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How our new ground station network is making our LPGAN a reality.
To reach for the stars you need your feet on the ground. So we’re launching our new ground station network with not one but two dedicated stations. And this is only the start of our plan to open up space and the Internet of Things to everyone on Earth.
Hiber’s dream is to cover every square cm, inch even pixel of the planet, so anyone anywhere can access the Internet easily and affordably. It’s a big dream that we are making a reality with tiny nano satellites.
The idea behind Hiber is really simple. To deliver the world’s first affordable Low Power Global Area Network (LPGAN). A low cost way for anyone on our beautiful planet to easily access Internet of Things.
Devices collect data from anything equipped with one of our modems and, when a nano satellite passes overhead, it wakes up and sends the info. Then goes back to sleep or hibernation. Hence the name Hiber. The data is then downlinked to a ground station and IoT portal to be shared on the Cloud. Its affordable, easy to install, totally scalable and the modems have an incredibly long battery life of 10 years.
To do that Hiber is not only creating a global network of super-efficient nano satellites, with super-affordable modems and ground nodes, but also a network of ground stations around the world.
For us, however, low cost has never meant low quality. In fact, the complete opposite. This isn’t about being able to update your social status whilst tweeting about the latest low fat, triple-bubbled mocha latte. This is about growing better crops, tracking livestock and monitoring tiny fishing vessels in the middle of our vast oceans. If you’re the first to provide affordable global connectivity to the most remote and impoverished areas, people need to rely on you even more.
That’s why a ultra reliable ground station network is essential to receive all the life changing and world changing data from every corner of the Earth.
Guaranteeing a high quality of service to every single person on Earth (‘customers’ seems so impersonnel to us) is what drives us and often keeps us awake at night. That and some rather strong Dutch coffee.
For us, our ground station network and infrastructure has to be beyond exceptional. It has to have amazing built-in redundancy, awesome support from proven partners and coverage that is second to none. That’s a big ask for the ‘new kid on the satellite block’.
In true Hiber style, our motto being to look at the world from a different angle, we approached the challenge with an open mind. For a start, we thought why have one ground station when you can have two. So we’re launching our new ground station network, with two dedicated stations; one on top of Hiber’s Research and Development Centre in Delft, the Netherlands, the other on Svalbard in Norway.
For those that don’t know, Hiber is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite system. Our nano satellites are in a low polar orbit and each one passes over a ground station only a few times a day (depending on the latitude of its location). Doesn’t sound like a big deal. However, it seriously limits the time a ground station can “see” the satellite and the amount of messages we can downlink. Our solution was to find a partner who would allow us to share access to their global network of ground stations with antennas around the world. More importantly, to find one who shared our vision to change the world.
Our ground station partner is KSAT and we’re super excited to welcome them to the Hiber family. Not only do KSAT have ground stations near both poles, they also cover mid-latitudes with multiple ground stations and ‘antenna parks’. Taking the hiber dream one step closer to reality.
Hiber will launch its first satellite, Hiber One, in October on an Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. Twin satellite Hiber Two will be launched with the American SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Our own ground stations in the Netherlands and Norway will provide a full end-to-end service after the launch of Hiber One. From Mission Control Centre in Delft, all Hiber satellites are managed: commands sent to activate software, system status monitored and orbits maintained amongst many other things. It might be on the scale of Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks just yet but we’re all pretty damn proud.
Hiber has been created to be future proof. Our nano satellites offer limitless possibilities for everyone on Earth. There could soon be dozens or even more of our affordable nano satellites up there.
So our ground station infrastructure is highly scalable to deal with the increasing traffic volume of millions of IoT terminals worldwide. Extending the number of satellites and ground stations allows not only for growth of the total traffic capacity but also higher service levels. Starting with a once per day service with the Hiber One satellite, the service level will go up to 100 messages a day. This flexible approach has never really been tried before as normally only single satellites are launched and not that often.
That’s why our ground station network has to be ready to not only cope with increased quantities of satellites but also high quality and volumes data. Who knows what info people will want to upload and downlink in the next few years let alone decades. It is like looking into a crystal ball and trying to see the future. This is what makes Hiber so special; its only limit will be people’s imagination not its technology.
In the photo above on the left you see the white dome housing the 3,5 mtr s-band (Cobham) antenna to receive the messages from the satellite. It is very robust, has a dome to protect it from the weather and is built for the next 15–20 years. The same antenna is also used on cruise ships that travel the oceans under rough conditions.
The s-band antennas is connected to the Hiber Network Control Centre that manages all message traffic coming from the satellites and makes sure everything is properly delivered to the customer via the Hiber data portal.
The antenna on the right in the photo is used for Tracking, Tracing and Control (TT&C) of the satellite. This is done via some old skool (and very reliable) UHF/VHF antennas (for the older people who read this: yes they look the same as those that were used for television on your roof in the past). The Hiber satellites transmits its health status back to earth in a so called beacon signal, that includes all kinds of health statistics (power level, temperature etc.) of the different satellite components.