I’ve been an AMSAT member since the early 1990’s. Yeah, we had ham radio and satellites way back then! In fact, some of my best days in the hobby was when I had an automated groundstation for AO-13 and the 9600 baud Pacsats. Good times.
I’m still a member and though I’m not nearly as active today as I was way back then, I try to at least keep up with what’s going on in that corner of amateur radio.
But I managed to miss this one.
I had heard about the GOLF project, but just assumed it was yet another LEO bird which would be fine by me, but satellite enthusiasts are currently enjoying an embarrassment of riches and new launches seem to be announced every week. Amongst the waves of all that good news, I failed to read and comprehend what GOLF was all about.
Continuing to build on AMSAT’s CubeSat abilities by incorporating new systems such as Software Defined Radios and deployable solar panels into a 3U spaceframe. The first of these will begin life at LEO with plans to move the next one into a higher orbit. That kind of move requires propulsion and attitude control and with an increase in altitude it must also be capable of eventually de-orbiting to prevent orbital debris.
That’s a lot for the AMSAT engineering team to learn, demonstrate, and deliver. And there will be much more to learn for operators on the ground who will have to deal with different operating techniques and modes of operation not familiar to today’s bird chasers.
The payoff is big. A higher orbit will provide a larger communications footprint meaning longer distance contacts and slower relative motion means longer pass times and easier tracking.
And the best part, these payloads aren’t a decade down the road, they’re practically here. Plans to launch the first GOLF payload are as early as the fourth quarter of 2019.
Study the GOLF project and if you want to help, join AMSAT or make a generous contribution to help bring this project to fruition. It’s a good second, or maybe even third step on the road to getting ham radio back to HEO.