Inclined Orbit Tracking for C Band and Ku Band Satellites

Inclined orbit satellites provide the lowest total cost per megabit for service providers and offer satellite operators an opportunity to maximise the return on their existing infrastructure investment by extending a satellite’s revenue generating life. Inclined orbit tracking systems have become an attractive option for service providers looking for cost-effective bandwidth and for satellite operators looking to extend the life of their satellites and revenues.

C band has always been the prefered frequency band for service providers serving Australia and the Pacific region as it is a weather resilient service that can guarantee service levels even in the heaviest rain. However, C band bandwidth capacity is often scarce in the regions that rely on satcoms the most, and inclined orbit satellites are proving to offer an excellent alternative that also often happens to be the cheapest price point per megabit available.

STEP Electronics’s advanced tracking system solution that optimises the throughput over inclined orbit satellites, service providers can now reliably take advantage of the cost effective option of C band on inclined orbit satellites.

What Is Inclined-Orbit Tracking And How Does It Work?

Satellite operators often put satellites into inclined orbit for various reasons including: extending the life of older satellites, extending revenues, and mitigating risk by maintaining an orbital slot until a replacement is available. Inclined orbit satellites offers the opportunity to drive down bandwidth costs at a significant advantage to customers.

Satellites are usually put into inclined orbit at the end of their life when station-keeping fuel is very low, by abandoning North-South station-keeping. However, the resulting figure eight pattern created by the inclined satellite can cause a weaker signal or lesser throughput on the ground during parts of the day when the satellite is off axis.

A satellite in an inclined orbit has certain known characteristics (to a close approximation). The inclination of the satellite’s orbital plane relative to the earth’s equatorial plane increases at a rate of between 0.6 and 0.9 degrees per year. The rate varies from year to year. The apparent motion of the satellite is periodic with time, the period is approximately 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds. The apparent motion of the satellite about a nominal position as viewed from the center of the earth is a figure eight pattern that is much taller than it is wide. The apparent motion of the satellite is practically a straight line oriented in a North-South direction. It is this knowledge of the satellite’s period and apparent motion that is exploited by STEP Electronics’s inclined tracking system solution.

These relationships are strictly valid only if the motion is observed from the center of the earth. The apparent motion is slightly greater and somewhat skewed when viewed from the surface of the earth. The exact shape of the pattern varies with the longitudinal position of the satellite and the place on earth from which the satellite motion is viewed. To estimate the height and width of an inclined orbit satellite’s motion as viewed from the surface of the earth, a good approximation is to multiply the results of the above equations by a factor of 1.2. The long axis of the figure eight is parallel to the antenna’s declination axis. The declination axis is perpendicular to the geostationary arc of satellites.

C BAND: A Reliable Solution For Our Unique Challenges In Australia And The Pacific Region

The distinctive geographic and terrestrial landscape of Australia and many of the Pacific Islands presents several unique challenges
for satellite connectivity due to resulting wide-spread and sparse population distribution and high annual rainfall. Often in these remote areas multiple satellite hops are required to service the population and can amplify the impact of high rainfall events and topography. Compounding these geographic limitations, these regions are also often scarcely covered by satellite capacity making bandwidth cripplingly expensive for many customers in the region.

As such, driving the technological charge with inclined orbit tracking systems provide attractive OPEX savings for customers and an increased ROI for satellite operators: where C band connectivity and bandwidth typically comes at a prohibitive cost to some customers, inclined orbit tracking systems offer them the opportunity to connect to C band satellites at significantly reduced cost.

Above all, STEP Electronics’s inclined-orbit tracking solutions offer a flexible and cost-effective alternative for bandwidth over congested regions. Satellite capacity over highly congested regions is not always readily available and the unique geographic characteristics and limited availability make bandwidth prohibitively expensive for many customers in the region. As such, service providers looking to start operations over these areas and government agencies seeking bandwidth over operational territories to support staff and missions are increasingly looking to inclined orbit satellites as an attractive alternative.


STEP Electronics’s Inclined Orbit Tracking System Solution Offers Ease Of Setup & Accuracy

Ease of setup

With STEP Electronics’s inclined orbit tracking system solution, the geostationary satellites of interest are located first, then the desired inclined orbit satellite is found, identified and logged into memory. The setup data which must be entered is simple: antenna size, satellite longitude, satellite band, antenna latitude and longitude, and maximum tracking error (in dB).

STEP Electronics provides turnkey installation services for customers who are unfamiliar with the setup of this type of system.


The accuracy of the system is determined by the resolution of the position sensors, backlash in the mount, and a user-defined variable which specifies the maximum allowable error.


A New Age Of Reliability And Affordability

STEP Electronics’s in-house experience and network of suppliers make it possible to quickly activate services over inclined orbit satellites at optimal efficiency and migrate applications to other satellites as soon as capacity becomes available.

Masters of Inclined Orbit

STEP Electronics is a market leader in inclined orbit tracking solutions and has a track record of VSAT, government and defence installations worldwide in Ku, X and C band. In these markets, STEP Electronics’s inclined orbit tracking systems have been the favourite technology of choice for communication over inclined orbit satellites.

STEP Electronics offers a market-proven end-to-end solution combining DVB-S2/S2X/NS4 and a set of cutting edge technologies in order to optimise IP links over satellite at optimal availability. STEP Electronics’s solution utilises ACM and UPC to provide customers a resilient and reliable service that intelligently ensures connectivity by automatically reconfiguring the link and balancing throughput and link availability.

Guaranteed throughput in inclined orbit

Communication links over satellite must be available at all times to ensure service level agreements (SLA) and customer expectations are met. Service providers who need to guarantee committed information rates (CIR) and meet SLA are often put-off by the fluctuating throughput that until recently was synonymous with satellites in inclined orbit. However, STEP Electronics’s system overcomes this to provide stable, resilient and guaranteed throughput.

STEP Electronics’s unique adaptive system actively measures the beacon on the satellite and undertakes a series of ‘peak ups’ to optimise the signal. Throughout this operation optimal availability is guaranteed without link or packet drops.

STEP Electronics’s proprietary inclined orbit tracking system solution offers the unique ability to provide both variable and fixed data rate throughput utilising ACM to ensure we always meet our customer’s SLAs.

Maximise throughput in inclined orbit

In the highly competitive satellite market there is ongoing pressure to ensure maximum efficiency to achieve pricing and margin targets and STEP Electronics works with service providers and government agencies seeking to increase their available bandwidth without increasing cost.

STEP Electronics’s inclined orbit tracking system is the communication solution of choice for many operators in the Asia Pacific region. STEP Electronics combines different technologies developed by our in-house engineers and with our network of technology partners to achieve maximum throughput regardless of environmental conditions.

STEP Electronics’s Australian Teleport

Based in Sydney, STEP Electronics’s teleport takes advantage of its limited footprint and specialises in inclined orbit tracking. Combining our advantageous relationships with satellite operators and our engineering expertise, STEP Electronics offers a best-in-class service to our customers around the world that overcomes the existing challenges of price reliability and stability.

STEP Electronics’s long history working with inclined orbit satellites makes us the go-to solutions provider for major service providers around the world. At our teleport we offer inclined orbit tracking as a managed service, and our experience and existing systems give us the ability to act rapidly for our customers looking to take advantage of bandwidth from satellites entering inclined orbit.

STEP Electronics works actively with major satellite operators to extend the life and profitability of their satellites by connecting them with customers who require C band connectivity and helping satellite operators extend those existing relationships with service providers by making the migration to inclined orbit a seamless experience.

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