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AMSAT and ARISS Designing Amateur Radio System for Lunar Gateway


Details are still being fleshed out, but AMSAT and ARISS are working on the design of an Amateur Radio system for NASA’s Lunar Gateway. As NASA explains, the Gateway “will be a small spaceship in orbit around the moon that will provide access to more of the lunar surface than ever before with living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and research, ports for visiting spacecraft, and more.” For NASA, the Lunar Gateway is “a spaceport for human and robotic exploration to the moon and beyond.” For radio amateurs, the Lunar Gateway will represent the next step in moving ham radio out of low-Earth orbit and into deep space. Under the current timeline, initial sections of the Gateway are scheduled to launch in 2022, with the Gateway in lunar orbit by 2026.

“To make this happen, we are leveraging the work and expertise of the worldwide AMSAT organizations and the international ARISS community in this endeavor,” ARISS-International Chair and AMSAT Vice President for Human Spaceflight Programs Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, said. “We have an international team working on this and are meeting twice a month to mature the concept.” The ARISS concept was presented to NASA in May and got positive feedback, and was favorably received a few weeks later at the ARISS-International meeting in Montreal from the Canadian Space Agency’s Gateway Program Manager.

“The Amateur Radio Exploration (AREx) team has done some really good work,” Bauer continued. “The challenge for amateurs will be on the order of a 30 dB signal path loss as compared to LEO. But the link margins on our design seem too close.”

The Lunar Gateway will serve as a solar-powered communication hub, science lab, short-term habitation module, and a holding area for rovers and other robots that may be bound for the moon or for other planets. NASA is leading the project in collaboration with commercial and international partners, and all of the International Space Station partners. This includes the European Space Agency, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), and the Canadian Space Agency.

One of the project’s facets now under discussion within the AREx Working Group is a phased-array antenna that can be electronically directed. The Lunar Gateway group has told ARISS that it is important to get in on Phase 1 of the Lunar Gateway program and develop its system early on.

“We need to develop a block diagram of a system and subsystems and find team members who want to work on each, Bauer said when the ARISS-International team met in Montreal. “We must set up requirements and interface documentation. We need to solidify the frequencies to use, working with the International Space Frequency Coordination Group.

ARISS ARRL Representative Rosalie White, K1STO, said that ARISS wants to spread the word about the new initiative. “Doing so will help bring in greatly needed new volunteers to join the team and assist with what unique things must be done,” she said. “When able, face-to-face meetings must be held with team leaders to define roles for team members and to develop hardware plans.”

White also hopes the new project may inspire the generosity of the Amateur Radio community. 



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