Thursday, May 19, 2011

Battery Issues Beset Ham Satellites

The failure of a much-ballyhooed activation of the ARISSat-1 satellite from on-board the International Space Station in April to mark the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight has been blamed on a nearly dead battery. The AMSAT News Service reports that the Russian space agency told a teleconference that the battery had been charged only once on the ground and was then used for a variety of tests. Since the battery can only be recharged a limited number of times aboard the ISS, it was decided not to recharge it before the Yuri Gagarin commemorative event. But the battery was nearly discharged at the start of the activation, no one on the ground heard the satellite and it was turned off after six hours to prevent excessive discharging.

AO-51 Prior to Launch (AMSAT Photo)
It also appears that the batteries aboard the AO-51 satellite are failing. AMSAT officials report that the batteries are in very poor condition and that the satellite will not retain the upload of flight software during eclipse periods when no sunlight is hitting its solar panels. The AMSAT News Service says it is uncertain when, or whether, the satellite will be able to return to normal operation.