Re: Small Satellites

Dave Sumner

Tom, thanks for the question.

The amateur-satellite service pioneered small satellites. Today they are very popular educational projects at universities all over the world. Such projects have IARU support as long as the amateur and amateur-satellite service rules are observed, especially with regard to pecuniary interest.

Coincidentally, last week I had the pleasure of touring the Cubesat lab at King Saud University in Riyadh. They have an impressive ground station, 7Z1KSU, ready to go and a satellite is being assembled with hopes for a launch later this year. The Saudi Amateur Radio Society is assisting the faculty and students as part of its initiative to promote amateur radio in the Kingdom.

However, small satellites developed with commercial motives clearly fall outside the scope of the amateur-satellite service. The IARU does not coordinate such satellites to operate on frequencies in the amateur bands. See  Satellites | IARU for more information.

At WRC-15 one of the last issues to be settled was the frequency ranges in which what the ITU now calls "short-duration mission" satellites (non-amateur) might be accommodated. It took a lot of effort, but the amateur-satellite bands were dropped from the list. At WRC-19 it was again a contentious issue, this time over the constraints to be placed on such satellites to protect existing services in the 137-138 MHz (space-to-Earth) and 148-149.9 MHz (Earth-to-space) bands and adjacent bands. So there is no longer a justification for satellites that do not fit the definition of an amateur satellite to operate in the amateur-satellite bands.

Dave Sumner, K1ZZ
IARU Secretary

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