Satellite communication touches our lives in ways most people don’t fully appreciate. From GPS to satellite TV to the communication networks that make modern economic, military and political affairs possible, there are few areas of life that the rise of SATCOM technology has not shaped in some way, directly or indirectly. While visions of massive arrays and constellations might be the first thing that comes to mind when some people think of satellites, today we’re going to focus on something a little less visually impressive but just as important; the Very Small Aperture Terminal, or “VSAT.”
So much of the focus in SATCOM technology pertains to what goes on in outer space, but what happens down here on earth is just as important. The fact is that every satellite, no matter how advanced, is still only a part of a larger system. Today, you'll learn the important role that satellite ground stations play in making SATCOM possible, and some of the challenges (and possible solutions) for organizations working with LEO satellites on the ground.
The average person probably doesn’t spend any time thinking about satellites unless he or she is specifically entering an address into a GPS device— and even that would be a stretch. Satellite communication has become such a pervasive, omnipresent influence in our lives, our economy, and our government that we simply take it for granted. With the advent of high-throughput satellites (HTS), this trend has only increased. Speeds and data capacities never before dreamed of are becoming commonplace, and dramatically improving SATCOM capabilities in both the public and private sectors. A core technological attribute that is enabling the HTS revolution is a technique called beam hopping.
The international space station (ISS) is traveling in orbit around our earth at about 217 Miles (350 km) above earth’s surface. That’s equal to about 1,148,294 feet (yes, over 1 MILLION feet) or 350,000 meters above you. Those are some crazy heights! The ISS and other satellite communication devices must be able to cover a ton of earth’s surface from there, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. Let’s explore...