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Space Blog

Satellite in a suitcase

Last month, we discussed the benefits of using a simulator to test groundstation equipment and to train operators. Most satellite simulators are custom-built and large pieces of equipment. The Kazakhstan MRES satellite simulator, for example, is a high-end tower PC with a 19-inch rack that houses the interface electronics that allow the PC to "talk" to the groundstation as a satellite would.
From the point of view of an operator, the Simulator behaves like the real satellite being operated from a full groundstation
From the point of view of an operator, the Simulator behaves like the real satellite being operated from a full groundstation
Now imagine if this simulator was portable and only the size of a suitcase. That would make testing the ground segment and training satellite customers all over the world both easier and quicker. Well, SSTL is doing just that "“ looking at a new portable simulator model, which will allow SSTL engineers to take a "dummy satellite" with them as luggage when they visit their customers all over the world. There's no substitute for testing and training with the actual satellite hardware; no simulator is ever perfect or fully representative of the thing it's trying to simulate. But when you simply can't get the satellite to the place where you need to some training or testing, a simulator is the next best thing and can help get the early work done until you can access the real satellite. Andy Bradford, Director of Engineering at SSTL commented, "We won’t need to box up a whole rack of equipment and ship it out specially "“ we can just pick up the suitcase and hop on an aeroplane like everyone else. This makes life easier and really speeds up how quickly we can organise training or run some tests." The satellite in a suitcase would prove invaluable to Ground Systems engineers for building, testing and configuring ground station equipment in far-flung destinations.
Satellite antenna dish
Satellite antenna dish
Customers would benefit further. Operators can be trained in-situ to use their own ground segment in combination with the satellite in a suitcase before they get access to the real satellite. By training in-situ and with their own equipment, their experience is as close to real-life operations as possible. What’s more, once the training is finished the portable simulator can be packed up and taken to another country or purchased by the customer for further use. Payloads and subsystems can also be tested using the "dummy satellite". The satellite in a suitcase can be packed up and taken to payload developers to perform pre-integration tests. For example, payload interfaces and responses can be tested early with this dummy satellite whilst the platform is under construction at SSTL, reducing the risk of errors and problems occurring when the actual integration with the satellite takes place. This would have express benefits with hosted payload missions such as TechDemoSat-1, as payload developers are based in several different locations.





13 June 20120 Comments1 Comment

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