AMSAT Fox-1A satellite is ready for launch!

We finished!

Ok … we finished THIS flight unit lol. This past week we performed a ‘shake and bake’ on our completed satellite, Fox-1A.

The ‘shake’ is vibration testing based on the launching rocket’s expected frequency responses over the course of it’s flight into orbit.

The satellite is securely attached to the baseplate of the test platform. Then that frequency response profile is input to the testing system which then literally shakes the satellite.

Passed.

Then comes the ‘bake’. This thermal heating occurs in a vacuum chamber. There is just one intent, to ‘boil’ away any liquid related products; uncured glue, fingerprints, water, all kinds of stuff.

This way nothing remains that might off-gas in a vacuum environment and deposit itself in a different location, like the primary payload on the rocket.

Passed 😀

The unit is now wrapped in an anti-static bag and secured for launch. Integration to the payload will happen in 2Q and then launch.


Novel research. Easy right?

Interviews with people over a cup of coffee, maybe a light lunch.

Phone calls, emails and texts back and forth.

Poring over past videos, photos, notes and online forum posts from my personal experiences.

Then the typical bit of light reading (below).

All for my science fiction thriller. I’ve also got plenty of stuff for the civil forfeiture plot device.

Plus more still. Like more mechanical engineering textbooks, other novel related materials, notes …

I love it 😀

Book research

We’re launching a satellite, a Borg Cube

AMSAT North America (LINK) that is.
I volunteer time to AMSAT, working on the mechanical engineering side of things, specifically the structural side.

Sometime in Summer 2015 we’ll be launching our CubeSat as a secondary payload.

The Chairman, my main character in the Distance In Time series, is an Amateur Extra ham radio operator. AMSAT and CubeSats receive various mentions in the story. 😀

So what’s a CubeSat? It is a 100mm x 100mm x 100mm cube with electronics inside. The cubed 100 is simply called a 1U. If you stack three then you have a 3U design ‘cube’sat.

Here’s our prototype: (GALLERY LINK)

As you can see it really is just 10cm cubed.

So what’s this all about, what’s our involvement here?

Amateur Radio, aka Ham Radio.

There is a VHF/UHF transceiver in the satellite along with a scientific payload. This satellite carries a science payload for a northeastern university.

We’re going to talk about the transceiver side of things. VHF and UHF communications are line of sight. That means that as long as one antenna (not radio) can see the other antenna the distance between the two is essentially meaningless.

Our CubeSats operate in a 600km orbit, approximately. It’s no problem using a 5w handheld transceiver to speak with another operator within the cone of coverage.

What’s the point? Advancing the Radio Art.

Title 47 – Part 97
Subpart A—General Provisions
§ 97.1 Basis and purpose.
The rules and regulations in this part are designed to provide an amateur radio service having a fundamental purpose as expressed in the following principles:
(a) Recognition and enhancement of the value of the amateur service to the public as a voluntary noncommercial communication service, particularly with respect to providing emergency communications.
(b) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s proven ability to contribute to the advancement of the radio art.
(c) Encouragement and improvement of the amateur service through rules which provide for advancing skills in both the communication and technical phases of the art.
(d) Expansion of the existing reservoir within the amateur radio service of trained operators, technicians, and electronics experts.
(e) Continuation and extension of the amateur’s unique ability to enhance international goodwill.

Many astronauts and cosmonauts are ham radio operators as well. Want to talk with the ISS? Get your Technician License. Easy peasy (LINK)
Here’s a link to a youtube video LINK of a ham talking to Col Doug Wheelock on the International Space Station.

Back to the CubeSat.

Those dark sections are stickers representing the solar cells. Two for every side to catch sunlight as the satellite ‘tumbles’ across the sky. It’s called tumbling but it’s really just a slow rotation.

The satellite is powered by ‘A’ cells. Not AA, not AAA, just A. NiCad ‘A’ batteries to be exact. Yeah, you read that right, NiCad. NiCad is an extremely well proven technology and NASA isn’t real big on secondary payloads getting ultra creative. And, yes, Li-ion is considered ‘creative’.

The antennas, one for VHF the other for UHF, are simply spring steel wire wrapped around four corner posts. The end is held in place with fishing line, Dyneema in our design. Yep, fishing line lol.
Once in orbit, about 45 minutes after release from the rocket structure, the fishing line is burned simply by using a hot resistor. The antenna then literally unwinds to return to its normal shape, hence the reason for using spring steel. In this case the antenna started out as straight wire.
The failsafe with fishing line is that UV light will weaken it and then it will break on its own (in case the resistor fails). It may take a few months but the satellite is up there for years.

Check out the photo gallery for more pics (GALLERY LINK)

Don’t tell anyone but this is how the Borg Cube came to be ………. 😀

The Chairman’s weapon of choice

The Chairman of Curve Aerospace is a CMP Distinguished Rifleman.

But his weapon of choice is his old Winchester Model 1300 Defender 12ga shotgun, holding 6+1 three inch shells.

Winchester 1300 Defender shotgun
The Chairman’s Winchester Model 1300 Defender shotgun
Shotshell hook and loop card attached to left side of Winchester Model 1300 Defender
Shotshell hook and loop card attached to left side of Winchester Model 1300 Defender

The reason? One of his company’s research projects for future military sales is ammunition development.

And the 12ga format provides for considerable flexibility in ammunition design.

An example is the Rocket Propelled, Fin Stabilized, 400 grain hardened lead alloy slug shell. The ‘beanbag’ round for armored folks.
Traveling at over Mach 6.5 it’ll deliver over 40,000 ft-lbs of energy into the target. More than a 20mm cannon shell.

Externally a shell looks like a typical 3″ magnum shell, complete with primer and brass base.
It even fires like one. The specially designed wad inside allows for a standard powder charge to eject the rocket motor and shot combo. An impulse activated, time delay fuse ignites the rocket approximately three feet from the muzzle.

Other payloads include, but not limited to:

RPFS armor piercing
RPFS high explosive, armor piercing
RPFS grenade
Gas shells
Signal shells
EMP shells. These use a special gel and electric charge to deliver a damaging, high amperage shock to electrical systems, computers, etc.

The beauty of the 12ga. That’s why he loves it so much and why his humadrones use the shotgun format for base and home security.

Besides, ‘shells’ sounds cooler than ’rounds’. 😀