My name is Jan King. I'm a permanent resident of Australia, born in Michigan, USA working as an Aerospace Engineer, not yet fully retired. I've worked on satellite and launch vehicle projects my whole life. But, I'm also one of the founders of an Amateur Radio Satellite Organization; a voluntary society. This group, known as AMSAT, has built and launched 20 satellites since 1970, mostly involving members working in their basements on satellite components.
As I will retire sometime soon, I wanted to put some of my experience to work. I thought it might be good to add some electronics skills to the Men's Shed - leading toward (maybe) an amazing capability. I would suggest doing this in about five stages or steps. We can stop at any step, and "hold" there fi folks find it too much. Each step below is harder than the previous but, it is a way to build confidence. As I have done this before I am suggesting this, knowing it can be done. I've watched it be done and I've helped make it happen.
- Step 1: Create an Electronics Lab. This is for everyone to do projects or fix stuff they’ve long wanted to fix. If we help each other then we can get things going again that single individuals might not be able to do themselves. We can also do projects that are interesting to the members. Some might involve other stuff already happening at M.S. that needs an “electronics touch.”
- Step 2: Add an Amateur Radio Station to the Electronics Lab. This would allow folks keen on learning about communications: old (like Morse Code) and new (like digital communications) to “have a go” at communicating with other like-minded people – anywhere and everywhere around the world. I have a radio license so we could use that but, ultimately others could get a license too or we could obtain a “club radio license” from ACMA. This is not as difficult as it may sound.
- Step 3: Add some specialized antennas and some equipment (which I have already) to the amateur radio station to make it an Amateur Satellite Station. There are dozens of satellites already in orbit, used by universities and radio amateurs that will allow us, first to receive the satellite signals, then transmit to these satellites. We can do this from Men’s Shed Noosa. This is lots of fun and there is lots to learn for those who might always have wondered what Earth orbiting satellites are really all about.
- Step 4: [Now You’ll Think I’m Crazy]. We can build one of these Amateur Satellites. There are even kits today that are sold for this purpose, so one doesn’t have to be an expert design engineer to do it. Then we launch and track it ourselves. Hundreds of universities around the world are doing this.
- Step 5: In the middle of Step 4 we begin to Engage the Sunshine Coast Community. The idea of building a satellite really appeals to students. I imagine Men’s Shed volunteers mentoring younger people and working together to create such an outcome. Older folks mentoring younger folks: It doesn’t always happen this way these days – but, we can make it that way again. - What do you think?
This was me (in the middle) in 1974. I was 27 years old then. I’m 72 years old now. This was the third satellite AMSAT (our volunteer organization) had built and arranged to be launched by NASA. It was assembled in my basement. The satellite is behind my right shoulder there. It’s already mounted to the Launch Vehicle (the big white thing). A month after this image was taken, this spacecraft was in orbit. It STILL WORKS TODAY! It is used for two-way communications by hundreds of radio amateurs around the world, every day. It is the oldest working satellite in Earth orbit. So, I’m proud of that. By the way, this satellite had hardware contributions from members from four countries: United States, Canada, W. Germany and AUSTRALIA! The Aussie hardware still works today – built by students who had just graduated from the University of Melbourne in about 1967. Actually, that’s something for all Australians to be proud of. The Aussie builders still live in Melbourne today. We talk regularly.