Apogee View – March/April 2019

Joe Spier, K6WAO, President

50 years of AMSAT! Which begs the questions. What were you doing in 1969? What amateur radio equipment were you using? It was indeed a different time. According to Forbes magazine and Yale University’s Richard Foster, most organizations when founded in the 1920s, expected to be around for 60-70 years. Today, the majority last only about 15 years. What gives our organization the ability to endure three times and longer over the average organizational lifetime?

The first reason is the investment in volunteers – and the investments by the volunteers in AMSAT – is fully returned, in both directions. What does this mean? This mutual respect and investment produce a character and principle-based organization that is replete with the traits that make for a lasting organization and lasting relationships. These traits include Respect, Belief, Loyalty, Commitment, Trust, Courage and Gratitude. Volunteers are fully engaged. Leaders are fully leading. Miraculous successes have and do occur.

The second reason is that relationships and partnerships with amateur radio communities and space agencies are rock solid, and produce tremendous returns. Trust and dependability abound.

The third reason is having good leadership. Leaders have to be proactive and involved. I can tell you that leadership in AMSAT can be, and often is, a full-time job. Good leaders also must have the opportunity to grow in seniority, to gain additional skills, and to become truly great. This is especially challenging in a volunteer organization.

The fourth reason is AMSAT’s value and unique strengths are clear and focused. While AMSAT does not do marketing and sales very well (Help Wanted: Volunteer with Marketing and Grant Writing skills), project focus and fundraising are much more efficient when an organization doesn’t need to be concerned with “reinventing itself,” rebuilding a reputation or regaining awareness every 2-3 years. In fact, this may be a key reason for AMSAT’s longevity. While most organizations only last 15 years, AMSAT’s projects have a timetable of 10-15 years, so in essence, AMSAT has the ability to adapt to the changing focus of the space marketplace, to deal with the ebb and flow of government budgets and regulations, and when successful, have fundraising over a longer period of time. This means that AMSAT still must be diligent in fundraising, and responding to government regulatory actions that affect AMSAT, such as the recent Federal Communications Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making, FCC Docket #18-159A1 on Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age.

Finally, long term organizations are financially stable. They experience fewer ups and downs and endure less stress and worry about the possibility of financial ruin. This means having conservative financial practices. That produces better financial cycles to create capital reserves that AMSAT can call upon in the leaner cycles.

Right now, costs are increasing for AMSAT, including launch costs, regulatory compliance, and space hardware certifications. AMSAT is experiencing the reality of being a product of its own success. Launch costs and competition for those launches are increasing because of the space marketplace realization that smaller, less expensive CubeSats do work and work well. While in the past, AMSAT rode as ballast on missions, now extreme competition exists for that physical space. And, yes, AMSAT still applies for CubeSat Launch Initiatives (CSLI), but this is not a free ride; instead, the benefit is a subsidy of up to $300,000 for a launch opportunity.

The point is that access to space is now going to require real dollars and funding that may be beyond the resources of what the amateur radio community of any one nation can provide. International cooperation will be necessary. This cooperation will also require compliance with U.S. federal law and the associated cost. New AMSAT compliance and monitoring policies will need to be developed and implemented. Once completed, agreements with individual foreign organizations will need to be pursued. Only then will AMSAT be truly international again. AMSAT will also continue to find partnerships with the university community.

At the end of April, I’ll be attending the CubeSat Developer’s Workshop in Southern California. Current planning is to have Vice Presidents of Engineering and Operations, Jerry Buxton, N0JY, and Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, conduct the business of interfacing with the CubeSat community, freeing me to attend the majority of presentations that I seemed to have missed last year.

The 2019 Hamvention planning is proceeding very well with Phil Smith, W1EME, performing a fantastic job as AMSAT Chairman again this year. The TAPR/ AMSAT Banquet has been scheduled along with the AMSAT Academy, and AMSAT’s evening at Tickets Pub in Fairborn. The Banquet and Academy admissions are available on the AMSAT Store website. This year ARISS will conduct a separate forum on Friday, while AMSAT’s Forum will be on Saturday as usual. AMSAT’s Hamvention 2019 will feature a 1969 theme and an “OSCAR Park” display. The tentative lineup for the park includes appearances by OSCAR-1, AO-7, Phase-3A, ARISSat, Fox, and GOLF.

I am trying to have a little fun for those working in the AMSAT booth this year for Hamvention, so I’ve come up with a nonbinding dress code. Dress code for gentlemen is a suit, think Mad Men, not Woodstock, or an AMSAT Polo shirt or T-Shirt with slacks. For ladies (directly from the film “Hidden Figures”): “Skirts must be worn past the knee. Sweaters are preferred to blouses. No jewelry. A simple pearl necklace is the exception.” Or ladies may also wear an AMSAT polo shirt or t-shirt with slacks. I am trying to have some lab coats available with the AMSAT logo on the back.

Please make your plans now to attend Hamvention at the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, OH, May 17-19, 2019. There is nothing like spending the weekend with thirty thousand of your closest friends.

Our 50th Anniversary Symposium for 2019 will be held at the Arlington Hilton in Arlington, Virginia. Hilton Arlington is located in the heart of Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood. 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 historic monuments. The hotel is six miles from Reagan National Airport and the National Mall. The 50th Anniversary Symposium will be held October 18-20. The AMSAT Board of Director’s Meetings will be held on October 16th and 17th at the same hotel. The current plan for tours of Washington DC/Baltimore area will be on Sunday and Monday, October 20-21. The Banquet speakers will celebrate AMSAT’s long history, so please plan on attending the 50th Anniversary. You will be glad you did.

A final item is that ARISS is in the middle of a major fundraising campaign to get new radios to the ISS. Recently, the ARISS-US team (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) auctioned two very unusual items in its first-ever auction. Congratulations to the winning bidder and proud owner of a unique JVC Kenwood TS-890S signed by astronauts! JVC Kenwood, a proud supporter of ARISS, generously gave a brand new TS-890S for ARISS to auction. They first offered the radio for sale in the U.S. in the last half of 2018. Kenwood has been a super supporter of ARISS for years, and it was the company’s idea for this radio, with astronaut signatures, to be an exclusive that just one ham operator could own! The company hopes you’ll want to support ARISS, too.

And congratulations also to the top bidder on a special astronaut signed 6-volume boxed set 2019 ARRL Handbook. The limited edition 2019 ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications sold out fast once ARRL posted their ad. It was the first time that ARRL divided the Handbook into volumes, which nestle in a hard slipcase. ARRL, an ARISS sponsor along with AMSAT and NASA, saved back one boxed set to give ARISS for the fund-raiser auction. I wish I could have the auction’s winning bidders names to announce, but I am writing this article in March. ARISS will have more fundraising ideas on the horizon.

I encourage you to do your part, whether that’s operating the satellites, giving AMSAT or ARISS support, or bringing dollars or new members to our organization. See you at Hamvention.