HobbySpace Home Space-for-All Log
RLV & Space Transport News

RLV Countdown

Amateur Contributions to Space Exploration & Development:
Success Stories

Clark S. Lindsey

Model of Amateur Mars Probe

The big C-Band dishes (right) led the way to the
small digital direct-to-home (DTH) satellite TV industry in the US
led by Hughes DirceTV and Echostar (left).

The primary goal of HobbySpace is to inform the public about the space hobbies and activities that are fun and also bring a sense of participation in space exploration and development.

An underlying theme of the site, however, goes much further and holds that these hobbies and activities are the seeds that grow into space businesses and industries that will drive the creation of a spacefaring society.

Starting small is, after all, the normal way that industries develop. Personal computers, for example, started with electronics hobbyists in the 1970s, aircraft were invented by tinkerers like the Wright brothers, NASCAR began with Moonshiners racing in the Appalachian hillsides, and so forth.

To illustrate how this applies to space I provide below a list of areas where amateurs made especially significant contributions to space exploration and development.

Development of Rocketry in early 20th Century - development of rocketry and space exploration concepts essentially began with hobbyists and amateur groups in the 1920's and 1930's. See the History of Space Activism section for more details.

AMSAT Leads the Small Sat Revolution - the AMSAT world-wide amateur satellite organization has led the way in developing small satellites and has had several firsts in the area of satellite telecommunications : first to use the piggyback satellite launch approach, developed Doppler technique for satellite search and rescue, digital packet and store & forward techniques, and more. See Satellite Building and Space Radio sections for more about contributions made by AMSAT and the ham radio community to space development.

Ham Founded Radio Astronomy - Grote Reber, a radio engineer and ham radio enthusiast, built the first parabolic radio telescope antenna in his backyard in the 1930s and continue contributing to radio astronomy until his death at the age of 90.

Satellite Enthusiasts Create Multi-Billion Dollar Industry - in the late 1970s and 1980s hobbyists began picking off C-Band transmissions of TV shows to cable TV companies. The popularity of this eventually led to the development of the current multi-billion dollar Direct-to-Home digital satellite TV industry with nearly 20 million users in the US.

Lunar Prospector Starts as Activist Project - Several space activist groups started the Lunar Prospector project in the 1980s. Though eventually taken over by university groups and Lockheed-Martin, activists got the project nearly to a launch in Russia. The probe discovered hydrogen rich material that is probably water ice in deep craters at the lunar poles.

Created on Jan.5, 2003