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New mission for DSCS satellite

13th October 2016 - 15:30 by The Shephard News Team

New mission for DSCS satellite

A Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) satellite has embarked on a new mission supporting the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Amundsen-Scott Station at the South Pole.

The Lockheed Martin-built DSCS III B7 satellite was launched in 1995 as part of the US military’s high frequency communications constellation. Now operating at twice its expected ten year design life, the satellite has taken over the role of providing communication and data links between Amundsen-Scott and the US Antarctic programme facility in Christchurch, New Zealand, which serves as the station’s link to the rest of the world.

The station is located at 90 degrees south, right at the South Pole, making communications with the remote science station difficult. Even for orbiting satellites, the extreme geographic latitude makes maintaining continuous communication links impossible. 

DSCS III B7 satellite replaces the NSF’s decommissioning GOES-3 satellite, providing the station with Internet access for 3.5 hours a day at speeds of up to 30 megabits per second (MBPS), an upgrade from about 1.5 MBPS they had under GOES.  

The satellite has already begun relaying health and welfare data links to and from the facility. In June, the satellite played a key role in relaying telemedicine data leading up to the medical evacuation of two NSF employees in need of additional medical care.  

Six on-orbit DSCS III satellites remain operational with more than 259 years of combined service life, already providing nearly 120 extra years of mission life. 

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