By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. You can find out more by following this link Accept & Close ›
Space Blog

On the ground in Kazakhstan

To keep our eyes on the skies, we install the ears on the ground.
We don’t just design, manufacture and operate spacecraft here at SSTL, we also provide a range of ground segment services for our customers and over the last two years we’ve been sending engineers out to Kazakhstan’s new satellite integration and test centre just outside the capital, Astana, to assist with the fit-out of the ground segment system that will be used to track and operate a medium earth observation satellite, KazMRES, manufactured by SSTL and which is due to launch very soon.

National Space Centre, Astana, Kazakhstan. Credit Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary

Our first visit to site was made back in 2010 before construction work on the antenna towers took place when our team scanned the local environment for possible sources of interference - a ground station requires as little interference from other communications systems nearby that may be emitting signals on similar bandwidths, not so easy in a modern capital city environment!

Since then the ground segments team has been travelling out to site periodically to inspect the antenna tower’s construction quality and infrastructure services and advise on the fit-out requirements for installing the antenna, the ground station racks, and other communications equipment.

The tower structure is designed to accommodate an antenna and radome on the roof, with ground segment equipment and a mission control centre being housed in the main building about half a kilometre from the tower. It’s important that the tower is built to withstand the weight of the dish – the one we subcontracted for this mission has a radius of 6.1 metres and weighs approximately 4000 kg . The tower also needs an un-interruptable power supply and air-conditioning to keep the whole ground segment running efficiently in both the searing heat of summer and the freezing cold of Kazakh winters.

Everything on site checked out well, so we were able to move ahead with a site visit in August 2013 to assist with the installation of an antenna dish and radome, supplied by our Antenna subcontractor, CGC.

With the local weather conditions in mind, the dish and radome installation was conducted in August last year, when temperatures were a perfect 25°C. Installing a dish antenna can be a tricky operation, requiring a big crane and lots of patience over a period of 2-3 weeks! Our antenna contractor, CGC, are experts at installations, but all the same we send a member of our team out to assist and check that everything goes to plan. The reflector was lowered into position, and guided into fixings that will secure it to the pointing mechanism which allows the dish to track a satellite as it passes over in-orbit.

CGC engineer performing the delicate task of guiding the antenna dish into the mounting

The antenna fixed to the roof of the tower, before the radome is craned into position

We then conducted a series of tests to check the antenna is working properly – to do this, we used the new dish to track one of our own satellites, UK-DMC2, and to uplink commands and downlink telemetry data and image files to check the integrity of the whole system.

The completed antenna tower for KazMRES. Credit  Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary

Our team were out on site again in January and February this year to make final preparations – and experienced for themselves the extremely harsh winter conditions in Astana. The temperatures dipped below -30°C and wind chill made it feel even colder. Our guys were kitted out in snow apparel, double gloves and balaclavas, and taking gloves off had to be timed at no more than 2 minutes to prevent frostbite! The engineers soon devised a tag system – one engineer doing 2 minutes work with bare hands, then putting his gloves back on, while a second engineer took over.

SSTL engineer kitted out for the cold

A snowy trudge through the snow along the access road to the tower site

There are in fact two antenna towers on the site, roughly one hundred metres apart – one to house the ground segment to operate a high resolution satellite, KazEOSat-1, manufactured by Airbus Defence and Space and the other to house the ground segment to operate KazMRES, the medium resolution satellite manufactured by SSTL. In fact, both ground segments, whilst configured differently are “cross-strapped”, which means that either tower can be used to talk to either satellite, providing a back-up service for periodic essential maintenance of the buildings, dishes or ground station racks.

The two completed antenna towers at Astana. Credit Kazakhstan Gharysh Sapary

Our team will be out in Astana again for the launch, and will working alongside the Kazakh engineers to pick up the first signals from KazMRES. The satellite will make 6 passes over the ground station every 24 hours and initially the team will be working a 24 hour rota to analyse the telemetry from each pass and uplink the commands that will turn on individual systems, until the spacecraft is fully commissioned and operational.

Watch out for news on the launch of KazMRES, coming to our website soon. 





09 June 20140 Comments1 Comment

Back to Blog

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.

About This Blog

SSTL's lowdown on cost effective space technology, small satellites, space science and interplanetary exploration.

Post Archive

October 2017(1)
May 2017(1)
January 2017(2)
October 2016(3)
September 2016(1)
July 2016(1)
June 2016(1)
April 2016(1)
March 2016(4)
February 2016(3)
December 2015(2)
November 2015(3)
October 2015(3)
July 2015(1)
May 2015(0)
May 2015(1)
April 2015(1)
March 2015(2)
February 2015(2)
January 2015(2)
December 2014(1)
November 2014(2)
October 2014(2)
September 2014(1)
July 2014(2)
June 2014(3)
May 2014(1)
April 2014(1)
March 2014(1)
February 2014(2)
January 2014(2)
November 2013(3)
October 2013(2)
September 2013(2)
July 2013(3)
June 2013(2)
May 2013(2)
April 2013(4)
March 2013(1)
February 2013(3)
January 2013(5)
December 2012(6)
November 2012(5)
October 2012(4)
September 2012(4)
August 2012(1)
July 2012(6)
June 2012(1)
May 2012(2)
April 2012(5)
March 2012(3)
February 2012(3)
January 2012(1)
December 2011(1)
November 2011(4)
October 2011(5)
September 2011(4)
August 2011(3)
July 2011(4)
June 2011(6)
May 2011(3)
April 2011(1)
March 2011(3)
February 2011(2)
January 2011(3)
December 2010(2)
November 2010(1)
October 2010(2)
September 2010(4)
August 2010(4)
July 2010(2)
June 2010(2)
May 2010(2)
April 2010(4)
March 2010(4)
February 2010(4)
January 2010(3)
December 2009(2)
November 2009(5)
October 2009(2)
September 2009(6)
August 2009(4)
July 2009(3)
June 2009(1)
May 2009(2)
March 2009(2)
February 2009(5)
January 2009(2)
December 2008(3)
November 2008(6)
October 2008(5)
September 2008(3)
August 2008(5)
June 2008(1)
May 2008(3)
April 2008(5)
March 2008(1)
February 2008(1)
January 2008(3)
December 2007(3)
November 2007(6)
October 2007(3)
September 2007(3)
August 2007(1)
July 2007(1)
June 2007(2)
May 2007(2)
April 2007(1)
January 2007(3)
December 2006(1)
September 2006(1)
May 2006(2)
January 2006(1)
December 2005(7)

Show/Hide All

If you like Space Blog, why not subscribe by RSS by clicking the subscribe button, or to recieve updates by email click the subscribe by email button.

*Comments Policy
SSTL reserves the right not to publish comments if they are deemed inappropriate.