Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, reports that the ARISS team has been working closely with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to identify what may have caused what ARISS is calling a “radio anomaly” on January 27. The net result has been an inability to use the NA1SS ham station gear in the ISS Columbus module. For the time being, ARISS school and group contacts with crew members have been conducted using the ham station in the ISS Service Module. The radio issues came in the wake of a January 27 spacewalk during which astronauts installed new cables (essentially feed lines) to support the commissioning of the Bartolomeo attached payload capability mounted on the Columbus module. The job involved re-routing the cabling of the ARISS antenna to the ARISS radio system onboard Columbus.
“Through a great deal of coordination with NASA and ESA, ARISS will be conducting a set of APRS [automatic packet radio system] tests to determine the operational use of the ARISS radio system in Columbus through employment of three different cabling configurations,” Bauer explained this week. “Over the next couple of days, ARISS will be performing a series of tests using our APRS capability through the standard 145.825 MHz APRS frequency. The crew will be periodically shutting down the radio and swapping cables, so ARISS can troubleshoot the radio system and the cabling.” Bauer said precise swap times will depend on crew availability and expected the tests to run through sometime on March 3.
“We cannot guarantee that these troubleshooting tests will resolve the radio issue,” Bauer said. “But we encourage ARISS APRS operations in this time span.”
Bauer said that if the tests are unsuccessful, “a contingency task” has been green-lighted for a March 5 spacewalk (EVA). “This EVA task would return the ARISS cabling to the original configuration prior to the January 27 EVA,” he explained, noting that a contingency task will only be performed if time allows.
Bauer asked that APRS users not send “no contact” emails or social media responses, “as this will overwhelm the ARISS team.”
“But, if you definitely hear the packet system working or are able to connect through it, let us know the date, time, and grid square of the occurrence,” he added.