Fall 2007 Issue

The Orbital Classroom

New AMSAT Lab Completes
First “Satellite”

By Dr. H. Paul Shuch, N6TX

Duct tape is like “The Force”: It has a dark side and a light side, and it binds the universe together.

Where would you build a ham satellite? At the dawn of the Space Age, OSCARs 1 and 2, the very first amateur radio satellites, were lashed together in the garages of a handful of dedicated San Francisco Bay Area hams. The next few OSCARs went together in more professionally equipped commercial laboratories, thanks to the generosity (and, in some cases, the ignorance) of various amateurs’ employers. Still later, universities and colleges became home to satellite construction efforts, a trend that continues to this day. Still, for its most ambitious projects, AMSAT has required a more formal Satellite Integration Facility to carry out the final phases of space hardware construction and testing. We’ve boasted two such facilities in our nearly three-decade history, the first in the famous fishbowl at the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, and later, another in a hangar on the Orlando Executive Airport in Florida. Now, AMSAT satellite integration activities enjoy a new home.

As reported in a past column, AMSAT recently forged a productive partnership with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), which resulted in our acquiring a spacious satellite lab. The arrangement is decidedly synergistic: AMSAT owns a clean-room large enough to house our biggest satellites, which had long been in storage in Florida, but with no place to set it up. UMES, on the other hand, occupies a large building a little south of Salisbury, Maryland, but with no clean-room to set up there. The agreement now in place allows UMES to house and use our clean-room for its satellite projects, on a non-interference basis with AMSAT activities. This clearly benefits us all.
But wait, there’s more! If you order now, in addition to the full set of Ginsu knives, you also get this unprecedented educational partnership.…

That’s right. In the words of last winter’s AMSAT press release: “The agreement with UMES calls for AMSAT-NA to work collaboratively with UMES to identify opportunities to work together on satellite and related technology projects as well as to work with their students and faculty to enhance hands-on studies and dissertation research. The possibility also exists for AMSAT-NA scientists and engineers to receive Adjunct status at the UMES.” In other words, we now have not just a new landlord, but a new educational partner (hence, the inclusion of this item in the “Orbital Classroom” column).

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