A Geosynchronous Ham Radio Satellite

AMSAT members with the 5 GHz and 10 GHz Phase 4B geosynchronous satellite

AMSAT members with the 5 GHz and 10 GHz Phase 4B geosynchronous satellite

Gary Pearce KN4AQ has released a video of the Digital Communications Conference presentation by Bob McGwier N4HY about the AMSAT payload for a geosynchronous satellite.

Possible coverage of Geosynchronous satellite 74 degrees West - Credit Bill Reed NX5R

Possible coverage of Geosynchronous satellite 74 degrees West – Credit Bill Reed NX5R

AMSAT-NA is developing a “hosted payload” for a spacecraft that Millennium Space Systems (MSS) of El Segundo, California, is under contract to design, launch, and operate for the US government. The satellite’s potential footprint could extend over the US from the Mid-Pacific to Africa.

The amateur radio payload will comprise a Software Defined Transponder capable of supporting many different modes, including analog SSB.

Gary Pearce KN4AQ writes: We’ve been hearing about a Geosynchronous satellite for the Western Hemisphere for a while now, but not many details. In this episode from the DCC, project leader Bob McGwier N4HY fills in a lot of blanks. There’s no launch date yet, and maybe not quite enough info to start building your ground station (a ‘Five & Dime’ setup – 5 GHz up, 10 GHz down), but you can start thinking about it.

HRN 272: A GeoSync Ham Radio Satellite for the Americas – from the DCC on Ham Radio Now

What does a geosynchronous orbit look like?

Previous editions of HamRadioNow http://www.youtube.com/user/HamRadioNow/videos

Amateur Satellite 5.7 GHz LNA



The AMSAT-NA site carries a picture showing the mechanical prototype of the 5.7 GHz Low Noise Amplifier which will be used in the Phase 5 Lunar and Phase 4B Geosynchronous amateur radio satellite projects.

Unfortunately US Federal Government ITAR legislation prevents them disclosing any technical information about it.

The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) inexplicably applies to amateur radio satellites. It threatens US radio amateurs with jail terms or six figure fines if they cooperate with amateurs outside the USA on satellite projects. Cooperation includes talking about or publishing on the web certain information regarding amateur radio satellite systems.

The AMSAT-NA 5.7 GHz LNA page can be seen at http://www.amsat.org/?p=5519

5 GHz / 10 GHz amateur radio transponders are planned for the Heimdallr spacecraft expected to launch in September 2018 into a Lunar orbit. Further information is at

ITAR – Section 1248 Report Released

AMSAT Wants Amateur Radio Satellites Off US Munitions List

AMSAT Phase 4B Ground Engineering Report

Michelle Thompson W5NYV

Michelle Thompson W5NYV

On February 13, Michelle Thompson W5NYV released her latest AMSAT Phase 4B Ground Engineering Report.

Michelle has nine years experience in embedded hardware and software design and is managing the digital ground station program in support of a digital payload for an AMSAT geosynchronous satellite opportunity called Phase 4.

Watch Phase 4B Weekly Report February 13, 2016

So what happened when I finally got to the lab? Well, we able to obtain an example flow graph, with some controversy between installations, for DVB. Here is a DVB S2 transmitter in GNUradio. After some troubleshooting to get it to work with the X310, we saw an output waveform using the built-in instruments in GNUradio. Here’s the list of blocks availabe in mainstream GNUradio for DVB. Isn’t this great? Note that there is already DVB-S2X, although it has not been completely tested due to the lack of receivers. Wouldn’t it be great if we could help out here?

Next, we transmitted a test signal. It looked a bit puny at first, but we found the settings for gain and improved performance a bit. In other advancements, the HackRF team submitted their first pull request in their documentation. Here’s an FM receiver implementation based on Michael Ossmann’s wonderful tutorials about using HackRF and GNUradio at https://greatscottgadgets.com/sdr/

We tried to receive with DVB-T RTL-SDR dongles, but haven’t quite gotten this to work yet!

If you are anywhere in the ballpark about being interested in SDRs, then watch these videos. If it seems remotely interesting, then consider joining up our team and participating. It’s a lot of fun and we need you.

Here’s the instrumentation of the FM broadcast band experiment. The waterfall shows the stations clearly.

Next up is something I wanted to point out to those of you interested in microwave experimentation. Here’s the band plan for 10GHz. Note that our downlink is in the Space, Earth, and Telecommand sub band. Note that right next door is an analog and digital band, where bandwidths greater than 1Mhz are welcome. That would be us, wearing our terrestrial hats.

We’re looking at making the radio autonomously determine what it’s listening to, and act accordingly. This is a band plan that works to our advantage since we believe we can use the same IF of 700MHz for both modes.

We use Github for all our documentation and software. If you need to learn about github, there are many tutorials at github. You can get off the ground and to the point where you are forking and pulling like a pro. Check it out.

Next up, something totally different. We want the user interface for Phase 4 Ground to be really good. We are visual creatures. One of the projects for visualization of contact history is DynamicQSL. This project is focused on exploring, researching, developing, and publishing an open source application that takes your log of QSOs and produces a beautiful representation of your activity with other stations.

If you have only contacted a station once, then the resulting QSL card for you and them is simple. If you have had a lot of contacts, then it’s complex and rich. The inputs to the DynamicQSL are whatever you’ve chosen for your QSL card image, or perhaps your avatar on Phase 4 Ground. So far, it’s clear that automatically generating fractal images is not going to easily work. Choosing a good fractal image requires a human curator to make good art. Using tree diagrams means the card is predictable and boring. However, there’s another way. There’s a wonderful book about algorithmically produced art called Creating Symmetry: The Artful Mathematics of Wallpaper Patterns by Frank A. Farris. This seems to be a winner.

Here’s something I made in a few lines of code using SageMath online. Try out this open source alternative to MATLAB at http://www.sagemath.org. All the code for the DynamicQSL experiments is in the visualizations directory of the documents repository at Phase 4 Ground’s github site.

I’m hoping to work with Zach Leffke KJ4QLP at Virgina Tech to find students with an artistic and programming background to join this project and create a wonderful aspect to our user interface on Phase 4. There is nothing stopping this from being an entirely standalone project that anyone with a QSO log can use. The goal is to feed in a log and have beautiful dynamic cards, possibly animated to show contacts over time, produced so that the operator can display or send them. So Zach, if you’re listening, I will be writing you as soon as I can with a lot more details.

None of this is possible without your support. Please join ARRL and AMSAT if you are not a member already. They make this project possible. If you want to help the project, then join at http://www.amsat.org/?page_id=1096 or contact me directly. You don’t have to be an expert, you just have to want to become one. I will meet you wherever you are, and help you out as best I can. Until next week!

Previous reports can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/user/abraxas3d

Geosynchronous Ham Radio Project Video

Michelle Thompson W5NYV https://twitter.com/abraxas3d

Geosynchronous ham radio payload to aid disaster communications

Millennium Space Systems AQUILA M8 Series Satellite Structure

Millennium Space Systems AQUILA M8 Series Satellite Structure

Phys.org interviews Hume Center Director of Research Bob McGwier N4HY about a geosynchronous satellite amateur radio payload which will aid disaster communications.

Researchers at the Ted and Karyn Hume Center for National Security and Technology are preparing to send an amateur radio transponder into a geosynchronous orbit in 2017.

“Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a new ham band will be available for the Americas,” said Robert McGwier, a research professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Hume Center’s director of research. “It will allow rapid deployment to disaster areas and support long-haul communications for first responders.”

This would be the first amateur or “ham” radio payload in a geosynchronous orbit, and would significantly enhance communications capabilities for amateur radio operators, in particular following natural disasters or other emergency situations. The Hume Center team met with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate in September to discuss the project.

Read the full story at

What is a Geosynchronous orbit ?

Video of Geosynchronous ham radio project presentation

Geosynchronous Ham Radio Project Video

A video from the Palomar Amateur Radio Club presents a panel discussion on the AMSAT Phase IV geosynchronous project.

00:00 Introductions
03:00 What is AMSAT Phase IV?? — Overview by Michelle Thompson, W5NYV
Michelle is leading the Phase IV Ground Team
Open source project: RF hardware, antennas, applications, servers, and digital hardware.

05:30 Sponsors and Assistance from AR Clubs, Manufacturers, Universities, and Gov’t Agencies
24:30 Technical Side (How It Works) — Phil Karn, KA9Q
34:30 Downlink (10.45 GHz)
38:30 Uplink (5.6 GHz)
42:00 Black Box
45:00 Question and Answers
57:00 Closing Comments

Watch PARC November Club Meeting – AMSAT Phase IV project

Slides http://www.ntms.org/files/Feb2016/PARC_4on4.pdf

What is a Geosynchronous orbit ? https://amsat-uk.org/satellites/geosynchronous/na-gso-sat/

Geosynchronous payload inches closer to reality

Millennium Space Systems AQUILA M8 Series Satellite Structure

Millennium Space Systems AQUILA M8 Series Satellite Structure

Colonel Fred Kennedy, USAF, Space Production Division and Program Manager for the Wide Field of View satellite (hereinafter WFOV) has accepted the proposal to allow Virginia Tech to place a hosted payload consisting of a Software Defined Radio designed and built by Rincon Research Corporation using support equipment and antennas designed by Virginia Tech and other volunteers to this effort.

The spacecraft hosted amateur payload will be included in the Aquila M8 bus by Millennium Space Systems who is the integrator for WFOV.  Our first role and immediate action item is to raise the $100,000 for Millennium to complete the study of the inclusion of this payload on Wide Field Of View.  Following successful completion of this study,  Virginia Tech will raise money to defray the cost of integration and launch of this payload.  After achieving orbit,  volunteers managed by Sonya Rowe and Zach Leffke of Virginia Tech will operate the payload for as long as it is over the US.  We at VT with the help of the ARRL will prepare partners in other regions to operate the spacecraft should it be moved in order to allow the WFOV to accomplish its primary mission and be prepared to take over operation of the hosted payload on its return to the area of the Contiguous United States (CONUS).

Colonel Kennedy told me how much he admires how unbelievably capable amateurs around the world have been in their many organizations to get spacecraft to orbit and wishes us the best of luck in the onerous task we will have of raising $5M to get this on board.

I will be making many details public now that Colonel Kennedy has told us we are a go if we raise the money.  I know this is a tall order but “A coward dies a thousand deaths and a brave person dies only once”.  I would rather go down trying than cower in a closet.  This is not intended as casting aspersions on any individual or organization just saying I must proceed hastily to succeed at all and I cannot afford caution.

Let’s GO!

Bob McGwier
Co-Founder and Technical Director, Federated Wireless, LLC
Research Professor Virginia Tech
Senior Member IEEE, Facebook: N4HYBob, ARS: N4HY
Faculty Advisor Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Assn. (K4KDJ)

Geosynchronous Amateur Radio Payload https://amsat-uk.org/satellites/geosynchronous/na-gso-sat/