[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next] - [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]

RE: Amateur Satellites (definition?)

In answer to this general question, AMSAT (AMSAT-NA and all the other AMSAT
groups around the world), working in consort with the IARU have published
the "guidelines" and "rules" that we feel answer this question. They are
freely available on the IARU web site at

Part of the confusion in this AMSAT-BB message thread seems to reflect
confusion on some different realities:

A - When you, as an amateur point your antenna in the air towards a
satellite, you are no longer operating in the Amateur Radio Service. You
have magically transformed yourself into the Amateur Satellite Service (and
so is the satellite). In the USA and most countries, these "legal" ITU
services are identical, but not everywhere!

B - The ITU allocates the general frequency bands (144.0-146.0, 435.0-438.0
etc) to the Amateur Satellite Service. The various nations on the earth
agree to follow these ITU "rules" ;these international agreements carry the
status of a Treaty.

C - Within the fairly general ITU "rules" nations may take specific
exceptions to the international rules. And their national rules about what
constitutes a "Service" may differ. As an example, some countries (and
probably Morocco in the case of MAROC) might define an Amateur Satellite as
something that is experimental with no reference to amateur radio.

D - Finally, within the Amateur Radio community we have the International
Amateur Radio Union that attempts to coordinate differences between nations.
As an example, within Europe the 2M band is only 2 MHz wide, and repeater
coordination between countries that are only a few hundred km apart can
become quite contentious. The IARU is the body that tries to bring order out
of this chaos.

The genesis of the IARU satellite rules began in an AMSAT Board Meeting over
a decade ago. At that time, the amateur satellite had been hit with two
satellites that made us question the boundaries of the Amateur Satellite

The first of the two test cases was the Pakistani BADR-1 that appeared on a
frequency well away from the ITU "gentleman's agreement" 145.8-146.0
satellite band, but within the ITU 144.0-146.0 Amateur Satellite Service
allocation (as I recall the frequency was 144.025)(see

The second case was a satellite built at in France named SARA (Satellite
Amateur Radio-Astronomique) which, it was hoped, would be able to receive HF
radio bursts from Jupiter. It had a telemetry beacon in the 145.95 range

Both came as a surprise to AMSAT-NA when they appeared on the air, and
neither was the product of any group known to us. Were these "legal" amateur
satellites? What should we tell other groups that might want to do a
satellite in the future?

There was a lot of deliberation by the Board. The consensus was that legit
amateur satellites did NOT have to be communication platforms -- we wanted
to encourage satellites that included cameras to photograph the earth or the
heavens. We wanted to encourage satellites that helped to facilitate
experimentation, especially in radio science and satellite technology.

But to preserve sanity and sanctity of the amateur resources, we felt it
necessary to insure that all satellites met both the legal tests of the ITU
and were well coordinated with the entire amateur community.

I remember well developing a set of recommendations to achieve these aims. I
paraphrase the "rules" we developed:

1. Amateur satellites are be developed by amateur groups or groups with
significant amateur participation;

2. The amateur community should be informed in advance of launch;

3. All downlink information should be done with codes that are published and
available to the entire amateur community;

4. The transmitters on the spacecraft should operate on frequencies that are
both legal (in the ITU sense) and coordinated with the IARU;

5. The builders need to insure that the satellites are licensed by the
appropriate national authorities (like the FCC in the USA) and that national
authority needs to follow the procedures proscribed by the ITU regarding the
registry and notification of other governments.

The IARU document cited above built upon simple rules to make a more
comprehensive definition. Please take a look at
http://www.iaru.org/satellite/prospective.html! These rules are also built
into the way that OSCAR-xx satellite numbers are given out to amateur
satellites that make it into orbit

Hope this helped -- 73 de Tom, W3IWI

Via the amsat-bb mailing list at AMSAT.ORG courtesy of AMSAT-NA.
To unsubscribe, send "unsubscribe amsat-bb" to Majordomo@amsat.org