The 100 domes of the Svalbard satellite station are stacked across a plateau on an island in the Norwegian Arctic. It looks like an abstract mushroom growing out of a snowy landscape.
From the outside, it doesn’t seem like that happens. But each dome has a dish antenna that revolves throughout its life, day and night. It aims precisely at the satellites as they rise above the horizon and locks onto them as they curve across the sky. In a few minutes before the satellite fell below the opposite horizon. Software commands may be sent up and data is almost certainly transmitted.
As you know, SvalSat stations are important background operators supporting scientific research. It is located just outside Longyearbyen in the Svalbard archipelago, 800 miles from the North Pole, making it the world’s northernmost satellite station.
It is also one of the largest. The station’s 100 antennas, which are 42 feet in diameter, track over 3,500 satellites each day through hundreds of satellites. Including the many Earth observation antennas needed to study the impacts of climate change.
Among them are two satellites in use for Landsat, a joint project of NASA and the United States Geological Survey that provides images of shrinking glaciers. changing forest eroded coast and other symptoms
SvalSat tracks other satellites. Many others as well These include the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellite project, similar to Landsat, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Suomi NPP spacecraft. which measures the sea surface temperature How much solar energy is reflected? Earth and many other variables related to weather.
These and other Earth observation satellites in a polar orbit It orbits from pole to pole approximately every half hour. Some of the orbits are synchronous to the Sun. This means that the satellite will pass each point on the surface at the same time relative to the Sun. This is especially useful for satellite imagery. This is because the angle at which the sun shines to the Earth is consistent in every image.
The satellite is linked to more than one ground station around the world to cover the entire orbit. SvalSat’s high latitude position gives it an advantage over others, said Maja-Stina Ekstedt, station director.
due to the rotation of the earth The station at the equator said This may be in line with the satellite’s orbit when the satellite crosses the poles. would spin far west out of sight of the spaceship when it passes overhead
However, at such high latitudes, the SvalSat spins quite a bit. remaining within range The station can be connected to satellites orbiting each terminal of the 15 or more that pass normally every day.
“That’s what is special about Svalbard,” said Mr Eckstedt. “We can download data. and send commands to the data every time it passes.”
As a result, the station downloads a large amount of data, which is transported undersea to the Norwegian mainland by fiber-optic cables.
SvalSat has a control room for managing antennas. which some rooms can pass through various satellites only a few minutes apart and for transmitting and receiving signals Control room in Tromso The port of Norway 500 miles south, where the companies that operate SvalSat or Kongsberg Satellite Services are located, can also use the station. (The company operates about 100 ground stations around the world, including another high latitude station, the Antarctic coast troll, which is smaller and cannot transmit data at high speeds.)
Ms. Ekstedt manages approximately 40 employees responsible for antenna maintenance and equipment repair and maintenance. Although the dome is transparent to radio waves But snow can also deteriorate the signal, so in places where it snows an average of 170 days a year, clearing outside the dome is routine.
Weather conditions can affect station accessibility as well. Although it’s about 6 miles from the center of Longyearbyen, the station is at the end of a steep stretch of road.
“Just driving here is interesting,” Ms Eckstedt said. “Every day in winter We are closely watching the weather due to the challenging driving conditions and avalanche hazards.” Anyone except satellite users may evacuate the site before the roads become completely unusable. Sometimes workers have to be transported by air by helicopter.
Ekstedt and her family have been living in Longyearbyen for ten years. Even with a population of just 2,500, it still offers a wealth of cultural activities and limitless opportunities for outdoor recreation. “We’re pretty spoiled here,” she said.
And they’re working in a place that plays an important role in supporting science. “It’s wonderful to understand what you are part of,” Ms. Ekstedt said, “when you know what these images and information do in the world.”