The ITU radio regulations define the amateur satellite service as a radiocommunication service using space stations on
earth satellites for the same purposes as those of the amateur service. (ITU RR 1.56)
Radio amateurs therefore use stations in space for experimenting and communication. While some satellites just carry one or severeral amateur payloads, other satellites are fully designed and build by amateurs.
The first amateur satellite was launched in 1961: O.S.C.A.R. (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio). Since then more than one hundred satellites have been build.
Some special amateur satellites:
- OSCAR 7: launched in 1974, it is still operational in 2019.
- ISS: there are several amateur radio stations on board of ISS providing voice, packet radio, SSTV and DATV transmissions.
- Funcube-1: this satellite was launched in 2013 ans is intended for amateur communication as well as educational outreach. Since then several other Funcubes have been launched.
- QO-100: amateur payload launched with Es’Hail Sat 2 in november 2018. It is geostationary positionned 25.9° East. The coverage area goes from eastern Brazil to Thailand, including most of Region 1.
Building your own amateur satellite ?
If you want to build your own amateur station in space, either as payload of a third-party satellite, or a complete satellite of your own design, you have to be aware of a few ITU rules:
- Payload must have a true “amateur” mission to use amateur frequencies.
- Spacecraft carriyng radio equiment must register with ITU through you national radio regulator.
- Spacecraft using frequencies allocated to the Amateur Satellite Service must also coordinate the frequencies used with the IARU Satellite Frequency Coordination Panel.
- Sufficient ground stations should be available to command the spacecraft to stop transmitting if harmful interferences occur to other services and users.
AMSAT societies throughout the world promote the amateur satellite service and build amateur satellites.
- AMSAT-New Zealand
- AMSAT-South Africa
- AMSAT-United Kingdom
Further resources for Amateur Satellite enthusiasts
- AMSAT publishes a comprehensive documentation for beginners.
- DK3WN publishes an extensive blog about amateur satellites as well as other satellites of interest for amateurs. DK3WN provides also many tools to decode telemetry from various satellites. Beginners or experts, you will find a lot of useful information here.
- NASA publishes a blog about ISS, its crew and supply missions.
- Launch schedules of NASA and ESA
- ARISS SSTV activities have a dedicated blog.
- SATNOGS is an open-source initiative to build a network of satellite ground stations.
- On-line WebSDR for Es’hailSat‑2 (QO-100) is a nice way to start listening to the first geostationary amateur satellite.
- CelesTrak provides TLEs (Two Line Elements) for orbital predictions. Several programs can be used to compute and visualize the orbit, such as WxTrack, Orbitron or GPredict.