Proceedings of
National Science Foundation
United States Antarctic Program
Communications Workshop

National Science Foundation
Room 1295
11 March 1999

Executive Summary

The goal of this workshop is to define South Pole Station communications requirements and to develop the short and long-term strategies to support those requirements based on our knowledge to date on available and planned systems. Discussion of various subjects included:

Nine summary conclusions were developed among the participants to complement the NSF/OPP strategy to maintain and increase the communication capability at Amundsen-Scott South Pole station.

Summary Conclusions

  1. NSF present course of action:
  2. Because of the tenuous nature of the only broadband satellite (TDRS F-1) available to the South Pole, NSF/OPP should immediately pursue military, other federal agency, or commercial capability to back up the TDRSS capability.
  3. The Iridium system should be pursued for the provision of 24-hours/day e-mail connectivity as a means to mitigate the lack of continuous connectivity between South Pole Station and CONUS researcher. This would be a low-bandwidth, high-connectivity strategy worked in parallel with developing short-term broadband replacements for TDRS F1.
  4. NSF/OPP should develop the partnership between it and NASA as an outgrowth of the partnerning established to-date for the continuation of TDRS F1 support. NSF/OPP should pursue with NASA the potential to support South Pole Station with the upcoming launches of new TDRSS spacecraft (TDRS-H in Aug. 1999, and TDRS-I in July 2002).
  5. NSF/OPP should avoid acquiring services via a direct procurement of satellite hardware and ground systems due to the complexity, cost, and risk of such an undertaking (acquisition, launch, operation, maintenance, and replacement). Services can be provided more cost- effectively by other means.
  6. At the current state of knowledge, NSF/OPP should develop the options to connect the South Pole station via fiber optic lines for two scenarios: The review of options should address the cable maintenance costs and risks to the cable, plus potential international partnerships and enhanced science that might result along the cable route.
  7. NSF/OPP should team with NASA’s Rapid Satellite Development Office to solicit industry to propose solutions to meet South Pole communication needs.
  8. As a part of NSF/OPP’s review of options, the bandwidth and connectivity of a digital, error corrected HF radio link with McMurdo Station should be considered.
  9. While satellite communication between South Pole and CONUS was the primary focus of the workshop, interest was expressed about the need to consider expanding the development of the South Pole communication infrastructure to include wide area network (WAN) connectivity 100 km radialy from South Pole Station. The use of existing technology (e.g. packet radios) was suggested, although other approaches should be considered.