July 11, 2011
AMSAT Vice-President of Operations Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, provided the latest details in AMSAT's work to keep AO-51 operational for as long as possible.
Drew wrote, "Keeping AO-51 operating requires the US command team routinely restarting the satellite, and tweaking the power settings to find a combination of operating parameters to get it through eclipse. Currently one of the 6 battery cells onboard is shorted, and another is in really poor shape."
Continuing, Drew explains, "The onboard computer was crashing each orbit because of low voltage when the solar cells were no longer receiving illumination and the satellite relies entirely on its internal battery power. Through experimentation the Command Team seems to have found a balance point where it will sometimes go up to two days before crashing."
Each time the computer crashes the Command Team has to restart it using the housekeeping software onboard in ROM. The firmware code has a limited functionality compared to the normal flight software which we would upload from the ground over a few days time. However the eclipses and battery problem were causing a crash before the upload can complete.
Drew concludes, "With lots of luck we will be able to continue to limp along. How long is anyone's guess. I'd encourage you to use AO-51 while it's available, and to financially support new satellite programs like Kiwisat, Funcube, and Fox when you can."
Uplink: 145.880 MHz, no tone.
Downlink: 435.150 MHz
The repeater is open to all when the satellite is operational.