How Orbital’s custom low noise block downconverters hold steady in high vibration environments
Imagine the pressure a combat general is under when leading a mission – specifically, when leading it remotely and relying wholly on a secure signal to a Humvee’s SATCOM-on-the-move (SOTM) equipment. The signal will convey instructions and specific coordinates to troops and relay critical data back to the command post. In these circumstances, failure is not an option. In addition to the important recon mission or military campaign underway, real lives are at stake.
And when that SATCOM equipment is mounted on a moving, light-armoured vehicle or military plane, it needs to withstand intense vibrations and still perform reliably. In these situations, your garden variety, off-the-shelf low noise block downconverter (LNB) will not guarantee steady signal delivery and reception. In fact, it will most likely deliver unreliable, degraded performance or fail completely.
With this in mind, Orbital Research focused on developing tough-as-nails local LNBs and oscillators that could meet the exacting specs of the most demanding clients, namely, military agencies and commercial airlines, and the most demanding situations. These customized LNB solutions are designed to withstand extreme vibrations – like those on an Airforce jet fuselage or a Humvee in combat – and still provide reliable satellite communications.
Cradle the Crystal
Key to the LNB’s reliability and premium performance are the local oscillators (LOs) embedded in the product that deliver vibration isolation. The LOs help the LNB receive the signal captured by the satellite antenna, amplify the signal and then down convert it to a lower frequency. Thanks to powerful, highest quality local oscillators, the LNB is able to operate in the most challenging, high vibration environments and ensure clear communications in critical situations.
The crystals used in oscillators can degrade when subject to vibration, increasing phase noise and potentially hampering or completely stopping data throughput. This could mean partial or no communication. To minimize the degradation and optimize performance, Orbital uses proprietary materials and vibration isolation mounts to ‘cradle’ the crystal and absorb the intense vibration so the signal is protected.
Meeting the Spec
Orbital’s LNBs comply with DO-160 and the U.S. military’s MIL-STD-810G spec that outlines the level of vibration the LNB must withstand effectively. Using high stability local oscillators, these LNBs are able to optimize satellite signal reception in the extreme vibration settings presented by military and commercial aircraft and SOTM set-ups in war and disaster zones. This is a first and crucial step in helping companies and government agencies meet the rigorous minimum performance and operational control requirements needed for the ARSTRAT certification of the satellite communications equipment used in military applications (i.e. military airplanes).
At Orbital Research, we know that off-the-shelf LNBs can’t always deliver the uninterrupted satellite communications many of our customers require to operate. And, in many cases, the impact of disrupted signals is critical. In response, our custom frequency converters are built to withstand the most challenging conditions from extreme vibration to extreme heat – effectively and reliably, meeting the exacting specifications and performance demands of mission critical clientele.