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GUIDE to (mostly) Harmless Hacking

Volume 3, Number 13
 
Satellite Hacking
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In this Guide you will learn about:
 
* Who can help you learn how to build your own satellite, and get it launched into orbit.
* How to get taken seriously when you ask for help
* Examples of universities where you can learn how to build your own
* Conferences devoted to small and amateur satellites
* Pirate radio and the legal alternatives
* How to become a radio amateur hero
* How to break into satellites (not!)
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For real hackers (as opposed to computer criminals who call themselves hackers), satellite hacking is about building your own, getting them launched, and using them. Furthermore, believe it or not, the world's first communications satellite was built by a group of radio amateurs. They were real hackers in the truest sense of the word.
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*** Who Can Help You
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If you want to build your own space satellite, get it launched, and use it to do fun things, your best bet is to join the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, http://www.amsat.org, a nonprofit worldwide group.

The Amsat people launched their first home-built satellite, OSCAR I, on December 12, 1961. Amazingly enough, it was the first satellite that wasn’t built by the governments of the U.S. or the former Soviet Union (now Russia). Furthermore, it was only four years after the first satellite launch in history (the Soviet Sputnik I), and long before the first commercial satellites. Amsat managed to get it launched by persuading the U.S. Air Force to carry it piggyback into orbit along with the Discover 36 military satellite. OSCAR I was a simple test satellite that broadcasted a message in Morse code of "HI-HI" over the VHF 2 meter band (144.983 MHz). Over five hundred amateurs in 28 countries reported receiving its signals before its orbit decayed and it re-entered the atmosphere on January 1, 1962.

OSCAR III was Amsat’s first true communications satellite. On March 9, 1965, the U.S. Air Force gave Amsat a piggyback launch, this time along with seven military satellites.  OSCAR III relayed voice contacts in the VHF 2 meter band (146 MHz uplink and 144 MHz downlink). OSCAR III's transponder lasted 18 days. During this time, over 1000 amateurs in 22 countries used it to talk with each other.
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Newbie notes: Hz stands for Hertz, meaning cycles per second. VHF stands for Very High Frequency radio waves. VHF frequencies are also often called short wave radio.  Sometimes radio waves are measured by length of the waves, for example 2 meter band instead of by frequency (Hz). Morse code is a means of communicating by simply sending short and long noises: dots and dashes with the dashes represented by a noise three times as long as a dot.  Most famously, the distress signal SOS is represented in Morse code by dot dot dot, dash dash dash, dot dot dot. See http://dict.die.net/morse%20code/ for more details.
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