Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is There Another High-Orbit Satellite in Our Future?

The last high-orbit amateur satellite launched was AO-40 in late 2000, which suffered an on-board explosion in orbit and never became fully operational. Ever since that time, a backup satellite "spaceframe" has been in storage in Germany, where much of the work on AO-40 was done. 

Now, Virginia Tech, working with AMSAT-DL and AMSAT-NA, has approached the U.S. government about launching that satellite into high-earth orbit in order to support scientific payloads as well as amateur radio transponders. The AMSAT News Service reports that members of AMSAT-DL approved shipping the Phase-3E spaceframe to Virginia for "further construction, testing and preparation for eventual launch" should the U.S. government approve the proposal and provide funding. High-orbit satellites are generally visible from the ground for many hours at a time and have large "footprints" that allow contacts over very long distances.