Apogee View – July/August 2019

Joe Spier, K6WAO, President

Since Hamvention, I have traveled to Virginia and Montreal. The purpose of my trip to Virginia was to move the AMSAT historical files from Dr. Bob McGwier’s (N4HY) basement to climate-controlled storage in Northern Virginia, nearer to the AMSAT Office. For the past five years — since the move out of the AMSAT office in Silver Spring, MD, Bob has generously stored the AMSAT file cabinets and the Dick Daniels, W4PUJ (S.K.), photo archive at his home in Virginia. Bob is now selling his house and planning a move. I want to thank Bob for all the help he has provided AMSAT over the years.

I also visited the Hilton Arlington, the site of our Symposium this fall. The 50th Anniversary Symposium — 37th AMSAT Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting — will be held October 18th, 19th, and 20th, 2019. The AMSAT Board of Director’s Meetings will occur on October 16th and 17th at the same hotel.

AMSAT has planned two tours of Washington DC/ Baltimore area. The first of these is a trip to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, on Sunday, October 20th. The cost is $30 per person for the tour bus; admission to the museum is free. If you drive there yourself, the parking is $15 per vehicle, and you get the experience of driving in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Then, on Monday, October 21st, I will lead a walking tour of the National Mall. We will meet at the entrance to the Balston Metro. You are on your own for the day, although AMSAT will designate a location for lunch, and meet back at the Smithsonian Metro for the return in the afternoon.

The Symposium banquet speakers will celebrate AMSAT’s long history, and an OSCAR Park is also planned. So, if you can, please attend the 50th Anniversary; you would be glad you did. Future announcements will appear on the AMSAT website and through the AMSAT News Service and AMSAT-BB.

Again, the location for the Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting will be The Hilton Arlington, 950 North Stafford Street, Arlington, Virginia, 22203, USA TEL: +1- 703-528-6000. The code for the hotel is AMSAT – Radio Amateur Satellite Corp. The Hilton Arlington is located in the heart of the Ballston neighborhood of Arlington, VA. Connected to the Ballston Metro Station, the hotel offers easy and effortless access to Washington DC’s top tourist destinations like the National Mall, Smithsonian Museums and historical monuments. The hotel is six miles from Reagan National Airport and the National Mall and has metro connections to both.

Before I headed back to Reno, I stopped at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, for an ARISS contact. This was pretty cool as the stage was under the Space Shuttle Discovery. I also met with students from Bishop O’Connell High School, who, with the help of their teacher/mentor, Melissa Pore, KM4CZN, are reviewing and improving the prototype of the CubeSat Simulator.

Before I left the east coast, I was invited to NASA Goddard to speak to about 25 interns in the Space Communications and Navigation (SCAN) summer program. SCAN is also a benefactor of ARISS.

At the end of June, I attended the ARISS-I Face-to-Face Conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. JVC Kenwood presented two TM-D710GA radios to ARISS Russia to manifest to the ISS. At this meeting, I held talks with Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) about providing linear transponders to Canadian universities. At this writing, the talks are still in process.

I interviewed a candidate for AMSAT Vice President – Development (Marketing) and am pleased to announce that the AMSAT BoD has appointed Frank Karnauskas, N1UW, to that position. Frank is also an ANS Rotating Editor. Frank will have more to say about his plans shortly.

Right before Hamvention, I was contacted by CQ-DL to provide a write-up of the 50 years of AMSAT. I was also given the opportunity for an editorial. The 50 Year History of AMSAT appeared last month, but since it was editorially shortened and in German, I am including it below. Please remember this is opinion and is not AMSAT Policy.

For now, I ask that you keep your membership up, recruit new members, contribute what you can, use the satellites, transition to the linear birds, and more importantly, have fun!

AMSAT’s Next Fifty Years

Predicting what will happen and what technologies will be available in the future is always chancy, and usually wrong. After World War II, all sorts of articles appeared in magazines predicting that, in a few years, we would not be limited to traveling on roads. Everyone would have some kind of convertible car/aircraft and thus be able to soar to and from work above the traffic. How wrong was that? But I still want my flying car!

In those days, some 75 years ago, no one predicted that practically everybody would have computers, particularly with 1930’s Dick Tracy wristwatch features, that fit in their pocket. Even 50 years ago, in 1969 when the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation was formed, did people really think computers would be commonplace, or that people would have access to over hundreds of T.V. channels via a cable, much less satellites 23,000 miles in space. So, with the errors so prevalent in predictions in mind, let’s take a brief look at what may lie ahead for the next 50 years of amateur radio satellites, amateur radio in space, and speculate on how such wild prognostications might come about.

One prediction that is already coming true is the cascade of CubeSat development leading to spacecraft constellations and promising to provide worldwide internet access (for a small fee, of course). These constellations are already taxing the international teams of satellite frequency coordinators and the associated government regulators.

Let’s go out on a limb and predict amateurs will have some type of 24/7 satellite availability. While not likely to come from a host of LEO CubeSats, 4-5 Amateur Radio CubeSats strategically placed in the GEO parking orbit would meet the orbital debris mitigation rules and would slowly drift across the horizon, needing to be tracked slowly, and connected via inter-satellite links providing 24/7 amateur access to all areas of the Earth, except for spotty reception on the poles. At today’s (2019) launch costs of $1 Million (USD) per 3U rideshare, this is a possibility greater than the $6 – $10 million for a regional GEO satellite.

Such a system would provide worldwide emergency communications. Each satellite should also have a SARSat receiver. I call this notion AMSAT TDRS (Tracking, Data, Relay Satellites). The inter-satellite links could also provide lunar, planetary, and deep space links. This idea does need to stop at GEO, but scales well to Cislunar orbits – Lunar TDRS, interplanetary orbits – Mars Cycler TDRS, Venus TDRS, Jupiter TDRS systems, and further. The future is likely to bring a “Lost in Space” (not really lost) moment of amateur radio satellites heading to Alpha Centauri. Think of the technological leap to perform this weak signal work!

Satellites with high-speed digital communications are the means amateurs have to furnish such capabilities. Greater bandwidth means higher frequencies. So, here’s the prediction that the AMSATs will, from some source, obtain the funds necessary to gain rideshares on GEO and beyond missions. Notice, I said AMSATs, for it will take international cooperation among the various AMSAT organizations to design, construct, procure, and operate these satellite constellations. Whether these funds come from governments or wealthy benefactors, the likely funding will come from beyond the amateur radio community. Hams will need to support these communication infrastructures. Half a dozen Deep Space Network (DSN) 34-meter dishes will not suffice, but many small 1-meter and up ground stations are also an untapped resource.

A near term prediction is Deep Space Gateway (DSG). ARISS has been approached by both NASA and ESA to see what capabilities and plans could be provided to DSG. DSG is becoming real.

Another prediction is a lunar repeater if the extreme lunar day/night thermal regulation and a multitude of other issues can be resolved. It’s only a 273℃-temperature swing from boiling hot to deep freeze in every 14- day period called a Lunar Day.

Foreign Affairs

AMSAT-NA’s entire history has been a foreign affair. Our first satellite project was preparing for launch and finding a ride for a satellite built in Australia. Sir Martin Sweeting from the U.K. attended a number of our early meetings. AMSAT hadn’t been in existence very long before beginning to work with Dr. Karl Meinzer and his German associates to place a Mode B transponder into AO-7. Then came the AMSAT-DL cooperation with the Phase 3 series of satellites, culminating with AO-40.

People from Brazil, Argentina, and Yugoslavia (now Slovenia) participated in the MicroSat project. There have been several non-Americans on the AMSAT Board of Directors, including Pat Gowen, from England, Junior deCastro, from Brazil, Haruo Yoneda, JA1ANG, from Japan, and John Henry, VE2VQ, as well as Robin Haighton, both from Canada. Of course, Robin also served as AMSAT President.

AMSAT-NA has welcomed attendees at our annual AMSAT Space Symposium and General Meeting from such diverse countries as New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Mexico, Italy, Russia, South Africa, Germany, Belgium, Austria, the U.K., and the Philippines. These are but a few examples that demonstrate that AMSAT-NA is truly an international organization.

But AMSAT-NA was also classified by the U.S. Government as an “arms dealer.” Why? It stems from a thick book of U.S. Code of Federal Regulations called ITAR, which stands for International Traffic in Arms Regulations. These regulations — among other items such as cannons, tanks, and especially ballistic missile technology — classified “satellites” as defense munition items. They did not distinguish the use to which a satellite might be put, its size, or any other attributes. A one-kilo CubeSat built by a university or a non-profit like AMSAT-NA to relay amateur radio signals was treated the same way as a huge spy satellite. If it was a satellite, it fell under ITAR rules. ITAR imposed specific steps that must be taken if any satellite hardware, or hardware/software combination, or design data, or deemed export (a technical discussion) is exchanged by U.S. citizens with citizens of any other country. ITAR did not prohibit such exchanges but made it very difficult and expensive to obtain permission for them to take place. In essence, to work within the ITAR framework, a foreign national had to agree to submit to U.S. law.

Violation of ITAR carried severe penalties, including prison and steep fines, and usually both. AMSAT self-reported on our activities with AMSAT-DL and other AMSAT groups from around the world in connection with our work on AO-40, the Canadian MOST program, and the Phase 3E satellite. AMSAT-NA was found to be in violation, but since this was self-reported, no fines or enforcement action was taken. However, no further violation could occur. Regrettably, this meant AMSAT-NA could only perform projects with U.S. citizens, and this became AMSAT-NA policy.

EAR/ITAR Compliance

For AMSAT-NA, the EAR/ITAR compliance issue must be resolved. These regulations have hampered not only AMSAT-NA in its need to have a free and open interchange of information and material relating to amateur radio satellites with our overseas partners but also U.S. commercial interests. In the fall of 2014, new rules for ITAR concerning satellites as munitions became effective. It has taken some time to decipher these regulations. At the end of 2017, new EAR guidelines for Export Controls for the Commercial Space Industry were released. While open-source software and encryption are exempt, once tied to specific space-related hardware, the EAR/ITAR regulations apply. While most Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) components of AMSAT satellites fall under the No License Required categories, a policy and process must be in place to comply with U.S. laws. AMSAT-NA has been working through these issues and through a thorough understanding of the law has formulated a draft policy now under legal review with F.D. Associates.

Multilateral Commitments

The United States aligns its export control regulations with several major multilateral control regimes to which the government is committed. Of particular interest to commercial (and non-profit) space companies are the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), which controls items needed for missile development, production, and operation, and the Wassenaar Arrangement (W.A.), charged with promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies to prevent destabilizing arms accumulations. Additional information on MTCR and W.A., including a list of member states, can be found at www.mtcr.info and www.wassenaar.org, respectively.

Since the E.U. and many in the world community are parties to the Wassenaar Arrangement, many AMSAT organizations are now on a level playing field, and cooperative agreements may proceed. Most items on the EAR Commerce Control List are eligible for several license exceptions, including a Strategic Trade Authorization (STA), that allows the unlicensed export, reexport, and in-country transfer of products to 36 U.S. allies. Eight other countries are eligible to receive certain items under STA, provided all terms of the license exceptions have been met.

So, here’s the prediction: international cooperation between the AMSATs will be a reality.

The AMSAT Century

In 2069, AMSAT-NA will hold its 100th Anniversary Annual General Meeting and Space Symposium. Most of our current members will not be present, but some of the younger ones will. And, maybe there’ll be another update of this book or scan entitled: The AMSAT Century, The First 100 Years 


Joe, K6WAO