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A must see on Svalbard: KSAT

If there needs to be something on your bucket list that you haven’t thought of it has to be a visit to KSAT satellite station in Svalbard.

First,  you will be blown away by the views of Spitsbergen on the drive to the top and once up there you think you landed on another planet.

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It is impossible to get up there alone but since we are in company of NASA we got a special invitation to spend our Sunday morning with them.

Our NASA boys loved the control room – the list of satellites they are so familiar with and getting the antenna’s  ready to receive data when the satellites are approaching.

The satellites I like the most are the ones that fly the polar orbit – 14 of them and the most useful one right now is Sentinal 2B that just launched this fall and provides incredible images in the highest resolution.

In the control room everything is communicated in abbreviations and terms like AOS – acquisition of signal to the LOS – loss of signal.

It all matters between these two moments and the other 94 minutes when the antenna’s  are directed to get in position.

It is all programmed, in the control room the technicians are watching if nothing is going wrong as the board list each antenna getting ready in position every few minutes when a new satellite is passing by 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.

The most important data is weather data used by everybody in the world who has a subscription to the Kongsberg KSAT services.

And the subscribers are many: NOAA to NASA , ESA to Universities and the Met offices around the world – everybody is tuned into receiving the latest weather data.

Most antenna’s can only receive data for 15 minutes before it  passed by but I think that is still amazing given that the satellites pass over at 1000 km in the air at an amazing speed of 2 km per second. The data is then send via fiber optic to mainland Norway and dispersed to the subscribers all over the world.

No interpretation of data is done at KSAT but when I talked to director Ole Petter Storstad he mentioned that the recent disaster in Svalbard in the fall made him want to take a closer look at what is happening with climate change in his area.

 

We went inside the room where the Sentinal B satellite is served and saw it in action as it was getting ready to receive data from the arctic that we all so desperate need to understand the vast changing situation up there.

John Woods from NASA was truly impressed with KSAT because here is where it is all happening in his world.

“To connect the dots and working on satellites for NASA  is one thing but actually see them distract information with these attena’s to the ground is whole other level”.

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88°N 150°E we aim for

We heard the news last night that we will not fly to camp Barneo, currently situated at 89º31’N, 048º58’, until 3 April and will now be going in on the second technical flight, not the first as originally planned.
Whilst this is disappointing for us all, as we’re desperate to get started on our journey, every cloud has a silver lining and the delay may mean we will have the opportunity to take and position buoys for NASA.
The buoys have a tracking device and will pinpoint the exact location of the ice and snow surveyed by the team, which will help NASA’s Icebridge program take a second survey from the air as they fly overhead.
They will continue to collect vital data long after theteam has left the ice and we are really excited to be able to add to the expedition in this way.
The buoys are  due to arrive in Longyearbyan on the 3rd but we are unsure if they will arrive before we leave.
We live in hope.
We have lots to do in Longyearbyan while we wait.
Bernice and Martin film for the expedition tv series while I busy myself with other expedition preparations such as affixing skins to my skis and having badges sewn on our clothes and fur on our hoods to keep the wind off our faces.
Kit is being modified and packed and as this is the launching point for most North Pole expeditions the place is awash with interesting characters all with wonderful stories to tell.
This afternoon we had a long conversation with the guys at NASA in Thule airforce base Greenland to determine the best longitude to be dropped off at so that the NASA P3 plane can fly directly above our transect.
88°N  150°E is the co-ordinates we will aim for.