Ground Support Network Stations Press Release
This NASA press release gives details on a new, low-cost automated ground support station. This is great for
the Artemis Project, as it will need at least
four such facilities spread out around the Earth. More is better, for redundancy.
Headquarters, Washington, DC March 7, 1996
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
AUTOMATED GROUND TERMINAL TO REDUCE SATELLITE TRACKING COSTS
A new fully automated, miniaturized antenna station built from
off-the-shelf electronic components will significantly reduce the cost of
tracking NASA's low-Earth-orbit satellites.
The station, called a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Terminal, was built at
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, CA, and tested to track
and command NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite without
"Analysis of the terminal logs and spacecraft telemetry indicated
that the terminal worked flawlessly during the demonstration," said Dr.
Nasser Golshan, task manager of the development effort.
Development of the terminal was carried out in two phases by a
small team of engineers at JPL and SeaSpace Inc., a satellite ground
terminal manufacturer in San Diego, CA. In the first phase, JPL upgraded a
commercially available weather satellite-tracking terminal and developed a
receive-only terminal to gather telemetry from NASA satellites.
That first phase was completed in 1994 with successful
demonstrations tracking NASA's Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle
Explorer and the Extreme UltraViolet Explorer. In the second phase,
command uplink capabilities were added and showed that the terminal's
operation could be completely automated using COBE.
The terminal antenna is enclosed in a fiberglass dome called a
radome. The radome protects the microwave electronics and the tracking
mechanism from the elements. A four-foot high cabinet houses the station
electronics. For testing purposes, the terminal is located on the roof of
an eight-story building at JPL.
Electronics include the telemetry receiver, a command exciter, the
antenna controller and a computer workstation. When transmitting, the
terminal uses a 200-watt solid-state transmitter power amplifier.
The computer workstation allows for automated, unattended
operations of the terminal including automated scheduling, calculation of
orbital trajectories, control of the antenna positioner for spacecraft
tracking, automated uplink and telemetry operations, communication
interfaces for remote command operations, as well as processing and
distribution of spacecraft engineering and science data to the mission
operations and science users of the data.
Commercial off-the-shelf software has been used extensively to
reduce cost and increase reliability. Costs of the equipment and software
are between $600,000 and $800,000 depending on the options.
The terminal can receive telemetry at rates up to 1.2 million bits
per second. Uplink commands can be sent at up to 2,000 bits per second.
Those rates and the operating frequency can be modified with replacement
Equipped with a 10-foot (3-meter) antenna dish, the terminal is
capable of providing telemetry and command support to up to 55 percent of
NASA's current and planned LEO missions. A 16-foot (5-meter) dish could
extend coverage to 70 percent of the missions.
"This successful demonstration sets a benchmark for low-cost
support of Earth-orbiting missions," said Dr. Chad Edwards, manager of the
Deep Space Network Technology Program at JPL. "It also shows NASA can work
closely with industry to take the best available commercial capabilities
and quicklyadapt them to meet the needs of NASA science missions."
The concept for this project was conceived and sponsored by NASA's
Office of Space Communications, Washington, DC.
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