February 1, 2004

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Columbia Special Event

The Nacogdoches Amateur Radio Club will host a special event station on February 1 to commemorate the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and its crew. The club was an integral part of the recovery effort. Activity will be in the 20 and 40 meter bands as well as echolink conference server WXTALK. Further information can be found on the club's website

[ANS thanks Nacogdoches ARC for the above information.]


The Board of Directors of AMSAT-NA met on Thursday evening, to review the current situation with AO-40.

As you are all probably aware the satellite does not appear to be transmitting at this time, and every effort is being made to accurately determine the cause of failure and to make suitable corrections. For detailed technical information see the AMSAT-BB and/or the AMSAT-DL web site.

In summary it seems that the primary battery has failed and that the secondary or auxiliary battery is not sufficiently charged to take over at this time. The next few weeks will be of great interest as the satellite is entering into a sun angle which is becoming increasingly favourable for charging the batteries.

From the telemetry that was being sent during the last few hours (and minutes) of the batteries life, tests are being made on spare batteries in our Orlando Laboratory to try and simulate the failure and determine what can be done for recovery.

At this time AMSAT engineers and scientist at both Orlando and at AMSAT-DL are optimistic about the chances of recovery but (like the NASA Spirit problem) this may take some time to accomplish.

The Board of Directors of AMSAT-NA unanimously want to commend the AO-40 controllers and those working on the problem for their expertise and dedication in determining the nature of the problem, trying to simulate the problem on Earth, and hopefully in developing a technique to resolve the situation.

Meanwhile AMSAT-NA and AMSAT-DL each have a high orbit satellite under design and construction which will ultimately, with your support, replace AO-40. Echo, our new LEO satellite will be launched this spring, In a window starting March 31st.

Your support is, as always, critical to AMSAT's efforts.

[ANS thanks Robin Haughton, VE3FRH, for the above information.]

AO-40 in Critical Condition

Sunday, 25-Jan-04: On orbit 1486 AO-40's battery voltage dropped momentarily to 24.5 volts at MA=132, triggering a "LOW" voltage flag and shutting off the passbands. The torque command has been updated to decrease ALON slightly and improve solar angle. At the beginning of the eclipse on orbit 1486 at MA =225, the battery voltage rapidly dropped just below the S2 Tx cutoff voltage of 24.0 volts and the S2 Tx shut down to protect the battery and IHU's.

Monday, 26-Jan-04: KU4OS published two charts from a recent K-Block of WOD showing the Main Battery voltage starting at MA 154 on orbit 1485 and showing the events of orbit 1486.

Tuesday, 27-Jan-04: Last night (Orbit #1488, 2004-01-27, 00:57, UTC MA 42) the battery voltage suddenly dropped from 26V to 14V. We currently believe that in some kind of domino effect more battery cells died shortened. Telemetry shows that about nine minutes later the Heat Pipes 4+X+Y temperature suddenly rose from 27C to 92C. This is probably a sensor anomaly. Command stations are trying to send blind commands to the spacecraft in an attempt to switch over to the auxiliary battery. We have a good "fix" on ALON/ALAT and we are spinning at 3.5 RPM, so we have quite a few weeks before the squints become problematic due to the mystery effect. Currently, the mystery effect is working for us to improve solar angle. Attempts will also be made in the next few days to bring the K-Tx on line and search for its signal.

Wednesday, 28-Jan-04: All signs point to a catastrophic failure of the main battery pack. The auxiliary battery pack is on line in parallel with the main pack. The main battery pack is NiCad while the auxiliary pack is NiMH. A set of spare AO-40 NiMH batteries was found at the AMSAT lab in Orlando FL. WA4NFY and W5DID began a series of tests that showed the auxiliary battery pack should work well if they are otherwise undamaged and if the main battery pack can be pulled off line.

Thursday, 29-Jan-04: Initial attempts to turn on the K-tx with short machine code commands did not result in a detectable signal, but this will be repeated. Several additional cycles with the S2 have been repeated as well without result. These attempts always terminate with transmitter off commands, and simple commands to try to switch the battery to the aux. mode. Our hypothesis remains that we have a battery failure clamping the voltage low. The BCR is putting significant current into the batteries trying to get them back to nominal voltage. We only need for one of these cells to lose enough electrolyte to "open" and we could be back in business. Time is an unknown here and days or weeks without result do not mean ultimate failure. The command team will continue to try to regain the S2 and K Tx's and report any successes.

The AMSAT-NA Board of Directors conducted a teleconference to discuss the details of the events of the past week. The Board expressed its full support for the AO-40 command team and appreciation for the detailed timely information they are providing to the Board and the membership. The Board also reaffirmed its support for the Eagle and P3E projects that will provide new high orbit satellite capabilities in the future.

A great deal of technical data on AO-40, including interior construction, telemetry points and pictures can be found in AMSAT Journal, Volume 23, No. AO-40, Special Phase 3D Launch Issue -- November 2000. This is available from the AMSAT office on the AMSAT Journal Set 1995-2000. Call Martha at (301)589-6062 to order your set.

The preceding data is a summary of detailed reports prepared by Stacy Mills W4SM (AMSAT VP Operations) supplemented by messages from Peter Guelzow DB2OS (President, AMSAT-DL), Stan Wood WA4NFY (AMSAT VP Engineering) and Lee McLamb KU4OS (AMSAT News Service Senior Editor and first alternate on the AMSAT Board of Directors).

Rick W2GPS
AMSAT Executive VP

[ANS thanks Rick Hambly, W2GPS, for the above information.]

King's School ARISS Success

The King's School ARISS contact was a great success. Students asked ISS Cmdr. Mike Foale 12 questions which he graciously answered. Initial reports indicate the event was covered by the BBC.

People in the United Kingdom were able to catch the ISS downlink live, while elsewhere people could watch the contact via streaming video. Audio of the event may be available soon at the ARISS website where you can also find further information on the ARISS program.

Thank you to Cmdr. Foale and the ARISS team for giving the students an outstanding event of a lifetime.

There will also be another ARISS event on Wednesday, February 4 with James Bay Elementary school in Houston, Texas at 1755 UTC. Keep an ear on 145.80 MHz for the ISS downlink.

[ANS thanks Scott, N3ASA for the above information.]

Echo Funds

As of January 29, AMSAT has raised $54,794 towards the launch of Echo satellite later this year. The ultimate goal is to raise the $110,000 needed for the launch.

[ANS thanks AMSAT for the above information.]

AO-40 Sculpture Sold!

AMSAT put up for bid on eBay a sculpture of AO-40. Proceeds of the sale will go towards Echo's launch. The sculpture sold on Saturday for $1,225! More details can be found at

[ANS thanks AMSAT for the above information.]

Japanese Manned Spaceflight

Spurred by China's success in its first-ever manned space flight, Japan plans a drastic review of its space policy and will consider launching manned space trips as well, a report said Thursday. The government will "consider realising a manned space flight by a Japanese astronaut at an early time", a Japanese daily said in its evening edition, without indicating a timeframe.

The government's science and technology council, chaired by the Prime Minister, is expected to agree to draw up a new policy by mid-2004, the mass-circulation daily said without citing sources.

Japan had decided to review its space policy primarily because China had succeeded in putting a man into space last October and US President George Bush announced this month a US return to the moon as early as 2015, it said.

But the daily added some government officials are cautious towards manned flight programmes as they would need to boost the space development budget.

[ANS thanks Space Daily for the above information.]

Weekly Satellite Report

Link to the weekly report on satellite ...

All Satellites
ISS. RS-12. RS-13. RS-15. AO-7. AO-10. UO-11. UO-14. AO-16. LO-19. FO-20. UO-22. KO-23. KO-25. IO-26. AO-27. FO-29. GO-32. SO-33. PO-34. UO-36. AO-40. SO-41. SO-42. NO-44. NO-45. MO-46. AO-49. SO-50

Please send any amateur satellite news or reports to the ANS Editors at

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This week's AMSAT News Service bulletins were edited by AMSAT News Service Editor Scott Lindsey-Stevens, N3ASA,