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ACTS and LFA 2

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." -Author and telecommunications visionary, ARTHUR C. CLARKE.

The three LFA 2 broadcasts from Palmer Station would be impossible without ACTS, NASA's Advanced Communications Technology Satellite System. ACTS provides for the development and flight test of high-risk, advanced communications satellite technology. Using advanced antenna beams and on-board switching and processing systems, ACTS is pioneering new initiatives in communications satellite technology.

NASA Lewis Research Center is responsible for the development, management, and operation of ACTS. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages development and operations of the ACTS Mobile Terminal (AMT) element of the program and, jointly, with Lewis directs the Propagation element. Overall ACTS program management resides in NASA Headquarters, Office of Space Access and Technology.

ACTS provides communications satellite technology for:

  • operating in the Ka-band (30/20 GHz) where there is 2.5 GHz of spectrum available (five times that available at lower frequency bands)
  • very high-gain, multiple hopping beam antenna systems which permit smaller aperture Earth stations
  • on-board baseband switching which permits interconnectivity between users at an individual circuit level
  • a microwave switch matrix which enables gigabit per second communication between users.
Live TV signals will arrive at Palmer by microwave from cameras on the R/V Polar Duke and off-shore islands, and will be beamed up to ACTS via a 1.2 meter dish, along with voice channels for program coordination. ACTS is only 7 degrees above the horizon, as seen from Palmer. The signal bandwidth should be up to 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second), approximately 6 times greater than the signal used to connect students to the South Pole during LFA 1 in 1995. The ACTS signal is downlinked at NASA JPL, in Pasadena, CA, and then passed via T-1 to the Television Center at Mississippi State University, where it is integrated into the final live programs, and sent to PBS for distribution over public television's Telstar 401.

The ACTS link is "full duplex", meaning scientists at the Palmer communications "hub" will be able to see students in America while students are interacting with the researchers, as if students were on an actual field trip.

LFA 2 thanks NASA and the ACTS teams at Lewis and JPL: these will be the most extreme weather conditions under which the satellite has even been tested!

For more information on ACTS:



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Last Update: 1/18/97
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