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ARISS Moves One Step Closer to Flying New Ham Equipment to ISS


Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, has announced that his program has submitted its Interoperable Radio System (IORS) flight safety data package to NASA for review. ARISS has been developing the IORS to replace most of the Amateur Radio hardware that’s now on the space station. It is called “interoperable” because it’s designed to operate anywhere on the ISS. A NASA flight safety review in about a month is the next step. Bauer said he was highlighting the accomplishment because all the work on the safety data submission was developed exclusively by ARISS volunteers, rather than NASA or other contractors, as had been done in the past. It also meant a substantial saving to ARISS, which has become more reliant on donations in recent years.

“This is a very major IORS milestone,” Bauer said. “We cannot get [the new equipment] to orbit without successfully completing the safety review process and getting our hardware certified for flight.”

Bauer said having the work done by volunteers not only was “innovative and gutsy,” but will shorten the timeline involved to get the new Amateur Radio hardware on board the International Space Station. “Otherwise, we probably would have to slip launch 1 – 2 years while we acquired additional funding to get this done,” Bauer said.

He explained that the material turned in for NASA Human Spaceflight Safety Certification covers the first three phases of a four-phase process. The initial steps in the process are aimed at ensuring that NASA understands the design, demonstrating that ARISS understands the potential hazards that the new hardware systems could introduce, and how it has mitigated or prevented them.

“One example is to demonstrate to NASA that our IORS was designed with electrical wiring and circuit breakers that possess adequate features and sufficient margin to prevent an electrical shock or fire on board the ISS,” said Bauer, who previously worked for NASA. “Critically important stuff!”

The final phase will be complete when ARISS has finished all testing and NASA deems the hardware flight worthy. ARISS is hoping that will happen next spring.

The new hardware will be used in the two areas of the ISS that have legacy Amateur Radio antennas — the Columbus module and the Russian Service Module. “Interoperability allows us to leverage existing ISS power cables, move it between modules in the event of on-orbit failures, and use it to support common training and operations,” Bauer said.

“The IORS is the most complex in-cabin hardware system we have ever designed, built, tested, and flown as a volunteer team,” Bauer continued. “We will remove the 3-W Ericsson handheld radio system, initially certified for flight in 1999, and the packet module — both of which have recently had issues — and install a brand-new, specially modified 25-W JVC Kenwood TM-D710GA radio to enable a multitude of new or improved capabilities on ISS, including voice repeater and better APRS operations.”

A key development, Bauer explained, is the multi-voltage power supply (MVPS), which interfaces with multiple electrical outlet connector types on the station and provides a range of power output capabilities for current and future ARISS operations and Amateur Radio experiments. It will also allow the ham video (HamTV) digital Amateur Radio TV (DATV) system to have its own power outlet instead of having to share, something that occasionally shuts down the DATV system.

Bauer praised the IORS development team, which includes Chief Engineer Lou McFadin, W5DID; lead MVPS designer Kerry Banke, N6IZW; the MVPS lead designer; MVPS Mechanical enclosure designer Bob Davis, KF4KSS; Ed Krome, K9EK; Dave Taylor, W8AAS; Bob Bruninga, WB4APR; Shin Aota, JL1IBD; Phil Parton, N4DRO, of JVC Kenwood; Operations Lead Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, and safety package team Ken Ernandes, N2WWD, and Gordon Scannell, KD8COJ.

“Designing, building, and testing the IORS is a huge undertaking and very expensive,” Bauer said. That’s at least due in part to the fact that ARISS must build 10 duplicate units to support flight hardware and spares, testing, and training. “Hardware parts, development tools, fabrication, testing, and expenses to certify the IORS are expected to cost approximately $150,000,” said Bauer. “And the hard part — that is, the most expensive part — is just now starting.”

ARISS invites contributions to help cover the expenses of its work. All donations go directly to ARISS.




Expedition 18 crew members Mike Fincke, KE5AIT (L), and Yury Lonchakov with the original ARISS Kenwood transceiver on the ISS. [NASA photo]




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