Hunter and KSAT: Providing lower cost connectivity options in Antarctica

Hunter and KSAT: Providing lower cost connectivity options in Antarctica

Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites provide critical services to humanity.  Weather and GPS satellites, scientific payloads and imaging satellites whose content ultimately ends up on Google Earth have improved the quality of our lives.  The majority of these satellites travel north-south-north on a polar trajectory.  One challenge with these LEO satellites is that their on-board memory quickly fills to capacity so the more ground stations to which they can downlink their collected data, the greater the satellite’s commercial or scientific benefit.  For this reason, Kongsberg Satellite of Norway established the Svalbard station in 1997 in the far north, near where all polar satellites converge at 90ᴼNL.  As LEO satellites proliferated, KSAT expanded to provide an earth station in Antarctica to complement the satellites’ convergence at 90ᴼSL.

The Challenge

Despite the unique challenges of an extremely harsh environment (high operating costs, staffing issues, and weather), KSAT successfully established the Troll station in Antarctica to downlink large data streams from passing LEO satellites.  However they then needed to re-transmit that data from Antarctica back to the US and Europe where it could be utilized.  Geosynchronous satellite was the only option for backhauling this data, as no undersea fiber cables will ever exist to the Antarctica.

The Solution

Hunter worked with KSAT for a year to analyze and test the best modem technology to maximize their throughput, followed by an analysis and negotiation for the most cost effective satellite solution.  Despite a relative lack of options, Hunter succeeded in testing and deploying an inclined orbit solution that ultimately expanded to 300 Mbps of transmit capability, allowing for round-the-clock retransmission of passing satellite content.

For over six years, Hunter provided service to KSAT.  In subsequent years, working with several satellite operators, Hunter ultimately convinced two operators to establish new satellite beams that were inclusive of the Troll station in Antarctica.  KSAT now has the benefit of multiple C-band, Ku-band and Ka-band coverages on multiple satellites – ensuring network connectivity despite the remoteness of their operations.

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