For a long time we were not sure if we are allowed to use the name MarconISSta, since we use the term “ISS” in it. For this reason, we waited until now to launch the website. In the meantime, quite some work has already be done which is summarized below:
The whole idea started with a DLR funded project called “SALSA” at the chair of space technology of TU Berlin. In this project we develop a spectrum analyzer payload that can be integrated in a small satellite. In a space system design project we investigated the feasibility of integrating this system on the ISS as an external payload with standalone antennas. At one point the idea of using the existing ARISS (Amateur Radio on the ISS) antennas came up and Martin (a radio amateur himself) contacted the DLR to discuss feasibility of this idea. Soon the DLR and ESA were interested and involved the ARISS responsibilities. From this point on, one step quickly led to the other and – although time was running fast – we got on board for ISS increment 57/58 for German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst’s second stay aboard the ISS. Although we did not have the final approval yet (and some steps are still pending), we started the development.
The first LimeSDR arrived in April 2017 and was quickly confirmed as suitable for our experiment. We still searched for an On-Board Computer for data processing. Again, ESA and ARISS helped and told us about the Astro Pi project and that we might be able to use it for MarconISSta. They put us in contact with the Rasperry Pi Foundation and provided us with more details on the specifications of the Astro Pi. During this time we initiated our team which mainly consists of students from various fields including space engineering, mechanical engineering and computer engineering.
First, Connor Jonas used the in-house 3D printer to develop Astro Pi models and first designs for the LimeSDR housings.
At the same time, Alex Linossier created our MarconISSta logo:
We ordered the parts that are needed to assemble the Astro Pi as well as a successor model called ARISS Pi which uses the second generation Pi. Rudi Berger, Ilja Skrypnik and Tobias Planitzer assembled these two devices and we were ready to conduct our first experiments which involved functionality tests as well as power consumption and thermal dissipation testing.
On the road to the final design of the housing, there naturally were setbacks where designs/ materials turned out to be unfeasible. This happens – thanks anyhow Connor!
Of course there are many tasks that do not produce nice pictures but are worth mentioning: all the telecons and emails with ESA, DLR, ARISS, Pi Foundation and Lime Microsystems, the online research for the right components and the software configuration and programming tasks. The team shows great motviation and meets once a week to discuss the progress.
MarconISSta is still planned to be part of the “Gerst mission” in 2018. We are still waiting for a final decision if we can use the Astro Pi or the ARISS Pi and how the ARISS Pi is uploaded to the station. There are many safety reviews to be passed and tests to be conducted. The housing is in its final design phase and the software is at an advanced stage. Two more LimeSDRs arrived recently – one flight model, one flight spare – which are waiting for extensive testing. We will keep you updated on all future tasks, including design, preparation phase, testing, launch and operation of our project. Stay tuned!