Compatibility-test for the ASBM satellites – getting close to launch

The ASBM program conducted the important compatibility test for ASBM-1 last December 2023. This is a verification test for communication between the ground system and our two large ASBM satellites.

The test is divided into two parts. Both the satellite provider Northrop Grumman and HEOSAT test communication between their respective control rooms and the satellites, to ensure that both parts function both during launch and when the satellites are deployed after testing in space.

During the construction of the satellites and payloads, all physical parts and software have been tested in various ways, many times. First individually, and then as a complete system. The tests in the Satellite Operation Center (SOC) have been performed in a satellite simulator, which is a digital copy of the ASBM satellites. During this important compatibility test, the SOC is directly connected to the satellites to receive telemetry and send commands for the first time. The operations center is tested together with the actual satellite, with actual radio signals.

Our two ASBM satellites are in the final stages of the many tests required before launch. One of the final tests is the Near Field Range test (NFR) where the beam patterns from the antennas are measured. While this test is ongoing, the compatibility test is also conducted. The reason the compatibility test is done while the satellite is in NFR is that when the satellites are finally in operation, all communication is done via radio signals.

Ranging is tested, meaning that by using radio signals sent from the ground segment, the satellite's location is known at all times. The test ensures that the satellite is able to deliver telemetry to the SOC, and finally, it is ensured that commands can be sent to the satellites and that they can receive and execute what they are asked to do. As with the end-to-end test, all hands were on deck for this important event. Teams from both Space Norway, the satellite provider Northrop Grumman, KSAT, and our customers; the Norwegian and US Armed Forces as well as Viasat, were active in their parts of the ground network to verify data reception and report deviations for two consecutive days. Coordinating all these actors is in itself a major task, and in the compatibility test, the entire operation is tested on cooperation, data flow, and deliveries. The compatibility test against the ASBM2 satellite was conducted early in March while it was in Near Field Range, and with this, an essential milestone for the entire ASBM program has been reached.

Both the ground segment and the satellite team can start looking forward to launch!

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