AMSAT-NA To Hitch a Ride to Geostationary Orbit

Millenium Space Systems(L-R) Sonya Rowe, KK4NLO; Jerry Buxton, N0JY; Bob McGwier, N4HY; Franklin Antonio, N6NKF; Tom Clark, K3IO; Michelle Thompson, W5NYV; and Phil Karn, KA9Q standing next to the Aquila M8 Bus flight article.

The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT), formed in 1969 to “foster Amateur Radio’s participation in space research and communication“, has announced that they have accepted an opportunity to participate in a potential ride share as a hosted payload on a geostationary satellite planned for launch in 2017, according to the sourcelink.

Millennium Space Systems (MSS) of El Segundo, CA has been contracted to design, launch, and operate the spacecraft that will carry the amateur radio payload which operates in the Amateur Satellite Service.

In a meeting on April 13 at MSS, the following steps were outlined toward developing the mission:

1) Organize an effort at Virginia Tech to make a firm proposal to MSS and its US government sponsor and raise funds for development of the mission.

2) Enable Dr. Jonathan Black to lead the construction project at VA Tech with Sonya Rowe, KK4NLO, as the project manager.

3) Determine the work for development of a low-cost microwave ground station for amateur radio.

4) Dr. Michael Parker, KT7D, will solicit the cooperation of the Rincon Research Corp for development of the software radio technology for this payload.

According to the sourcelink, the AMSAT board of Directors has accepted the invitation to participate in this potential rideshare payload opportunity. AMSAT anticipates their involvement in the development of the ground station and the payload RF development, and will serve as the amateur radio (hosted) payload operator once the satellite has been launched.

Dr. Bob McGwier, N4HY, Director of Research at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology of Virginia Tech, and former director and former VP Engineering of AMSAT, summarized, “The launch is currently scheduled for 2017 and the payload must be delivered for testing and integration by Spring of 2016. It is an ambitious schedule and all involved will have to gain and maintain a serious level of commitment to that which they agree to undertake.” AMSAT President, Barry Baines, WD4ASW, said, “The AMSAT leadership is excited to fly a Phase-IV geostationary amateur satellite payload. This is an evolving development as we collaborate with the VT Hume Center with a project that provides technical challenges to create a new amateur radio capability in space that will provide a variety of benefits not only for amateurs but also for emergency communications and STEM educational outreach.”

The transponder should support a wide range of voice, digital and experimental advanced communications technologies and will be welcomed by the whole amateur radio community.


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Tim Black
Tim Black
Tim Black is a software developer, author, day trader and real estate investor. He's been known to do some rock climbing, backpacking, off-roading, shooting and keyboard playing. He spends much of his time in the Dallas TX area. In addition to NoozSaurus, Tim writes the occasional guest blog at and I have a wonderful wife and BFF of 38 years, two awesome kids, one awesome foster kid, two awesome sons-in-law and several dozen kids that call me Daddo. :) Yes, God has richly blessed me. If you want to know more about me, message me and we’ll do coffee. I like coffee. :)