Winter 2007 Issue

International Satellite
Frequency Coordination

With the growing educational interest in developing satellites that are designed for use on amateur radio frequencies, the definition of what is truly an amateur satellite has become challenged. Here ZS6AKV offers some suggestions regarding frequency coordination as a way of bringing some conformity to the proliferation of these new satellites.

By Hans van de Groenendaal, ZS6AKV
IARU Satellite Advisor

Following the increase in the number of organizations building and launching satellites operating on frequencies allocated to the Amateur Satellite Service, various attempts were made to introduce a coordination system. This led to the appointment of the IARU Satellite Advisor, who is responsible to the IARU Administrative Council and charged with the task of working closely with AMSAT and other organizations to provide a coordination facility and a link to the IARU.

Various processes were followed, including the appointment of a Satellite Frequency Coordinator who reported to the IARU Satellite Advisor. This did not work too well, as a single person was not always able to take a world view. In addition, the volume of work had grown well beyond the ability of two volunteers to handle it.

Some years back, following recommendations by the IARU Satellite Adviser to the IARU AMSAT International Forum, held in alternate years in conjunction with the AMSAT UK Colloquium and the AMSAT NA Space Symposium, an Advisory Panel was introduced. Over the past four years this panel has developed a transparent process that has greatly enhanced the coordination of frequencies for satellites that operate on frequencies allocated to the Amateur Satellite Service. Credit is due to the unstinting amount of time and effort the panel has put into it.

Currently the panel is as follows: Convener, Hans van de Groenendaal, ZS6AKV; Region 1, Graham Shirville, G3VZV, and Norbert Notthoff, DF5DP; Region 2, Ray Soifer, W2RS, and Art Feller, W4ART; Region 3, Jan King, VK4GEY. Panel members were chosen for their expertise and experience on recommendation from the regional IARU organizations and AMSAT groups.

Changing Environment

At one stage only satellites operating on frequencies allocated by the ITU to the Amateur Satellite Service were designed, built, and launched by AMSAT groups in various countries. Other institutions— such as universities, technical colleges, and national space agencies—are now showing a growing interest in small satellites as educational and developmental projects. Many of these satellites are “scientific birds” used for research into scientific principles that have little or nothing to do with amateur radio, or are “educational birds” primarily intended to train students in satellite engineering, yet they will operate on frequencies allocated to the Amateur Satellite Service.
Different countries have different views on how amateur frequencies may be used and many encourage educational institutions to do so. In some areas of the world, even projects that border on commercialization are licensed to operate on amateur frequencies.

This has raised the question of when a satellite is an amateur satellite. There are many different views on the subject. I, however, believe that the answer can be found in the ITU Radio Regulations. Here are the relevant definitions:

Article 1
1.56 amateur service. A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.

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