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RockBLOCK SATCOM Modem Selected for Space-Bound Instrumentation Packages

The RockBLOCK was used to transmit GPS data to help the main microwave antenna maintain and regain connection By Mike Ball / 04 Jul 2024
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Ground Control has provided its miniature RockBLOCK satellite connectivity solution for a high school educational program that sends instrumentation packages into the upper atmosphere via high altitude balloons to collect a wide range of data.

RockBLOCK SATCOM Modem Selected for Space-Bound Instrumentation Packages

The program at Edorado High School was established by teacher Paul McWhorter, a 17-year veteran of Sandia National Labs and founder of a Silicon Valley nanotechnology company.

Edorado High School sends instrumentation packages, known as Eagles, to the edge of space and transmits back temperature, pressure, and GPS data, as well as live video. In all, twenty different data channels are telemetered back to ‘Mission Control’ in the classroom. Data transmission is achieved using both satellite and microwave links, and due to technical and regulatory requirements, a high-gain microwave antenna on the ground is needed. The challenge here is that a high-frequency microwave radio beam has poor propagation so it must be pointed extremely precisely at the space-bound instrument package.

Pointing errors of just a few degrees can lead to loss of signal, so a separate and reliable way of transmitting the GPS location of the remote device is needed to help keep the microwave antenna aimed in the right direction and re-establish a link if lost. Ground Control’s RockBLOCK acts as a back-up system to help the main microwave array maintain and regain connection.

The RockBLOCK is a versatile, compact, low-power, and dependable way of sending and receiving data from remote locations. The devices use the Iridium satellite network, allowing truly global coverage. For this application, GPS data is transmitted via RockBLOCK to Ground Control’s servers, and is then pushed via HTTP post to the client’s server which adjusts the high-gain antenna position accordingly, thus maintaining the links.

Christine Lindsey, Mission Specialist at the Edorado High School Space Program, commented: “Mission success depends on reliable transmission of GPS coordinates from the instrument package back to the ground. We have chosen the RockBLOCK modem and Iridium satellite network because it provides rock solid connectivity.”

Find out more on the Ground Control website >>

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Posted by Mike Ball Mike Ball is our resident technical editor here at Unmanned Systems Technology. Combining his passion for teaching, advanced engineering and all things unmanned, Mike keeps a watchful eye over everything related to the unmanned technical sector. With over 10 years’ experience in the unmanned field and a degree in engineering, Mike’s been heading up our technical team here for the last 8 years. Connect & Contact