AMSAT is a group we bring up often on this blog. Simply put, they work on really cool ham radio projects and we volunteer for them. Unfortunately, AMSAT-NA (AMSAT North America) is no longer able to build satellites as big as AO-40 shown in the video above. If you dig into the details you will see that AMSAT-NA is a victim of ITAR since satellite technology was classified as a “munition” here in the United States. This effectively isolated the organization in the early 2000’s. Additionally, Cubesats completely changed the nature of launch opportunities which meant AMSAT could no longer get near free launches on test vehicles. Universities are now willing to pay for those once free spots! Let us know if you want more details on this in the comments below as it could be an entire post in itself! Be sure to read A Brief History of AMSAT to get a bit more information about the organization as well.
The video above was featured on The Discovery Channel on March 10th, 1996 as a segment in “Eyes In The Sky”. In it you can see Keith Baker (KB1SF), Dick Jansson (KD1K, ex WD4FAB), and Stan Wood (WA4NFY) as well as a few others inside the Orlando, FL facility where AO-40 was built. You start out shopping with the group for antenna parts at the local electronics surplus store as the entire plot of this segment was that spacecraft don’t have to be expensive. AMSAT has certainly proved that over the years and while we see Kickstarter campaigns for Cubesats claiming to be the first volunteer or open source satellite… AMSAT organizations around the world have been doing this since the 1960’s and AO-40 was an example of what it could achieve when many of them worked together (before ITAR) .
So enjoy the video, it’s hard to find on Youtube when searching for AMSAT AO-40 keywords. Luckily I’ve saved the link for years and its time everyone saw it. We plan on diving into some of the technology aboard AO-40 in future posts so don’t worry, there’s more to come. Comment below and let us know if you knew about AO-40 and want to know more, communicated over the satellite, or even helped build it!
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Author: Bryce Salmi
Licensed radio amateur KB1LQC and Co-Founder of FaradayRF. Professional Electrical Engineer designing and building avionics for rockets and spacecraft during the day and developing the future of digital amateur radio experimentation by night. All opinions are my own.