BY RAYMOND GUZMAN AND N.A. CHU
When Russia launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, nearly 59 years ago, the orb hurtled uncontrollably through space, transmit- ting basic broadcast radio pulses for a mere three
weeks before its batteries were exhausted.
How times have changed.
Experts have developed satellite resiliency at an exponential rate, enhancing capabilities by leaps and bounds since the
novel one-way signals of Sputnik were heard around the world.
Satellites now can be controlled from Earth, carry real-
time high-volume communications and far outlast their
primitive predecessors thanks to advances in power sources,
solar panels and energy use management. Unfortunately,
satellite communications (SATCOM) remain limited by an
immutable feature: the curvature of this celestial sphere we
call home. The line-of-sight limitation of the geostationary
communications satellites that the U.S. Army, the Defense
Department and many international allies rely on poses
significant problems but has a simple solution: the place-
ment of remote-control stations around the world.
In February, the Product Lead, Wideband Enterprise Satellite Systems (PL WESS) office installed and tested the Remote
Monitoring and Control Equipment (RMCE) Phase 2, which
brings online a private, secure wide area network. The effort
seamlessly connects all SATCOM control facilities to offer
more robust and reliable management of the military’s Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) constellation of communication satellites. The result will be more reliable satellite control,
no matter where satellites are in orbit.
The geosynchronous orbits of WGS satellites mean that
each satellite moves at the same speed and in the same
direction as the Earth—effectively hovering over a carefully
specified coverage area. Similar to air traffic control towers
at individual airports, a Wideband Satellite Communications Operations Center (WSOC) can only monitor and
control satellites visible to that particular WSOC site. RMCE
Phase 2 adds three WSOCs to the initial set installed in 2012
and four remote terminals to achieve global coverage. The
Taking Remote Control of
A U.S. Army effort lays the groundwork to
transform the way WGS orbiters are managed.