> ...if here in Houston we had to "pay rent" for our tower space (and we have
> couple of them) then the group that I am a part of which has a pretty nice
> repeater/packet system would simply be out of luck. What we were able to
> is convince the folks who usually take the large dollars to view us as a
> public service and we get the tower space (and the everything else space
> including Electricity) for 10 dollars a year.
> While AMSAT and other groups might or not compete with paying payloads
> have we lost the ability to go out and convince people that AMSAT is a
> worthy cause?
Amsat has tried to sell the emergency and disaster communications aspect of
amateur radio but so far nobody has bitten on that bait. Getting space on a
tower is a few thousand dollars per year, getting a free satellite launch
represents a thousand times more money. A local ham club working with local
public safety officials can show them directly how valuable hams can be, on
the national level we are trying to appeal to a big bureaucracy with little
practical experience. Most of the rest of the world regards ham radio as an
outmoded hobby practiced by elderly white males. It has been said before in
this forum that nobody is going to donate money so that hams can talk to Japan
through an amateur satellite.
Amsat is not the only worthy non-profit in space these days. We compete with
many other amateur space groups, including the Google Lunar X prize teams.
Education is what brings in the big bucks today. The grant makers have fully
swallowed the phony notion that there is a "critical shortage" of engineers
and scientists, and they donate to causes that support STEM education. Our
ability to access space in the future depends on how well we work with the
education community. We need to stress that a real engineering design course
must include designing for reliability and a long lived communications
Amsat has a long and proud history of (mostly) successful satellites, which
gives us credibility in the field, if we don't allow others to rewrite history
and claim credit for things that we did first.
There is always an exception to every rule however, and if we ever find a
launch provider who thinks that amateur radio in space is a worthy cause, we
will be prepared to jump on it. It all depends on building personal
relationships with persons who are in a position to say yes, and as you know,
hams come from all walks of life, including corporate executives, military
officers and scientists.
Dan Schultz N8FGV