Successful Fox-1 Battery Test

APIC Safety Lead for the GRACE mission and the LSP Range Safety required AMSAT Engineering to demonstrate the safety of the Sanyo KR-1400AE cells used in the Fox-1A satellite, in light of the cells having no UL listing nor available manufacturer documentation on the cell case pressure and venting pressure.

After a few weeks spent on planning, obtaining components, construction, and rehearsal (there are no “do-overs” once the circuit is closed!) a small team consisting of Bob Fitzpatrick KB5SQG, Shura Buxton KD5FCQ, and Jerry Buxton NØJY performed the test on Sunday afternoon, December 7, 2014.  The cell was subjected to a direct short circuit and the current, temperature, and physical behavior were observed, logged, and captured on video.  While the report to APIC is For Official Use Only, the video is not and so you are invited to view the raw footage (minus a couple of spots where audio has been muted for expletives or chatter unrelated to the test) on YouTube.

The test was successful, as it was demonstrated that the cell did not burst nor greatly deform, there was no fire or damage, and no liquid leakage.  There was quite a surprise, though!

The multimeter is reading mV DC across a .001 ohm current sense resistor, so the reading you see directly corresponds to current.  Temperature is in degrees Celsius.

And Murphy was of course present, as a natural part of anything involving amateur radio activities.  Fortunately, the stopwatch wound up almost exactly 10 seconds behind so translation of the readings was pretty simple!

AMSAT-NA Board Approves Technology Development Seed Funding

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The AMSAT Board of Directors met on December 2, 2014. As a part of AMSAT’s “Design The Next AMSAT Satellite” challenge, the Board of Directors approved $5000, within the 2015 engineering budget, to be used as seed money for future satellite development. Additional fund raising sources will also be investigated and pursued.

AMSAT President Barry Baines, WD4ASW, said, “We’re prepared to return to space starting in 2015 with a fleet of satellites that will equal, if not exceed, the performance, and availability to the average ham, of our previously popular AMSAT OSCAR 51. Meanwhile, we are preparing for the future looking to potentially leverage new technologies, to provide the best opportunities for enhancing amateur radio’s presence in space.”

Director Tom Clark, K3IO, noted the need for a defined future systems program. Tom said, “We saw a significant number of both new and old members who want to see the development of critical system elements for future opportunities by 2018-20. As I see it, critical ‘tall poles’ in applying potential technologies require significant work to begin now to ensure success.”

AMSAT is interested in supporting technology ideas that enhance the utility of using the CubeSat form factor to support more robust amateur satellite capabilities.   The scope of potential interest in not limited; some examples of  technology enhancement might include:

+ Microwave technology suitable for use in amateur spacecraft. This   includes the need to identify optimum frequency bands.

+ Complementary, low-cost ground systems, including an effective ~1º antenna pointing system.

+ Define and develop optimum coding and modulation schemes for low power microwave use.

+ Attitude determination & control systems to point the spacecraft   antennas towards the user while maximizing solar panel production.

Individuals interested in learning more about this initiative should contact AMSAT Vice President-Engineering Jerry Buxton, N0JY (n0jy at amsat.org).

Meanwhile, the development of AMSAT’s current series of the Fox-1 cubesats continues on schedule. AMSAT Vice-President of Engineering, Jerry Buxton, N0JY reported during the Board meeting that construction and testing of five Fox satellites is on schedule:

+ Fox-1A will launch on a NASA ELaNa flight during the 3rd quarter of 2015 from Vandenberg AFB,

+ Fox-1B will fly with the Vanderbilt University radiation   experiments expected in 2016.

+ Fox-1C will launch on Spaceflight’s maiden mission of the   SHERPA multi-cubesat deployer during the 3rd quarter of 2015.   This flight was purchased by AMSAT.

+ Fox-1D is a flight spare for Fox-1C. If not needed as a spare   it will become available to launch on any open launch slot which   becomes available and be submitted in a CSLI proposal in 2015.

+ Fox-1E is built as a flight spare for Fox-1B but has been   included in a student science proposal as part of the November,   2014 Cubesat Launch Initiative (CSLI) for an ELaNa flight slot.   If selected the Fox-1B spare will fly as Fox-1E.

More details of the “Design The Next AMSAT Satellite” challenge can be found on-line at:
http://www.amsat.org/?p=3395 – and – in the November/December 2014 AMSAT Journal, currently in-transit to your QTH.

[ANS thanks the AMSAT Board Of Directors for the above information]

AMSAT videos from Dayton 2014

Tom, K3IO, was the speaker at the AMSAT/TAPR Banquet at the Dayton Hamvention. In his talk, he remembers the many Elmers that helped him with his hobby and career.

Barry, WD4ASW and AMSAT President, gives an update on AMSAT, including changes to the BoD roster, regulatory issues, membership and finances.

As AMSAT’s new VP of Engineering and Fox satellite team leader, Jerry gives an update on the Fox-1 satellite, its design, milestones, and launch opportunities. He also looks ahead to Fox-1B, Fox-1C, Fox-1D, and Fox-2.

Howard, G6LVB, gives a fascinating look into the launch and operation of the FUNcube-1 satellite, and a tentative calendar of the next three FUNcube satellites.

Drew, KO4MA, reviews six operational amateur satellites, then previews another dozen amateur satellites that will be launched soon, or should be turned over to amateur use when their primary mission is completed.

Frank, KA3HDO, gives an update on Amateur Radio on the International Space Station, including the radios and antennas on board, the impact of funding changes at NASA, and the new Ham TV system.

EMike, KC8YLD, explains how K-16 education is key to the launches of future amateur radio satellites, and discusses the joint work of AMSAT, ARRL, and NASA.

In this brief video, Spence, WA8SME, shows the next version of the WRAPS rotor with circularly polarized antennas and discusses an updated broadband preamp that now includes an antenna polarity switch.

Older AMSAT videos can be found at https://www.youtube.com/user/AMSATNA/videos

Special Thanks to Steve Belter, N9IP for recording and editing the videos from the Dayton Hamvention, making them available for those who couldn’t attend in person!

Fox-1 launch update

The following is excerpted from the Apogee View column of AMSAT President Barry Baines, WD4ASW, as published in the latest AMSAT Journal:

Grace L-55 will launch on a similar Atlas V

Grace L-55 will launch on a similar Atlas V

The launch of Grace/L55 from Vandenberg AFB is slipping from December 2014 into Summer 2015 due to governmental priorities. Fox-1 is currently manifested on that launch as part of the ELaNa-12 group of satellites. Instead of launching our vehicle in December, another launch vehicle with payload is taking precedence, forcing a reschedule of ELaNa-12. Currently, we are now scheduled to fly on 1 AUG 2015 rather than December 2014.

This delay is mixed news for AMSAT. While we are disappointed that this will mean that Fox-1 will not fly in 2014, it also means that we have more time to complete and test the spacecraft prior to delivery to SRI. In the overall scheme of things, it allows AMSAT to have greater confidence in the delivery of a thoroughly tested spacecraft by taking more time to allow for unforeseen contingencies and to do the ground testing. Continue reading