QIKCOM-1 - Awaiting Release from ISS since December 2015
APRS User Data and Text Messaging Transponder
Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, Instructor, US Naval Academy,(last name at usna dot edu)
Midshipmen students: Skinker, Segalla, Hunt, Diasordaz
ARRIVED on ISS and AWAITING DEPLOYMENT: However, the spacecraft (SIMPL) to which the QIKCOM-1 amateur radio relay module is attached is being held from release due to a SNAFU over radio licensing. The problem appears to be the SIMPL spacecraft comms on S-band is being licensed under an STA from the FCC as an experimental license and the FCC initially was concerned that students at a federal Academy could not operate the independent Amateur Radio module under FCC rules and had to go via the NTIA even though its design and mission and objectives are 100% amateur. The resolution was to add the Amateur Frequencies to the NovaWurks STA in parallel with the Amateur Notice.
Filling a Niche: The timing of QIKCOM-1 could not have been better. In late October, it was announced that the long running (16 year) Amateur packet radio on ISS just died. It will take a year for a replacement. Fortunately, the QIKCOM-1 APRS relay function is an identical relay system to the one on ISS, and so when QIKCOM-1 is deployed, it will fill in the huge operating gap left by the failed VHF radio on ISS.
This transponder will join a number of Networked APRS transponders operating in the Amateur Satellite Service that are, or will be, on Orbit in 2016 and all will appear on the live APRS satellite downlink page and ISS downlink page:
OUTNET a global APRS channel on 3 GEO satellites!
PCsat-1 in orbit since 2001 semi-operational
ARISS on the ISS since 2007
Psat Operational May 2015
BRICSAT-1 launched with PSAT, but insufficient power budget
QIKcom-1 with terrestrial APRS alert beacon on ISS, awaiting astronaut deployment
QIKcom-2 with APRStt (TouchTone uplink and Voice downlink) for launch late 2016
PSAT-2 To be Launched spring of 2017
BRICSAT-2 To be Launched spring of 2017
ASTARS missions: Prior APRS missions on other spacecraft, ISS, Shuttle and MIR
Please see the IARU Coordination Letter
and how it fits in the Amateur Satellite Service
and also the FCC Public Notice rules for operating in the Amateur Satellite Service.
OVERVIEW: . QIKcom-1 is an amateur radio module built by a group of students as their senior project at the Naval Academy to take advantage of a launch opportunity offered by a spacecraft integrator (NovaWurks). The module was delivered on 2 March 2015 and launched to ISS on 9 Dec 2015 as an attached module to the SIMPL Host spacecraft. The spacecraft is awaiting clearance from the FCC prior to deployment. It was a very short fuse flight opportunity so students took as much that we had that was already developed for previous APRS amateur radio transponders and since it flies on a host spacecraft, we get 28v power and did not need to develop solar panels or an attitude control system. It continues the PCsat and PSAT missions containing an APRS packet radio communications transponders for relaying remote telemetry, sensor and user data from remote users and amateur radio environmental experiments or other data sources back to Amateur Radio experimenters via a global network of internet linked volunteer ground stations.
Terrestrial Alert Beacon:The data transponder also includes telemetry, command and control similar to what we fly for a cubesat. A secondary beacon will transmit an alert bulletin on the North American (144.39) terrestrial APRS mobile frequency to alert wilderness travelers when the satellite is in view and tell them the Space Frequency (145.825) to tune. Mobiles with intergrated Kenwood or Yaesu APRS radios will be able to simply press the QSY button on their radios when they see this alert and will have about 8 minutes of possible satellite operating time. Note, this will never happen again, as a policy change of the IARU will no longer coordinate such downlinks outside of the satelilte subsegment of the 2m band.
Short Several Months Lifetime: The expected Orbit lifetime is short since it will be deployed from the ISS. It is attached to the SIMPL spacecraft with large solar panels to be deployed from the ISS (image below). If the solar panels deploy as designed, the high drag will cause the spacecraft to re-enter in a few months.
Operations in the Amateur Satellite Service: The transponder and beacon on QIKCOM-1 are operated in the Amateur Satellite Service to encourage amateur radio students, educators and experimenters around the world to contribute additional satellities to this constellation on 145.825 MHz or to build interesting self motivated remote sensors suitable for the uplink channel. See some other student project ideas such as ocean or bay oceanographic data buoys for examples. This kind of Amateur Radio experimentation fits well in the ITU rules (see QIKcom-1 ITU RULES) for operating in this service and well serve our educational and outreach goals for student projects encouraging young people to be interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
The QIKcom-1 System is composed of three commercial off-the-shelf amateur packet radio modules from Byonics.com as shown above. On the left is the Power System board, and on the right is the main packet transponder module (the MT-TT4 all-in-one APRS packet system with internal RF transceiver). The MicroAmp-3 above it boosts that to 4 Watts. In the center vertically is the 4 Watt QSY Alert Beacon transmitter for use over North America. A European alert was also planned since the beacon did have an A & B frequency selection, but this was disabled due to coordination issues. The final board is the combination power supply system and antenna release mechanism with the prototype shown in the lower right above.
QIKcom-1 APRS Packet Transponder: The APRS packet transponder is an AX.25 Packet Radio Relay similar to what is flying on PCsat and the ISS. This ongoing mission in space on the original PCsat is now over 14 years old and pioneered this very popular operating mode via the ISS since 2006. Both of these missions deliver packets to users worldwide via the global network of volunteer ground stations feeding the two downlink capture pages: psat.aprs.org and ariss.net. These pages display live maps such as the one above, of the most recent user position data and capture all message traffic between users. See the APRS link budgets.
QIKCOM-1 Integrated on top of the SIMPL Satellite: The image above shows the complete SIMPL spacecraft with the QIKCOM-1 module on top. In this solid works view, the spacecraft is still attached to its separation plate which will separate it from the ISS and the solar panels are not deployed. The large solar panels will have significant drag and are the reason for the relatively short few months or so life of the mission.
Global Experimental Data Channel: QIKcom-1 is the 6th USNA student transponder in this initiative to encourage both new satellite construction in support of this experimental data channel and lower cost amateur radio terrestrial applications and experimentation at other schools. Today, the only AMSATs that are available for easy access by schools with such experiments are the Naval Academy student's PCSATs. But with QIKcom-1 along with PCsat, ISS, and Psat (spring 2015) we hope to continue an ongoing full time presence in space to continue this support of the 145.825 data uplink channel for future experiments. To this end we hope other schools to either build additional 145.825 MHz relay satellites and/or to build experimental sensors. The complete QIKcom-1 modules are commercial off-the-shelf items and easy to build inito spacecraft systems.