Discussions with the German Ministry of Economics and the German space agency DLR spanned more than 5 years. Amongst others, we met with State Secretary for Space and Aerospace Hinze, DLR chairman Prof. Wörner and the DLR Program Board. In 2009 AMSAT-DL, in collaboration with the DLR Institute for Space Systems in Bremen, conducted two complex Concurrent Engineering studies. They were jointly presented to the DLR program board in Köln-Porz in 2010.
The final documentation confirmed the feasibility of the P5 project, both to the Moon and to Mars.
In October and November 2011 another two P5 meetings with DLR chairman Prof. Wörner, Ministry MinDirig Engelhard, representatives of DLR IRS Bremen and AMSAT-DL BOD took place. Topics were feasibility and financing model. It turned out that the ministry had a different perception of the (DLR-) payloads. DLR was asked to reconsider their payloads. Both AMSAT-DL BOD and IRS Bremen left the meetings with positive feelings.
Then it turned out that, since completion of the 2009 joint study, the P5 scientific appeal is apparently no longer attractive. Therefore it was jointly searched for modifications to regain a payload appeal that was attested in 2009. AMSAT-DL proposed landing part of the payload on Mars moon Deimos or Phobos. Our calculations showed that this is feasible with reasonable effort. The landing would be a particularly unique feature of the P5 mission.
After repeated enquiries we received a letter from DLR at end of June where they stated that “the DLR Program Board comes to the conclusion, that pursuit of the P5 idea is infeasible and also financially infeasible.” We repeatedly approached the DLR Program Board since then. The assertion was that any P5 mission will not fly with DLR: the scientific attraction was, compared with the current Mars missions, insufficient.
The primary reason for this is that the P5 MARS orbit is limited due to the low-cost character of the mission. From this orbit no attractive science is possible. Obviously our P5 mission is now compared with regular missions which cost hundreds of millions of Euro.
This rejection has a wide impact on AMSAT-DL. Activities of all involved persons, including in the P3-E project, was shaped for years by the P5 mission. It was assumed that P3-E was to be launched as part of the P5 mission. This path is obstructed now.
We maintain our contacts with the various launching agencies able to launch P3-E into an appropriate orbit. The tremendous launching costs kept us from more concrete talks so far. Just recently good contact with AMSAT China (CAMSAT) was established. China has suitable launchers to bring payloads into GTO. Moreover, China has discovered that amateur radio is a means of motivating young people to technical university studies.
Furthermore we are very actively exploiting a potential shared ride of an amateur radio payload on a new geostationary satellite. We have already submitted a formal project proposal. The satellite will be visible from Europe. No antenna tracking will be necessary.
The big advantage of this project is that due to the operational requirements of the primary payload, our launching and commissioning is tied to the not too far future. The 20m dish antenna at Bochum observatory was originally refurbished and upgraded for the P5 mission and is presently used for Deep Space Mission and amateur radio purposes. The automatic reception of the STEREO A/B probes and data transfer to NASA will continue. In collaboration with NASA and AMSAT-DL the modulation scheme will be changed to use Turbo coding. Both hardware and software is currently being designed by AMSAT-DL and will be used by the partner STEREO receiving stations worldwide. Our funding application is already approved. The project funding runs until the end of 2015.
The AMSAT-DL Marburg lab will be preserved at least in medium term to be able to do work on P3-E and, should the situation arise, on the transponder of the mentioned geostationary satellite.
We pursue a near-term meeting with all P5 project team members to identify ways for a project continuation. The necessary procedures should be coordinated then.
Although we regret the DLR refusal of the P5 project (particularly because some DLR payload will not fly in any foreseeable time frame), and although it places serious challenges to AMSAT-DL, this is not the cancellation of a HEO amateur radio satellite. We will aggressively follow up all potential possibilities. We hope to be able to report positively at the AMSAT-DL AGM in autumn.
Since the Marburg University’s withdrawal from the ZEL, the surrounding conditions have changed significantly, again. However, we will do everything we can do to get an amateur satellite launched into HEO. We do trust in our volunteers and members.
The AMSAT-DL BOD:
Michael R. Lengruesser
The 16:9 HD video of the AMSAT-DL presentation given by Peter Guelzow DB2OS to the AMSAT-UK International Space Colloquium can be downloaded from http://www.batc.tv/vod/AMSAT%20session%204.flv
Alternatively it can be viewed online by following these steps:
– Go to http://www.batc.tv/
– Click on “Film Archive”
– Select “AMSAT 2012” in the Category box and click on Select Category
– Select “04 – AMSAT-DL” in the Stream box and click on Select Stream
– Click the play button on the video player window