AMSAT: What It Is and What It Does

AMSAT is officially the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, a non-profit educational organization established in 1969. They are made up of a group of non-professional radio operators whose common interest is building and launching non-commercial radio satellites. Although amateurs, AMSAT has built and used a good number of satellites over the past several decades. This is quite impressive, given that AMSAT is made up mostly of volunteers and whatever resources they use to design and construct satellites are donated. They do get help from commercial and government space agencies, however, particularly for launching satellites into orbit.

The goal of AMSAT is to promote the participation of Amateur Radio in space communication and research. They were founded by Project OSCAR (Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio), a group that actually built the first units of Amateur Radio satellites. ‘OSCAR’ is still a term used with these types of satellites.

Members of AMSAT develop and assemble satellites (they have successfully launched more than 40). They also man ground control during launch and after the satellite is already in orbit. AMSAT members also use their satellites as radio relay links, allowing them to communicate with others.

AMSAT satellites may be monitored through radio scanner and short-wave receiver. They can generally handle voice, image and data transmissions. The communications capabilities of AMSAT satellites are invaluable when terrestrial systems and links are congested or damaged, such as during disasters.

Although AMSAT is originally an organization based in the District of Columbia, there are also other groups around the world that use the moniker. AMSAT-DL, for example, is a group based in Germany, JAMSAT is a group in Japan, AMSAT-UK is based in Great Britain while BRAMSAT is based in Brazil. The original AMSAT in the U.S. is sometimes called AMSAT-North America or AMSAT-NA.

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