A ground station for the amateur satellite service

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Virginia Tech

This report presents the design of a ground station for performing satellite communications using amateur radio satellites. The resulting design integrates commercially available hardware and software to provide effective communications using all current amateur satellite analog and digital operating modes. The station is capable of growth to support message forwarding, gateway, and satellite monitoring and control functions. The acquisition plan spreads the station's acquisition over several years to keep costs within an individual's budget, and maintains flexibility to adapt to changes in satellites and communications modes available over the station's life. The station's major design drivers are sufficient link budget for reliable communications, the station's life cycle cost, ensuring radio frequency energy fields are at safe levels, placement of antennas and supports to comply with local architectural restrictions, and selection of a 435 MHz transceiver for the station.

This project illustrates the ability of individuals or small groups to economically acquire effective satellite communications capability by integrating largely off-the-shelf hardware and software. In conjunction with small, relatively low-cost satellites, this ability places space communications and related research within reach of groups otherwise excluded from participating in satellite programs.