The East Anglian Amateur Radio Observatory (EAARO) is a scientific and educational charitable company establishing a radio observatory and ground station at a secure rural location in Cambridgeshire.
EAARO's purpose is to inspire young people to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics interests, subjects and careers while while undertaking meaningful research projects and supporting satellite missions.
The first major project for EAARO will be to function as the primary UK ground-station for the crowd-funded KickSat satellite mission, which is due to launch in Februay 2014 from Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket, piggy-backing on a Space-X resupply mission to the International Space Station.
Working in partnership with NASA, the University of Cornell Spacecraft Design Laboratory, and the British Interplanetary Society, EAARO will track the KickSat cubesat and the hundreds of chip-sized Sprite micro-satellites that it will deploy into Low Earth Orbit using a novel ejection system. The Sprites have been designed to help NASA study the behaviour of space debris, and they will each transmit a short coded message, repeating every second, via an on-board 10mW transmitter.
Jason Williams, the founder and director of EAARO, has assembled a team including fellow director Jonathan Blay, a technological innovation and marketing specialist, and chief engineer Jeff Lashley, a radio astronomy author and technical officer at the UK’s National Space Centre in Leicester.
EAARO has the support of a number of key people in the space research sector including Professor Mike Garret of ASTRON in the Netherlands, cosmologist Professor Paul Davies at the University of Arizona, and Dr Alex Kraus of the Max Planck Institute in Germany. They also have strong links with the Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Hertfordshire.
Construction of the observatory, consisting of a wide array of radio and data processing equipment housed in a 20-foot shipping container and a pair of converted radio cabins and dish antenna pods from an ex-Royal Signals radar surveillance system, will take place over the next couple of months.
Jason has funded EAARO almost entirely from his own pocket and he is keen to attract donations and sponsorship. He said: “I wanted to give something back after 25 years in the sound and communications industry.”