Many satellite offer no perceived benefit for HAM radio

Is it my mistaken belief that:-
There seem to be more and more new satellites being launched which make use of amateur radio frequencies but don’t offer any real benefit to the amateur community?

A perfect example is the very latest Quetzal-1 which has no advertised receiver and only one transmitter to transmit telemetry.

We, the HAM radio community collect the data for them which is a great financial and technical benefit to the satellite owners but what is the benefit for us, the HAM radio community, once the novelty and excitement of capturing TLM data wears off?

It looks to me like these satellite owners are avoiding big commercial licensing fees by using amateur spectrum allocation but are really not an amateur services. Please tell me how & where I’m wrong.

I also noticed the satellite section of the VHF and UHF bands are becoming very congested with a lot of satellites overlapping and doubling up on frequency usage (145.825 excluded)

Is this sustainable? Are we relying on satellite decay to prevent spectrum overcrowding?

Am I missing something somewhere? Is there something wrong with my expectations or way of thinking?

Has anyone else noticed this or is it just me? Is this subject being discussed anywhere?

Just a thought while I contemplate my next project.


You open a very interesting discussion and I’m going to add my personal view on this. However before I write my answer I would like to read how do you envision HAM radio future and especially for space.

What paths should HAM radio community follow and how the next generation of radio amateurs will benefit by following them?


They could always be considered a beacon which are actually more useful terrestrial.


How best to answer your question fredy?

Let me start by saying I love what this community has created and the camaraderie and support from and for each other is fantastic.

My question is really addressing the people who launch satellites and rely on us to do the data collection for them.

For me Amateur radio is not idle chit chat about nothing of substance for hours on end. For me amateur radio now is, been there done that since 1909 when I built my first super regen receiver. What I’m looking for now is new discoveries, new experiments, exploring things that are new and different. I want to be more involved in learning all about space and specialized communication techniques.
Everyone can do the easy stuff but I need new challenges. I want to see what the camera sees on Satellite XYZ. I want to know what the data collected in research is useful for which is where the Grafana dashboards are really great.

One of my heroes was once quoted as saying “When you stop learning you start dying”.
I usually build something, get it working, try improving it and when I’m happy it’s working perfectly I move on to the next project. I also have a lot of unfinished projects lying around. Hi hi.

Amateur radio is dying because many of the potential candidates can communicate much easier via e-mail SMS etc. They are used to the theory of entitlement. Getting things without having to work for it. Their smartphone is their life support system. Without it they will wither and die. How do we compete with that? By showing them new and exciting things like the ARISS program etc.

I’ll get off my soapbox now, back to you fredy. 73 Bob vk2byf


It is actually quite unfortunate that amateur satellites, such as cubesats developed in universities, basically have to use one of the satellite sub-bands of amateur radio frequencies. I cannot imagine how hard it would be to get frequency licenses for anything else but even using HAM sub-band is not without its problems. There are 3 organizations that all need to agree on frequency use - space agency, organization that is responsible for frequency allocations in a country, and also amateur radio organization. Once you have the frequencies and callsigns and HAM licenses you are limited to AX.25 and commonly used modulation schemes that were exiting new technologies about 25 years ago. Whether you can use encryption or not is dependent of the country specific laws. The benefit of being able to use off-the shelf gear for ground station may be offset by terrible implementations that may limit things like the AX.25 frame length and/or have RX-TX switching time in hundreds milliseconds. I think all-in-all satellite developers would be happy to have an alternative that would not involve amateur radio community in any way, but with satellite comm sub-bands being the most feasible option, both satellite developers and HAM community will have to deal with the way things currently are.

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I have no problems with research institutions using ham sub bands for their satellites, as long as the satellites can be switched into modes that provide service to the amateur community (either partially or full time).

Examples that we see are the Fox Satellites and HuskySat. HuskySat was supposed to be in transponder mode by now, but I guess the cootie put a hold on that.

Just my 2 cents.

It all depends on definition of “service”. If you are thinking of radio relay and such, then a requirement like that may be very hard for satellite builders to meet, especially in 1U and smaller cubesats. Its tough to fit the primary experiment(s) into that space to begin with, and even assuming that they have the radio(s) and code space, the power budget and thermal constraints may become deciding factors. Also, as far as I know there is no requirement whatsoever that the satellite even has bidirectional communication capability. I’m guess back in time just transmitting something down from space that could be received on earth was considered enough of a “service” :slight_smile:

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My two cents on the Amateur Radio service with regards to activity in space:
(disclosure: I am a licensed operator SV1QVE and a member of the LSF board)

Status Quo

From our experience so far, running SatNOGS, running LSF (and its various projects), sending a satellite in space, interacting with IARU, ITU, AMSATs around the world and many many individuals and projects around those, I can safely say after all those years the taste that I have left is this of slight bitterness when it comes to radio amateur and space activities.

Interestingly this comes from both sides of the struggle, the “traditional radio amateur users and organizations” and the “orgs taking advantage or misinterpreting radio amateurism for free license and free help.” I am oversimplifying, but it helps with the conceptualization. I think that both of those groups are missing some of the bigger picture around radio amateur in space.

The two dynamics

More specifically, the first group (the “traditionalists”) generally have a pretty archaic definition of what “amateur radio service” means, expecting most of the time the same old concepts from new missions. “You don’t have a transponder? We don’t consider you a real radio amateur mission.” Their passion around getting more “services” is such that they often prioritize it at the expense of other core ideals to radio amateurism (like access to knowledge, maker-spirit, etc.). We have seen this again and again from orgs sacrificing any openness around their projects to get something in space (recent OSCAR examples are more than enough for my point).

On the other hand, we have an almost exponentially growing number of orgs (universities, for-profits, non-profits, research groups, etc.) that are literally hijacking radio amateur frequencies, promising the absolute bare minimums that can get them an IARU coordination, and then never delivering on them. At the same time, IARU, for the most part, looks the other way (unfortunately). Since the inception of SatNOGS, we have been documenting many of those abuses and will start flagging them and being more pro-active around them soon (that’s a topic for another thread).

A new hope

In parallel to those two detrimental dynamics, we see an inspiring growth of awareness around openness (open source and open data projects) with regards to space-related radio amateur projects. Besides LSF projects that all abide by the LSF Manifesto (which we believe captures the essence for what we want in space), we see new missions and new projects spawning, sharing, collaborating, and re-writing the status quo of what radio amateur space missions mean. Open hardware, orbit determination using RF, propagation tests, new modulations and encodings openly implemented and tested, and so many other bright ideas for the way forward. Those are the projects I want to see flourish, and those are the projects LSF is determined to support (obviously through SatNOGS too).

In the meantime, we will need to stay vigilant, document openly every usage of radio amateur service, provide feedback, pressure teams, and missions, act as a driving force, and nurture a community that has precisely this kind of discussion publicly.

As for the more practical aspects of SatNOGS policy towards all these, more detailed posts will follow, but it is safe to assume that our guiding principles will remain unchanged. If anything, I urge us to be more vocal and active on safeguarding radio amateurism (and more broadly for LSF openness in space).


Very well put pierros, thanks.


I have had this same feeling in the past before I realized at honestly any data collected by these satellites can be of use. The following is just my opinion on all this.

Literally ANY data they collect can be used to help understand the environment future ham satellites will be living in. It also provides data on how the internal components of the satellite are doing. Which if they are using newer technologies (example one sat used LiFePO4 batteries as a test.) it provided a way to see how that technology reacts to the conditions present in space.

It also provides alot of data for projects like Polaris to study and advance their work which will help everyone doing satellite stuff.