RADIO AMATEURS IN AFRICA WILL SOON HAVE ACCESS TO A GEOSTATIONARY
Radio amateurs have a long history in satellites: first it was
medium sized satellites in low earth and Molniya orbits, but after
the free launch opportunities as a secondary payload on a major
launch dried up, the attention turned to CubeSats. As part of
educational support programmes, NASA and other launch agencies
provide free launches for CubeSats while Russia, India and China
offer inexpensive launch opportunities.
Es’hailsat footprint cover South Africa well and will provide 24/7
communication with Europe.
The quest for a geostationary amateur radio satellites has always
been there but free launches into a geostationary orbit have up to
now not materialised. This will soon change. In the next few years
radio amateurs will have access to two geostationary platforms, one
that will service the Americas and another one, particular
attractive to South Africans, that will be positioned at 26° East
giving 24 hour access to Africa, Europe and the Middle East. These
two geostationary projects will be included in commercial platforms
similar to Amateur Radio Satellite (AMSAT)
South Africa seeking to have an amateur radio transponder included
in South Africa’s next satellite currently designated as EOS-1
(Earth Observation Satellite).
Following a proposal from the Qatar Amateur Radio Society,
Es’Hailsat, the Qatar Satellite Company, announced that their new
geostationary satellite, the Es’HailSat-2 communications spacecraft,
will carry two transponders for use by radio amateurs.
Es’HailSat-2 will provide the first amateur radio geostationary
communication capability linking Brazil and India with all areas in
between. It will carry two AMSAT-DL-designed Phase 4 amateur radio
transponders, consisting of one 250 kHz linear analogue transponder
and an experimental digital modulation transponder with an 8 MHz
bandwidth which is intended for digital experiments and DVB amateur
television. The contract to build the two transponders was awarded
to Mitsubishi Electric (Melco).
Uplinks will be in the 2.400-2.450 GHz range, and downlinks in the
10.450-10.500 GHz Amateur-Satellite Service allocations. Both
transponders will be equipped with antennas capable of providing
full coverage over about one-third of Earth’s surface. The Qatar
Amateur Radio Society and Qatar Satellite Company are cooperating on
the Amateur Radio project with AMSAT-DL (German Amateur Radio
Satellite organisation) which is providing technical support.
On 28 December 2014 Es’HailSat-2 signed for a launch on
Falcon 9, a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX. As
the first rocket completely developed in the 21st century, Falcon 9
was designed from the ground up for maximum reliability and made
history in 2012 when it delivered Dragon into the correct orbit for
rendezvous with the International Space Station. Since then SpaceX
has made a total of three flights to the space station, both
delivering and returning cargo for NASA. Falcon 9, along with the
Dragon spacecraft, was designed from the outset to deliver humans
into space and under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is actively
working toward that goal.
Peter Gülzow, president of AMSAT DL, providing technical support
for the amateur radio payload on Es’Hailsat.
“We have built and launched several successful amateur radio
satellites and have pioneered new technologies that are today
employed in commercial satellite projects,” Peter Gülzow, president
of AMSAT DL said. One of the AMSAT DL developments is LEILA-2, a
system that analyses the passband of the narrow band transponder and
sends a marker tone on all stations that use too much uplink power.
There will be two control stations, one in Doha with a back-up at
AMSAT DL in Bochum, Germany.
“The idea that using frequencies in the 2 and 10 GHz bands will
limit the number of amateurs who will use the transponders because
of the perceived high cost of a ground station is ill-founded as
many of the components required are readily available on the
commercial markets at low cost,” Peter said. The launch is scheduled
for December 2016
In the US another amateur radio geostationary project is also taking
shape. Researchers at the Ted and Karyn Hume Centre for National
Security and Technology are preparing to send an amateur radio
transponder into a geosynchronous orbit in 2017. “Seven days a week,
24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a new ham band will be available
for the Americas,” said Robert McGwier, research professor in the
Bradly Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the
Hume Centre’s director of research. “It will allow rapid deployment
to disaster areas and support long-haul communications for first
A geosynchronous orbit has the same period as the Earth’s rotation —
just under 24 hours. A satellite in such an orbit is easy to locate
and access. In this case, the satellite will always be within a band
of longitudes over the Americas, continually accessible to radio
amateurs, and students and researchers at the Virginia Tech Ground
The satellite itself will be operated by Millennium Space Systems on
behalf of the United States Air Force. The Radio Amateur Satellite
Corporation (AMSAT) will operate the radio, which will be designed
and built by Virginia Tech students — making this project a unique
collaboration among the university, non-profit organisations,
private companies, and the USA Federal Government.
One of the additional benefits of these two geostationary satellite
projects is that new equipment will be developed that is relatively
easy to replicate and will not burn a hole in the pockets of radio
amateurs. This is perhaps a challenge to the amateur radio
fraternity to remain innovative and development focused.
SA AMSAT will present a
paper describing how to set up your own inexpensive ground
station at the Space Symposium on 28 May 2016 to be held at the
Innovation Hub in Pretoria