Intelsat 34 Continues to Pass the Test

By Bertram Nagarajah, Program Manager, Space Systems Acquisition

Part of a series from Intelsat team members overseeing the launch of Intelsat 34 (IS-34).

It’s been just over three weeks since the launch of Intelsat 34, and those of us on site at our East Coast Operations Center in Tysons Corner, VA, have been working steadily around the clock to get the satellite ready for service. My colleagues who get to go on site to the launch location talk about the wonderful camaraderie that forms among those at the launch base. That same excitement and sense of teamwork pervade the mission team here in Virginia, too. There’s nothing like rolling up our sleeves and putting into motion plans that have been in development for months – if not years.

One of my responsibilities for the IS-34 mission has been to oversee the antenna deployment and payload testing stages that take place as we raise the satellite’s orbit to geostationary.

During launch, the three antenna reflectors (Ku-band North East, Ku-band South East and C-band West) were stowed against the East and West sides of the spacecraft. Each reflector was pinned to the spacecraft body by three hold-downs. These rods were severed by the firing of pyrotechnic cutters in a defined command sequence initiated by the team on the ground, releasing the reflectors.

All three reflectors were released and successfully deployed into their final positions in readiness to receive and transmit signals from Earth. We have now begun testing antenna reflector patterns and the satellite’s payload.

Testing the antennas’ ability to transmit and receive signals from the ground is one scenario that simply cannot be simulated before the satellite is in space. So, using a ground station in Maryland, we have methodically tested each reflector for antenna pattern mapping, and the data confirms that the reflectors are in working order.

As I write this, we are undertaking Ku-band payload testing. For this phase, we perform a set of pre-determined tests to check the payload performance and verify there is no significant change between the in-orbit testing data and the tests we conducted on the ground before shipping the satellite to the launch site.

One of the team will write soon with another update as we work together to bring IS-34 into service.

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