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ISS Operations Update 4 January 2004


I have been sifting through the many e-mails I have received over the past 
few days regarding ISS ops.  I will attempt to clarify some of the 
observations many of you have made as well as some of what has been seen 
from the ISS Ham radio system since about a week ago.

Before I start this discussion, I need to explain to you all that we are 
currently using the Kenwood radio system in its "raw" form.  What I mean by 
this is that the ARISS team has not yet run a formal engineering checkout 
of the hardware and the ISS crew has not gotten the operations procedures 
uplinked to them yet.  The ISS crew kind of surprised the space agencies by 
getting the radio system installed much earlier than they had 
anticipated.  (Would you expect anything less from an ISS crew that are 
avid ham radio operators).  As a result, the ARISS team has been working 
feverishly with the space agencies to get the procedures uplinked and 
engineering checkouts scheduled.  As could be expected, the space agencies 
didn't feel the need to schedule these until the equipment was installed.

It is important to note that the ARISS team felt that it was more important 
to get the system on the air in voice and packet as-soon-as-possible than 
to wait another few weeks while we get the system optimized for general 
ops.  So, my word of caution to all is to proceed lightly with the radio 
system (the Kenwood and the new antennas).  They are still in their infant 
stages.  Like all infants, expect it to grow and mature over time.

Digi Operations

At this point in time the Kenwood radio system is not properly configured 
for digi operations.  A reconfiguration change occurred about a week ago 
which has led to this issue.  So, what you see right now will probably not 
be what you will see in the future.

We hope to get this corrected in the next few days.   This issue has more 
to do with the fact that our on-board procedures for the radio system have 
not yet made it up to the ISS crew.  It is our understanding that these 
procedures are expected to be uplinked early this week.

Signal Fading

Some of you have observed that the signals on ISS are a bit different with 
the new radio system.  You have noticed some fading or drop outs.  We are 
now using the new antenna system located on the Service Module, as compared 
to the antennas on the FGB.  The FGB antenna system is configured with a 
top looking and bottom looking antenna.  Currently, the Service Module 
antenna is using a single, bottom mounted antenna.  Since the structure of 
ISS is very large, it is quite possible that we are getting some signal 
blockage.  We will continue to evaluate the antenna system 
performance.  Since we have 4 antenna systems that can support 2 meter and 
70 cm operation, we have a lot of possibilities with the antenna system, 
including signal splitting, if needed.

Packet Heard During the School Contact

Those who listened to Friday's school contact got a bonus....packet on the 
downlink.  Those who heard it witnessed history, the first ISS multiple 
radio operations.  What you heard was the Phase 1 Ericsson radio system 
doing the school contact with the Phase 2 Kenwood radio system active doing 
packet.  As I stated, our procedures for the Kenwood radio are not on-board 
yet.  I would not expect that this issue to happen during future school 
group contacts.

As Miles Mann has pointed out, the age of multi-mode, multi-op radio has 
begun on ISS.  Let's all proceed forward, slowly, as we get the system 
fully operational for you.  In the meantime, enjoy!

73,  Frank Bauer, KA3HDO

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