Tromso–this is not your father’s Ikea furniture

Tromso–looks a little chilly, doesn’t it?

Well actually, it’s not any kind of furniture made of “some oak and some pine and a handful of Norsemen” (although listening to Jonathan Coulton’s song, it sounds like it could be), but it is another ground station.  It’s time to write about the Tromso Satellite Station (however, if you want to start with a smile, listen to JoCo’s song).  This station is located near the city of Tromso, Norway located over 200 miles NORTH of the Arctic Circle.  Yes, there is a city north of the Arctic Circle–one in which people are voluntarily staying.  This might explain why people live in Canada, Minnesota, and North Dakota–living in those regions is not as bad as living within the Arctic Circle (doesn’t mean they aren’t crazy for living there, though).

So, Tromso Satellite Station is over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle then.  And sitting near this ground station is the operations center into which all data from satellites using the Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) ground stations flows, the Tromso Network Operations Center, or TNOC.  According to the KSAT site, the TNOC remotely controls all their ground stations.  With ground stations like Troll (talked about on my site here) in Antarctica, it makes sense they’d remotely control it.  Who’d really want to live there?

So there’s a lot of action happening in Tromso.  But why place a satellite terminal/ground station there?  Just like Troll, Tromso is close to a Pole, but it’s the North Pole.  This means that using this antenna all by itself, they would likely be able to communicate with polar orbiting satellites every 90 to 120 minutes, give or take.  Please refer to my orbit lessons pages, particularly lesson 5, if you are confused.

Combine the Tromso ground station near the North Pole with the Troll ground station near the South Pole on the same network, and you’re suddenly looking at communicating with satellites every 45 to 60 minutes.  You’ve halved time between communications, and doubled the number of “contacts” (the time of communication between the satellite and ground station) between a satellite and the ground system.  So that means they can have satellite contacts at least twice per low earth orbit, 26 times per day.  This is a good thing if KSAT have satellites constantly needing to download data files, and if KSAT want to be able to deliver “products” to customers quickly.

Tromso sounds huge–KSAT say the Tromso Satellite Station consists of over 30 “multi-mission” (read:  most any satellite can use them) antennas.  According to the wiki, it was originally designed and built to support (pass satellite data back and forth) the European Space Research Organization (ESRO), but the station also supports the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA) (What??!!! Canadians have a space agency?) low earth orbiting satellites, too.  The wiki notes that KSAT customers can get their data in less than 30 minutes after a satellite contact.

There isn’t too much else on this ground station, unfortunately.  You can read more about it on the KSAT site and wiki.  But now you know:  Tromso isn’t a towel rack sold in Ikea–it’s a ground station AND a city in Norway.

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