The aging Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) packet system on 145.825 MHz appears to have stopped functioning altogether, after experiencing some recent problems, and restoring it to operation could take months. ARISS International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, said the packet system, located in the Columbus module, started to act up late last week, sending only a beacon.
“The ARISS team requested a power recycle by the crew, and with that power recycle, the packet system appears to have stopped functioning completely,” Bauer said in a news release. “Note that this unit has been on orbit for 17 years. It was launched on the STS-106 Space Shuttle Atlantis mission in September 2000 and was built, tested and certified for flight about 20 years ago.”
Bauer said the ARISS team has had extensive discussions on how to resolve the problem, starting with some additional troubleshooting with the existing packet module. He said it would take weeks just to develop the required troubleshooting procedures and have NASA approve them, before conducting tests with the ISS crew. This would include an additional power cycle, he said.
“The turnaround time is much longer than usual, because a new crew will soon be arriving on ISS,” Bauer explained. “The current crew is focused on the new crew arrival, and there will be about a 1- to 2-week transition after the new crew arrives. On the positive side, one aspect of our troubleshooting — a second power cycle — will occur automatically, because ARISS is shut down during crew docking and turned on afterwards.” Bauer said troubleshooting would extend beyond this reboot, however.
Additional plans with alternative solutions are under discussion within the ARISS team, and all approaches will require coordination within the ARISS International team, development of additional procedures, and involvement of the crew, Bauer said.
“People who have carefully followed ISS operations know that crew time continues to evolve with the more extensive research that is occurring on board,” Bauer added. “Suffice it to say, it will take longer than what it has taken in the past to work through this issue.”
Bauer said ARISS wants to set realistic expectations on how long it could take to fix the ISS packet system problem. “At this point, expect a few months with no ARISS packet,” he said.
The current problem heightens the importance of deploying the new interoperable radio system ARISS has been developing, Bauer said. “The ARISS team is laser focused on getting that system developed and deployed,” Bauer said. “We are conducting a final design review with NASA on this system next week. But we cannot get to the finish line without your help.”
To contribute to the ARISS radio fund, visit the ARISS website and click on the “Donate” button.