HamCation 2021 – Special Edition

TAPR and ORI will have a joint forum at HamCation Special Edition 2021.

Attending HamCation Is Now Easier Than Ever!

At this virtual event, you can attend from anywhere you have an internet connection. Attend great webinars, join the HamCation QSO party, and put in your ticket for some truly great prizes.

At this year’s forum, ORI and TAPR focus on use cases for our open source hardware projects, celebrate the very bright present and future of amateur radio, and explain why open source is such a powerfully positive concept for the Amateur Radio Service as well as the Amateur Radio Satellite Service.

Join us Saturday February 13, 2021 at 12:00 PM US Eastern Time. Here’s what ORI and TAPR have in store for you!

12:00 – 12:05 The Spirit of Amateur Radio Experimentation

An inspiring and accessible introduction to the state of the art in amateur radio, this short video showcases the heart and soul of open source amateur radio hardware design, featuring TAPR and ORI. Exciting developments are happening in terrestrial microwave, aerospace, machine learning, contesting, education, and much more. There has never been a better time to be involved in amateur radio. You belong, no matter your level of technical expertise.

12:05 – 12:25 TAPR

Please join us as Scotty Cowling explains the TangerineSDR ecosystem, describes how much fun it will be to use this innovative software-defined radio, and how it stacks up against other radio systems. Then, learn about the Clock Module (CKM) from John Ackermann. This flexible module provides high-accuracy clock signals to your future favorite radio, the TangerineSDR. It can also be used in its own carrier board to provide a GPS Disciplined Oscillator (GPSDO) instrument, permitting near-laboratory grade time and frequency standard measurements in your ham shack. The modular and useful approach guides all of TAPR’s work.

TAPR is central to amateur radio culture. TAPR hosts the annual Digital Communications Conference, publishes a widely-read technical conference proceeding, and sends out an informative newsletter to members. TAPR sustains an enduring community of volunteers that consistently produce fast, flexible, and truly useful open source designs for the discerning amateur experimenter.

Panelists are Scotty Cowling and John Ackermann.

12:25-12:45 Open Research Institute

Space is beautiful, dangerous, challenging, and rewarding. Best of all, amateur radio operators worldwide have access to it! Open Research Institute (ORI) builds digital multiplexing transponders in the microwave bands. Intended for spacecraft at HEO, GEO, and beyond, these powerful transponders use state-of-the art error correction to provide world class reliability that adapts to the signal environment.

But, all statistics and no play makes for a dull radio. This system lets you send any data type you want, even through extremely difficult signal-to-noise conditions. Want to leave someone a voice message? No problem. Impromptu voice meetup? Yes! Set an alert for when a friend is on the air? Sure. Post a photo album of your antenna project with a voice memo to answer another ham’s question? You bet. All over the air and independent of the Internet. These systems can also be deployed terrestrially to provide modern amateur digital communications networks.

Open Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) that does open source research and development for amateur radio and beyond. ORI provides a wealth of community resources and learning opportunities for the experimental amateur radio community. Two well-stocked Remotely Accessible Lab Benches for advanced digital communications work, a full floating Vivado license, field-programmable gate array (FPGA) stations, and most crucially, ORI offers community, expert advice, and support to go from “curious” to “crack shot” in a wide variety of high-tech skillsets. Ready to take advantage of the rapidly growing world of open source hardware? Bring your time and attention and become part of it.

Participants are Michelle Thompson, Paul Williamson, Wally Ritchie, Anshul Makkar, and more.

Engineering Report 11 December 2020

Direct link: https://github.com/phase4ground/documents/blob/master/Management/Weekly_Engineering_Reports/20201211_Weekly_Engineering_Report.md


## Phase 4 Weekly Report for 11 December 2020

#### Architecture 9 December 2020

Progress this week on detailed architecture for the exciter. The short term goal is to be able to write base-band frames (BBFRAMES) to the buffer and send them out. BBFRAMES are connected to ethernet on the A53 side. This will achieve our original Phase I goals. Wally Ritchie leading efforts on the modulator and the interfaces so we can integrate the existing FEC code.

#### Remote Labs 9 December 2020

Video report from Remote Lab West available here: https://youtu.be/z0d1vvbX_LU

Video shows unpacking and deployment of the logic analyzer accessory for the mixed-signal oscilloscope. Device under test is an RC2014 and the signal inspected was RS232. Some concern here because we can get single characters and short bursts perfectly, but longer bursts of RS232 are not successfully decoded. Nick and others have given advice and it will be followed up on.

Signal generator for Remote Lab West expected Friday 11 December 2020. Remote Lab East has their signal generator with the upgraded clock already.

Trenz gear delayed, date TBD.

#### 9 December 2020 Meeting Notes – Open Lunar Foundation Use of ORI Radio Designs

Participated in a working meeting on how to use ORI’s transponder work in the NASA grant ecosystem. Answered questions, shared documents, and took some action items from Open Lunar Foundation.

#### 8 December 2020 Meeting Notes – Open Lunar Foundation Donor Summit

Attended a donor summit held by Open Lunar Foundation. Answered questions about ORI, P4XT, open source licensing, and how best to use the ORI transponder and ground equipment as a base design for Open Lunar Foundation’s efforts to provide solutions for LunaNet and beyond.

Learn more about Open Lunar Foundation at:


#### 8 December 2020 Meeting Notes – Debris Mitigation, GMAT, and Orbits

Wally Ritchie
Anshul Makkar
Michelle Thompson

**AI:** = Action Items

GMAT stands for General Mission Analysis Tool. This is an open source framework from NASA that allows high-fidelity mission planning. Find more information about this tool here:


Our LEO-to-GEO GMAT models by Achim Vollhardt can be found here:


The LEO-to-GEO GMAT models shows what we need to do to get to GEO on our own. They allow us to do a trade study between motoring to GEO from LEO vs. paying for a launch to GEO. In both cases, we need to model the GEO-to-disposal orbit, which is one of the things Anshul Makkar is working on.

There are multiple variables to consider when comparing LEO-to-GEO against straight-to-GEO, including:

1) debris mitigation concerns because spiraling up through what may be very large LEO constellation may raise objections, where straight-to-GEO does not, at increased launch expense.

2) the capability cost to LEO-to-GEO due to the larger amount of space required for fuel.

3) increased radiation exposure of a LEO-to-GEO spiral, which drives up cost and potentially capability.

Anshul is creating a GMAT mission to model desired orbits for P4XT. He had some questions about Debris Mitigation, GMAT, and the impact on orbits. Here is a summary of the discussion and the resulting action items and goals.

Anshul has been working through some examples to learn GMAT and has had success. He came to the point where he needed to know more about the parameters.

For Anshul’s initial round of work, we will model from GEO delivery to disposal orbit.

We currently refer to this as “Straight to Graveyard”.

The disposal orbits are 250 km above and below GEO.

The upper stage of the launches we expect to be able to take advantage of deliver payloads 50 km above or below GEO. The final maneuvering is typically done by the primary payload after separation from the final stage. This orbit, 50 km out, is called the “maneuvering zone”.

While we would like an equatorial disposal orbit, we can handle inclinations.

Wally shared some paper about some stable orbits available in disposal.

**AI:** Wally to send Anshul an edition of a good book resource on orbital mechanics.

With this GMAT mission creation, we will have three line elements (TLEs) that will enable ground station tracking modeling in currently available software.

**AI:** GMAT animations will be created to show a train of 4 payloads for global coverage.

The advantages to Straight to Graveyard are significant.

1) With a GEO-to-dispoal, we do not have to have the estimated 2 lbs of Iodine thruster fuel for a LEO to GEO orbit, modeled previously by Achim.

2) We do not suffer the wear and tear a LEO to GEO mission incurs.

3) We can use the saved space for more and better batteries, which increases mission life.

Given the reduced stationkeeping requirements of disposal orbits, we may be able to use open source thruster technology such as AIS work to maintain attitude.

The disposal orbit does require some tracking. However, it is slow. It also provides additional DX opportunities for operators. Path loss will vary more. Anything below 20 to 15 degrees elevation is challenging.

**AI:** Anshul to use existing GEO orbits and modify this mission with a burn to disposal to achieve the simplest Straight to Graveyard mission presentation.

**AI:** Anshul to present his work.

debris_mitigation Slack channel created for discussion, and relevant foundational documents have been shared there.

#### Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting Report
Open Research Institute attended our first Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting on 20 November 2020. The meeting was attended by over 40 representatives from industrial, academic, amateur, and open source communities. The goal of the Industrial Advisory Board is to improve Virginia Tech’s ability to educate students for roles in space exploration, science, technology, regulation, and management.

**Action items:** prepare 2-3 slides about ORI and our mission on the Industrial Advisory Board. Open source regulatory advancements, positive effect on commerce when used appropriately, and the improvement in educational outcomes are the communications goals for the slide deck.

#### High-Level Discussion on Thermal and Radiation

Action Item closed: Thermal Desktop license successfully installed on a FlexLM server donated to the cause by the power of KN6NK.

Current status: having trouble getting the license from the server to the local installation.

**New Action Item:** Tutorials completed using this software.

Mike Murphree requested a mission plan and expectations on the radiation environment as soon as possible.

Mike Murpree requested resource utilization of the Xilinx parts in order to compare against other potentially more radiation tolerant families of parts.

Michelle to provide documentation on the block diagrams and architecture documentation.

#### Trello Boards up and running
We are using Trello for task management. Plenty going on!

Join Phase 4 Ground Trello board:

Join Phase 4 Space Trello board:

#### AmbaSat Inspired Sensors

Account at Wells Fargo set up and dedicated funds from ARDC deposited.

#### Ham Expo 2021 Participation
ORI will present at and be part of an exhibit at the Ham Expo 2021. Details about the event here: https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/
**We will be using this event as a deadline for transponder work.** We will demonstrate functionality complete by March 2021 at the show.

#### HamCation 2021 Participation
We will participate in HamCation 2021. This is a virtual event. We have 45 minutes available for presentations. HamCation wants unique, fun, engaging, interactive events. This is a wonderful opportunity for us. Message from organizers after we committed: “We don’t have a schedule yet. Plan on 45 minutes for the webinar with a 15 minute break between. Please provide a topic for the presentation with short description that will be posted. Thank you for offering.”

Topics for presentation and short descriptions need to be drawn up. We could do a competition, quiz bowl, live demo, technical presentation, contest, or anything of the sort.

#### Regulatory Presentation
The report is called “Minimum Viable Product” and the Debris Mitigation activities fold into this presentation. Version 1.2 received from Jan King on 7 December 2020.

Engineering Report 20 November 2020

## Phase 4 Weekly Report for 20 November 2020

#### Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting Report
Open Research Institute attended our first Virginia Tech Industrial Advisory Board Meeting on 20 November 2020. The meeting was attended by over 40 representatives from industrial, academic, amateur, and open source communities. The goal of the Industrial Advisory Board is to improve Virginia Tech’s ability to educate students for roles in space exploration, science, technology, regulation, and management.

The first part of the meeting was a description and orientation of the re-dedication of the Industrial Advisory Board lead by Scott Bailey. The second part of the meeting was a curriculum review lead by Dr. Jonathan Black. The next meeting will be in the Spring.

**Action items:** prepare 2-3 slides about ORI and our mission on the Industrial Advisory Board. Open source regulatory advancements, positive effect on commerce when used appropriately, and the improvement in educational outcomes are the communications goals for the slide deck.

#### High-Level Discussion on Thermal and Radiation
We had a high-level discussion about thermal and radiation requirements and work on 19 November 2020. The goals of the meeting were to introduce volunteers with experience in these areas to each other, and to generate any action items necessary to clear roadblocks for future work. Initial list of action items:

Screen Shot 2020-11-20 at 2 44 34 PM

**Meeting Minutes**

Attending were Michelle Thompson, Mike Murphree, Thomas Savarino, Alan Rich, and Nick KN6NK.

We use FlexLM for our Vivado license server, generously donated by KN6NK, and we will be able to use this server for Thermal Desktop. This is limited to one user, Thomas Savarino, but we are satisfied with this work plan. Thomas will also need Parallels and Autodesk. Invoices requested.

Alan Rich provided valuable advice about thermal engineering. Junction temperature and thermal cycling are of primary interest. We need to expect to do a layer analysis and treat the board like a structure. Concerns for radiation were discussed which align with previous work by Wally Ritchie, Thomas Parry, and Suoto.

Mike Murphree requested a mission plan and expectations on the radiation environment as soon as possible.

Mike Murpree requested resource utilization of the Xilinx parts in order to compare against other potentially more radiation tolerant families of parts.

Michelle to provide documentation on the block diagrams and architecture documentation.

*Priorities? Get the Thermal Desktop software up and running so Thomas Savarino can train on it and then start characterizing the 1U circuit cards for the communications payload.*

###### Open Research Institute sponsors the M17 Project
Open Research Institute is proud to sponsor M17, an open source digital radio protocol, code, voice codec, and hardware project.
Learn about and get involved at


M17 has been added to the list of Open Research Institute Projects at


#### Trello Boards up and running
We are using Trello for task management. Plenty going on!

Join Phase 4 Ground Trello board:

Join Phase 4 Space Trello board:

#### AmbaSat Inspired Sensors
Phone conference with Dr. Alan Johnston on 2 November 2020 to answer questions and set up a tentative schedule. Work is expected to commence December 2020 through May 2021. This work is funded by an ORI grant. Project kickoff report here: https://www.openresearch.institute/2020/11/12/ambasat-inspired-sensors-project-kick-off-in-december-2020/

#### Remote Labs
Equipment has begun to arrive for the Remote Labs project. Access protocols have been drafted and tested. Feedback has been received and incorporated. Report and link to overview video here: https://www.openresearch.institute/2020/10/24/remote-labs-equipment-review/

Tracking document will be moved to the GitHub Wiki, but the current draft is here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1EG_anaUNWxluriktrDBUa1MnIdIlOe9_hMCkNFj3Tc4/edit?usp=sharing

#### Ham Expo 2021 Participation
ORI will present at and be part of an exhibit at the Ham Expo 2021. Details about the event here: https://www.qsotodayhamexpo.com/
**We will be using this event as a deadline for transponder work.** We will demonstrate functionality complete by March 2021 at the show.

#### HamCation 2021 Participation
We will participate in HamCation 2021. This is a virtual event. We have 45 minutes available for presentations. HamCation wants unique, fun, engaging, interactive events. This is a wonderful opportunity for us. Message from organizers after we committed: “We don’t have a schedule yet. Plan on 45 minutes for the webinar with a 15 minute break between. Please provide a topic for the presentation with short description that will be posted. Thank you for offering.”

Topics for presentation and short descriptions need to be drawn up. We could do a competition, quiz bowl, live demo, technical presentation, contest, or anything of the sort.

#### Regulatory Presentation
We will present to the FCC, accompanied by ARRL counsel, in the next small number of months. This presentation will emphasize how open source technologies and policies strengthen the Amateur Radio Satellite Service. The presentation will show how the Amateur Radio Satellite Service can fully comply with Debris Mitigation, how it can and will continue a rich history of providing quality public service communications, and how it will be a full participant in the New Space Age.

#### Ed Friesma Needs Help
One of our volunteers, Ed Friesma, writes

“We’re submitting a proposal here at UNLV to get a Cubesat off the ground and I’m in charge of the communications team (both hardware and software) We are submitting our base proposal for review but I will have to get a team of students together. A mentor would really help here. Especially when it comes to building the ground station. but also testing the comms link and the ground station software.

Do you know anyone

a) with some good experience setting up communications with Satellites and also boradcasting to satellites over UHF.

b) who would be interested in occasionally speaking with and answering questions from our team.

They don’t necessarily have to be in the area but at least be open to using Zoom or Discord to chat with us.”

Ed has the right experience to put this team together, but would like to run things by someone that’s been there before. It would really help to sort out what must happen over the next few months.

Are you willing and able to mentor Ed’s team? Get in touch with me at w5nyv@arrl.net and I’ll get you in touch with Ed if you don’t already have his email.

As published in The AMSAT Journal, Volume 43, Number 5

[Published under the US doctrine of fair use. This is an excerpt of a publication, used for commentary to advance public discourse regarding a subject of great interest and importance to the amateur radio satellite community.]

September/October 2020

Engineering Update

Jerry Buxton, N0JY

Vice President, Engineering

Open source, Open mind

“Open-Source” is a hot topic for many in discussions about AMSAT, as you may well know. While my go-to, good old fat Webster’s Third New International Dictionary does not have an entry for “open-source,” it does have an entry for “open-mind.” You can find any number of definitions for open-source in an online search. I will go with what turned up first on my search, annotated “Definitions from Oxford Languages”:

adjective [COMPUTING] “denoting software for which the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified.

A handful of others I looked at to be somewhat certain in what I say here were all essentially the same, and specified software as part of the definition of open-source. That is interesting in that some comments directed at me in the argument for open-source seemed to use the term to include not just software, but hardware as well.

“You cannot reason someone out of something he or she was not reasoned into” (Jonathan Swift, 1721). The quote of Jonathan Swift seems to apply to the current situation because of discussions calling for AMSAT to adopt “open-source” as our means of doing business with satellite projects, lest AMSAT die off as an ineffective organization. Hence, the subtitle refers to what seems to be rare in the age of polarized tweets and blogs and unfortunately, amateur radio email lists, having an “open mind.”

My trusty old Webster’s says about “open mind” (actual entry is “open-minded”):

adjective: “receptive of arguments or ideas: free from rigidly fixed preconceptions: UNPREJUDICED (an open-minded curiosity that made him receptive to new ideas – V.L.Parrington)

To me, being open-minded is a natural part of the general fraternity of amateur radio, and it takes place every day in everything from tower parties to satellite QSOs. I’m baffled that the concept seems to be left behind as you look at leadership levels of amateur radio affinity groups where one might think being open-minded is a required “skill.” Yet here we have some of the most highly polarized and divided groups of hams who are the functioning antithesis of the openminded definition, especially “free from rigidly fixed preconceptions.” There appears to be no reasoning behind the highly polarized championing of a dire need for AMSAT to “be” open-source. On the flip side, there is no apparent reasoning by anyone who summarily says “no.”

Fear not. My subject here is not who said what or how AMSAT is run. My director hat is on the tree, and I wear my “VPE MAGA” hat (Moving AMSAT GOLF Ahead) for this. With the scenario set, I will look at how open-source may already exist in AMSAT Engineering, and share some open-minded questions and curiosity in how open-source fits what we do.

There are surely high levels of disagreement already with what I have written this far. Whatever your opinion on my being openminded, please do the same, and perhaps we can think beyond the existing “must” and “no,” which don’t really facilitate any discussion.

To my knowledge, which only goes back just shy of a decade as far as being in a position to know, AMSAT Engineering has never had a policy that specifically ruled out open-source. Obviously, some things would need to be carefully considered before a change is made. I cannot speak for my predecessor as far as the choice to handle documents the way we do right now. It was in place and would make no sense to have tried to change it in the middle of the Fox program.

When I “went to work” for AMSAT in August (or so) 2011 as Systems Engineer, I was tasked with putting together all of the Fox-1 engineering documents that we had at that point for publication in the 2011 Proceedings of the AMSAT Space Symposium. That was the first AMSAT Space Symposium I attended in my then 37 years of fun using amateur radio satellites. I believe, from looking at the 2010 Proceedings, book that 2011 was the first year that Fox-1 was fully documented in that way. In writing the introduction used in those Proceedings, Tony Monteiro (AA2TX), who was VPE at the time, wanted to include the following:

We would also like to be able to discuss our satellite projects with our own members, [emphasis added] some of whom are not “US-persons” per ITAR. These AMSAT Space Symposium proceedings provide a convenient mechanism for the needed publication to make this information public domain and allow us to communicate with our members. The engineering documents published in these proceedings are what was available at the time needed for inclusion, and we hope you find them interesting and informative. AMSAT intends to continue to make the majority of the final technical documents, exclusive of satellite control information, available in future publications.

Those same points were included in what became the yearly publication and sharing of the development of the Fox-1 satellites, and I carried that on when I was voted VPE upon Tony’s passing in 2014. Especially as the Fox-1 platform quickly became popular with partners and prospective partners in flying on our “experiment bay” platform, I took a bit different view of the reason for publication in the Proceedings. I reworded the introduction to better reflect the popularity and the intent of making the designs for Fox-1 CubeSats available to any interested parties, including foreign organizations interested in building their first CubeSats. It stated in part:

AMSAT, in consideration of the educational component of our organization, would like to release the majority of our design documentation to the public as a learning tool to anyone interested in satellite development. [emphasis added]

Since hardware and hardware designs are not included in the definitions of open-source that I mentioned, could you still call our publication of documents “open-source?” It is certainly intended to be accessible to all (purchasing a copy of the proceedings book was not a requirement, as I shared directly as well). It allowed changes for your own use without restriction. In fact, it was about as open as you might get as far as giving stuff to the public.

Incidentally, in the open-source sense, we recently entered into an agreement for an educational program in which students will rework the LTM design to require only two PCBs instead of our design of three. We will benefit from that as the re-design is shared back with us to help improve the LTM package.

The point in the Proceedings introduction that “a majority of the final technical documents” was made available refers to the omission of command and control hardware, and includes software functions regarding such. That point in the sense of “open-ness” is just reasonable security in the operation of the satellites because of licensing, certain government authorizations, and to keep from having the whistler and jammer crowd from also maliciously commanding a bird and ruining the fun for the users. In that, I do not include that omitted piece in this discussion. I expect to make it available after the Fox-1 satellites are no longer operational so it is shall we say, “pending open-ness.”

Let’s look at some of the things that I believe would need to be considered and clarified in “taking Engineering open-source.” One of the points would be whether there is any requirement to put everything on GitHub.com. That is consistently stated or implied in the argument for open-source, but I honestly do not know if that is simply because of general usage or there is something about it in the “compliance” with open-source. The answer to that leads to the obvious question of how doing so makes anything more opensource or officially open-source.

Another point of discussion that flows from that would be the control of information that is restricted by export regulations. Whether you believe that there is no need for concern because the fact that something is open-source makes it impossible for it to be a weapon, what really counts is the government and how the corporation sees it best to comply with those regulations. Certain things that are deemed exports cannot be shared with “non-US Persons,” so how might one secure that information yet still allow some to see it, and all to see whatever other bits are not restricted? There is also the issue of certain blacklisted countries that cannot have access to even something that has an export license, and the internet generally makes it difficult to determine where any interested individuals are from if they hit our GitHub.com page.

For a third point, we do have some volunteers who do not wish to share some or all of the details of their work and that is their right, which is addressed in our IP policy. That work is shared with AMSAT to use in any projects we have, but AMSAT cannot share it, and rightfully so. Do we then have to exclude any volunteers, no matter their capability or desire, if they do not wish to make all that they do open-source? That may be easily dismissed as it has been in some arguments I have seen, but it is an interesting contrast to our current policy that lets anyone participate, whether or not you wish your work to be open-source. In the specific terms of that argument, what we do now is certainly inclusive of all volunteers.

My fourth point in this exploration of the suitability of open-source is something that probably comes only from experience as a volunteer in our all-volunteer organization. It is my understanding that the point of opensource is to allow creativity and input from a larger number of volunteers with the ultimate outcome of essentially, “building better satellites, faster.” In that, I see a situation that we encounter all of the time and for all of the 6+ years I have been VPE.

With any new project, many wish to contribute their ideas in the design and execution of the project, and that is of course a good thing, to some extent. It does present some challenges in areas such as involving numbers of individuals in discussion and demonstration of ideas through documents or prototypes, even existing widgets. I wonder how that would be structured to play out in a reasonable timeframe without the time creep that inevitably comes with lots of individuals pitching lots of ideas.

Also, a pattern of unbridled enthusiasm appears at the start of something new that tends to die rapidly once ideas are pitched and production of those ideas begins. Many are not quite as willing to spend further time making the idea a reality, properly so in some cases, but unfortunately somewhat easily passed on as “and somebody can build it.” If the originator goes silent as is often the case in terms of percentage (recall that this is said from experience), then whoever might have taken up the reins to start making the idea a reality is often put in a position of finding the need for changes in prototyping or further down with PDR and so forth. If they did not originate the idea, while they have done their part of open-source in making the prototype happen, the widget now relies on input from the originator or others in the open-source world to solve the issues found and advance the project.

This is where things get tougher, and while this exists to an extent in our current process, it is more easily solved because it is likely that the originator of the idea is the one pursuing their dream and therefore has the ability (as well as desire) to see it completed. What might be expected in an open-source execution of a project in this regard, if the ideas and designs come from those other than the “construction crew” (for lack of a better term)? I do not necessarily doubt that people will not jump in on GitHub some of the time but you again have the situation of viable contribution if they are not intimately familiar with the stage of the development and willing to spend time with the team working on that widget to find a solution and move forward. Anything less creates delay, and, believe me, we can create that just fine already — and that is the nature of all volunteer projects.

My last thought for this article is that of who is in charge of such a project. Again, I have not contributed to any open-source projects other than AMSAT’s own, so I do not have any idea how they are organized in terms of responsibility. You have to have a boss and some sub-bosses I would think, else you wind up with chaos? At the very least, the systems engineering of any satellite project on GitHub as open-source would be a must and perhaps, a nightmare. That is one more of the items that would need discussion and clarification in consideration of “going open-source” that has not been touched upon in the “on/off ” arguments.

My point is not to list all of these things I think of, I simply believe that if there is any serious intent in the arguments regarding open-source I do not see a simple turnkey solution. Whether commercial (do they use open-source?) or amateur radio satellites, some processes are similar and some, perhaps many, are different because of the extreme difference between a paid workforce and a team of enthusiasts who share a common interest. I also do not expect that the arguments being made are with a full understanding of how AMSAT does satellites.

In my tenure, we have seen opportunities and ideas come out from our Engineering Team that can be at least related to open-source, such as standardizing on KiCad. This was an idea put forth and convincingly shown through documentation and use as a great idea, and it is, by a couple of kids who designed and built the Fox-1 MPPT as well as keeping me up late at night for “10 PM Pacific Time” meetings about the MPPT. Bryce and Brent Salmi were all in and one would regularly call or we would meet (can’t remember which, they kinda start to look alike on GTM at 1 AM) which led to the suggestion. With some frustration from the variety of a few other “free” versions of schematic software that had been used by whoever liked which best at the start of the Fox-1 project, they made the push for KiCad. They also turned me on to Kerbal Space Program through which I got my not-a-real Aerospace Engineer Degree usually after one of their calls since I was no longer sleepy.

I do not recall any suggestions about doing our work as open-source, perhaps it has been mentioned but there has been no momentum behind it, so one might take that as an indication that the team is happy with what we have now (SVN complaints aside). Nonetheless, I do believe that I am 98.9% open-minded and the team might support that statement although most people usually only remember the 1.1% of the times I told them no. All of our satellites are testament though, since I neither designed nor created any of it (that I recall) and always give credit to our Engineering Team for their hard work. They are also my real teachers and tutors by which I earned my status as a Real Engineer. (Who needs a piece of paper nobody sees anyway.) I appreciate your reading this with an open mind and ask you to consider the points not as a rejection of open-source, but as valid points of discussion in the consideration of implementing open-source in AMSAT Engineering. Next Journal issue: NDAs and open-source. Exciting!

Open Source and Space – Everybody But AMSAT Came To The Party!

Bruce Perens K6BP, AMSAT member; Michelle Thompson W5NYV, AMSAT Director

Open Source is big in space! Just ask NASA, which operates code.nasa.gov, containing millions of lines of Open Source software created by NASA itself, including Open Mission Control Technologies, Core Flight System: NASA’s spacecraft firmware system, and the General Mission Analysis Tool. With such a complete Open Source toolkit for all aspects of its missions, we can confidently say NASA has gone Open Source. ESA has also come to the Open Source party, releasing lots of code, including their own nanosat firmware, a plate solver that tells you where your telescope is pointed by looking at the photo it takes, and a directory of Open Source Space software that they recommend. SpaceX, which launches more rockets to orbit today than any nation or company, and owns the largest satellite fleet, uses Linux as the brain of its rockets and open source software with SDRs for communications

And Open Source is big in Amateur Space! Ask Librespace, creator of UPSat, a fully-Open-Source cubesat and SatNOGS, a vast ground-station network built of Open Source software and Open Hardware. Fossa came to the party with an Open Source satellite, and has two more in development. Even AMSAT-EA, the European affiliate of AMSAT, has two satellites containing Open Source electric thrusters developed by Applied Ion Systems. And Open Research Institute has received a half-million-dollar grant to develop a 10 GHz digital ground-station as Open Source.

Why is Open Source important to Amateur Space? Let’s start with money: ARDC is providing five Million dollars per year in grants to non-profit organizations to do work important to Amateur Radio, but requires that the technology created be Open Source. Why is Open Source so important that ARDC insists on it? It is software that is free to use, modify, and redistribute, and comes with source code. So, once written, Open Source software tends to be adopted by programmers who keep it alive, improve it, make it run on more and different sorts of computers, etc. Open Source also gets lots of users, who are attracted by the power, versatility, and the zero cost. ARDC obviously wants their grants to be as effective as possible, and for the result to be available to everyone. So, they insist on Open Source.

But Open Source was already popular long before ARDC started making grants. GNU Radio is probably the most powerful software in the Amateur world, allowing programmers to implement many different kinds of transmitters and receivers in software, without picking up a soldering iron! That Open Source SDR software became so powerful that even the United States Government started supporting its development, so that their intelligence agencies could rapidly write new receivers to eavesdrop on the bad guys. The Government had paid a Billion dollars for commercial software like it that never worked. This was just the latest in a long list of disappointments with proprietary software. After a thorough study, they turned to Open Source. Open Source has similarly taken over the computer industry: The largest companies today, Amazon, Google, Facebook, aerospace giants like SpaceX all have in common: their software infrastructure is built on Open Source.

It turns out that sharing your software development with the general public is a really good idea. It allows collaboration easily, something companies previously had a hard time doing without lots of lawyers and conflicting agendas. It produces measurably better code, because people naturally write better when the whole world is looking over their shoulder, and because two developers (or 1000) are better than one. The superior quality of open source software has been repeatedly confirmed, most notably by Harvard Business Review.

And, everybody benefits because they get great software that they can use, extend, and share for any purpose. It became clear when I spent time with NASA engineers that the decision to Open Source was driven by the engineers and researchers themselves: It’s just considered the best way to make software these days. Open Source is especially important for science: being able to duplicate an experiment to corroborate its results, and being able to read the code to see if an experimenter made a mistake, are critical to establishing truth.

A version of Open Source called Open Hardware is used to share hardware designs rather than computer software. The CERN Open Hardware License and the TAPR Open Hardware License are both excellent examples of widely-adopted and battle-tested open source licenses that enable high quality and productive open source work. If you, as an AMSAT volunteer, want to reserve the right to make money off your code or hardware design, then go into business for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be paid for your product. But, please! Do not encumber an educational organization with proprietary intellectual property for personal pecuniary gain to the exclusion of the non-profit mission of AMSAT!

There are so many other options available to you if making money is your priority. Amateur radio is a special case. We need to be sharing our knowledge for the benefit of all, whenever we can.

Open Source is the only viable strategy an Amateur organization has to work with ITAR and EAR. These are the United States technology export laws that would otherwise hinder any US-based satellite organization. Satellites are part of a large body of technology that the government considers to be “munitions”, and doesn’t wish to have exported. It happens that ITAR and EAR both have clearly written exceptions regarding Open Source. These exceptions allow an Open Source development paradigm to be used without the export restrictions we would otherwise face when working with volunteer collaborators. Without Open Source, we would be required to carry out our development in secret – with all of the logistical complications of developing technology in secret – using only volunteers who are US Residents, and we would face serious penalties for leaks of our technology. This is very expensive and requires volunteers that do nothing more than monitor other volunteers. Is this what you want your AMSAT dues to pay for?

When our amateur satellite projects are Open Source we can operate in public. We can use collaborators from all over the world without restrictions. As of August 2020, the Department of Defense confirmed that for ORI.

So, we can share our amateur satellite developments with Libre Space Foundation, which is in Greece; AMSAT-EA, in Europe; and other organizations that we would have to lock out otherwise. We can directly use the Open Source they, NASA, and ESA have already developed.

So, why won’t AMSAT come to the party?

AMSAT isn’t getting funding like the half-million recently allocated to ORI – an amount which could easily also go to AMSAT if they were willing to work on Open Source.

Incredibly, ORI offered to share the granted funds with AMSAT/AREx, and AMSAT/AREx declined.

In 2020, AMSAT borrowed money from the Federal Government so that AMSAT could continue to pay salaries, closed their office permanently, and permanently ended printing of the AMSAT Journal. It sounds like they need money. For years, at every Hamvention and every AMSAT Symposium, the news has been negative. The potential of getting a piece of that five Million per year, every year, should attract them. Over time that would be many Millions of dollars to fund AMSAT projects.

But today AMSAT is even more hostile to Open Source! In the September 2020 issue of AMSAT Journal, available only to members, AMSAT Vice President of Engineering Jerry Buxton published the most odd column in which he – there’s no other way to explain it – deliberately paraded his ignorance of Open Source software.

That this flaunt was obviously meant to annoy people was made even more clear because Jerry also included a “MAGA” reference in the article. This is what’s known as a dog-whistle: speech that has a hidden meaning to your target audience. Whatever your politics is, you should know that responsible corporate officers, which Jerry is supposed to be, don’t mix issues in their corporate communications. Doing so invariably alienates part of their audience to no purpose, and to the detriment of the organization because it harms the organization’s relationships.

In his column, Jerry expresses that he is mystified about what Open Source is, because he can’t find it in his dictionary. Jerry would not have had far to go if he’d really wanted to know about Open Source, since there is considerable overlap between AMSAT’s membership and the ORI and GNU Radio communities, both of which deal with Open Source exclusively. The co-founder of ORI is a current AMSAT Board of Directors member and presented at length about this very subject at the October 2020 AMSAT annual board meeting. Was Jerry not present at this meeting?

And we wonder about the many talks about Open Source at AMSAT Symposium 2019: Jerry was in the audience, perhaps his mind was elsewhere? By AMSAT Symposium 2020, 60% of the Proceedings were about open source projects and policies. Has Jerry not leafed through the 2020 Proceedings yet? Was he absent from the Symposium stream, where AIS presented an update on open source thruster designs? The level of interest in open source from volunteer engineers and contributors is clearly present. Yet, Jerry Buxton claims there is no interest in open source, at all.

There are many AMSAT members known to have a deep knowledge of Open Source that Jerry could have turned to, although I fear that not all of them will be renewing their membership this year. We need volunteers that are competent and comfortable with open source technologies. How else can AMSAT compete?

There is more in Jerry’s discussion which I shall not amplify. Because he chose to base his thesis on ignorance, repeating it would not contribute to your knowledge.

We should consider the cost to AMSAT of Jerry’s professed ignorance. It is completely absurd for any organization that develops software and electronics to have a head of engineering who does not have a significant understanding of Open Source. No other organization would tolerate it today. Any that did would be wasting money and time reinventing what is publicly available for free. In AMSAT’s case, this article is an admission that some Directors and Officers are deliberately passing up on opportunities to financially support the organization.

ARDC isn’t the only grantor that would want to see work made Open Source, many corporate and non-profit grantors expect the same. The amounts of money available dwarf any previous donations and fundraising.

Fortunately, ORI, Libre Space Foundation, and many other organizations carry on the development of Amateur Space. If AMSAT won’t join the party, the party will go on happily without AMSAT.

Is this what you, as a member or amateur space enthusiast, want?


Open Source is in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, but “Amateur Radio” or “Ham Radio”? Nada. Image copyright 2020 Merriam-Webster.

AmbaSat Inspired Sensors Project Kick-Off In December 2020

We are pleased to announce AmbaSat Inspired Sensors as a formal ORI project.

Please visit https://www.openresearch.institute/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Ambasat-Inspired-Custom-Sensors.pdf to read the proposal document.

Unboxing photographs of flight and lab hardware, with UV sensor included, can be seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/w5nyv/albums/72157716833127913

First work session expected December 2020 – May 2021 centered at Villanova University. Principal Investigator is Dr. Alan Johnston.

Autumn Schedule

Open Research Institute will be open for the autumn and winter holidays with a reduced schedule through 6 January 2021.

Remote Labs Equipment Review

Transcript of Introductory Remarks

Greetings all,

Welcome to the Open Research Institute Remote Labs Equipment Review.

Open Research Institute (ORI) is a non-profit research and development organization which provides all of its work to the general public under the principles of Open Source and Open Access to Research.

Remote Labs are two physical lab benches. They have equipment for advanced digital communications design work. This equipment will be accessible online to anyone, anywhere that wants to work on open source amateur radio satellite service or open source amateur radio terrestrial engineering development.

The primary focus of the equipment list reviewed today is to support the design, verification, and test of the DVB family of links. DVB-S2, S2X, and T2 are all commonly found in amateur radio. DVB-S2X is the protocol family used by Phase 4 Ground and Space.

Remote Labs is a part of an extremely important process of re-establishing free and open international collaboration with groups such as AMSAT-DL, JAMSAT, and AMSAT-UK, and to increase and amplify collaboration with Libre Space and other open source groups. This is possible for ORI to do by using the open source carve-outs in the US export control regulatory framework. These controls have impeded international cooperation on amateur satellite work for a long time.

A significant amount of regulatory relief was achieved over the summer by ORI for amateur radio satellite work, and more work is going on right now to build upon this success. Please see the Open Research Website news section for more details on that. Today’s discussion is not about satellite technology, but about the equipment and resources required.

We are fortunate to have the advice and input of people that make a living by using remote labs at work. The advice received so far has been heard and acted upon. Python, HTML5 plus Javascript, and command line access will be the initial methods upon to provide secure access to the equipment.

We will not be writing or using a heavy or complex software framework for the Remote Lab. We will be authorizing and authenticating users. It is highly likely that we will use the same authentication and authorization approach that we intend to use for payload communications access, in order to get more experience with that design. In other words, you may be authenticated and authorized for Remote Labs the same way that you will be authenticated and authorized for the payload communications system.

We will definitely be documenting how to use the lab. We will be responsive to feedback about accessibility and ease of use.

There will be someone physically present at the Remote Labs. The equipment is not installed in racks at an unattended site. If a function needs on-site setup, or a test plan can only be done with someone physically at the bench, then that’s how the work will be done.

Remote Labs is offered as a community resource. Therefore, the review process must include community feedback. Thank you for your time here today to discuss and review the equipment list.

As an example, Thomas Parry has provided the following feedback.

1) The initial list had no power supply listed.

2) A computer controlled coax switch matrix would be very useful to control where the signals are going between test gear, DUT, etc. without physical intervention

3) Some form of general purpose digital/low frequency IO device like an analog discovery would be pretty useful for controlling things remotely

4) A way to get arbitrary RF in and out of the PC, ie. an SDR, would be very useful

5) And please remember cabling.

Wally Ritchie responded with an updated list that includes coax relays controlled from a USB relay board(s), and the other items.

Our practice will be validate and measure any cables we make in-house, buy, or obtain as surplus or donations.

I can answer your questions about budget, operation, and policy at the close of the review, or via email.

Please welcome Wally Ritchie who will lead todays Remote Labs Equipment Review.