A communications payload NASA astronauts delivered to the international space station on behalf of Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) last November was successfully activated during a series of operations conducted in January and March, Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX announced March 29.

The payload, dubbed the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Ultra High Frequency Communication Unit, is intended to allow space station crewmembers to monitor and command approaching or departing Dragon spacecraft that SpaceX is building to deliver cargo to the orbital outpost.

SpaceX said on-orbit checkout of the COTS UHF Communication Unit began Jan. 25 when U.S. astronaut Jeff Williams worked with ground-based team members at SpaceX in California and NASA mission control in Houston to power-up and checkout the new system. A series of additional tests conducted March 11 entailed sending communications — including live video and telemetry — between the space station and a ground station at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. Additional testing is planned.