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Weekly satellite News

20 August 2023


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  Breaking NEWS

ESA Satellite Communications Group Explores Future Amateur Satellite Payload

Frank Zeppenfeldt, PDØAP, representing the European Space Agency (ESA), provided key insights during a presentation on February 4th at the FOSDEM 2024 conference held in Brussels, Belgium. The discussion centered around ESA's initiative to collaborate with the amateur satellite community in defining a prospective payload for Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) or Geostationary Orbit (GEO). The ESA's involvement aims to build upon the success of the QO-100 payload in geostationary orbit, fostering innovation and technological advancements.

During the FOSDEM conference, the ESA Satellite Communications Group outlined preliminary ideas, stressing the significance of engaging with the Software-Defined Radio (SDR) community. The primary objectives include consolidating requirements, exploring diverse payload options, addressing user segments, and thoroughly examining financing, procurement, and operational scenarios for a potential MEO/GEO amateur payload.

The project's scope encompasses the consideration of various payload options and trade-offs, encompassing aspects such as frequency bands, analog or digital transmission, on-board SDR/Linux/GPU-box configurations, potential applications, technical risks, inter-satellite links, geographical coverage, degree of centralization, and educational components.


Proposed Planning for ESA MEO/GEO Amateur Payload. [Credit: Frank Zeppenfeldt, ESA Satellite Communications Group]

Open larger version of the plan here

To ensure a comprehensive and well-informed approach, the ESA plans to actively involve the amateur community. This engagement seeks to gather valuable input on lessons learned from the QO-100 experience, amateur requirements and interests, as well as suggestions for payload options. The consultation process extends to reaching out to AMSAT and other relevant groups, alongside dialogues with satellite operators, primes, and various stakeholders.

Looking ahead, the ESA has outlined a timeline for the project. In March 2024, the agency intends to solicit input from the amateur satellite community and other stakeholders, guided by valuable insights from the AMSAT community. By May 2024, detailed payload options will be presented for discussion at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, with the support of technical expertise.

More information from this presentation including the ten page Slide Deck can be found

The culmination of this extensive process is expected in September 2024 at the World Satellite Business Week, where dedicated discussions with satellite operators will be organized. The ESA envisions proposing a selection of payload options at a subsequent FOSDEM conference in 2025, further demonstrating the collaborative commitment of ESA and the amateur satellite community to propel advancements in satellite communications and explore innovative possibilities for future amateur satellite payloads in both GEO and MEO orbits.

[ANS thanks Frank Zeppenfeldt, PDØAP, ESA Satellite Communications Group, for the above information]



AMSATSA  Space Symposium 2022

“Space, the next frontier for expansion of amateur radio”

Videos and presentations

Satellites for beginners and restarters

Link to video recording

Download PowerPoint presentation  here

A networked OSCAR100 DATV Receiver

Presentation by Tom van den Bon ZR6TG

Link to video recording


OSCAR100 – the easy way
Hannes Coetzee ZS6BZP looks at how low cost, off-the-shelf DSTV components can be used to monitor the QO-100 activity. Some proposals for a complete, narrowband Oscar-100 station are also made.

Link to video recording

More to follow


AfriCUBE has been running on the test bench for the past six weeks and will in the next few week be tested on the air from Rooihuiskraal. Development of the control system software has reached an advanced stage and will be incorporated in the AfriCUBE on board computer to carry out practical evaluations. The control software will enable AfriCUBE to be programmed from the ground to place the satellite in a specific mode.  

Previous conference presentations

Presentation by Dr Gary Immelman ZS6YI

View here

AfriCUBE Challenging the limits

Presentation by Anton Janovsky ZR6AIC

Watch here


 AMSAT SA Dual band 70cm/yagi Mark II


AMSAT SA has launched Mark II of is dual band 70cm/2m handheld beam antenna with a new, easier to hold handle and improved coaxial terminations. The Yagi has been retuned for maximum performance in the amateur radio 2 m and 70 cm satellite bands.

The coax cable is terminated crimped brass lugs instead of being soldered making it environmental more robust.  The driven element has been adjusted to accommodate the change in the connection.

More about the Yagi

The   antenna has a 50-ohm designed driver.  The Yagi has a unique element called a ‘Open Sleeve’ which is a director very close to the driven element.  The driven element is sized for 2M.  When operating on 70cm the ‘Open Sleeve’ acts as part of the driven element on 70cm (Third harmonic of 2M). 

The original concept was developed in 1946 by Dr J T Bolljahn of the Stanford Research institute but was not introduced into amateur radio until the 1950s. The AMSAT SA version is based on a design by DK7ZB with modifications by WB5CXC.   

The first South African version was a collaboration between Guy Eales ZS6GUY and Dr Gary Immelman ZS6YI. It was developed for YOTA 2018 where young people successfully used the antenna operating satellites using hand-held transceivers.  

The mechanical structure was redesigned by Dr Gary Immelmann ZS6YI. A choke around the boom was added to isolate the antenna from the coax and reduce the effect human contact has on the antenna. A handle was added on the boom end which makes it more comfortable to hold and further isolates the antenna from the handler. The AMSAT SA yagi is manufactured in one of Dr Immelmann’s factories in Vereeniging.  It has two elements on 145 MHz and 3 elements on 435 MHz.

For its size the antenna has excellent gain:

145 MHZ: 4.12 dBd or 6.3 dBi

435 MHz: 6.23 dBd or 8.4 dBi

The Yagi is broadband with measured SWR as follows and almost flat over the entire bands

The antenna is plug and play. No tools are needed except for soldering on a connector to suit the application. It comes complete in a carry bag with full instructions. This antenna can be assembled and dissembled in minutes.


The price of the MKII Yagi is R400 for AMSAT SA and SARL members. Non-members pay R500. The courier charge is R150  (Postnet to Postnet) Ask for a quote for other courier options.


VHF and UHF radio propagation remains a mystery; even tropospheric and sporadic-E propagation are not fully understood, with new long distance communication distance records being broken.

The enquiring nature of radio amateurs has over many years resulted in informal research with setting up beacons and monitoring signals. But this hand-to-mouth way of doing this has not really delivered the kind of data to make meaningful and scientific findings. All it’s really is showing is that long distance communication of frequencies above 30 MHz is possible and does regularly occur. The answer to the conundrum is to set up a reverse beacon network to monitor beacons. Reverse beacon monitoring has always been a major requirement for monitoring a beacon and has been discussed over the past two-plus years at various workshops arranged by the SARL and AMSATSA. The initial outcome of these deliberations was to monitor CW beacons using software like CW skimmer, but experience gained through actual testing has shown a number of flaws with this approach. The major flaw is that CW skimmer software is not 100% reliable when it comes to decoding. It requires a fairly strong signal before the software actually begins decoding the received CW signal. Aural reception of a weak CW signal can already take place way before the skimmer software starts to decode the signal. These findings encouraged members of the SARL VHF work group to start experimenting with digital modes like FT8 and JS8Call on VHF and UHF, and they found that the reception and reporting of the signals heard could take place at very low levels. This therefore seems to be a much better solution for a beacon than continuing with a traditional CW beacon.

Get the full story here


Current Fund R30 400

visit the SARL beacon page here Beacon

The SARL has provided funding for the first beacon. However, the project will have to rely on crowd funding to accelerate the project. AMSAT SA has launched a crowd funding project on behalf of the SARL VHF work group.
Contributions can be made  by clicking on the pay button for R50, R250 or R1000. Your contribution is appreciated and will be acknowledged.






 Thank You. You an make it happen!

Trailblazer in Space Science leaves a remarkable legacy 

Dr Lee-Anne McKinnell, Managing Director of the South African National Space Agency’s Space Science Programme passed away on Saturday 19 August 2023 after a short illness. 

Lee-Anne was born in Vereeniging in 1970 and grew up in Witpoortjie, close to Krugersdorp. She was the first female learner to complete a technical matric at the John Orr Engineering School of Specialisation. Her father, an Electrical Engineer wanted her to follow in his footsteps, however, she developed a passion for physics. True to her nature, she decided to satisfy both and enrolled in a BSC Physics and Electronics course.

After obtaining her degree, Lee-Anne pursued her Honours, Masters and PhD in Physics through Rhodes University. She later obtained an MBA from the Business School Netherlands (BSN) in 2015, with distinction.

She was accepted as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Graz University of Technology in Austria and fondly remembered the time she spent there.

Lee-Anne was appointed as a junior lecturer at Rhodes, but not for long, as she rose through the academic ranks and was appointed Honorary Research Professor at Rhodes University in 2011. She was well known for managing the Ionosonde Network in South Africa.

Lee-Anne was appointed to the Hermanus Magnetic Observatory (HMO) in 2004 as a researcher and was then appointed as the Acting Managing Director in 2010, after which she moved to Hermanus part-time. Her husband, John McKinnell, joined her in Hermanus in 2012 when the HMO was incorporated in the newly established South African National Space Agency (SANSA) and they relocated permanently.

Lee-Anne played a crucial role in the establishment of the Space Agency, as a board member and an executive and many of the students she supervised are now full-time researchers at SANSA and around the world.

She served as SANSA Space Science Managing Director for 12 years and during this time made a tremendous contribution to the space science, skills development, and science engagement fields. 

The Space Weather Project was her crowning achievement which produced a Space Weather Capability for the country in three years, on time, and on budget. The launch of the 24/7 Space Weather Centre in November of last year was a highlight for her and the SANSA team. Lee-Anne was a space weather advocate and custodian of the unique SANSA Hermanus facility which she loved and is now a National Key Point, thanks to her continued efforts to protect the site.

Dr McKinnell served on numerous international committees and working groups, including as the Space Weather co-chair for the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), ensuring Africa’s interests are maintained in the field of space science and related technology. She also received a long list of awards for her contribution to the Space Science field.

Lee-Anne loved animals, especially dogs. She owned several dogs during her life, including a border collie named Skye and a dachshund named Pixie. She loved listening to music and took up baking as her lock-down hobby. She was also a skilled seamstress, a hobby she learned from her grandmother and practiced often.

Her husband, John McKinnell, expressed his gratitude for all the messages that have been pouring in since the announcement. “I received several messages from prominent scientists who told me they owe their current positions to Lee-Anne. SANSA was Lee-Anne’s life. She gave so much to the organisation, but also received so much in return, particularly from the wonderful Hermanus Space Science team. She will be sorely missed by me and sorely missed by them.