The next generation of a GEO/MEO amateur radio payload?

The next generation of a GEO/MEO amateur radio payload?

March 30, 2024 Off By Peter Gülzow

At the request of the IARU, the European Space Agency (ESA) is supporting an initiative to define a future amateur radio satellite payload in geostationary orbit.

The implementation is to take place through collaborative cooperation between internal, industrial and amateur radio participants. This activity will consolidate the requirements of the amateur and commercial satellite industry, weigh up different payload options, address the future user segment, develop scenarios for the financing, procurement and operation of such a payload, and investigate possibilities for placement on geostationary platforms.


AMSAT-DL proposal

Here is the proposal for an AMSAT-DL geostationary microwave amateur radio payload, written by the authors Kai Siebels DH0SK and Matthias Bopp DD1US. The proposal takes into account the technical requirements and needs of radio amateurs. Various aspects such as orbit, satellite and platform as well as payload are taken into account.

AMSAT DL Proposal Geo Payload Final


Among the possible orbits such as MEO, HEO and GEO, the GEO orbit has proven to be the most suitable due to the extensive experience with OSCAR-100. A good compromise for the orbit position would be at ~43 degrees West to also support Eastern European countries and most of North America.

A payload for amateur radio should allow the greatest possible scope for experiments on different bands. Six bands could be used for the uplink to enable experiments with different frequencies. The main uplink band is the 13 cm band, the main downlink band is the 3 cm band. All proposed band / NB transponder combinations can be implemented at the ground station with very reasonable effort.

A dedicated AMSAT (Amateur Radio) mission based on an ESA-supported Micro GEO provides opportunities for several additional experiments that support AMSAT’s education, science and development goals to inspire young people with amateur radio technology. Finally, such a mission could also provide an excellent platform for disaster/emergency communications directly via the GEO satellite transponders.


Micro GEO and QO-100

Micro GEO satellites are a new class of small geostationary communications satellites. They are around a tenth of the size of traditional geostationary satellites and typically measure just one cubic meter. This smaller size makes them significantly cheaper to manufacture and launch, allowing satellite operators to offer customized regional services or gap fillers that would not be financially feasible with large satellites.

The amateur radio payload “QO-100” on the Es’hail-2 geostationary satellite, is a groundbreaking platform for the amateur radio community as it represents the first geostationary payload for amateur radio. The exemplary collaboration between AMSAT-DL, QARS and commercial partners on this project to integrate amateur radio payloads into a commercial satellite is a sign of the ongoing cooperation between the amateur radio community and the commercial space industry. This synergy can open up new avenues for amateur radio projects in space. QO-100 serves as a bridge between traditional approaches and new possibilities, while remaining firmly rooted in the principles of amateur radio. Its presence in geostationary orbit is a triumph for the amateur radio community and a sign that amateur radio can continue to play an important role in the exploration and use of space.


SYNCART 2.0 on the Heinrich Hertz satellite

The Heinrich Hertz Satellite Mission (also known as H2Sat) is a national, geostationary communications and research satellite. It was planned by the Space Agency of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on behalf of the BMWi as part of the German government’s space strategy and serves both independent payloads (“hosted payloads”) and the in-orbit verification (IOV) of technologies as well as for research purposes.

In July 2012, AMSAT-Germany (AMSAT-DL) proposed an amateur radio payload on the Heinrich Hertz satellite with the name “SYNCART 2.0”. This was a further development of the transponders of the P3-D AMSAT-OSCAR-40 satellite in the X and K amateur radio bands and a beacon in the 76 GHz band.

The objectives of the amateur radio payload were as follows:

  • Development of the geostationary orbit for the amateur radio service
  • Communication resource for emergency and disaster radio (with low-power, small, simple technology)
  • In-orbit verification of SDX technologies
  • Promoting the spread of microwave technology
  • Gaining new insights by studying propagation conditions in the 76 GHz band for satellite applications
  • Provision of a signal for the calibration of antennas, converters and receivers, in particular for radio astronomical applications
  • Stimulating the acquisition of scientific and technical education, especially among schoolchildren and young people, by providing a permanently available satellite resource, e.g. for use in teaching, research and education
  • Acquisition of concrete knowledge and experience with satellite technologies and corresponding research opportunities in order to provide the space industry with highly qualified specialists.

The concept aimed to make efficient and effective use of any remaining H2Sat capacity.

The Heinrich Hertz feasibility study was completed in 2010. Planning phase B was carried out from 2011 to 2013. In July 2012, AMSAT-DL submitted its proposal for an amateur radio payload. Unfortunately, important positions on the antenna deck and with the payloads were already occupied at this point. There was also an approach for a Ka/Ka relaying transponder, but its use would have been limited to two small spot beams to northern Germany and southern Germany. At the time, this did not seem justifiable to our members and the amateur radio community in terms of the cost/benefit ratio. After it became clear that an amateur radio payload on the Heinrich Hertz satellite in the proposed form was not feasible, the proposal was finally withdrawn in September 2012.

Miraculously, however, a new window opened just a few months later! Initial talks and contacts were held as early as December 2012, which ultimately led to an amateur radio payload on the Es’hail-2 satellite, also known as Qatar-OSCAR 100 or QO-100. Es’hail-2/QO-100 was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on November 15, 2018. This project is a joint initiative of the Qatar Satellite Company, the Qatar Amateur Radio Society and AMSAT-DL. The satellite was built by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation in Japan and is located in a geostationary orbit at 26° East.





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