[aprssig] Naval Academy APRS Satellites

Robert Kirk isobar at bcpl.net
Fri Dec 8 12:20:19 CST 2006

I saw this nice press release below from the Naval Academy.

The only problem is that APRS got second billing to those silly, supposedly 
primary missions :-)

(Last night's launch was postponed because of wx; hope they make it ok on 

Bob Kirk

>      ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Three satellites with systems designed, built,
>and tested by Naval Academy Midshipmen at the Academy's Satellite
>Laboratory will be launched into orbit by Space Shuttle Mission
>STS-116.  The shuttle is scheduled to launch tonight. [Thursday]
>After completion of STS-116's mission to the International Space
>Station, the Shuttle will deploy the Naval Academy satellites, Radar
>Fence Transponder (RAFT), Military Affiliate Radio System
>Communications (MARSCOM) and Atmospheric Neutral Density Experiment
>(ANDE).  These satellites were designed, built and tested by
>Midshipmen in the Classes of 2003, 2004 and 2005 under the supervision
>of Senior Research Engineer Robert Bruninga as a part of our aerospace
>engineering program.  Current Naval Academy Midshipmen are working on
>the next generation Academy satellite, PARKINSONSAT.
>The primary mission of the RAFT satellite is tied to the calibration
>of the Department of Defense's Space Surveillance Radar which is a
>major source of satellite tracking data for all spacecraft in the U.S.
>This radar helps generate the tracking data used by most satellite
>tracking systems worldwide.  The MARScom satellite is similar to RAFT
>but operates on Navy-Marine Corps MARS frequencies for volunteer
>Department of Defense communications experiments.
>The secondary mission of RAFT and MARScom is to provide a digital
>communications relay for mobile units to transmit their GPS
>coordinates and messages via the satellites. This is a continuation of
>the Naval Academy's previous Prototype Communications Satellite and
>PCSAT2 missions. The downlink is made public in accordance with the
>rules of the International Amateur Satellite Service, and is received
>by a global system of volunteer ground stations that feed the live web
>  page network: http://pcsat.aprs.org.
>ANDE was developed by the Naval Research labs as an "Atmospheric
>Neutral Density Experiment" to measure the decay from orbit of a
>perfectly spherical 19" ball.  Upon learning that the sphere would be
>empty, the Naval Academy proposed an amateur radio transponder for the
>inside.  Since there could be no external antennas, solar panels or
>anything that would disturb the aerodynamic performance of the very
>smooth sphere, Bruninga suggested that the spherical satellite be
>split in half with an insulator.  The resulting space frame could then
>be used as the antenna for the VHF system.  There are 112 Lithium "D"
>cells inside the sphere to power it for a year.
>Chairman of the Naval Academy Aerospace Engineering Department,
>Professor Daryl G. Boden said, "The Aero Department is extremely proud
>of the midshipmen who have contributed to this effort and of Bob
>Bruninga, who never ceases to amaze me with what he can accomplish." [!!]
>The information from these satellites will be similar to that of
>previous Naval Academy satellites and will be distributed by the
>network of volunteer ground stations to feed a central live telemetry
>Web site http://pcsat.aprs.org.  This makes the downlink valuable for
>students and educators because it will be available on a "live" basis
>more often than just the few eight minute passes per day that each
>single station might receive alone.
>For technical details on the Naval Academy satellites, see the
>ANDE/RAFT operations web page:

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