ANS-104 ANS Special Bulletin – ARISSat-1 Not Heard During Gagarin Commemoration

ANS-104 ANS Special Bulletin – ARISSat-1 Not Heard During Gagarin Commemoration

SB SAT @ AMSAT $ANS-104.01
ARISSat-1 Not Heard During Gagarin Commemoration

AMSAT News Service Bulletin 104.01
April 14, 2011
BID: $ANS-104.01

The planned operation of ARISSat-1/RadioSkaf-V/KEDR on April
11 and April 12 from inside the International Space Station
as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Yuri
Gagarin’s flight was not successful. No earth stations on
the ground reported hearing transmissions on the ARISSat-1
downlink(145.950 MHz for FM analog/145.920 MHz for digital).
The planned retransmission of the satellite’s FM downlink
via the Kenwood TM-D700 transceiver –currently used for
ARISS contacts–was also not successful as no reports were
received of signals heard on 437.550 MHz. However, a
similar ARISSat-1 transmission test conducted in February
was successful, with 145.950 MHz signals being successfully
received by several ground stations.

At this point it isn’t clear to the ARISSat-1 team what went
wrong with the most recent test. Unfortunately, little
information has been shared by RSC-Energia concerning plans
made to configure the satellite and the interface used to
connect the satellite to one of the external ARISS antennas.
The status of the satellite’s Russian-provided silver zinc
battery is also unknown.

ARISSat-1 is a cooperative effort of AMSAT, RSC-Energia and
NASA. AMSAT designed and built the spacecraft as a
prototype of a proposed series of educational satellites
which can carry student-built experiments. The ARISSat-1
prototype features a student experiment designed and built
by Kursk State Technical University in Russia. A backup was
also provided (without solar panels). AMSAT delivered the
two units to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX in
early October. NASA has led the integration of ARISSat-1
into the ISS flight program. NASA coordinated the logistics
of transporting the satellite and a backup unit, including
export licensing, from Houston to Moscow. The shipment
occurred in early December immediately following RSC-Energia
confirmation that the appropriate import documentation had
been approved. NASA also conducted the three-phase Payload
Safety Review that ARISSat-1 had to pass in order to be
permitted to be shipped to the ISS and deployed from the
Space Station. Per protocol agreements signed by AMSAT,
NASA and RSC-Energia, RSC-Energia assumed full
responsibility for ARISSat-1 after NASA shipped the prime
and backup units. RSC-Energia’s stipulated responsibilities
included integration of the Kursk experiment, providing a
silver zinc battery for the spacecraft, shipment of the
primary flight unit to the ISS via a Progress Cargo vehicle
(which took place in January 2011) and subsequent deployment
during a planned Russian EVA in February 2011.

Once AMSAT shipped ARISSat-1 and the backup unit in early
October, AMSAT was no longer directly involved with
management and operation of the satellite. AMSAT agreed to
send a representative to Moscow (Lou McFadin, W5DID) in order
to assist with testing and final checkout of the satellite
once it arrived from the US. Lou was accompanied by NASA’s
Mark Steiner, K3MS and the requests for visas and access
the RSC-Energia facilities was coordinated by NASA. Due to
visa limitations (Russia does not allow changes to visas
once individuals are in Russia), the window for Lou’s and
Mark’s time in Moscow could not be changed once it became
apparent that the shipment was being held by Russian customs
and wouldn’t be released until after the expiration of visas.
During the time that Lou and Mark were in Moscow, testing
procedures were drafted and agreed to by RSC-Energia’s
principal investigator for ARISSat-1 (Sergey Samburov, RV3DR)
as a signed protocol to assist the Russian engineers with
testing and checkout without the presence of AMSAT. Lou and
Mark departed Moscow on 22 DEC 10 for the US and the
satellite with the backup unit were subsequently released
from Russian customs and delivered to RSC-Energia on
28 DEC 10 following submission of appropriate documentation
by RSC-Energia.

In addition to the missed opportunity for AMSAT and NASA to
participate in the checkout in Moscow, the delayed release
from Russian Customs also meant that the satellite arrived
in RSC-Energia just as they were commencing a 10-day total
holiday shutdown from 1-10 JAN 11. In order to make launch
of the Progress 41P cargo vehicle to the ISS in January, the
satellite had to be flown to the Baikonour Cosmodrome on
11 JAN 11, the day after RSC-Energia personnel returned from
their holiday. Sergey Samburov, RV3DR spent a period of time
during the holiday period conducting a checkout of the
satellite, but it is still unclear whether the documentation
provided by Lou McFadin and Mark Steiner and agreed to as a
protocol was followed. For example, AMSAT and NASA have yet
to receive any of the full set of closeout photographs of the
satellite’s exterior stipulated in the protocol.

The satellite did make the flight to Baikonour and was
subsequently flown to the ISS on 28 JAN 11 on Progress cargo
vehicle 41P. Once the satellite arrived at the Space Station,
there was another unexpected alteration to the original plan
which has been previously agreed to by AMSAT, NASA, and
RSC-Energia. Russian officials now wanted confirmation that
the satellite was in working order prior to EVA deployment.
Why this decision was made was never fully explained to AMSAT
or NASA. Even though the satellite was never intended to be
operated from inside the ISS, the RSC-Energia team made plans
to operate ARISSat-1 from inside the ISS during the period
10-13 FEB 11, connecting the two-meter transmitter to one of
the external antenna used for ARISS contacts with the intent
of getting confirmation from ground stations that the
satellite’s transmissions could be received by amateur radio
stations on the ground. This unexpected development raised
AMSAT and NASA concerns given the potential for damage to the
spacecraft inside the ISS and the possibility of
misinterpretation of results. Despite these concerns, the
test was successfully conducted on 10 FEB 11 for 20 hours
with the Kenwood TM-D700 on the ISS used to verify normal
transmission from the satellite. Ground stations, including
Tony Monteiro AA2TX, did provide reception reports
confirming successful operation of the satellite.

ARISSat-1 was scheduled to be deployed during Russian
EVA-28, scheduled for 16 FEB 11, as one of the planned
tasks on that EVA. However, AMSAT and NASA were informed
on 11 FEB that RSC-Energia officials decided to remove the
satellite deployment from the Russian EVA-28 schedule of
activities due to complications with another task scheduled
for that EVA. AMSAT and NASA were informed that the
ARISSat-1 deployment would be rescheduled and included as a
task in the next Russian EVA, currently scheduled for July
2011. Around the same time, the RSC-Energia Principle
Investigator mentioned the possibility of a “special event
involving ARISSat-1” around the date of the 50th anniversary
of the Gagarin flight commemoration on 12 APR 11. AMSAT and
NASA inferred that, by retaining the satellite onboard the
ISS until the next Russian EVA in July, RSC-Energia could
ensure that the satellite could be activated within the ISS
specifically for the Gagarin Commemoration.

During the period from the testing on 10 FEB 11 to the
planned time of activation on 11 APR 11, the satellite was
placed in storage on the ISS. AMSAT and NASA were not
informed of the configuration the satellite was in when it
was stored, though it appears that the Lexan covers over the
solar panels had been removed and replaced by ‘soft covers’
that were meant to be used only in preparation for deployment.
We were not informed if the satellite was deactivated
following the test, or if the battery was disconnected to
prevent drainage, or if the satellite may have been
inadvertently left on. Given that operation of the satellite
from within the ISS was never part of the original plan and
these activities took place without AMSAT and NASA involvement,
the ARISSat-1 engineering team is in the dark concerning the
impact of storage on the satellite. As the originally
agreed-to plan was to deploy the satellite within only a few
weeks of arrival on the ISS, there were no provisions made in
the satellite design to prepare the satellite for long-term
storage on the ISS.

Adding to the lack of information was that the primary
RSC-Energia Principle Investigator for ARISSat-1 went on
vacation for the entire month of March and there wasn’t a
designated backup to coordinate with AMSAT and NASA.
Sergey, RV3DR returned from vacation on 1 APR 11, but was
unavailable for the regularly scheduled weekly conference
call that was scheduled to take place on 5 APR 11. This meant
that AMSAT and NASA were not apprised of the details for
planned operation of ARISSat-1 for the Gagarin Commemoration
until late in the first week in April. AMSAT sent out a press
release to the media on Friday, 8 APR 11, as well as a special
ANS Bulletin containing the information that had been provided
to AMSAT through information gathered by our counterparts at
NASA who have access to a schedule of the planned daily
activities of the ISS crew.

The documentation for the configuration and operation on 11-12
APR was developed by RSC-Energia without AMSAT or NASA input.
AMSAT and NASA were provided a draft plan only a couple of days
prior to operation; that document was in Russian and we could
not comment on it prior to planned activation. One new
development was the last-minute decision by RSC-Energia to
retransmit the ARISSat-1 two-meter FM downlink on 70 CM by
configuring the Kenwood TM-700 that is currently used for
ARISS contacts in cross-band repeat mode. The ARISS team
was asked for a recommendation on which frequency would be
appropriate to use, and the suggestion was made to use
437.550 MHz. However, procedures for configuration of the
TM-D700 were not shared with AMSAT or NASA. There remains
the distinct possibility that the unsuccessful result of this
test was due to a misconfiguration of ARISSat-1, its interface
to the ARISS external antenna, or the TM-D700.

An additional consideration is that the Cosmonauts who were
available for the Gagarin Commemoration were not necessarily
the same individuals involved with the ‘test’ in early February
due to a planned crew rotation that took place in early April,
where three individuals (two Russian, one American) were flown
to the ISS to supplement three individuals who were still

Neither AMSAT nor NASA received any status reports directly
from RSC-Energia during the timeframe of the planned
operation. We also don’t know what the Cosmonauts found when
they operated the three activation switches on the control
panel, such as whether the LEDS were lit or not. The status
of the flight battery is currently unknown to AMSAT and NASA.
Hopefully, RSC-Energia will provide an update on the status of
the satellite to AMSAT and NASA and a determination can be made
of the health of the satellite.

As noted above, ARISSat-1 is made possible through the
cooperation of RSC-Energia, NASA and AMSAT. However, the degree
of information received from RSC-Energia has been very sporadic,
given that ARISSat-1 is technically a Russian satellite
(callsign RS01S), and, per the signed protocol agreements,
RSC-Energia has assumed full responsibility for all activities
associated with ARISSat -1 from pre-launch preparation in Moscow
through EVA deployment from ISS. Indeed, RSC-Energia has never
publicly acknowledged that AMSAT was the organization that built
the satellite nor the significant NASA involvement in the
project. Clearly, what our expectations are concerning
‘transparency’ of information does not coincide to what
RSC-Energia has been willing to share to date.

We will continue our efforts to gain insight from RSC-Energia
concerning what transpired regarding their planned Gagarin
Commemoration event. We’re anxious to know the status of the
satellite as well as prospects for deployment in July. We are
dependent upon the willingness of RSC-Energia to keep AMSAT
and NASA informed. As we are apprised of developments, we
will share that information.


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