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[jamsat-news:1701] May AMSAT-NA President's Letter
SB SAT @ AMSAT $ANS-125.01
MAY AMSAT-NA PRESIDENT'S LETTER
AMSAT NEWS SERVICE BULLETIN 125.01 FROM AMSAT HQ
SILVER SPRING, MD, MAY 05, 2002
TO ALL RADIO AMATEURS
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 has 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 that an additional size reduction has
taken place by combining two of the main boards. Had this satellite been
made 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
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
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
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
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 the 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
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
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