Students Build Supercapacitor Battery for next ARISSat

Penn State Behrend students Jacob Sherk, Kathleen Nicholas and David Jesberger put final touches to the amateur radio satellite supercapacitor battery – Image Credit Pennsylvania State University

On Feb. 3, 2006, astronauts tossed an old spacesuit off the International Space Station. Inside was an amateur radio transmitter, a temperature sensor and some batteries.

The suit was a DIY satellite. It circled the Earth twice, repeating a greeting recorded in multiple languages; ham radio operators listened in as it passed overhead.

Then the batteries died.

The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, or AMSAT, tried again in 2011. The battery in that satellite, a more traditional box design, also failed.

Penn State Nittany Lions Paw Print

For the next model, AMSAT, a volunteer group, turned to the School of Engineering at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Three students designed a brand-new battery: a 1.8 kg cube powered by 15 supercapacitors, each roughly the size of a film canister.

The battery was built to handle 16 charge cycles in a 24-hour period. That will power the satellite in dark orbits, when the solar panels are not facing the sun.

To activate the battery before those solar panels charge, the students – David Jesberger, of St. Marys; Kathleen Nicholas, of Pittsburgh; and Jacob Sherk, of Elizabethtown – added four 9-volt Duracells.

AMSAT hopes to fit the satellite into a rocket payload and onto the International Space Station sometime in 2013. The astronauts won’t have to do much with it.

“It’s simple by design. They flip a switch, and they throw it out,” said Dakshina Murthy Bellur, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Penn State Behrend. He supervised the battery work, which counted as the students’ senior capstone project.

All three students have since graduated. All three have jobs: Nicholas and Jesberger signed on with defense contractors, and Sherk works at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant.

They continue to track the AMSAT project. They want to know when their battery, upon which they laser-etched with their names and a Nittany Lion paw print, gets a launch date.

“That’s going to be cool,” Jesberger said. “We’ll have our signatures in space.”

Source Pennsylvania State University


2012 AMSAT Forum at Dayton – Saturday May 19

The AMSAT Forum at the 2012 Dayton Hamvention will be on Saturday
morning May 19 from 11:15 to 13:30 in Forum Room 5. The moderator
will be Alan Biddle, WA4SCA

The speakers will be:

Barry Baines, WD4ASW;  AMSAT Status Report
Barry, AMSAT President, will highlight recent activities within
AMSAT, and discuss some of the challenges and accomplishments
of the organization.

Mark Hammond, N8MH;  AMSAT Educational Relationships
Mark, AMSAT VP of Educational Relationships, will discuss his
education activities.

Gould Smith, WA4SXM;  ARISSat-1 Operation in Space
Gould, AMSAT Project Manager for ARISSat-1, will talk about its
operation aboard the ISS, the  deployment and operations this past
fall and winter.

Tony Monteiro, AA2TX;  Project Fox - AMSAT's First CubeSat
Tony, AMSAT Engineering VP, will discuss the design and status
of Project-FOX.

Howard Long, G6LVB; "FUN in Space for All!"
Howard, AMSAT-UK Committee, will discuss the FUNcube project
which will enable amateurs and students to have FUN in space.
For amateurs, the spacecraft will carry conventional UHF to VHF
linear transponders. For students of all ages, the same space-
craft will provide strong telemetry transmissions which they can
easily receive at schools in support of science, technology,
engineering, and math subjects (STEM).

[ANS thanks Gould Smith, WA4SXM and Alan Biddle, WA4SCA for the
 above information]

AMSAT Fox-1 CubeSat selected for NASA ELaNa launch collaboration



Project ELaNa, NASA’s ‘Educational Launch of NanoSat’ managed by the  Launch Services Program at the Kennedy Space Center, announced on February 10 that the AMSAT Fox-1 CubeSat has been selected to join the program.

NASA will work with AMSAT in a collaborative agreement where NASA  will cover the integration and launch costs of satellites deemed to have merit in support of their strategic and educational goals.

Watch for full details to be published in the AMSAT Journal.

AMSAT teamed with the ARRL to write and deliver the 159 page educational proposal to NASA. Letters documenting the importance of AMSAT’s satellites in the education programs at the ARRL and also at the Clay Center for Science and Technology at the Dexter and Southfield schools in Brookline, MA, were important parts of our proposal.

AMSAT President Barry Baines, WD4ASW said,
“The ELaNA Launch opportunity marks AMSAT’s return to space after the conclusion of the successful ARISSat-1/KEDR flight. We need to get the flight Fox-1, along with an operational flight backup satellite, built, integrated, tested, and delivered. Our ability to provide a spacecraft and get it launched is dependent upon the active support of our donors who wish to see Fox-1 fly.”

AMSAT Vice-President of Engineering, Tony Monteiro, AA2TX noted this will provide a launch opportunity for AMSAT’s next generation of FM repeater satellites with features and operation beyond the experience of AO-51. AMSAT’s Fox-1 Engineering Team is making progress developing the advanced satellite that will provide these features:

Fox-1 is designed to operate in sunlight without batteries once the battery system fails. This applies lessons learned from AO-51 and ARISSat-1 operations.

In case of IHU failure Fox-1 will continue to operate its FM repeater in a basic, ‘zombie sat’ mode, so that the repeater remains on-the-air.

Fox-1 is designed as the immediate replacement for AO-51. Its U/V (Mode B) transponder will make it even easier to work with modest equipment.

From the ground user’s perspective, the same FM amateur radio equipment used for AO-51 may be used for Fox-1.

Extending the design, Fox-2 will benefit from the development work of Fox-1 by adding more sophisticated power management and Software Defined Transponder (SDX) communications systems.

The Fox-1 Project presents an opportunity to literally put your callsign on the Fox hardware. AMSAT is looking for major donations to help underwrite the cost of solar cells/panels, one of the more significant expenses of the project.

These solar cells are needed for the flight unit as well as for the a flight spare. As Fox-1 will have solar cells on all six sides of the spacecraft and given the relatively small surface area available on each side (at most 4″ by 4″ per side), AMSAT needs to invest in high efficiency solar cells to gain as much power as possible to operate the spacecraft.

Several opportunities to make your donation to keep amateur radio in space include:
• Call Martha at the AMSAT Office +1-888-FB AMSAT (1-888-322-6728)
• Paypal donation widget on the main page at:
• Paypal donation widget for Project Fox at:
• You can also go to the Paypal site and send your donation to
• The AMSAT Store:

Project Fox web site provide a good overview of the technical progress of the new satellite:

Thanks to AMSAT President Barry Baines, WD4ASW, AMSAT Vice-President of Engineering, Tony Monteiro, AA2TX and AMSAT’s Project Fox Engineering team for the above information.

Winners in the ARISSat-1/KEDR Chicken Little Contest

The Chicken Little Contest received 77 entries from 17 different countries, and all continents except Antarctica.

Based on comments sent along with the submissions, a wide variety of techniques were used. These ranged from detailed calculations, to comparisons with past satellites, to guesses based on birthdays.

The winners in each category are:

+ Kindergarten through grade 8:
Cora Haefner, KK4ECV, Fort A.P. Hill, VA, USA

+ High School, grades 9 through 12:
Cameron, Lancashire, UK

+ Adult:
Thomas Frey, HB9SKA, Birr, Switzerland

Cora, KK4ECV and Thomas, HB9SKA were both within 15 hours of the
best data we have from Space Track: approximately 0700 on 4 January 2012, in the South Atlantic.

All three winners have received an appropriate Chicken Little Certificate, and the congratulations of the ARISSat-1/KEDR Team. Thanks go to all those who entered, and especially educators who worked with students.

Winners of the ARISSat-1/KEDR Grab the Last Telemetry Contest.

Thanks to the dedication of stations around the world, a nearly steady stream of digital telemetry reports were received in the final days from ARISSat-1/KEDR:

31 Dec — 1125
01 Jan — 1537
02 Jan — 1541
03 Jan — 1048
04 Jan — 107

Many other reports were received from stations copying the voice, SSTV, and telemetry transmissions, as well as some contacts through the transponder.

The final digital data received was copied by both JA8TCH, Mori Seiji, Sapporo City, Japan, and JA0CAW, Tetsurou Satou, Niigata City, Japan.
It was received at 06:02:14, 4 January, 2012, less than an hour before the estimated point of loss in the South Atlantic.
Their data, combined with the submissions of many others, constitutes the most comprehensive coverage of the reentry of any amateur satellite.

JA8TCH and JA0CAW will receive a certificate for their achievement. They and all who submitted telemetry throughout the ARISSat-1/KEDR mission have the thanks of the entire team.

Alan Biddle, WA4SCA and the ARISSat-1/KEDR Team


ARISSat-1 . . A Fun HAM Satellite!


ARISSat-1 . . A Fun HAM Satellite!

David Pruett KF7ETX has released this video of the amateur radio satellite ARISSat-1. There are only a few days left to hear it before it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

The YouTube description reads:

Tune your radios / scanners to 145.950 and listen into the signal from ARISSat-1. ARISSat-1/KEDR Deployed on August 3, 2011 from the International Space Station (ISS). The mission of ARISSat-1/KEDR was specifically designed as an education-based satellite built by amateur radio operators to specifically interest students in scientific and technological careers.

Watch ARISSat-1 . . . A Fun HAM Satellite!


ISS & ARISSat-1 Predictions:

ARISSat Website

You can find the details of the ARISSat-1/KEDR radio frequencies, links to telemetry decoding software and mission details on-line at:

ARISSat-1/KEDR can be accessed on these frequencies:
+ 145.950 MHz FM Downlink
+ 435 MHz – 145 MHz Linear Transponder
+ 145.919 MHz CW Beacon
+ 145.920 MHz SSB BPSK-1000 Telemetry

The latest telemetry can be seen LIVE on your computer or cell phone

David Carr, KD5QGR has added ARISSat-1/KEDR to the list of satellites at the popular “Live OSCAR Satellite Status Page” at: You are invited to submit your reports on this page.

Last chance to hear ARISSat-1

Last chance to hear ARISSat-1

Sergey Samburov RV3DR with ARISSat-1

Sergey Samburov RV3DR with ARISSat-1

The amateur radio satellite ARISSat-1 may have only a few more days to live before it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. Ken GW1FKY reports it’s putting out a strong signal in the early evening.

On the AMSAT bulletin board Ken writes:

I again monitored and worked into ARISSat-1 during the earlier pass and the final one as it entered eclipse over here in Europe.

The early pass was a low angle from my QTH and screened by buildings so I was not able to access the satellite. However the FM downlink was quite reasonable and I did hear someone active on CW.

The final pass as it moved into eclipse was really remarkable and my downlink and the FM transmissions were booming in . The loudest that I have ever heard from the satellite, in addition I quickly monitored the CW portion and someone was booming in, I could not stay at that end of the band as I was trying to make schedule on SSB. Heard someone calling but not able to confirm whom it was as they were not easy to copy.

Ken was listening in the early evening which seems to be a good time to hear the satellite. The satellite is only operational when its solar panels are illuminated. You can get orbital predictions times by selecting ARISSat-1 on the online prediction tool at

If you hear the satellite on 145.950 MHz FM, you can get a certificate. Depending on what mode you copied, send an e-mail with the information to:

Details at arissat_1_reception_certificates.htm

There is also a CW contest if you send in 5 calls heard on the 145.920 MHz CW transmission of notable AMSAT people of the past & present email them to

ARISSat-1 CW Contest cw-contest/

Catch the Last ARISSat-1 Telemetry

Get your colour ARISSat-1 Frequency Guide