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ARISS Next-Generation Radio System Ready for Launch


Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) reports that its first Interoperable Radio System (IORS) flight unit — serial number 1001 — has been delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center for launch in early March. The IORS represents the first major upgrade in ARISS equipment on the International Space Station since Amateur Radio gained a permanent presence onboard the ISS in 2000. In December, ARISS received approval from NASA Safety to launch the IORS on SpaceX CRS-20 and stow the radio system on the ISS for future installation.

“The IORS is a foundational element of the ARISS next-generation radio system and is an incredible engineering achievement by the ARISS hardware team,” ARISS International President Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, said. “This first element delivery will support easier radio mode transitions and enable new, exciting capabilities for hams, students, and the general public.”

The new system includes a higher-power radio, an enhanced voice repeater, and updated digital packet radio (APRS) and slow-scan television (SSTV) capabilities for both the US and Russian space station segments. The IORS consists of a custom-modified JVCKenwood TM-D710GA transceiver, an AMSAT-developed multi-voltage power supply, and interconnecting cables. The IORS set to launch in March will be installed in the ISS Columbus module.

Bauer said a second flight unit is expected to be launched sometime later this year for installation in the Russian Service module. The ARISS hardware team will assemble four flight units — and 10 IORS units in all — to support onboard flight operations, training, operations planning, and hardware testing.

“Future upgrades and enhancements to the next generation system are in various stages of design and development,” Bauer said. “These include a repaired Ham Video system — currently planned for launch in mid-to-late 2020, L-band (uplink) repeater, ground command operations capability, LimeSDR signal reception, a microwave ‘Ham Communicator,’ and Lunar Gateway prototype experiment.”

Bauer said a lot of “heavy lifting” remains to prepare the IORS for operation on the space station. “ARISS has 92 engineering requirements and our operations Phase III safety review to complete,” he explained. “The space agencies take a position of ‘trust, but verify.’ Thus, these engineering and safety ‘verifications’ all need to be closed out before the IORS can be unstowed and turned on. This will be the ARISS hardware team’s focus over the next few months.”

Bauer reminded that ARISS is almost entirely run by volunteers and encouraged donations for next-generation hardware developments, operations, education, and administrative functions.



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