New Spot-Beam Antennas Boost Communication Satellites’ Bandwidth

SSL’s satellites constructed for Telesat also feature 3D-printed components

4 min read
Photo: SSL
Hi-Def Broadcast: Telstar 19V’s spot beams will improve data rates across the Americas.
Photo: SSL

Over the past few months, the spacecraft manufacturing company SSL put the finishing touches on three massive communications satellites. It built two of them for Canadian operator Telesat. Then it initiated its plan to have them launched, one after the other, into distinct geosynchronous orbits 36,000 kilometers above Earth—perches that will keep each satellite hovering over a particular spot, even as the planet turns.

From their respective vantage points, the pair built for Telesat will deliver high-speed communications services, including broadband Internet, to Asia and the Americas for the next 15 years.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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