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 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 overall mission is being licensed under an STA from the FCC as an experimental license but they contended that the QIKCOM-1 module was built by students at the Naval Academy (a government school), so it cannot be an amateur radio payload, even though its design and mission and objectives are 100% amateur. Currently these issues are in discussion...

This transponder was to have joined 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:

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, but activation blocked by FCC SNAFU
QIKcom-2 with APRStt for launch Summer 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 payload built by a group of students 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 as an attached module to the SIMPL Host spacecraft to the ISS in the fall to be deployed from the ISS (where it now sits but denied 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.

The data transponder also includes all telemetry, command and control for a complete cubesat. A secondary beacon was to transmit an alert bulletin on the North American (144.39) and European (144.80) APRS mobile frequencies to alert wilderness travelers when the satellite was in view and tells them the Space Frequency (145.825) to tune.

Very Short Lifetime: The expected Orbit lifetime is very short. It is attached to a spacecraft (SIMPL) with a large solar panel experiment 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 about one week. Even if there is slim chance that the panels fail to deploy, the experimental spacecraft which is quite large will still re-enter in a few weeks.


  • QIKcom-1 Presentation

    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 our 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 Beacon transmitter for use over North America and Europe to alert users on the national APRS channels that the satellite is in view (It only had A & B frequency selection, so only 2 continents could be covered). 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 HISAT 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 week or so life of the mission.

    Global Experimental Data Channel: QIKcom-1 is the 6th transponder in this initiative to encourage both new satellite construction in support of this experimental data channel and lower cost buoy and sensor experimentation at other schools as shown below. Today, the only AMSAT that is available for no cost to schools with such experiments are the Naval Academy'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 modules are commercial off-the-shelf items and easy to build inito spacecraft systems.

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