As we posted recently on the AmbaSat blog, like most businesses, Covid-19 has impacted our operations and meant that our staff levels have been reduced. For a while now there has been just two of us allowed in the office, with access limited to only one day per week. However, there is now some relaxing of restrictions here in the UK and we are able to enter the office more frequently. At the moment we are packing kits on Tuesdays and Thursdays and starting to catch up with some of the things that have been put on hold over the past two months.
With regards to the ASSEMBLED AmbaSat-1 Satellites:
Yesterday (22nd May) we took delivery of the ATMEGA chips from Mowden Controls (our assembly partner) and over this weekend will be flashing/programming these chips with the AmbaSat-1 bootloader. Next week these will be collected by Mowden and then they will be inserting the AmbaSat-1 assembly job into their production run, scheduled to happen by the end of May. We will have a further update on delivery after then. This is really exciting news. Mowden have kindly offered to take some photos of the assembly process as it happens, which we will post on the blog. We were planning on attending their factory during the assembly but that was before Covid-19.
With regards to the kit versions of the AmbaSat-1 Satellite:
As posted on the blog, we have been steadily shipping KITS out and are continuing to do so. The speed of component and PCB supplies from China is now improving. Next week we have a further delivery scheduled of sensor boards for 02, 04, 06 & 07. Farnell (our main component supplier here in the UK) are out of stock on a few items (LSM9DS1TR is on backorder) so we are sourcing these from Mouser – sometimes they come from the USA and other times from Germany. This coming Tuesday & Thursday we have enough components for about 30 kits and will be placing orders for more parts as needed.
We are also working on the HowTo which is obviously important for everyone receiving kits, plus creating new and updated code samples and configuring the Dashboard so that it correctly interfaces with all the sensor types.
These past couple of months have been a testing time but the good news is that things are starting to move again. Supplies are coming in and we’re able to get the kits together and shipped, albeit at a slower pace than we’d like.
Kit shipments for next week have been allocated and those on the list will have received an email from us over the past few days. As much as possible we try to stick with the backer order. This is dictated though by a few factors such as component availability and KIT/ASSEMBLY orders. If you would like an indication of where your order is in the shipping pipeline then please email and we’ll do our best to give you a shipping estimate. Please bear with us though as we receive a LOT of weekly communications.
We get some recurring questions which I’ll answer here:
a) When will the rocket launch take place?
Well, this is, of course, the million-dollar question for us all. In our meeting with Randa at Interorbital (IOS) last month, she said that they were planning on rocket engine testing within 30-40 days. They will then have a schedule for the next steps – which I guess will depend on the test outcome. We will find out more at our next meeting. However, we are well down the launch manifest and will NOT be on the first IOS launch, so I would not be too concerned about the amount of time you have for assembly/development/programming/etc. We will go deeper into this topic with a new blog article once we have information from IOS at the next meeting. Personally I think our further timeline for development could well be extended by at least 6 months.
b) Can I buy extra solar TrisolX panels?
It seems that the company supplying the solar panels (TrisolX) is currently not taking any calls. That’s all we know. However, we already have our stock of solar panels which were purchased and delivered by TrisolX last year. Unfortunately, we do not have any spare panels to sell at the moment. When this changes we will post on the blog. We are also seeking alternative suppliers for future missions.
c) When will the HowTo be ready?
We are working on it daily. There are several sections already posted. I hope we can really make a final push to getting a first version complete during the coming week. There is a possibility that we could switch over to a wiki howto. If anyone has any thoughts or experience on this, please let us know.
d) What happened to the forum?
The forum has been a real achillies heal. I must apologise for the many issues and false starts we’ve had with it. Honestly, the forum we first used was based on a very old bulletin board and on several occasions, due to security issues in the forum, it literally broke our whole web server. We lost all confidence with it and have been searching for a good replacements. Well, now we have one so please take a look. Thank you to everyone who offered to help.
e) Is the project still alive?
I’ve been asked this a few times which has surprised me. Maybe it’s due to the length of time things are taking and if that’s the case then certainly I can understand as the project is almost a year old. I apologise for the time it is taking but I can honestly say, just about every backer has been 100% supportive, encouraging and understanding and everyone here at the AmbaSat office thanks you all for your support and for encouragement. Please be assured, we are fully alive. We try to keep the news and updates published on KS & Indiegogo relevant to the backers but I wanted to let you know about the picture as far as AmbaSat Ltd is concerned. There has been so much interest in this project from around the world that we createda limited company (AmbaSat Ltd), set up an office and now employ actual full-time staff. Last month we were awarded a grant (European funding), the details will be announced in a press release soon (we need to get approval on logos and wording, etc) and we are now advertising for our first apprentice position. The research and design for AmbaSat-2 is well underway but please be assured that our priority is you guys and getting us into space. We cannot build a successful spacecraft business if we don’t launch! There is also some further signficant investment on the horizon which we’re busting a gut to keep quiet at the moment.
f) What’s the latest with the GPS sensor?
We have just received a note from our prospective assembly partner that there is an 8 week lead time on some of the components. I’m following-up with them this coming week. More news on the blog when we have some.
g) Can I get on the rocket launch?
All slots on the first launch are full. All slots on the second launch are filled. We are not entering into any further launches until we can see progress on the first two launches.
Over the coming months, we will be attending three virtual conferences/space events, one in Germany, one in France and the other in Brazil. Two of these are public and we’ll post details on the blog. It would be great to see you there. We hope to attend Spacecom again this year, more on that as things evolve with travel, etc.
In June we will be joining a panel at Skyrora: Space Technologies (we visited them in February and signed an LOU for a future rocket launch) and discussing space debris. This is an online event and we’ll post details on the blog nearer the time.
As always, thank you to each and every one of you for your patience, support and for having the balls to put your money down and back this project.
Martin and the AmbaSat Team