The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (as AMSAT is officially known) was first formed in the District of Columbia in 1969 as an educational organization. Its goal was to foster Amateur Radio's participation in space research and communication. AMSAT was founded to continue the efforts, begun in 1961, by Project OSCAR, a west coast USA-based group which built and launched the very first Amateur Radio satellite, OSCAR, on December 12, 1961, barely four years after the launch of Russia's first Sputnik.
OSCAR at the Smithsonian
Today, the "home-brew" flavor of these early Amateur Radio satellites lives on, as most of the hardware and software now flying on even the most advanced AMSAT satellites is still largely the product of volunteer effort and donated resources. Though we are fond of traditions our designs and technology continue to push the outside of the envelope.
For over 40 years AMSAT groups in North America and elsewhere have played a key role in significantly advancing the state of the art in space science, space education, and space technology. Undoubtedly, the work now being done by AMSAT volunteers throughout the world will continue to have far-reaching, positive effects on the very future of both Amateur Radio, as well as other governmental, scientific and commercial activities in the final frontier. Rarely have a group of "amateur" volunteers managed to do so much...for so many...with so little.
THE MAIN WEBSITE PAGE FOR AMSAT
CALLED "THE LAUNCH PAD"
Welcome to the Launch Pad the new AMSAT website
We hope you enjoy the new look and feel of the Launch Pad. The facelift took many months to complete with a goal of up-to-date information, improved navigation and updated links and destinations. It is an ongoing process and currently in BETA test, so all features are not yet enabled. So if you find an under-construction page, please be patient. Rest assured we are working on it.
Using the Launch Pad
We have provided some information pages that should help you adjust to using the new site and hope you will take a few minutes to review them:
Finding Information - this will show you how to locate information, both recent articles and searching the archives Reporting Website Issues - this will show you how to report a bug, whether it be a broken link, a missing graphic or information you think should be here and isn't About the Site's Construction - this will tell you about the designer, explain how the site is constructed and why we use .php files rather than .html files.
CLICK ON >>>AMSAT LAUNCH PAD PAGE <<< CLICK ON
CLICK ON >>>AMSAT "GETTING STARTED IN SATELLITES" PDF<<< CLICK ON
Interested in Using Amateur-Satellite Service Frequencies?
Frequently Asked Questions
BACKGROUND. Most information provided here applies world wide because all administrations work from the same basic text: the Radio Regulations. A few specifically labeled items relate only to the USA.
Q1: What do you mean when you talk about the amateur service; the amateur-satellite service?
A: Amateur service: A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, duly authorized [licensed] persons [individuals] interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest." (Emphasis supplied.) -Amateur-satellite service: A radiocommunication service using space stations on Earth satellites for the same purposes as those of the amateur service.
Q2: Graduate assistants are going to operate our satellite. Is that OK?
A: If they are compensated in any way to operate an amateur transmitter, the answer is no. If they are not licensed amateurs, the answer is also no.
Q3: Our satellite will carry cameras that will take pictures of the separation sequence for xyz corporation, builders of the multiple payload adaptor. We will give them the pictures. They require we don't make them public in case they show something embarrassing or something that didn't work right. Is that OK?
A: No. Every transmission from an amateur station must be in 'plain language' or, in other words, in the clear. In the clear means that (1) technical descriptions of all emissions, codes, and formats are made publicly and widely available; and (2) technical descriptions must be sufficient to enable any technically competent licensed amateur radio operator to use the system. As a consequence, of course, all transmissions will be open to reception by anyone. (Encryption for critical spacecraft telecommand functions is accepted.) -Also, xyz Corporation has a financial interest in the communication resulting in commercial use of an amateur station, which is not permitted.
Q4: Our satellite will have no uplink. It's just going to send its GPS location every 2 minutes. Anyone will be able to listen to that and know where the satellite is. We want lots of people to be able to listen, so we picked amateur frequencies. Any problem with that?
A: Yes and no. You must be able to control the satellite transmitter in case it causes interference. So, you will have to have a telecommand uplink, no matter what service you license it in. While your mission objective might be of interest to amateurs, transmitting information intended for reception by the general public is broadcasting, which is prohibited in the amateur service. However, transmissions directed to amateurs may be received by anyone without restriction.
Q5: We will control abcSat from our campus ground station. The satellite will only be turned on when over abcU and we will download the experiment data and give it to the principal investigator, Dr Smith. He and his grad students will write papers on the results and present them at the Small Sat conference following the launch. Afterwards, the data will be published on the web. Any problem with that?
A: Yes, there are several problems. First of all, transmissions from amateur stations must be in the clear and, therefore, open to reception by anyone. Next, space stations in the amateur-satellite service must have sufficient Earth command stations established before launch to guarantee that the space station transmitter can be turned off in case of interference.
-USA: One command station likely will be viewed as inadequate for the purpose. Finally, Dr Smith, a paid member of the faculty, must be careful not to have made compensation of any kind relating to amateur transmissions from the satellite or Earth station. However, if Dr Smith, or anyone else, receives experiment data from the satellite without making a transmission, there's no problem.
Q6: In order to be sure no one can take over our satellite we plan to encrypt all transmissions both ways. It's just easier to encrypt everything. We have spent a lot of time and money on this project and don't want anyone messing it up.
A: Then, you must operate in another radio service. Remember, all amateur radio transmissions must be in the clear.
Q7: Our satellite is being built to help poor people in Gronkia. We have volunteer doctors and nurses there who run clinics for patients with AIDS. We will use the satellite to exchange patient data, diagnosis, and treatment information. Since it is a store and forward satellite using common software and amateur frequencies, it will be available to amateurs to exchange messages also, so that makes it ok. Is that right?
A: Making a satellite available for general amateur use is OK if all other operational requirements are met. Use of the satellite by licensed amateurs to support your humanitarian efforts would be OK if (1) they are not compensated and if (2) Gronkia, as well as the country where the messages are received from the satellite, both permit messages to be sent by amateurs on behalf of other people. - USA: Current 'Third Party Traffic Arrangements' are listed at: http://www.arrl.org/FandES/field/regulations/io/3rdparty.html. Consult with the national society of amateur radio operators in your country for their listing. Patient privacy may be the biggest issue: encryption will be necessary, which may not be used in the amateur service. We commend your efforts to help in Gronkia. But, amateur radio is not the way to go.
Q8: We can't afford solar panels for our satellite. But xyz Corp. has agreed to provide panels in exchange for our project 'qualifying' them in space. We will collect telemetry on their performance along with the normal telemetry from the satellite, all of which will be published and available to all amateurs. Does using free commercial solar panels disqualify us from using the amateur bands?
A: It depends. The issue is compensation (pecuniary interest). As long as you meet all amateur requirements, then using freely donated hardware (or software) and sharing what you learn as an amateur is fine. Implicit understandings that you will share data shouldn't be a problem so long as the sharing isn't a condition of the donation, which would be a form of compensation. Free will donations have made many satellites and on-board experiments possible.
Free will donations, by definition, are always made with no expectation of anything in return. Indeed, a written record of the donation may be helpful; even necessary. -USA: If donation value (cash or in-kind) exceeds $250, IRS requires that the donor be given a receipt. At the same time, no data may be hidden. Remember, amateur transmissions must be in the clear and, therefore, open to reception by anyone.
Q9: We are building a satellite that will have transmitters and receivers on both amateur frequencies and commercial frequencies. We plan to operate our experiments and gather some science data using the commercial frequencies for about a year. After that first year, we will have all the data we need and would like to switch to the amateur frequencies and open the satellite for general use by hams. Is that a problem?
A: No, not at all. So long as all the other criteria for amateur stations are met, the plan you describe is just fine. In fact, it's a great way to add to the on-orbit satellite resources in the amateur community while meeting your commercial data requirements.
Q10: Our satellite measures phenomena that lead to devastating natural events. We hope it will prove our ability to measure and predict those events and save thousands of lives. If it works well, we have capital lined up to build a constellation of these satellites and sell the data to governments and researchers for a nominal fee. This is a humanitarian effort using very new science and we don't want to make a profit, just cover our costs. We plan to use amateur frequencies because we don't have the money to get a commercial license. Is this OK?
A: We commend your humanitarian efforts and hope they succeed. Nevertheless, the commercial interests mean that this satellite cannot be in the amateur-satellite service. Money to work through the licensing process is well spent because it provides an inexpensive measure of insurance: the process helps account for (1) stations which might cause harmful interference to your project and (2) other stations which would receive interference from your satellite, which may require it to be shut down.
Q11: We have developed an amazing new digital coding/decoding system that improves the performance of a satellite link by XX dB. It is fantastic! We plan to demonstrate this new coding technology on amateur frequencies and want amateurs to be the first to benefit from our amazing new technology. We plan to sell the CODEC software to all interested amateurs for only $10 per copy. Of course, we will maintain the source code for our software so that we may later sell copies for a larger sum, allowing us to recover our costs and then make a profit.
A: Commercial enterprises cannot use amateur stations. The developer's investment (pecuniary interest) cannot rely on the use of an amateur station.
Q12: So, how do I get an amateur radio operator's license?
A: You take an examination prescribed by the Government consisting of radio and electronic theory, radio law, and operating practices. Limited Morse code proficiency must be shown for licenses giving privileges below 30 MHz. Get more information from you local society of amateur radio operators.
USA: A lot of useful information is at >>> ARRL - AMATEUR RADIO LICENSE INFO <<< CLICK ON
Q13: Can the University get a ham license?
A: No. Amateur licenses are granted only to individuals. The University may have a club station. But, an individual licensed amateur radio operator will be named as trustee for the club station license. The trustee is personally responsible for proper operation of the club station, not the University.
Q14: What will happen if I don't have a license and proceed to launch anyway?
A: For security reasons, governments world wide monitor the airwaves. Fines and jail terms (or worse in some countries) await illicit radio operators. Also, amateur radio operators are among the best at finding and identifying new signals on the air and they cooperate closely with government authorities. USA: The US Department of Transportation will deny launch authority if the satellite has no license.
Q15: How should we proceed if our satellite system is not eligible to use the amateur-satellite service?
A: In many examples here, satellites not qualified to use the amateur-satellite service would be eligible in an existing service or, particularly for short term projects, an Experimental License. See Article 27 of the Radio Regulations.
USA: Obtaining an experimental license is not expensive requiring only a straightforward letter application. Usually, a license can be obtained in three to six months. FCC publishes experimental rules in 47 CFR Part 5. On-line, see: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_02/47cfr5_02.html. AMSAT may be able to help you with the process.
Q16: Where can I find more information about rules, services, and other frequency issues?
A: The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) publishes a good background paper on the subject.
USA: FCC Rules and Regulations are available on-line from the US Government Printing Office.
And, the NTIA Manual of Regulations & Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management is
online at: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/osmhome/redbook/redbook.html.
Q17: Why should I bother to look at these references?
A: All countries and operating agencies world wide rely on the ITU Radio Regulations to help maximize the use of the radio spectrum and to minimize interference - something very important to your project. You'll find universally accepted nomenclature, emission designations, service types, frequency allocations, and other important and worthwhile references. Many administrations copy major parts of the Radio Regulations into their domestic Rules and Regulations.
USA: FCC and NTIA implement the Radio Regulations domestically where you will see much of the Radio Regulations copied into domestic rules.
USA Q18: If I get a grant from the Government to build a satellite, who is responsible for finding frequencies?
USA A: Before funding a project, the Government agency must get frequency support. See: The White House, Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, Circular A-11. NTIA implements Circular A-11 in the NTIA Manual of Regulations and Procedures (the Redbook).
10.0.2 Satisfying OMB Circular A-11
Good luck with your project!
OMB Circular No. A-11 specifies in Section 34.1:
"You must obtain a certification by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Commerce that the radio frequency required is available before you submit estimates for the development or procurement of major communications-electronics systems (including all systems employing space satellite techniques)." NTIA certification of spectrum support can be obtained using the procedures in this chapter. The matter of preparation and submission to OMB of budget estimates for Government systems is covered in Section 8.2.5. (Emphasis supplied.)
Call or write AMSAT if you have questions. We will do our best to help you.
Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT®)
PO Box 27- Washington, DC 30044-0027
Tel: (301) 589-6062
A Brief Chronology of Amateur Satellites
Orbiting Satellites Carrying Amateur Radio (OSCAR) is a series of small satellites initiated for radio amateurs to experience satellite tracking and participate in radio propagation experiments. The World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) allocated frequencies for the Amateur Satellite Service, including 29 MHz (10m), 145 MHz (2m), 435 MHz (70cm), 1270 MHz (24cm) and 2400 MHz (13cm). Transmitting low-powered signals, initially battery operated and offering short lives, the satellites have become increasingly sophisticated. More recently, they have served school science groups, provided emergency communications for disaster relief, acted as technology demonstrators, and transmitted Earth imagery.
Satellites are listed in chronological order by launch date. You can get additional information
about a satellite by clicking on the satellite name.
CLICK ON >>>AMSAT SATELLITE CHRONOLOGY PAGE<<< CLICK ON
AMSAT announce NextGen CubeSat program
ARISSat-1 is the reconfiguration of the SuitSat-2 project into a new superstructure. The fact that this was a modularly designed system, allowed the team to quickly adapt the units to a newly developed structure. Upon learning of the loss of the Russian Orlan suit that was to house SuitSat-2, the SuitSat-2/ARISSat-1 team responded by assembling a new team lead by Bob Davis, KF4KSS to develop a brand new structure in which to house the already developed satellite modules.
AMSAT will work with a university student engineering team to develop the NextGen Cubesat.
NextGen Program Manager, Alex Harvilchuck, N3NP introduced this new program at the AMSAT Symposium.
Alex revealed program goals and its initial plans with a paper in the Proceedings and presentations to the AMSAT Board of Directors and to the attendees during Symposium sessions.
NextGen consists of AMSAT volunteer mentors working with IBM Global Services Systems Engineering Division, and SUNY-Binghamton (also called University of Binghamton) senior level engineering students participating in their 'capstone' engineering project.
Alex summarized the NexGen program goals:
• Intial analysis of ARISSat-1, documenting the systems, and analysis of the lessons learned from ARISSat-1 and other prior spacecraft to create a building block architecture for future satellites.
• Open, modular, evolutionary, and documented design based on this analysis.
• Redesigning the ARISSat-1 Power Systems into a next generation power system using supercapacitors instead of batteries and reducing the footprint of some of the boards.
• Analysis and modification to the structure to incorporate deployable solar panels with a scalable design that will work for 1U, 2U and 3U sizes.
• Design a Picosat-class bus structure that AMSAT, or any other University, can use for 1U, 2U, or 3U CubeSat spacecraft. AMSAT could make the open design available at low-to-no-cost to qualified University groups.
• An Engineering Model of the NextGen CubeSat spacecraft bus will be on display at the Dayton Hamvention AMSAT Booth for everyone to study.
Alex summarized, "Starting with our initial core team of 34 students, plus advisers, mentors and volunteers at Binghamton University this will be an ongoing effort. It is not a one time event, but the start of a stable, evolutionary design process that will further STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) with the Next Generation of engineers and amateur radio operators. We are looking for other individuals and University/School teams to participate in all aspects of the spacecraft design - RF Systems - Guidance, Navigation, Control & Experiment Systems - Power & Structure Systems."
Volunteer mentors are needed! Even if you only have an hour a week, you can mentor a student over the phone or you can peer review a document that the students are working on. If you have more than an hour a week, you can implement a small design change to an existing subsystem; you could respin the board layout to meet a reduced form
factor; you could redesign a module to use different technology. Contact Alex via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
AMSAT's Board of Directors has approved the support of the University of Binghamton NextGen Cubesat Proposal and agreed to provide $1,200.00 in immediate funding to the Binghamton Foundation to support student expenses and initially budgeted $10,000.00 to cover material costs associated with hardware development between September 2009 and May 2010. The Board will review progress at the end of the first semester.
Catching Satellites on Ham Radio
From >> Make Technology on Your Time >>http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/07/catching_satellites_on_ham_radio.html
KC2UHB ~ DIANA ENG ~ COMMUNICATIONG ON A HAM RADIO SATELLITE
My favorite ham activity is making contacts via satellites. Not only is there the romantic notion of sending messages into outer space, but you have to trace the orbit of the satellite with your antenna while tuning the radio, to compensate for the Doppler effect.
The satellites AO-51, SO-50, and AO-27 orbit the Earth acting as repeaters. Repeaters are automated relay stations that allow hams to send signals over a greater distance using low-power hand held transceivers. The satellites allow hams to relay messages from Earth to space and back to other hams somewhere on the planet. The International Space Station (ISS) also has a repeater, but occasionally, if you're lucky, the astronauts turn on their radios to make contact directly with hams on the ground.
The following instructions will get you started listening to birds (satellites) on FM, which can be done with a simple VHF/UHF FM radio with a whip antenna, without the need of a ham license. For better coverage, you can use a Yagi antenna (like the one pictured above) connected to a mutli-mode radio and a license (if you want to transmit). A Yagi antenna can also be used to improve the signal of your hand held radio.
All you need is a VHF/UHF FM receiver (like a police scanner) or a VHF/UHF transceiver (like a Yaesu VX-7) and an antenna.
1. Specifying your location
Start by visiting Heavens-Above.com to check the orbit of the satellite you want to listen to and specify your location.
2. Specifying a satellite
Check the passes of your specific satellite or the ISS. AO-51, SO-50, AO-27, ISS. Make sure that the passes are shown for your correct location.
3. Reading the chart
This pass chart shows the Start (when/where the satellite enters on the horizon), the Max. Altitude (when/where the satellite is at its highest point in the sky), and the End (when/where the satellite finishes it's pass). Alt. is the altitude, the angle of the satellite from the observer's horizon. 0 degrees is exactly on the horizon, and 90 degrees is directly above the observer. Az. is the Azimuth, the cardinal direction of the satellite from the observer's point of view.
4. Picking a good pass
Satellites orbit the Earth at all sorts of angles, some that are very close to the horizon and some that are directly overhead. It is much easier to hear a satellite that passes directly overhead. To find a good sat pass, check the Max. Altitude Alt. for a pass that is 45 or higher (the higher the better). In our example, the second pass at 7:28 looks like a good one since the Max. Altitude Alt. is 77. The first pass at 5:52 has a Max. Altitude Alt. of only 12 which is very close to the horizon and difficult to pick up.
5. Finding the frequency
Satellite repeaters work with two different frequencies, an uplink and a downlink. You will listen to signals received on the downlink. If you wish to transmit, you'll need to program in the uplink frequency as well. Follow the corresponding links to find the FM repeater frequencies of the satellites. The frequencies often change, so be sure to check the websites for the latest updates. AO-51, SO-50, AO-27, ISS. Tune your radio to the downlink frequency and you're ready to go outside and listen (example: 435.300 MHz FM).
KC2UHB ~ DIANA ENG ~ AIMING HER WHIP ANTENNA
6. Aiming a whip antenna
If you're using a whip antenna, you will not aim the antenna directly at the satellite. Instead, you'll keep it perpendicular to the satellite. You can rotate the antenna by rotating your wrist to try and get a clearer signal.
7. Following the pass with the antenna
You will trace the path of the satellite orbit with the antenna using the Heavens-Above pass chart as a guide. At the Start Time, start with the antenna perpendicular to the Az. direction at the given Alt. For example, at 7:28, aim the antenna perpendicular to north at 10 degrees above the horizon. Trace the path of the satellite so that at the Max. Altitude Time the antenna is pointed in the corresponding location. For example, at 7:33, the antenna should be perpendicular to west northwest at 77 decrees above the horizon. Finish tracing the path of the satellite so that at the End Time the antenna is perpendicular to the corresponding location. For example at 7:39, the antenna will be perpendicular to south southwest at 10 degrees above the horizon. It can be very difficult trying to catch the satellites and you may spend a lot of time not hearing anything. As you trace the general path of the satellite with the antenna, move the antenna around in small side to side and up and down motions until you hear a bit of audio. Adjust the antenna to make the audio clearer.
8. Tuning the radio for the Doppler effect
The Doppler effect makes the frequency vary by .010 MHz. As you trace the path of the satellite with the antenna, you will also need to tune the radio back and forth plus or minus .010 MHz until you hear a good signal. Early in the pass, you will add .010 MHz, for example, if you're listening on 435.300 MHz, you'll need to tune the radio back and forth between 435.300 MHz and 435.310 MHz. Later in the pass, you will subtract .010 MHz, for example, you will tune the radio back and forth between 435.300 MHz and 435.290 MHz.
Here is an audio clip from my first satellite contacts. The contacts seem to be going pretty slowly, but while I was making them, I remember everything happening very quickly. It was a lot to tune the radio and maneuver the antenna while trying to write down the call signs of the contacts.