The primary objectives of the Iris project are (i) to explore the efficiency of amateur radio for use in satellite missions, and (ii) to expose the project team to amateur-radio education and experimentation.
This project will design a small satellite (known as a CubeSat) around the power requirements of a small radio transceiver intended for communication on the Amateur Radio network. Students will then experiment with different types of data to be transmitted over the Amateur Radio network, including images of targets internal to the spacecraft (both compressed and non-compressed), thermal status, orbital and pointing status, and electrical performance. Radio performance will be studied in different conditions, including weather at the ground station, elevation angle of the spacecraft, and the thermal / radiation environment of the space segment on-orbit.
To support the communications with the ground, students will also experiment with the pointing orientation of the spacecraft using three magnetorquer coils (electromagnets), developed by York University. The students will examine the communications performance at a variety of incident angles between the spacecraft’s communications antenna and the Amateur Radio ground station at the University of Manitoba. Students will compare the performance with ground-based measurements of the antenna pattern in the University of Manitoba’s Antenna Laboratory.
The outreach objective of the Iris mission is to expose students to key aspects of amateur radio operations and development in post-secondary institutions (University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and York University) through a real satellite project and interactions with industry and amateur radio experts. Once the satellite launches, Iris will provide an opportunity for the project team and the larger amateur radio community to communicate with the satellite. The command architecture for Iris allows for radio operators to request and downlink images or other thermal / electrical data. By allowing anyone to request data from Iris, this creates an opportunity for new radio operators to practice uplinking commands and downlinking data.
The Iris project will be launched in August 2022 with an expected anticipated life expectancy of approximately in 1.3 years. The mission does not have any pecuniary interest, nor there is any transmission of encrypted messages in the requested amateur spectrum. The required telecommand signals from Earth to the spacecraft will have a publicly known format. The telemetry data from the Iris satellite is open and available to all amateur radio operators worldwide who can listen and decode it, to explore the viability of amateur radio operations from space. Amateur operators will be able to monitor the radio’s performance including its temperature.