Low noise block downconverters (LNBs) are mounted on everything from airplanes and Humvees to submarines and rocket ships. Not surprisingly, that often means they need to operate in extreme conditions or meet demanding specifications. And while an LNB might be a small component in the entire system, if it fails, or doesn’t perform properly, it can grind everything to a halt.
How Orbital’s custom frequency converters are meeting tough customer requirements
Off-the-shelf products aren’t always up to the challenge – and system integrators need custom LNBs to keep satellite communications running smoothly. Here are some examples of the tough customization problems we’ve worked on with our customers.
Operating temperatures for traditional satellite communications equipment typically top out at +40C. What happens when your comms equipment is being used in a hot and arid climate – or when it’s sitting on an airport tarmac, baking at +90C? This is the problem a military contractor operating in desert conditions asked us to solve.
Off-the-shelf LNBs can vary significantly in gain and ripple over temperature, so we got to work on a solution that consistently delivers a stable receive level and keeps systems up and running – even in the hottest temperatures on earth. Now this Orbital customer has a fully tested, custom LNB that operates reliably in +90C conditions for both terrestrial and airborne installations.
When satellite terminals are located in unmanned locations, automatic LNB redundant switching is a must. But what if you could get feedback on the operating condition of your equipment before failures occur? Maybe the temperature inside an LNB or the current draw could help predict potential issues before they happen?
Orbital explored these possibilities at the request of a military integrator whose customer has multiple unmanned earth stations, including isolated installations in the Arctic. Our engineers quickly developed a custom monitor and control (M&C) interface that not only allows frequency band switching, it shows the real-time status of current and temperature – and anything outside expected conditions raises an alarm. Technicians can monitor and manage these LNBs from afar and ensure visits to these lonely outposts are few and far between.
High-vibration environments for SATCOM equipment – like airplanes and fast-moving vehicles – can easily disrupt communications. Too often, off-the-shelf low noise block downconverters fail or their local oscillators fall badly out of spec when they start to shake.
To solve this problem, Orbital Research developed tough-as-nails LNBs and oscillators for in-flight connectivity (IFC) and SATCOM-on-the-move (SOTM) markets. These customized solutions for commercial, government and military applications can withstand extreme vibration and ensure reliable satellite communications in even the roughest of conditions – such as on a rocket ship, Airforce jet or Humvee.
Venturing out of bounds
LNB products that operate on the traditional satellite spectrum can be easy to find – but move off this spectrum by a few MHz or GHz and your parts count and costs can skyrocket.
A custom-configured LNB that fits a non-traditional spectrum can save a project and keep costs down. This is why Orbital routinely modifies commercial and military frequency converters to operate in bands that aren’t typical – and provide unique solutions to our customers’ needs. Customers that use wideband software-defined radios (SDR) and earth observation applications are often in this category.
When size matters
Custom-packing smaller frequency conversion components into a single box or rack unit is often the key to a smooth implementation. A few centimetres or grams can make all the difference.
Many system integrators come to us when they need to meet very tight size or weight limitations. In addition to making small and light LNBs and BDCs for our customers, we’ve re-packaged two components in a single chassis to meet height limitations, packaged combiners and splitters with oscillators and Mux-Tees to “professionalize” an installation, and much more.
Acing the toughest tests
Meeting military specifications and passing certification tests is incredibly time-consuming and expensive. But some military integrators have found that a custom LNB solution can save months or even years in qualification time.
For example, when one of our customers was struggling to meet the P1dB specification needed for ARSTRAT certification, we customized their LNB – which was operating with a very high input signal – to avoid saturation and consistently maintain the P1dB spec. Our crack team of engineers has helped many integrators earn their certifications.
At Orbital Research, we understand that off-the-shelf LNBs aren’t always the right fit – and customers often ask us to build something specific that doesn’t exist on the market. Over time, we’ve come to specialize in custom frequency converters that meet tough specifications and operate in extreme conditions. We’ve helped our customers overcome all types of challenges, including:
- Extreme temperatures
- Remote monitoring and control
- High-vibration environments
- Non-traditional frequency bands
- Small and lightweight packages
- Military testing and certification
- And others