AO-85 Commissioned, Handed Over To AMSAT-NA Operations


AO-85 has been formally commissioned and turned over to AMSAT Operations, who are now responsible for the scheduling and modes.

The following guidelines are provided for users:

  1. Uplink power should be on the order of minimum 200 W EIRP for full quieting at lower antenna elevation angles. Your mileage may vary. With an Arrow, 5 W has been used successfully to make contacts.

  2. Polarity is important. The satellite antennas are linear. So, if you are using linearly polarized antennas, you will need to adjust throughout the pass. Full duplex operation facilitates these adjustments while transmitting and is highly recommended.

  3. The downlink is very strong and should be heard well with almost any antenna.

  4. Downlink audio is 5 kHz deviation, as expected. Many will perceive that the audio is “low.” This is an effect of the filtering below 300 Hz, which provides for the DUV telemetry, coupled with any noise on the uplink signal resulting from lack of full quieting or being off frequency. That makes for less fidelity than a typical receiver in terms of audio frequencies passed.

  5. Transmit (downlink) frequency varies with temperature.  Due to the wide range of temperatures we are seeing in the eclipse cycle, the transmitter can be anywhere from around 500 Hz low at 10°C to near 2 kHz low at 40°C.

  6. Receive frequency has been generally agreed to be about 435.170 MHz, although the AFC makes that hard to pin down and also helps with the uplinks that are off frequency.

Probably the most notable observations about AO-85 are an apparent lack of sensitivity and difficulty in turning on the repeater with the 67 Hz CTCSS when it is not yet activated, or holding it on by the presence of the CTCSS.  We have determined a probable cause for the sensitivity issue and while that can’t be fixed on AO-85 we are taking steps to prevent similar issues on the rest of the Fox-1 CubeSats.  The tone detection threshold along with the receive sensitivity issue makes it hard to bring up the repeater.  This is being addressed by adjusting the values for a valid tone detection in the other Fox-1 CubeSats now that we have on orbit information about temperatures and power budget.  Full details will be in the Nov/Dec AMSAT Journal.

It is important to remember that science is the reason behind the Fox-1 satellites. Not only does science help with the launch cost, it provides a great amount of educational value both from the science payload and in amateur radio itself. The data-under-voice (DUV) telemetry is an excellent way to provide the science without sacrificing the use of the satellite for communications, which would be the case if higher speed downlinks were needed. DUV provides constant science as long as the repeater is in use, which in turn provides more downlink data for the science – a mutually beneficial combination.

Fox-1A is AMSAT-NA’s first CubeSat. Many new techniques are incorporated and lessons will be learned, as with any new “product.”  The Fox-1 Project is a series of CubeSats. A total of five will be built and flown. Launches are scheduled for three more, and a new NASA CubeSat Launch Initiative proposal will be submitted for the fifth. We will incorporate changes from what we learn in each launch, to the extent possible, in subsequent Fox-1 CubeSats.

Of the four NASA sponsored CubeSats on the ELaNa XII launch October 8, we are sad to report that ARC1 was never heard from and BisonSat was lost after a few weeks of operation. AMSAT extends our deepest sympathy to the people who worked so hard on these projects. To our members, we want to say that the Fox Team is very proud and pleased that our first CubeSat is very successful and hopefully will be for some time.

Video of Fox-1A Deployment from P-POD

A video showing the deployment of Fox-1A from the P-POD aboard the Centaur stage of the NROL-55 launch has been made available.

As each P-POD deployed, the deployment was recorded on video.  The video is only about 3 seconds long, so it goes quickly.  Jerry Buxton, N0JY, edited the video to add a 1/8 speed “slow motion” of the deployment which immediately follows the original in this YouTube video.

Fox-1A was in the bottom position of the P-POD, with BisonSat in the middle and then ARC1 at the top.  You can catch a glimpse of the -Z and -Y faces of the Fox-1A satellite as it quickly disappears into the darkness with BisonSat and ARC1.

New Release of FoxTelem

From the AMSAT Bulletin Board Mailing List:

I wanted to announce the release of FoxTelem Version 1.01. If possible,
everyone should upgrade to this new version. In addition to some new functionality it fixes some bugs and issue that mean more data will be uploaded to the server.

This is a patch release. If you already have 1.00 installed then download
the file

You can download it from:

Only two files have changed (plus the manual). Copy these files into your
install directory
– FoxTelem.jar
– spacecraft/FOX1A_radtelemetry2.csv

You can also download the whole install file and install it in a new
directory. You can use the
settings menu to continue using your existing log files. Ask if you need

Lots has changed in this release and many bugs have been fixed. Please
report any issues
that you see.

Release notes:
* Allow the user to view and set the “track” attribute for each spacecraft
(and other parameters)
* Better doppler tracking in IQ mode and more stable estimate of the
received frequency
* Better Find Signal algorithm with tuning paramaters for experts
* Read Time Zero from the server for each reset and use to plot graphs in
* Set the default fcd frequency to 145930 so that Fox-1A, Fox-1Cliff and
Fox-1D will be in the passband
* Allow the gain to be set on the FCD (rather than hard coded)
* Do not change the FCD LNA or Mixer Gain. Leave unchanged.
* Do not open the FCD unless the start button is pressed
* Fixed a bug where the last 2 bytes of the radiation telemetry were not
decoded correctly
* Allow Vanderbilt radiation experiment to be graphed
* Allow user to select UDP or TCP for upload to the server (but use UDP
for now please)
* Shorten the period between passes so that graphs look continuous
* Ignore duplicate high speed radiation frames – needed for processing
data from the server
* Allow graphs to be hidden so that average or derivative is easier to see
* Notify the user when a new release is available
* Cleaned up the FFT trace with some averaging
* If showRawValues is checked then save CSV files as raw values
* Several updates to the manual

Chris E. Thompson
chrisethompson at
g0kla at

Fox-1A launch 5:49 AM PDT on October 8, 2015

Launch and Deployment was Successful!

PE0SAT, ON4HF, and R2ANF heard signals on the first pass!

Video of liftoff

Download your free copy of the AMSAT Journal Fox-1A Launch special issue
(~2MB PDF)

Fox-1A is now AMSAT-OSCAR 85 (AO-85)

Keplerian elements:

1 99992U          15281.53437500  .00015007  00000-0  15580-2 0 00009
2 99992 064.7657 291.6734 0216442 282.3705 182.7702 14.73904028000019

AMSAT’s Fox-1A is set to launch as part of the GRACE (Government Rideshare Advanced Concepts Experiment) auxillary payload on the NROL-55 mission October 8, 2015 from Vandenburg AFB on an Atlas V vehicle. The launch is scheduled for 5:49 AM PDT, with the NASA TV webcast starting at 5:29 AM PDT. NRO has released this factsheet about the mission: GRACE_CubeSat_FactSheet

General information on Fox-1A is available in the downloadable  AMSAT Fox Operating Guide.

There will be a briefing on October 7 to discuss the five NASA-sponsored CubeSats on this launch. This briefing will begin at 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT) and will be broadcast via NASA TV and the NASA Website. The participants will be:

  • Richard Welle, director, Microsatellite Systems department at The Aerospace Corporation
  • Tim Olson, principal investigator for BisonSat, Salish Kootenai College, Pablo, Montana
  • Morgan Johnson, team lead for the ARC CubeSat, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • Jerry Buxton, vice president, Engineering, for AMSAT Fox-1
  • Courtney Duncan, principal investigator for LMRST-Sat, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

FoxTelem software for decoding and submitting telemetry has been made available for download at .

Keplerian Elements: We will provide the Keplerian elements (aka Keps or TLEs) to enable you to track Fox-1a as soon after launch as we get them (and are cleared to release them). The information will be placed on . We have no control over when we can release the information, although we hope it will be within hours of the satellite deployment.

Initial Commissioning Period: Initially the transponder will not be on and will not respond to uplinks. Please do not attempt to uplink while we check out the satellite and commission it. We will publicize when we have opened the transponder to general use. You should expect the checkout phase to last for a minimum of several days and possibly for several weeks.

What To Listen For: During the initial checkout period and when the satellite is in range, every two minutes you will generally hear about 5 seconds of data followed by a few seconds of a voice ID (and possibly a second data packet). You may occasionally hear ‘data’ mode which Chris, G0KLA, has famously described as sounding like an old-fashioned telephone modem. If you should happen to hear what appear to be QSOs, please resist the temptation to join in before the commissioning period is over.

Please Send Telemetry Reports and Data: We would love to have you collect and upload as much data as you can, and to give any other kind of report on the amsat-bb mailing list (which some of the Fox team will monitor). You can also report hearing or not hearing it on

You can upload data using the FoxTelem telemetry program that we recently released. (Check the “upload to server” box in the properties/preference page). More data will help us do the checkout faster! Remember if you hear the “telephone modem” sound, you must switch FoxTelem to high-speed mode manually. Similarly FoxTelem must be in low-speed mode at other times.

We are planning a special award to the person who submits the first data from the satellite (by which we mean the earliest downlinked mission elapsed time), so get your rigs ready!

getting startedAs part of the preparations for the launch and activation of this new satellite, AMSAT is making our “Getting Started With The Amateur Satellites” book available for a limited time as a download with any paid new or renewal membership purchased via the AMSAT Store. This offer is only available with purchases completed online, and for only a limited time. A perennial favorite, Getting Started is updated every year with the latest amateur satellite information, and is the premier primer of satellite operation. The 132 page book is presented in PDF format, in full color, and covers all aspects of making your first contacts on a ham radio satellite.

Please take advantage of this offer today by visiting the AMSAT store (click here) and selecting any membership option. While there, check out our other items, including the M2 LEOpack antenna system, AMSAT shirts, hats, and other swag. Thank you, and see you soon on Fox-1A!