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The widespread interest in building and sending hamsats to orbit flourished among Amateur Radio operators around the world in the 1990s. In fact, the very first year of the decade, 1990, was a record launch year. Eight hamsats were blasted to space that year. That was a a tie with 1981 for the most Amateur Radio satellites launched in one year. Close behind was 1991 with four Amateur Radio satellites and eight amateur-related satellites launched.
Here, in chronological order, are the numerous Amateur Radio communications and science satellites, and amateur-related satellites, fired to space the 1990s:
What's the difference between amateur radio satellites and amateur-related satellites?
1990: UoSAT-OSCAR 14
With the dawn of the 1990s decade, the space enthusiasts at England's University of Surrey had some complex new satellites ready to go to space. UoSAT-3, a.k.a. UoSAT-D, a radically smaller satellite built at the University of Surrey in the U.K., was launched January 22, 1990, on Ariane 4 rocket flight V35 from Kourou, French Guiana, to become UoSAT-OSCAR 14. Ariane flight V35 carried the commercial SPOT-2 satellite and six microsatellites — UO-14, UO-15, AO-16, DO-17, WO-18, and LO-19.
UoSAT-4 a.k.a. UoSAT-E, a microsatellite built by the University of Surrey in the U.K., also was launched January 22, 1990, on Ariane 4 rocket flight V35 from Kourou, French Guiana, to become UoSAT-OSCAR 15. Ariane flight V35 carried the commercial SPOT-2 satellite and six microsatellites — UO-14, UO-15, AO-16, DO-17, WO-18, and LO-19. UO-15 had scientific experiments to complement UO-14. However, UO-15's electronics failed shortly after the microsatellite reached Earth orbit.
1990: AMSAT-OSCAR 16
A radical design departure for Amateur Radio satellites was called for after the 1986 shuttle Challenger explosion made rides to space more expensive. The result was the startlingly small microsatellite introduced by AMSAT in 1991. The first from AMSAT, AO-16, also was launched January 22, 1990, on Ariane 4 rocket flight V35 from Kourou, French Guiana, to become AMSAT-OSCAR 16. Ariane flight V35 carried the commercial SPOT-2 satellite and six microsatellites — UO-14, UO-15, AO-16, DO-17, WO-18, and LO-19.
The Brazilian hamsat DO-17 also was launched January 22, 1990, on Ariane 4 rocket flight V35 from Kourou, French Guiana, to become DOVE-OSCAR 17. Ariane flight V35 carried the commercial SPOT-2 satellite and six microsatellites — UO-14, UO-15, AO-16, DO-17, WO-18, and LO-19.
1990: WEBERSAT-OSCAR 18
The Weber, Utah, state university hamsat WO-18 also was launched January 22, 1990, on Ariane 4 rocket flight V35 from Kourou, French Guiana, to become WEBERSAT-OSCAR 18. Ariane flight V35 carried the commercial SPOT-2 satellite and six microsatellites — UO-14, UO-15, AO-16, DO-17, WO-18, and LO-19.
1990: LUSAT-OSCAR 19
The Argentine hamsat LO-19 also was launched January 22, 1990, on Ariane 4 rocket flight V35 from Kourou, French Guiana, to become LUSAT-OSCAR 19. Ariane flight V35 carried the commercial SPOT-2 satellite and six microsatellites — UO-14, UO-15, AO-16, DO-17, WO-18, and LO-19.
1990: Fuji-OSCAR 20
Japanese hams readied a replacement hamsat to follow FO-12 (JAS-1a) that had been turned off in 1989 when its solar generator was unable to produce sufficient electricity for the battery. The new Japanese hamsat, JAS-1b, was launched to Earth orbit on February 7, 1990, to become Fuji-OSCAR 20.
The Pakistani hamsat Badr-1 or Badr-A was launched on July 16, 1990, by China on one of its Long March rockets to a 375-mi.-high circular orbit. The 150-lb. Badr-1 was the first indigenously-made satellite of the Muslim world. It circled the globe every 96 minutes, passing over Pakistan for 15 minutes three to four times a day. Badr is the Urdu language word for "new moon."
Badr-1 was constructed by engineers who were hams at the Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) at the University of the Punjab at Lahore. Several had completed masters degrees in engineering at England's University of Surrey — the institution which built the hamsats UO-9, UO-11 and UO-22. Back home, they used their new knowledge to build a satellite in 1986, with support from the Pakistan Amateur Radio Society.
Badr-1 was to have been ferried to space in a U.S. shuttle, but that plan changed after the 1986 Challenger explosion delayed American flights. It was launched from China's Xichang Launch Center in 1990. Badr-1's orbit was so low it could not sustain itself in space more than 146 days. It burned in Earth's atmosphere December 9, 1990.
SUPARCO engineers built the non-amateur Badr-2 or Badr-B, which was launched to space on December 10, 2001, by Russia on a Zenit-2 rocket from its Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakistan. Badr-2 carried an Earth imager.
RS-14/AO-21, launched January 29, 1991, was a joint venture between AMSAT-U (Russia) and AMSAT-DL (Germany). Like those popular Russian dolls inside dolls, an amateur Radiosputnik was inside a larger government spacecraft from the Ministry of Geology and Science. And, inside the Russian hamsat, was some German gear. The ham gear was mounted piggyback on the large government geology satellite INFORMATOR-1. Amateur Radio lost a valuable asset when the Russian government ran out of funds for the project and turned the entire satellite off on September 16, 1994. RS-14/AO-21 had been a popular satellite because it was easy to communicate through RS-14/AO-21. The hamsat was an FM repeater that also transmitted recorded messages commemorating events like the 25th anniversary of the first landing on the Moon when it rebroadcast the first words of Neil Armstrong as he had stepped on the Moon in 1969.
The Russian hamsat RS 12/13 was launched February 5, 1991.
1991: UoSAT-OSCAR 22
The British microsat UoSAT-5, built by the University of Surrey, was launched July 17, 1991, to become UO-22.
Learn more about UO-22: Versatile Satellite UO-22 Celebrates 10 Years in Space1992: KITSAT-OSCAR 23
Amateurs from the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology studied at the University of Surrey and then sent up "Our Star." The Korean hamsat KO-23 was launched August 10, 1992. The University of Surrey in the U.K. built the microsatellite for KAIST Satellite Technology Research Center (SaTReC) of Korea.
The French hamsat AO-24 was the first Amateur Radio satellite to be launched in 1993. ARSENE was launched May 13, 1993, on Ariane flight V56A from Kourou, French Guiana, to an elliptical, equatorial orbit. AO-24 was a French packet relay satellite built by French Radio Amateur Club de l'Espace. ARSENE-OSCAR 24 was built as a Mode B hamsat with 1200 bps FM AFSK downlink at 145.975 MHz downlink. It also had a Mode S downlink transponder at 2446.54 MHz. Unfortunately, the 2 meter packet system transponder failed after launch. Arsene was used for a few months, however, to relay voice (SSB) and Morse code (CW) signals on 2.4 GHz until that transponder quit working.
1993: PoSAT-OSCAR 28
Portugal's PoSAT-1 was launched September 25, 1993, to become PoSAT-OSCAR 28. Unfortunately for ham radio operators, the satellite also had an amateur-related, but non-amateur section, which enjoyed a greater usage priority with its ground controllers.
1993: KITSAT-OSCAR 25
The Korean hamsat KO-24 was launched September 26, 1993. The University of Surrey in the U.K. built the microsatellite for KAIST Satellite Technology Research Center (SaTReC) of Korea.
1993: Italy-OSCAR 26
The Italian hamsat ITAMSAT was launched September 26, 1993, to become IO-26.
1993: AMRAD-OSCAR 27
AMRAD's AO-27 hamsat was launched September 26, 1993.
1994: Radiosputnik 15
The Russian hamsat RS-15 was launched December 16, 1994.
1995: UNAMSAT-1 and TechSat-1a
The Mexican hamsat UNAMSAT-1 and the Israeli hamsat TechSat-1a were lost when their Russian Start-1 rocket failed after blastoff from Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome on March 28, 1995. The launcher had been an ICBM missile converted to a space booster.
UNAMSAT-1 was built at the National University of Mexico (UNAM). (See below: Mexico-OSCAR 30 and TechSat-1b)
1996: Fuji-OSCAR 29
The Japanese hamsat JAS-2 was launched August 17, 1996, to become FO-29.
The second Mexican hamsat UNAMSAT-B, built at the National University of Mexico (UNAM), was launched from Russia on September 5, 1996. MO-30 was the twin of UNAMSAT-1 (see above). Unfortunately, MO-30 stopped working after a few hours when its receiver failed. Each of the UNAMSAT microsats contained a digital communications BBS (bulletin board system along with a scientific experiment to measure the speed of incoming meteorites that burn in Earth's atmosphere.
1997: Radiosputnik 17a/Sputnik-40
A little-remembered Amateur Radio satellite -- RS-17a, PS-2, Sputnik 40 -- enjoyed flickering fame in 1997 when it was hand launched from Mir space station. RS-17a was a scale model satellite built by high school students to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the launching of Sputnik-I. It was dropped overboard by Russian cosmonauts from the Mir Space Station on November 4, 1997. RS-17a broadcast a beep-beep signal for 55 days and was last recorded on December 29, 1997.
More on RS-17a/Sputnik-40Little Echo of the Beep Heard Around the World1998: Thai-Microsatellite-OSCAR 31
More on RS-17a/Sputnik-40 and RS-17b: The Many Little Beeps Heard 'Round the World
More on RS-17a/Sputnik-40Mini-Sputnik
Thailand's TMSAT-1 microsat built in the U.K. by Surrey Satellite Technology, Ltd., was launched July 10, 1998, from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome.
1998: Gerswin-OSCAR 32
The Israeli hamsat TechSat-1b also was launched July 10, 1998, from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome. GO-32 was a microsat project of students and scientists at the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, along with the Israel Amateur Radio Club. GO-32 included a camera. Its first picture was of the French Riviera near Saint-Tropaz.
The satellite was a replacement for TechSat-1a that was lost when its Russian Start-1 rocket failed after blastoff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in 1995.
1998: SEDSat-OSCAR 33
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at the University of Huntsville, Alabama, designed and constructed SEDSAT-1, which was launched October 24, 1998.
1998: PANSAT-OSCAR 34
Designed and built by the Space Systems Academic Group at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, PANSAT was launched October 30, 1998. The microsat had an Amateur Radio store-and-forward message system and employed direct sequence spread-spectrum communications.
The tiny hamsat was launched by hand November 10, 1998, by cosmonauts aboard the Mir space station. RS-18 was the same size as the earlier Sputnik 40 as it, too, was a one-third scale replica of Sputnik 1. It transmitted a "beep-beep" beacon to remind listeners of the 1957 Sputnik 1 signal.
RS-18 tarnsmitted, on 145.8125 MHz, two pre-recorded voice greetings in English, Russian and French as well as a beacon tone. The messages said, "1998 was the International Year of Air and Space" and "International Space School Sputnik Program." RS-18 was dubbed "A Satellite for Education."
More on RS-18/Sputnik 41The Many Little Beeps Heard 'Round the World1999: SUNSAT-OSCAR 35
SUNSAT was a microsat built by post-graduate engineering students in the Electronic Systems Laboratory of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Stellenbosch, Matieland, South Africa, and launched February 23, 1999.
This tiny controversial amateur-related satellite was launched by hand April 16, 1999, by cosmonauts aboard the Mir space station. The satellite just like the earlier RS-18, but used the so-called "Internet beat time," a concept being promoted by the commercial Swatch watch company in Switzerland. The project was to be known as "Beatnik." International Telecommunication Union regulations for Amateur Radio would not permit use of ham frequencies for commerce so the Amateur Radio element of the project was abandoned. It was launched with its ham transmitter turned off.
More on RS-19/Sputnik-99: The Many Little Beeps Heard 'Round the World
What's the difference between amateur radio satellites and amateur-related satellites?
1999: UoSAT-OSCAR 36
UoSAT-12 was built by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and launched April 21, 1999, on a Russian rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, to become UoSAT-OSCAR 36.
The next page continues this amazing story of Amateur Radio satellites with the sophisticated and powerful hamsats launched in the 21st century:
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