Paid Ground-Station Control Operators and Amateur Satellites

Paid personnel are not allowed to be control operator or license grantee of Amateur Satellites. In the United States, this means that a paid employee of the sponsoring organization of the satellite, for example a professor at the university that has built the satellite, can not be a control operator or the license grantee.

I recently corresponded with our IARU Divison 2 representatives regarding this issue. Thanks to Edson W. R. Pereira PY2SDR and Ray Soifer W2RS for this information:

The issue regarding paid operators is due to the definition of the amateur radio service as defined by the ITU.

ARTICLE 1 Terms and definitions

  • No. 1.56 amateur service: A radiocommunication service for the purpose of self-training, intercommunication and technical investigations carried out by amateurs, that is, by duly authorized persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without pecuniary interest.
  • No. 1.57 amateur-satellite service: A radiocommunication service using space stations on earth satellites for the same purposes as those of the amateur service.
  • No. 1.96 amateur station: A station in the amateur service.

The same definition is used by the FCC: https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-divisions/mobility-division/amateur-radio-service

The key point here is the term “pecuniary interest” — in otther words, “without financial compensation”. The definition is related to the *operation* of an amateur radio station, as you have stated in your message. Persons, including amateur radio operators, could be financially compensated to design and build amateur satellites, but according to the regulations, as they are presently written, the person cannot be compensated to operate the station.

 If the station will operate under a US FCC amateur license, the control operator may not be an employee of the sponsoring organization, whether or not he is being directly compensated for operating the station.  The license grantee is also deemed to be the operator of the space station operating under his license.
For those reasons, FCC licenses most Cubesats as experimental, not amateur.  Experimental licenses do permit operators to be compensated.  However, experimental stations may not communicate with amateur stations.

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