be incorporated into the design without drastically sacrificing on-orbit capability. In light of the fiscal realities we are now facing, we believe it is prudent to build Eagle to these newer parameters, as doing so would give us the flexibility to fly Eagle on several launch vehicles.
  4. Newly proposed regulations by the FCC may also require that Eagle have the capability to be de-orbited (subsequently brought back to Earth). This would require Eagle to carry additional propulsion capability, thus making the satellite somewhat larger and heavier. Or, we may have to reduce its planned payload to compensate for the added propulsion mass.
  5. Our goal is to still put Eagle into an elliptical (GTO) orbit, similar to the current AO-40 orbit, but with a somewhat lower apogee.
  6. Our plans still call for Eagle to have transponders in U, V, L and S bands, thus meeting the much requested "high altitude Mode B" requirement. In addition, we'd also like Eagle to carry some experimental equipment - yet to be decided.
  7. The design phase for Eagle is now scheduled to run into the fall of 2003, at which time the design would be "frozen", unless major problems occur during subsequent building and testing phases of the project.
  8. Assuming we then have both the fiscal and people resources available, component building could commence upon completion of the design phase, and, if all went well in the component building phase (again assuming we have the resources available), full scale integration of the satellite could occur as early as 2005.
  9. Finally, if we have located both a suitable launch by then and also have funds available to pay for it, Eagle could be lofted into orbit as early as 2006.

In the interim, we believe the construction and launch of OSCAR Echo, now tentatively anticipated to take place much sooner than Eagle, (possibly as early as late 2003) will provide us with valuable on-orbit data on a number of innovative new satellite component designs. This includes a new internal housekeeping unit (IHU-2) - designed to meet the requirements of the next generation of AMSAT satellites. Flying the IHU-2 design on Echo as an on-board experiment may also provide us with critical, flight experience for future satellites. Our experimenters would also like to get a little more experience with some emerging digital voice communications concepts (via Echo) before "freezing" them into the subsequent Eagle design.

Before we enter each new phase of the Eagle project, a detailed financial review will take place among our experimenters, project managers and the AMSAT-NA Board of Directors. Thanks to the generosity of President's Club donors and to those who have donated outside of the Presidents Club, we can now proceed with the design stage for Eagle as we continue to hunt for an affordable GTO launch.

Unfortunately, the component building and integration stages for Eagle are not yet funded. Current estimates indicate a cost of some $600,000 for completing the design, building, integration and testing phases. This expense would all be in addition to the cost of a launch, and, as I have already discussed, unless a suitable launch can be secured at well below current commercial market rates, the launch costs alone for Eagle will almost certainly exceed the costs of the previous four phases of the project combined.

Other discussions at the BOD meeting concerned cooperation with other AMSAT organizations regarding the de-orbit issue, a committee to look at the possibility of electronically publishing and distributing the AMSAT Journal, the function of the Project Committee, as well as AMSAT-NA's communications and business development efforts. Details of all of these discussions will be found in the minutes of the Board meeting and will be the subject of several announcements in the near future.

I am looking forward to seeing many of you in Dayton! I will try and spend as much time as possible at the AMSAT booth during Hamvention. Eagle and Oscar-Echo will be two of the subjects to be discussed at the Dayton AMSAT Forum.

Why not stop by the booth, so we can have an eyeball contact?

Robin Haighton VE3FRH
President AMSAT-NA

[ANS thanks AMSAT-NA for this information]

Call for Papers

Technical papers are solicited for presentation at the 21st Annual ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference to be held September 13-15, 2002 in Denver, Colorado. Annual conference proceedings are published by the ARRL. Presentation at the conference is not required for publication.

Submission of papers is due by August 5th, 2002.

The ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference is an international forum for radio amateurs to meet, publish their work, and present new ideas and techniques. Presenters and attendees will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and learn about recent hardware and software advances, theories, experimental results, and practical applications.

Topics will include software-defined radio, digital voice satellite communications, global position systems, APRS, digital signal processing, HF digital modes, internet interoperability with amateur radio networks, spread spectrum systems, and much more.

Conference registration details and updates, along with more information are available at

[ANS thanks the ARRL for this information]

RS-21 Deorbit

Alex Papkov at Kaluga Ground Control in Russia reported to ANS that RS-21 has re-entered the atmosphere. Papkov provided the following announcement:

Trajectory calculation of lowering of the microsatellite, using the last navigation data, gives its atmospheric re-entry on orbit 711, somewhere above the Pacific Ocean. Thus, the microsatellite Kolibri-2000/RS-21 has successfully completed the operation and has stopped any physical existence.

We consider all aspects of this mission to have been a success. Collaboration between Australian high school students, Russian Space scientists and Russian high school students has been a highlight. The satellite's formal name was the Russian-Australian Scientific and Educational Microsatellite.


Radio Sport RS-21, was remotely launched on March 20, 2002 from a Russian Progress M-1-7 launcher. During its lifetime, RS-21 sent telemetry data and digitally recorded voice messages in a circular orbit just over 200 miles above the Earth.

More information about the satellite can be found at

[ANS thanks Alex Papkov for this information]

ANS in Brief

ANS news in brief this week includes the following:

Weekly Satellite Report

Link to the weekly report on satellite ...

All Satellites
ISS . RS-12 . RS-13 . RS-15 . AO-10 . UO-11 . UO-14 . AO-16 . DO-17 . WO-18 . LO-19 . FO-20 . UO-22 . KO-23 . KO-25 . IO-26 . AO-27 . FO-29 . TO-31 . GO-32 . SO-33 . PO-34 . SO-35 . UO-36 . AO-40 . SO-41 . SO-42 . NO-44 . MO-46

Please send any amateur satellite news or reports to the ANS Editors at, or to ANS Editor Dan James, NN0DJ, at

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This week's AMSAT News Service bulletins were edited by AMSAT  News Service editor Dan James, NN0DJ.