Multi-Band ROVER™ now with Fiber Optics

Posted on Monday, November 19

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We’re always looking to more closely align our products with customer needs, so when a long term Norsat customer with several of our multi-band ROVER™ systems was faced with new usage requirements, we were happy to help create a solution. The customer’s initial operational requirements included short term field deployments with transmission equipment deployed in the field, however, the new operation necessitated that the encoder and computer packages be up to 100m (300ft) away from the RF equipment for extended periods of time.  We got to work, taking a look at how we could solve the problems posed by the new use case.

Camp Layout for the ROVER deployment

Our off the shelf ROVER system uses copper inter-facility links (IFL), and although it’s possible to include 100m of all weather, all temperature cable, it ends up being prohibitive to carry due to the weight and awkwardness. For the field user this was clearly a no go as their field equipment was already cumbersome, and adding another large package was impossible.

Norsat’s recent experience with the DART+ led our engineering team to recommend a fiber optics package.  100m of tactical fiber is light and easy to carry and can be swapped for even longer runs when needed.

A workable solution required several components in addition to the fiber optics, and needed to be delivered on already deployed ROVER systems. Additionally, we needed to ensure the solution was simple, and wouldn’t require significant retraining for our customer’s field staff.

Fiber Optic Outdoor Package for Rover

To provide a field upgrade-able component, we designed packages that would mount on the outdoor components and translate the fiber optics to and from L-Band signals, ensuring that the BUC and LNB could operate. In addition, we ensured that the outdoor components had a very clean clock signal at 10MHz in order to synchronize all of the messaging. A final part of the package was to feedback control data from the Satellite Acquisition Assistant to the outdoor pointing equipment. We also ensured that the currently deployed copper IFL would work exactly as it had previously.

With the electronics packages well underway the entire system needed to be examined.

In order to guarantee high quality transmission, the RF components of the system need to be tuned for consistency to ensure that both closed and open loop power monitoring are accurate

With the new Fiber Optic set-up on a multi-band Rover, the number gain settings multiplied (Fiber and Copper vs. 60W and 40W Amplifiers).  To address this gain shift cleanly we upgraded the customer’s LinkControl software control system from an older version to a much improved new version. LinkControl software provides a powerful set of alignment and control tools with an intuitive GUI, and the upgrades in the new version provide a much easier to use interface.

In the customer’s legacy LinkControl version, they needed to launch a separate application for every frequency band they used. To continue using this version the customer would have needed to launch the correct application out of 4 options every time they started the system. This made an easy decision to upgrade their software.

Profile Selection in LinkControl7

Thanks to the improvements in LinkControl7, the user now simply selects what equipment combination they will use when creating a profile. With the profile, all of the data for a specific deployment (such as location, satellite frequency bands) can be defined before going into the field. This simple interface was pioneered during the DART+ program and has worked well for our military customers. Users now only need to have one software interface that can be set up in comfort and then deployed in the more challenging field environments.

Although our customer expressed concern about retraining and moving to a new software platform, LinkControl7’s design ensured that even with significant changes to the business logic, the user-interface is stand-alone.  We were happy to provide what our customers have claimed is a seamless transition to the newer user-interface.

Quite a lot of work for a simple request!  Nevertheless, our selfless engineering team put in a solid effort to have the systems prepared, tested and shipped 3 weeks ahead of schedule.  

Most Norsat satellite systems are now available with fiber optics packages, and LinkControl7 software. For more information about these or other satellite solutions, please contact us.

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