Winter 2010 Issue


The New, The Old, and The Meetings: ARISSat-1, SO-67, HO-68, UO-11,
AMSAT Symposium, and QCWA

By Keith Pugh, W5IU

John Ross, WA5WOD, Mike Scarcella, WA5TWT, Andy MacAllister, W5ACM, at the QCWA meeting
on board the MS Eurodam.

Two new amateur radio satellites, SO-67 and HO-68, were launched recently. One old “Bird,” UO-11, returned to life briefly, and progress is being made on design, construction, and testing of ARISSat-1. I will discuss these satellites and go over the process of integrating them into the active satellite inventory. Reports on the AMSAT 40th Anniversary Celebration during the AMSAT Space Symposium and of a visit to the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico during the QCWA Cruise Meeting will round out this column (photos of this event are shown throughout the column).


Shortly after the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) meeting in the Netherlands, we learned that the Russian ORLAN Space Suit that was to be used for SuitSat-2 had to be discarded due to a shortage of storage space on the International Space Station (ISS). This development left ARISS without a framework to house the planned electronics hardware. Fortunately, the free up-mass allocation for delivery of the hardware and the launch EVA commitment were still retained. This led to the rapid design of an alternate hand-launchable space frame to house the hardware. This new satellite has now been renamed ARISSat-1.

Fabrication of the space frame and the electronics hardware is now nearly complete. Software is still in development utilizing prototype hardware and is now nearly ready for integration with the flight hardware. Final integration with the flight hardware is planned for early 2010. A Flight Safety review of the entire satellite is now in progress and should also be complete in early 2010. Current plans are to ship ARISSat-1 to Russia for up-mass to the ISS in mid 2010. Final deployment will be on a Russian EVA in late 2010 or 2011.

ARISSat-1 will have many capabilities, including a Software Defined Linear Transponder (SDX), SSTV, FM voice beacon, and a CW beacon. It will contain batteries, a smart battery charge regulator, and solar panels to provide a useful life for the satellite that should equal its time in space. It will re-enter within six months to a year from launch.

ARISSat-1 hardware and software are being developed in a modular form so that the designs can be reused on other future satellites. ARISSat-1 will thus become an inexpensive test bed for future AMSAT satellites.

SO-67 (SumbandilaSat)

The second South African satellite, SumbandilaSat, was launched by a Russian vehicle from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 17 September 2009. The amateur radio transponder is a secondary feature of the satellite and has had to take a “back seat” to the primary experiments; however, it is being checked out and operated on a non-interference basis.

The FM voice transponder is very strong (5 watts) and has some unusual operating characteristics that require some newly developed custom operating techniques. For example, care must be exercised to avoid over-deviation. A long “squelch tail” on the transponder coupled with PL access has created the necessity for new operating techniques. Hams are getting used to these techniques and operations now are very successful.

Scheduling of the transponder is under the control of the primary South African ground station; however, this ground station is seeking advice from regional controllers around the world for development of the transponder schedule on a continuing basis. Ultimately, there will more amateur radio operation on the “Bird” when the primary experiments are complete. Full details are on the AMSAT-SA web page: <>.

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