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Unique satellite communications system supports missile defense.

Tobyhanna army depot, Pa. -- Engineers and technicians have designed and built a satellite communications system that supports the ground-based missile defense program in Alaska.

Work on the system began in early 2000 when the Program Manager for Defense Communications and Army Transmissions Systems tasked Tobyhanna to build the AN/TSC-86D satellite communications system that could act as a fixed terminal at a site until a permanent system is installed.

Employees from the depot's Satellite Communications Systems, Production Support Services and Systems Integration directorates carried out the mission.

"It's intended as a temporary system, but is complete enough that it will be used as a communications system by itself," said John Deininger, electronics engineer, SATCOM.

The system is used for voice, data and video communications. It is currently supporting the Missile Defense Space Battalion, the first ground-based midcourse defense battalion, at Fort Greely, Alaska.

The battalion will provide operational control and security over ground-based interceptors located in Alaska to protect the nation from limited ballistic missile attacks.

"The 86D is a unique, first-of-its kind system; it has dual antennas for communications through separate satellites, but can operate using one antenna," Deininger said.

The system is composed of five trailers, each about 40 feet long. The heart of the system is the 86D trailer that houses the main systems, such as modems, channel converters and baseband racks.

"There is also a supply and maintenance trailer, a power trailer that provides uninterruptible power systems and generators, a trailer that houses the antennas and air conditioning equipment, and an equipment trailer, which has all the equipment to assemble the system," said Charles Cortese, mechanical engineering technician, SATCOM. "We customized each trailer to not only house equipment meant for a fixed site, but also to be transportable by C-17 cargo aircraft."

Depot technicians extensively modified the trailers. For example, special undercarriages and tires were installed to help the trailers fit into a C-l 7. Also, the 86D trailer's height had to be lowered.

"One of our major hurdles was getting some of the moving equipment certified for Air Transportability," said Tom Musso, SATCOM. "All trailer design details were provided to the Transportability Group at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (Ohio). As a result of resolving this, we received C-130 and C-17 transportation certification."

Personnel also designed and fabricated support brackets, hundreds of feet of cables and electronics racks, sometimes redesigning racks during the process when upgrades were requested.

"The entire electrical power supply system was fabricated here," noted Jack Pallien, electronics technician, SATCOM. "We also modified the lightning protection system."

"The system is totally redundant; it will not go off the air," added Richard Budgeon, electronics technician, SATCOM. "If a component goes down, its function is automatically switched to another component."

PM DCATS supplied the main SATCOM systems.

Completed in January 2003, the system was deployed to Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., in March 2003, to support the AN/GSC-52 Modernization Program and returned to Tobyhanna in August 2003, where additional upgrades were installed. Tobyhanna technicians are currently installing the system in Alaska.

Installation includes staging all the trailer assemblies, erecting the antenna assemblies, properly anchoring the system and connecting all the external power, grounding and communication cabling.

"Once that is done, a second crew will align and test the system prior to completing on-site final acceptance testing," Budgeon said. Tobyhanna will maintain the system wherever it is fielded.

"We received great support from several (depot) directorates," Musso said. "All told, there were about 45 people throughout the depot who had a hand in completing this project."

Mr. Ricchiazzi is with the Tobyhanna Public Affairs Office.
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Author:Ricchiazzi, Anthony
Publication:Army Communicator
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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