Next year the team will be diving into a lake called Kelly Lake, and potentially Pavilion Lake at the same time. This creates a challenge for the communications team. Both sites must have broadband access to the Space Network Research Federation (SNRF) and the Internet, and be able to communicate from site to site at all times.
Satellite connectivity is great, but in this environment the “terrain mask” (steep rise of the terrain all around us) makes it difficult to hit a satcom “bird” in the sky from these high northern latitudes. On top of this, satellite transponder time can be expensive (especially considering the amount of “megahertz” or transponder we need!), and adds a significant “latency” to the communications link (in both directions) because the satellites are orbiting so far above the Earth. This latency can cause problems for some of the operations conducted by this team, and terrestrial interfaces tend to have very low latency.
So we took off in a helicopter in Lillooet, and flew to Kelly Lake to visit and survey the terrestrial (ground/mountain-based) communications options for communications near the lake. If we can avoid using a satcom link, we’ll have greater bandwidth and network performance at the 2011 test operations.
We found several options for connectivity or relay on a few mountains surrounding Kelly Lake, and even some options to link the two lakes together for next year’s mission. This begins a year’s worth of planning “now”. ; )