Apogee View – January/February 2018

January/February 2018
Joe Spier, K6WAO, President

As we all start the New Year of 2018, I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and were able to welcome in the New Year by making some satellite contacts. AO-91 was very busy as were other satellites. But the big news was the launch of Fox-1D (now AO-92). As the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) celebrates “keeping amateur radio in space” with RadFxSat (Fox-1B / AO-91) already launched, and the recent launch of AO-92 (Fox-1D), we look forward to the upcoming launches of Fox-1Cliff, and RadFxSat-2 (Fox-1E) by this year’s end. Three of the five CubeSats of the Fox series have now been launched and are operational. I cannot express the gratitude I have for the AMSAT Engineering team in making these accomplishments happen. I also want to acknowledge all the AMSAT members and contributors who helped fund the effort.

Fox-1D was integrated into its Innovative Solutions in Space QuadPack for delivery to India on November 6th and was scheduled to launch on the next ISRO Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) flight, by the end of December. This date slipped into the new year until at 03:59 UTC on January 12, 2018, the solid-fueled first stage and ground-lit strap on boosters of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle in its XL configuration (PSLV-XL) ignited and hurtled AMSAT’s Fox-1D CubeSat along with 30 other satellites onboard the PSLV-C40 mission towards a sun-synchronous orbit. The events along the path to orbit happened rapidly. 30 seconds into the flight, the air lit strap on boosters were lit. One minute into the flight, the ground lit strap on boosters separated. Two minutes into flight, first stage separation and second stage ignition were confirmed. Now came a crucial moment. On August 31, 2017, the PSLV-C39 mission was doomed when its payload fairing failed to separate leaving the payload trapped inside the fairing and in a lower than planned orbit. Two minutes and thirty seconds into the flight, the call was heard on the ISRO webstream of the launch: “Payload fairing separation!” The cheers in mission control were audible as the liquid-fueled second stage continued to propel the payloads to orbit. Four minutes into the flight, the second stage separated and the solid-fueled third stage was lit to perform its duty. Seven minutes in, the third stage burned out. After a short coast period, the third stage was discarded and the liquid-fueled fourth stage ignited eight minutes and thirty seconds into the flight. Sixteen minutes and thirty seconds into the flight, the fourth stage shut down, having placed the vehicle into its initial orbit. A minute later, the primary payload, a Cartosat-2 series imaging satellite for the Indian government separated followed by other satellites on the mission. Twenty-seven minutes into the flight, confirmation came that all of the nanosatellites had been deployed. Fox-1D was in orbit!

Just before 05:00 UTC, Fox-1D passed over western North America, but the onboard timer that ensures the satellite is clear of the launch vehicle and other satellites on the mission before deploying antennas and transmitting had not yet expired. The AMSAT Engineering team would have to wait a bit longer before confirming the health of the satellite. At about 05:17 UTC, the satellite came to life and its antennas deployed over the North Pole. The AMSAT Engineering team and amateur radio operators worldwide were watching various WebSDRs waiting for signs of life. Around 05:25 UTC, the characteristic “Fox tail” of the Fox-1 FM transmitter was seen on multiple WebSDRs. Fox-1D was alive! While the satellite was alive and transmitting, the reception of telemetry frames was crucial for AMSAT Engineering to determine whether or not the satellite was healthy. At 05:28 UTC, the first frame appeared on the AMSAT telemetry server, uploaded by Anatoly Alexsandrov, UA9UIZ, of Tyazhinskyi, Kemerovo Oblast, Russia. Initial telemetry values confirmed that the satellite was healthy.

Satellites that achieve orbit and are successfully activated are commonly given an on-orbit name. Ever since the launch of OSCAR I in 1961, it has been traditional for amateur radio satellites to carry the name OSCAR, for “Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio.” Amateur radio satellites meeting certain criteria are renamed “OSCAR” with a prefix of the satellite owner’s preference and issued a sequential number after they successfully achieve orbit and are activated. After confirmation of signal reception, OSCAR Number Administrator Bill Tynan, W3XO, sent an email to the AMSAT Board of Directors designating the satellite AMSAT-OSCAR 92.

As of this writing, AMSAT Engineering reminds stations that the satellite will not be available for general use until the on-orbit checkouts are complete. Please continue to submit telemetry to assist the Engineering team in completing the commissioning process. During commissioning, the transponder may be active at times, but please do not transmit as you may interfere with important tests that must be completed before the satellite is commissioned. The commissioning process was expected to take up to two weeks, so by the time you receive the Journal, AO-92 should be available for amateur use. I know the Virginia Tech teams were and are excited in the VT imager testing. Please be aware that the L-Band downshifter is operated by the AMSAT designated ground control stations.

Fox-1Cliff is scheduled to launch before Summer 2018 from our partners at Spaceflight, and RadFxSat-2 (Fox-1E) is also scheduled to launch on NASA sponsored CSLI mission before the end of 2018. Please remember that in the satellite launch business all dates are approximate.

The first project of the GOLF program is a technology demonstrator named GOLF-TEE (Technology Evaluation Environment). The design is a 3U CubeSat with deployable solar panels, ADAC (attitude determination and control), Software Defined Radio (SDR) Transponder, and a Vanderbilt University Low Energy Proton (LEP) experiment. Now is the time to begin work on the GOLF-TEE Project.

At the end of 2017, AMSAT received generous offers from two AMSAT Past Presidents for matching funds up to $15,000 for those that contribute to the GOLF-TEE campaign at https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=STK27W4G9RMLC between now and the end of February. Make your donation twice as valuable by taking advantage of this opportunity and contributing, and help AMSAT fund the launch of the next series of satellites of the GOLF program. There are also donate buttons for GOLF-TEE on the AMSAT website. Planning is for a launch in 2019. Donations of $100 and $1,000 or more will be eligible for a special AMSAT GOLF premium. (Both premiums are currently being designed, so please be patient awaiting delivery.) While this is the first fund raiser for GOLF-TEE, there will be others announced soon.

For my assignments as President, over the holidays I drafted a policy in regards to the Export Administration Regulations or EAR. The policy includes a methodology to verify U.S. citizenship and provide compliance guidelines for our engineers and partners working on satellite projects. No ground-based projects should be affected at this time. A small team is reviewing the draft policy and providing recommendations and legal review. I can now focus on the creation of an AMSAT Scholarship to allow two or three students to attend Hamvention or the AMSAT Space Symposium and General Meeting. If you are interested in funding this scholarship, please contact me.

In ARISS news, I have appointed Chester (Chet) J. Latawiec, VE3CFK, of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, as AMSAT-NA Canadian Delegate to the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station – International (ARISS-I) delegation. Chet will provide great representation for ARISS and fills a position that was vacant for much too long.

I am also heading to the East Coast to spend about a week in the AMSAT Office in Kensington, MD. While there I expect to perform a little office reorganization and streamlining to help Martha. I am also trying to get a handle on how to create an electronic repository for an AMSAT archive. I’ll travel the following week to HamCation 2018 in Orlando, FL, so if you go, I hope to have seen you there!

HamVention will be at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xeina, OH May 18th, 19th, & 20th, 2018. Our new Team Leader for HamVention is Phil Smith, W1EME. I would like to thank our past Team Leader, Steve Belter, N9IP for his past years of dedication to AMSAT’s presence at HamVention and for advising Phil through his first stint as Team Leader this year.

Back out west, I will be attending SeaPac in Seaside,OR on June 1st, 2nd, & 3rd, 2018 and hopefully Pacificon in San Ramon, CA in the fall depending on when and where the AMSAT Space Symposium is held.

I hope you will enjoy the new year with AMSAT. I encourage you to do your part, whether that’s operating the satellites, giving AMSAT or ARISS support, or bringing dollars or members to our organization.