Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) reports it has met a major milestone and now is “one giant step” closer to flying its new interoperable radio system to the International Space Station. Eventual plans call for installing a new JVC Kenwood TM-D710GA-based radio system on the station as part of an overall approach that will allow greater interoperability between the Columbus module and the Russian Service Module.
Lou McFadin, W5DID, and Kerry Banke, N6IZW, travelled to NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston in mid-February for preliminary testing of Banke’s “breadboard” version of the ARISS multi-voltage power supply that’s essential to the upgrade. They worked with JSC engineers and Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Lab personnel to put the specially built power supply through its paces, checking against US and Russian space specifications for preliminary power quality and EMC tests.
With positive test results in hand, ARISS now can move on to the next step — fabrication of prototype and flight units. The JSC engineers said the ARISS breadboard power supply was the first hardware to have passed all of the space agency’s tests and complimented the ARISS Team on its professional-level hardware development and design.
“I was looking to come away with what we needed to move forward,” said Banke. “We achieved that.” Banke also said he was impressed with the support he and McFadin received from the testing group. Key players on those teams, who are also radio amateurs, told him and McFadin that they find equipment supported by hams earns particularly good marks.
ARISS-International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, thanked Banke and McFadin for spending several days putting the unit through the rigorous battery of NASA and Russian preliminary electrical tests. McFadin credited the level of cooperation and experience within the ARISS Team for the multi-voltage power supply’s high marks.
Now that testing of the breadboard unit has been completed, McFadin can purchase the necessary — and pricey — space-certified parts, to fabricate the final prototype and flight power supplies. He and Banke expressed confidence that the prototype and flight units will pass the even more rigorous final testing with flying colors.
The ARISS radio gear onboard the ISS is aging. A February supply vehicle carried a new Ericsson 2-meter handheld radio to replace one that failed a few months ago, disrupting ARISS activities. The VHF radio in the Columbus module was used for school group contacts and for Amateur Radio packet, which was temporarily shifted to UHF after the VHF radio failure. The newly arrived Ericsson radio will replace the Ericsson UHF radio supporting APRS packet and some school contacts, but Bauer made it clear last month that the new Ericsson transceiver is an interim measure.
To help support final fabrication and flight tests of the ARISS interoperable radio system, visit the ARISS website. Contributions are tax deductible. Those contributing at least $100 will receive an ARISS Challenge Coin.