Integration and Implementation of USAP Requirements

Dr. Jay April, Assistant Project Director, Management Systems, and Mr. Chris Rhone, Director, Information Systems, Antarctic Support Associates (ASA), led a presentation and discussion of ASA’s integration and implementation of USAP requirements.

ASA has been intimately involved with NSF/OPP in strategic planning for Information Technology (IT). USAP IT planning issues have focused on standardization of systems, configuration management, technology changes, and communications capabilities. ASA has addressed these issues during the IT strategic planning process, which consists of:

  1. Identify NSF agency mission, goals, and organization.
  2. Identify NSF Office of Polar Programs mission, goals, organization, and requirements.
  3. Determine USAP IT goals, objectives, strategy, and tactics.
  4. Determine USAP information resources environment.
  5. Develop supporting documents.
    1. USAP IT Enterprise Long-Range Implementation Plan
    2. USAP Enterprise Information Architecture
    3. USAP Information Security Plan
    4. IT Systems Life Cycle Management Plan

Through its interactions with the Communications Working Group of the SPUC and planning support from review of requirements in grant proposals and Support Information Packages (SIPs), ASA has defined communications goals to better support scientific research at South Pole, including:

  1. More reliable availability of communications.
  2. Improve ease of use of network.
  3. Uninterrupted data flow (on local network).
  4. Reduction in downtime.
  5. Ability to call to and from home institutions.
  6. Ability to send and receive more and greater quantities of data and have more flexibility.
  7. Ability to have more reliable communications.
  8. Limited fax capability.

The current communication systems and their capabilities at South Pole are summarized in Table 6.

Table 6: Current South Pole Station Communication Systems and Capabilities
HF Voice 24 Hours
VHF Voice 24 Hours
Land Mobile Voice 24 Hours
Telephone (Patched through McMurdo) Voice 24 Hours
ATS-3 Voice 7 Hours
LES-9 38.4 kb/s 6.5 Hours
GOES-3 256 kb/s 6 Hours
TDRSS S 1.024 Mb/s 4 Hours
TDRSS K 10 Mb/s 4 Hours

ASA’s has reviewed with NSF/OPP the recommendations from the SPUC from the May 1998 Meeting and implemented the following changes during the 1998-99 season:

  1. Internet: Current SkyX software installation will increase TDRSS capabilities 70-90%.
  2. Upgrades of GOES-3 antenna controllers increase bandwidth from 128 KB/s to 256 KB/s.
  3. Installation of Internet telephone at Carnegie-Mellon Univ. and USAP ground station, Malabar, FL, increase telephone capability significantly.
  4. Adoption of Denver date and time during winter months.

ASA’s planned future activities in communications support at South Pole Station are:

  1. Acquisition of an Iridium telephone (FY99/00) to provide 24 hr/d telephone and low data connectivity.
  2. Implementation of Microsoft Exchange/Outlook as USAP e-mail standards.
  3. Conversion to Windows NT (FY99/00) as USAP standard desktop operating system (business/operational applications).
  4. Upgrades to Science workstations (FY99/00).
  5. Upgrades in cabling and original runs
    1. Garage (FY99)
    2. Power Plant (FY00/01)
    3. New Dark Sector Laboratory (FY00/01)
    4. ARO to Dark Sector fiber/copper installation (FY00/01)
    5. New Power Plant and subsurface line (FY00/01)
    6. Transition plan for SPSE/SM.

Sustainable Future Options

Mr. Jim Pettit, AlliedSignal Technical Services Corporation (ATSC), led a presentation and discussion of sustainable future options. Based on ATSC’s review, the following are South Pole Station’s communications needs:

  1. Telephone service.
  2. Internet connectivity.
  3. Support of scientific research.
  4. Monitor and control remote experiments.
  5. Capacity for future growth.

A review of communication support at South Pole Station tells the present science story. Only 5 GB/d bandwidth is being used currently by scientists at South Pole, versus T1 providing approximately 15 GB/d. The conclusion is that the present communications model adequately provides for science support requirements at South Pole Station.

A heuristic formulation by ATSC for proposed communication requirements at South Pole Station, summarized in Table 7, was presented to stimulate discussion.

Table 7: Future Proposed South Pole Station Communication Requirements
Telephone 2 T1s
Internet 4 T1s
Scientific Support 17-37 T1s
Remote Control of Scientific Equipment [?]
M&C 1 T1
Spare 1 T1
Total 25-45 T1s

The challenge of providing the projected communications at South Pole Station is based on:

  1. No existing communications infrastructure.
  2. Overland (ice) cable solutions difficult.
  3. Ocean fiber cables are overkill, expensive, and don’t complete the last mile.
  4. Satellite geostationary arc is not visible.
  5. Satellites in highly inclined or special orbits are visible (will work), but are not commercially available.
  6. Only two of the proposed new commercial broadband satellite systems will provide coverage at the Pole.
    1. Teledesic System (150 mile coverage gap surrounding the poles based on presently advertised 288 satellite constellation design; requires capitalization of a terrestrial fiber optic cable and a remote/autonomous earth station)
    2. Hughes Spaceway NGSO (direct reception at South Pole possible based on present advertised 20 satellite constellation)
  7. New systems are high risk
    1. High cost, billions of dollars
    2. Venture capital and public financing required, and markets are waiting on the assessment of economic viability of Iridium prior to further committment to finance new systems
    3. Technically challenging (Teledesic)
    4. No market exists in Antarctica, implying that future business risk mitigation measures by systems designers might further eliminate any ability to support South Pole
  8. Iridium provides low data rate coverage at the Pole (inadequate solution for Gbyte/day and Internet class of service requirements).

ATSC considered these challenges and ranked potential solutions as shown in Table 8.

Table 8 : Potential Satellite Communication Solutions for South Pole Station Ranked by Cost
  Costs ($, Million)  
  Non Recurring Recurring Comment

Cable Sea and Land segments



Excess Capacity; High costs

Satellite NSF Molniya with Launch

1 Satellite



Partial coverage daily 8 hours; May have only 10 year life
2 Satellites



Nearly full time coverage 16 hours; May have only 10 year life

Land Cable to Dome C for Geo Visibility



Good solution if land cable is safe

Microwave Link to Coast



Adequate solution; scars landscape; sustaining O&M costly and involved; risk for system availability in winter

Microwave Link to longitude to reach Geo Visibility

    Adequate solution; scars landscape; sustaining O&M costly and involved; risk for system availability in winter

Land Cable to 150 miles Teledesic



Depends on Teledesic viability

Use Misplaced Orbit Satellite



Excellent solution; needs candidate satellites (one identified so far)

Use Old Geo Satellites




Excellent solution; life expectancy is very limited; needs replacements



Fair solution; 4 hours day of T1

There are three types of solutions, which have tradeoffs:

  1. Satellites
    1. Inclined GEO
    2. Old GEOs (many problems) lack or availability.
    3. Dedicated satellites (Molniya for example)
    4. Shared mission solutions.
  2. Cable undersea and land
  3. Combinations of satellite and cable solutions.

One new possibility would be for NSF to acquire a Molniya satellite for the southern hemisphere. The advantage of a Molniya satellite would be that a large portion of the Southern Hemisphere is covered within the visibility limit of a satellite global antenna beam. Most of Antarctica would be covered within the visibility limit of a typical high gain spot beam.

ATSC assessed issues of partnering and cutting deals with others to cut and share communications costs at South Pole Station. Advantages are:

  1. Partnering shares costs and use (satellite and cable).
  2. Satellite solution costs can be offset considerably with multi-users.
  3. Excess capacity can be sold off.
  4. Partners can lease or buy as a block creating economic viability.
  5. Agreements might be made with NASA-NRO, etc. to use satellites or take over spares.

The chief disadvantage is that NSF is working in a region where partners are scarce and resources (satellites) are limited.

ATSC recommended this follow on work:

  1. Validate costs for a fiber optic cable to Antarctic latitides where standard GEO satellites and other selected options are possible.
  2. Do a Request For Information (RFI) to industry to obtain better cost model - NASA may help.
  3. Continue search for satisfactory inclined GEO satellites.
  4. Explore arrangements to take over old satellites-pipeline of potential satellites.
  5. Determine route survey details for land cable.