Tue. Nov 30th, 2021

AMSAT-NA President Robert Bankston, KE4AL, told the 2021 AMSAT Dr. Tom Clark, K3IO, Memorial Space Symposium on October 30 that the organization is looking ahead to future satellite missions but will “go commercial” in order to keep enough satellites in space. Bankston, who was re-elected at a virtual Board meeting on October 29, said AMSAT is in solid financial position and donations are “healthy.” Bankston said membership numbers are holding strong, with more than 4,000 members in 76 countries, and that recent administrative modernization has reduced overhead costs by more than 30%.

Vice President-Development Frank Karnauskas, N1UW, noted that, despite AMSAT’s solid financial standing, additional funds are needed to design, build, and launch satellites. Consequently, AMSAT is ramping up its grant-writing efforts, applying for grants from philanthropic organizations and corporate sponsors.

Bankston said AMSAT’s strategic plan prioritizes putting satellites into high-Earth orbits. He also summarized the GOLF (Greater Orbit, Larger Footprint) initiative as part of its plan to reach higher orbits. AMSAT will not be giving up on low-Earth satellites (FM CubeSats), however. “FM satellites are very important and can serve as a stepping stone to more sophisticated spacecraft,” Bankston said. AO-91 and AO-92 are “living on borrowed time,” so new initiatives are in order.

Bankston said purchasing commercial satellites can shorten the development time. AMSAT plans to purchase a v/U 1U FM CubeSat, powered by four lithium-ion cells, but the Board said 90% of funding would have to be obtained from external sources. This would not be a permanent approach, however.

Bankston said the organization will be seeking additional volunteers to put its plans into action. “Any expansion of the strategic plan will need more volunteers,” Bankston said, adding that current volunteers “are pretty much at full bandwidth.”

Vice President-Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY, reviewed satellite projects in the pipeline. These include providing a linear transponder module to the University of Maine for its MESAT1, set to launch in 2022.

The GOLF-TEE (Technology Evaluation Environment) CubeSat is under construction and has been added to a launch manifest tentatively for summer of 2022. Supply chain issues are impacting construction. GOLF-1 is planned for delivery 1 year after the completion of GOLF-TEE.

Bankston mentioned new regulations that will govern satellite launches in the future. The Orbital Debris Assessment Regulations (ODAR) complicate the design and licensing of the GOLF 3U platforms, however.

A new AMSAT award program was announced to recognize the contribution of rover stations to the world of grid hunting. The award is called the Reverse VUCC Award — or VUCC/r. Earning it could be tough. Rather than contacting a set number of grids per band, the goal is to make contacts from a set number of grids per band. AMSAT took over the issuance of this award from the Central States VHF Society in September. The number of grids coincides with the ARRL award.

Also: As of November 1, FM contacts will no longer be accepted toward the Robert W. Barbee Jr., W4AMI Award. A consensus of AMSAT Board members expressed concern over the demands being placed on the limited availability of FM satellite repeaters. The Barbee Award requires the submission of 1,000 satellite contacts via OSCAR-6 or later satellites. Endorsements are available.

The AMSAT Board also heard reports from officers and representatives. The 2021 AMSAT Dr. Tom Clark, K3IO, Memorial Space Symposium and Annual General Meeting is available on AMSAT’s YouTube channel. 

By David Bate

Canadian amateur radio operator since 2007. Operating on the VHF/UHF bands and local repeaters in the Durham Region area. Husband and the father of four.