Fox-1Cliff Cubesat to Expand Communication Opportunities

The fourth of the Fox-1 series of cubesats will also carry experiments from several universities and a camera that AMSAT members can use to take earth observation photos

The Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation (commonly known as AMSAT)

AMSAT was formed in 1969 as an educational organization with the goal of fostering amateur radio operator’s participation in space research and communications. The Fox-1 series of cubesats is a communication platform for amateur radio operators worldwide. They support the mission of AMSAT and its 3500 members, to allow anyone with an amateur radio license to access the communication possibilities of space, fostering international goodwill and furthering educational STEM goals. The amateur radio operator community is growing, and AMSAT lets these enthusiasts across the planet talk with each other, using only simple, low cost equipment.

Spaceflight will be taking AMSAT’s Fox-1Cliff cubesat into space aboard its dedicated rideshare mission, SSO-A: SmallSat Express in late 2018. This will be the fourth of the Fox-1 series cubesats to go up. Fox-1D was launched with as a Spaceflight mission aboard the PSLV-C40 back in January of 2018.

Fox-1Cliff is unique in that it will also have university experiments aboard, including one from Vanderbilt University measuring radiation effects and also a camera that amateurs can use to take photos. The camera will be triggered by one of three licensed groundstations, located in Florida, Texas and North Carolina. Once triggered, it will take images for 45 minutes and downlink them in real time. Anyone with the software will be able to access these photos. (Check out some of the great photos that Fox-1D took with its lower resolution camera – the camera on Fox-1Cliff will have higher resolution).

Coast of Maine

Big Bend area of Florida, Suwanee River on left.

Cape Cod and Nantucket

South Andros, Bahamas

Fox-1Cliff as an Educational Tool

AMSAT supports the expansion of the satellite industry through educational programs aimed to interest students in STEM and satellites and amateur radio communications in particular. They will conduct programs in schools, showing students how to download images from satellites. The images from Fox-1Cliff will be valuable for this as well. In addition, by supporting the Vanderbilt University experiment, Fox-1Cliff furthers educational goals in multiple ways.

This satellite will have even more meaning for AMSAT members, as it has a special honorary designation. The satellite is designated Fox-1Cliff to honor long-time AMSAT member and supporter, Cliff Buttschardt, who passed away in 2006 but made lasting contributions to this program. His interest in cubesats had previously earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award from AMSAT, but this unique designation is a rare honor.

The Spaceflight Advantage

AMSAT is familiar with many launch options as they have been launching satellites since their inception; they know the ropes. They look for flexibility and cost-effective launches. With Spaceflight, they can move between launch vehicles as schedules change.

“We initially planned to launch just one satellite with Spaceflight, but we said if there was another opportunity, to give us a call. And they did – there was a last minute opening for a satellite on another launch and we took it,” says Drew Glasbrenner, Vice President of Operations for AMSAT. “That showed us that Spaceflight is always be open to ideas and flexible, which we don’t always get out of other launches.”

Spaceflight’s services go beyond finding launches. The expertise of their mission managers benefits AMSAT in other ways. In the case of Fox-1Cliff, it was originally designed for a different type of deployer. Their mission manager worked with them to modify it for a different deployer.

Finally, they rely on Spaceflight for guidance of regulatory requirements and paperwork. “When we launched on the PSLV, the Spaceflight team stepped in and took care of the export paperwork, and that was fairly painless,” says Paul Stoetzer, Executive Vice President of AMSAT. “Spaceflight also helped us get certified for vibration testing for our last PSLV launch. They’ve always bent over backwards to make our launches happen.”

Spaceflight is looking forward to seeing the impact of Fox-1Cliff, and how it will be used by AMSAT members. There are few payloads that will directly impact so many people around the world, bringing people with a shared passion for space together.

“Fostering international goodwill has always been one of the goals of the amateur radio community,” says Paul Stoetzer Executive Vice President of AMSAT. Spaceflight is happy to support this mission!

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