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ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS009 (1998)

ARLS009 Phase 3D won't fly this year

Space Bulletin 009  ARLS009
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington, CT  June 16, 1998
To all radio amateurs

ARLS009 Phase 3D won't fly this year

Phase 3D will not fly this year. AMSAT says the Phase 3D Amateur
Radio satellite will not be aboard when the Ariane 503 launch
vehicle goes into space this October. In addition to the Atmospheric
Reentry Demonstrator, the European Space Agency will launch a dummy
Eutelsat payload instead of Phase 3D, according to a joint
ESA/CNES/Arianespace news release. Arianespace is a commercial
company that markets Ariane launches.

''Essentially we were bought out by strategic and commercial
interests,'' said a glum AMSAT-NA Vice President Keith Baker, KB1SF.

AMSAT-DL President Karl Meinzer, DJ4ZC, says it's clear to him that
Arianespace wants to retain the option of swapping a real Eutelsat
payload for the dummy right before launch. ''We simply could not
compete with this by our offer of 1 million dollars and some moral
justification of not flying ballast,'' he said. ''So we wept some,
and, that done, let us now look forward.''

In January, ESA agreed to carry Phase 3D as a backup on Ariane 503,
if it could not find a paying customer, or to use its ''best efforts''
to get Phase 3D on another flight if a paying customer came along.
As it turned out, however, Arianespace agreed--in a surprise
move--to cover 40 million dollars in Ariane 5 development funds
resulting from the failure of the Ariane 501 test launch. In return,
Arianespace asked to be allowed to pick the secondary payload for
Ariane 503, the last in a series of qualification flights.

''This is obviously very disappointing news,'' said AMSAT-NA President
Bill Tynan, W3XO. ''We must, however, persevere and continue our
present course to get the satellite tested and ready for a launch.
And we pledge to do so.''

Baker said AMSAT is continuing to look for a suitable launch
opportunity and now is looking at ''other agencies'' instead of
limiting itself to ESA's Ariane program. ''We're standby passengers,''
he said.

Meinzer said he thinks the chances ''are not bad'' that Phase 3D will
get aboard an Ariane 5 flight next year. ''But also in parallel we
should and will pursue other launch options,'' he advised the Phase
3D team. ''Although in the short term we have a problem, in the
medium term I am reasonably optimistic. So keep your fingers

Meinzer said Arianespace put a 10 million dollar price tag on a
launch, a figure he called ''clearly out of reach.'' But he also held
out the hope that ESA would negotiate further and that the German
government might be willing to help with funding.

For the immediate future, Baker said, AMSAT plans now to continue
preparations to make Phase 3D flight ready. The satellite is
undergoing final construction and testing at the Phase 3D
Integration Lab in Orlando, Florida. ''Obviously, we will have to
evaluate our options on how best to place the satellite in temporary
storage,'' he said.

The Ariane 503 announcement is the latest setback for Phase 3D.
AMSAT has been trying to find a ride for Phase 3D for the past
couple of years and, until now, had pinned its hopes on the Ariane
program.  AMSAT-NA was forced to restart its Phase 3D fundraising
effort late last year after determining that it still needed at
least another 270,000 dollars to meet its share of the Phase 3D
costs. More recently, AMSAT-NA has been offering hams--for a 25
dollar minimum donation--the opportunity to fly their QSL cards into
space aboard Phase 3D.  Participants' QSL cards will be scanned and
put on a CD-ROM aboard the satellite.

Baker says it's too soon to tell how the latest turn of events will
affect fundraising.

Phase 3D came closest to a launch aboard Ariane 502 last year but
was bumped after it could not complete necessary structural
modifications in time to meet the launch schedule. The changes
became necessary at the eleventh hour after ESA imposed more
stringent vibration and stress standards on Ariane 5 payloads.


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