Ready, Set, Go!
The service is upgrading its dated
Satellite Earth Terminal Stations
in a once-a-century undertaking.
BY CARL MORRIS AND
U.S. Army satellite ground stations are getting a much- needed total makeover—considering that several hail from the same era as the Vietnam War, the Kennedy presidency and the space race.
Their high-tech moniker—Satellite Earth Terminal Stations, or SETS—belies the actual nature of these facilities.
The structures appear to more closely resemble corrugated
steel warehouses for auto parts than suitable environments
for cutting-edge satellite communications (SATCOM)
equipment. During the 1960s, digital SATCOM was hardly
a twinkle in the eye of technologists. SATCOM speed,
volume and complexity would increase by many orders of
magnitude over the next five decades.
Through these humble SETS travel massive amounts of
communication data directed by switches through large-scale satellite antennas to the military’s Wideband Global
SATCOM (WGS) system and other constellations orbiting
22,300 miles above Earth. But all that is about to change
with the construction of new state-of-the-art stations.
Army leaders are taking the 1960s facilities and readying them for the types of conflicts the military will face in
the 2020s, says Col. Joel Babbitt, USA, product director for
the Army’s Product Lead, Wideband Enterprise Satellite
Systems (PL WESS) office, which directs the effort for the
service’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS). “Think about it: Way back in the
1960s, did we have full motion video? No. Did we have
[Internet protocols]? No. We hardly had digital communications,” he says.
Some 50 years of incremental renovations to expand the
SETS and accommodate additional equipment have led
to a point where more renovations are impractical, Col.
A new state-of-the-art
Satellite Earth Terminal
Station (SETS) in Landstuhl,
Germany, provides improved
heating, ventilation and
air conditioning and power
distribution as well as additional floor space to better
systems and subsystems.
Babbitt shares. “There’s only so much communications
equipment you can put in a facility ... before you realize
that your facility just doesn’t work for what you’re trying
to do anymore, and you need to upgrade. [I]t’s cheaper to
construct a new building than to try to patch up the old
facility and make it something it was never designed for,”
One by one, the Army will shift users over to new
facilities in the SETS relocation (SETS-R) program. The
move stems from the March 2006 Enterprise Wideband
SATCOM Terminal System (EWSTS) Capability Production Documents (CPDs) that mandate infrastructure
improvements at Army SATCOM facilities, allowing them
to leverage WGS satellite capabilities and emerging technologies. The new facilities are designed to accommodate