As the annual meeting fast approaches I am finally motivated to write up my
notes and random thoughts from the Rideshare Conference in Chantilly, Virginia
last summer. These are my thoughts only and no one else should be blamed for
them. Someone at the meeting said that the Rideshare Conference is the "Small
Satellite Conference for adults."
Amsat wants to launch high altitude satellites with sophisticated
communications payloads which require larger than a Cubesat sized spacecraft.
We cannot afford to pay market rates for a launch. We want to launch an
ongoing series of Eagle satellites, not just one time only, to build a
redundant constellation of satellites.
The main thing I got from the conference is that the Department of Defense
intends to fly an ESPA (EELV Secondary Payload Adapter) ring on every DOD
flight that has excess lift capacity. I was told by a representative of one of
the EELV contractors that if the Primary Customer says to do it, they will
absorb integration costs for secondary payloads. If the right official orders
it, it will happen.
The DOD Space Test Program has been limited to payloads of military
significance. The ESPA ring can carry six Eagle sized satellites, and there
was mention of plans to mount Cubesat P-Pod dispensers inside the ESPA launch
ring so that Cubesats can be ejected through the empty clamp bands after the
first six secondary satellites are deployed. A single ESPA could deploy six
large satellites followed by six 6U Cubesats or twelve 3U Cubesats.
If all of this actually happens, there will be dozens of launch opportunities
for small satellites on DOD missions. If we can ask them to open up the DOD
Space Test Program to non-defense payloads that serve an educational or public
service mission we could fly on some of these missions.
The NASA Get Away Special program provided shuttle launches at far below
market price in order to support access to space for small organizations. We
need to persuade DOD to use the ESPA capability to provide the same capability
for educational and non profit organizations.
In 1961, how did we get Oscar 1 onboard the Discoverer/Corona mission? Are
there any old timers from that era who can enlighten us? Some people in
Project Oscar worked for Lockheed Missiles and Space, the prime contractor for
the Agena/Corona satellite, in their day jobs. No universities were building
satellites in 1961 (except for the University of Iowa of course). Somewhere
some Air Force general approved the launch of Oscar 1. I wish we had more
information about how the Project Oscar guys got him to do that. We need to do
something similar today. Perhaps we can market the idea to Congressional staff
in Washington if nothing else works.
Emergency communications has not been a selling point to get funding. The
emergency authorities want to fund a system that is in-house and under their
administration. It is nice that the hams are available to help out in a crisis
but nobody is going to pay for that ahead of time. They can't tell their
superiors that the emergency plan involves dependence on amateur volunteers to
come forward in time of need.
Everyone in the space business is pushing Education and Public Outreach. Even
the super secret NRO has a (rather horrible) student outreach web site. NASA
has contributed significant resources to ham radio through the SAREX and ARISS
programs, motivated primarily by educational and public outreach. We are
excellent at doing public outreach and should market that capability more
heavily and to other agencies.
Amsat can and should involve universities and students but it must be
advertised as an Amsat-led mission and not as a university mission. AO-40 was
done in that manner. We must get credit for our work or else we do not exist.
Universities have full time public affairs offices to make sure that they get
credit for everything they do. Amsat must be equally aggressive in getting
credit for its missions.
We also have a history of cooperation with Goddard Space Flight Center, most
recently with the GPS experiment on AO-40. We need to explore other
opportunities for cooperation. Amsat can provide a world wide network of hams
for telemetry collection, command uplink stations on three continents, and
support their educational and public outreach requirements. We also gave the
world Jan King, Martin Sweeting and (add your own choice of names) who went on
to contribute greatly to the small satellite universe. We support education
from kindergarten through graduate school and also provide outside-the-box
hands-on experience for working professionals.
The Cubesats are being launched from a P-pod capsule, which contains the
entire Cubesat and decouples the satellite from the launch vehicle. Even if a
Cubesat vibrates to pieces during launch, the P-pod will contain the fragments
and protect the primary satellite. Individual Cubesats do not need the same
level of strict qualification testing and they are essentially interchangeable
even at the last minute. They follow standard processes, and provide standard
services. Someone at the conference called it the "world's most expensive
jack-in-the-box". The launch vehicle can manifest Cubesats without knowing
exactly which cubesats will fly on that mission.
If Amsat can develop a standard 50 kg spacecraft for the ESPA ring, do the
launch qualification, and offer it to others as a carrier for small science
experiments which need more volume and space than a Cubesat, providing
standard processes and standard services, we could end up with a continuous
series of satellite launches in the process. We developed and qualified the
SBS structure for AO-40 on the Ariane V vehicle which has been reused several
times since then.
Electric propulsion is a safe and practical way to reach a desirable orbit
from whatever initial launch we can get. We can also correct any AO-13 type
instabilities and provide for end of life disposal to satisfy FCC and launch
authority requirements on orbital debris disposal. Amsat needs to acquire the
use of this technology on an ongoing basis.
The Rideshare conference was all about government agencies, universities, and
large and small corporations. Where does Amsat fit into this world? They
expressed a goal of having regular, cost effective rideshares, and to this end
they want to form a working group to coordinate integration requirements and
avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. Can Amsat be a part of this working
Dan Schultz N8FGV
As of August 2, JoAnne had only seven papers submitted for the symposium.
Please help us shake the trees and bushes to ask the usual suspects to get
their paper proposals to JoAnne as soon as possible, or else the Symposium
will be a very short one this year.
We will not be able to hold the print shop deadline open as late as we did
last year because of the need to ship the books to Chicago.
Dan Schultz N8FGV
These are all of the symposium paper proposals received to date:
AO-7’s Solar Array Power After 35 Years In Orbit
James A. DeYoung
Amateur radio on the ISS
Software Radio Technology on SuitSat-2
A Linear U/V Transponder for SuitSat2
Using AO-51 Telemetry to Optimize a Successor
AMSAT Eagle Geostationary Platform Educational Opportunities
Mayan Observations of Venus
CubeSat Data Analysis Software
Sebastian De Angelis
University of Hawaii at Manoa
We need many more papers to have a full conference and we need them soon. I am
asking all active Amsat leadership and technical personnel to please step
forward NOW and get me some more paper proposals. If not then we can hold the
symposium in about 4 hours on Saturday afternoon and then send everybody
Since the subject of launch opportunities is driving most of what Amsat can do
in the near future, I propose that this be one of the major themes for this
year's symposium. Papers on possible cooperative projects with other space
organizations would also be relevant. You might also consider doing a tutorial
session on some technical subject that you are an expert on for the education
of the rest of us.
I may be moving to a new job in the fall so please don't count on me being
able to edit a large number of papers on the night before the print shop
deadline. Please try to get them in sooner than the deadline, sometime in
mid-September (exact date TBD but don't push your luck).
Dan Schultz N8FGV
I ran across this item via the news shorts on the front page of qrz.com. The
Wisconsin Amateur Radio Club is deploying a 5.6 GHz - 5.825 GHz high speed
digital network in southeast Wisconsin. They say a 5 GHz 1 watt transceiver
will be available for less than $100, enclosed in a waterproof tube that
mounts directly to the antenna.
73 de JoAnne K9JKM
Editor, AMSAT News Service
Copy Editor, AMSAT Journal
I though you might be interested in this.
Bill Tynan, W3XO
Charter Life Member 10
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 2009 16:39:49 -0400
Subject: SPACEX FALCON 9 UPPER STAGE ENGINE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETES FULL MISSION DURATION FIRING
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Emily Shanklin | Director, Marketing and Communications
SPACEX FALCON 9 UPPER STAGE ENGINE SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETES FULL MISSION DURATION FIRING
New Merlin Vacuum engine demonstrates highest efficiency for an American hydrocarbon rocket engine
McGregor, TX – (March 09, 2009) – Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX) successfully conducted a full mission duration firing of its new Merlin Vacuum engine on March 7, at SpaceX's Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. The engine fired for a full six minutes, consuming 100,000 pounds of liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene propellant.
The new engine, which powers the upper stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle, demonstrated a vacuum specific impulse of 342 seconds – the highest efficiency ever for an American hydrocarbon rocket engine. Thrust was measured at approximately 92,500 lb of force in vacuum conditions and the engine remained thermally stable over the entire run.
"Specific impulse, or Isp, indicates how efficiently a rocket engine converts propellant into thrust," said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. "With a vacuum Isp of 342 seconds, the new Merlin Vacuum engine has exceeded our requirements, setting a new standard for American hydrocarbon engine performance in space."
Based on the Merlin 1C engine that boosted the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket to orbit in 2008, the Merlin Vacuum engine uses a regeneratively cooled combustion chamber. However, the vacuum engine features a larger exhaust section than the Merlin 1C and a much larger radiatively cooled expansion nozzle, in order to maximize performance in the vacuum of space.
The Merlin Vacuum engine provides the final push that delivers customer spacecraft into their desired orbits. A redundant ignition system ensures the engine can shut down and restart multiple times. The engine can also operate at a reduced thrust to achieve optimum performance. During recent tests, the engine was successfully throttled down to 75 percent of maximum thrust, and upcoming tests will demonstrate throttling to approximately 60 percent of maximum thrust.
"Falcon 9 was designed from the ground up to provide our customers with breakthrough advances in reliability," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "In successfully adapting our flight tested first stage engine for use on the second stage, this recent test further validates the architecture of Falcon 9, designed to provide customers with high reliability at a fraction of traditional costs."
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft were recently selected by NASA to resupply cargo to the International Space Station after the shuttle retires in 2010. The inaugural flight of Falcon 9 is scheduled for later this year from SpaceX's launch pad SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX is revolutionizing access to space by developing a family of launch vehicles and spacecraft intended to increase the reliability and reduce the cost of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, powered by internally-developed Merlin engines, SpaceX offers light, medium and heavy lift capabilities to deliver spacecraft into any altitude and inclination, from low-Earth to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions. On September 28, 2008, Falcon 1, designed and manufactured from the ground up by SpaceX, became the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to orbit the Earth, demonstrating that low cost and reliability can be coupled in commercial spaceflight.
As a winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition (COTS), SpaceX is in a position to help fill the gap in American spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires in 2010. Under the existing Agreement, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA, culminating in Dragon berthing with the ISS. SpaceX is the only COTS contender with the capability to return cargo and crew to Earth. NASA also has an option to demonstrate crew services to the ISS using the Falcon 9 / Dragon system.
NASA recently selected the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for the International Space Station Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) contract award. The contract includes 12 flights between 2010 and 2015, which represents a guaranteed minimum of 20,000 kg to be carried to the International Space Station.
Founded in 2002, the SpaceX team now numbers more than 620 full time employees, located primarily in Hawthorne, California, with additional locations, including SpaceX's Texas Test Facility in McGregor near Waco; offices in Washington DC; and launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the Marshall Islands in the Central Pacific.
A new video tour of SpaceX’s Texas Test Site conducted by Tom Mueller, VP of Propulsion can be viewed here.
Photo Caption: The new SpaceX Merlin Vacuum second stage engine undergoing a mission-length test firing at the SpaceX Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. The engine will power the upper stage on the inaugural flight of the new Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, scheduled for later this year. Credit: SpaceX.
Photo Caption: Illustration of the new SpaceX Merlin Vacuum second stage engine in action. The large expansion nozzle increases the engine's performance in the vacuum of space. Credit: SpaceX.
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