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Satellite Missions Catalogue

Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM)

Last updated:Jun 19, 2024

Non-EO

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Planned

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Communications

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Space Norway

The Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM) of Space Norway is a planned dual satellite mission that aims to provide broadband coverage to the Arctic. The mission is jointly operated by Space Norway’s subsidiary HEOSAT, Viasat, and the US Space Force (USSF), with the satellites developed by Northrop Grumman.

Quick facts

Overview

Mission typeNon-EO
AgencySpace Norway
Mission statusPlanned

Illustration of the Arctic Broadband Satellite Mission (Image credit: Northrop Grumman)


 

Summary

Mission Capabilities

The two satellites, ASBM-1 and -2, each carry a Viasat Global Xpress 10 (GX-10) Ka-band payload, which will extend the range of Viasat’s Ka-band network and form a hybrid fleet of geostationary and polar orbiting satellites. The ASBM satellites will also each house an X-band instrument for the Norwegian ministry of defence, and the Enhanced Polar Systems-Recapitalization (EPS-R) instrument for USSF. ASBM-1 will house the Norwegian Radiation Monitor (NORM), which aims to observe the radiation environment from orbit using its unique orbital path that passes through variable charged particle densities.

Performance Specifications

ABSM will operate in a Highly Elliptical Three-Point Apogee (TAP) orbit with an apogee of 43,500 km and a perigee of 8,100 km, with both satellites in the same 65° inclination plane. The spacecraft will be separated by half a period (eight hours), and due to the apogee over the North Pole and perigee over the South, they will slow down over the North Pole and speed up over the South. This means that each satellite will be able to provide coverage over the North Pole for ten hours of each period, enabling the continuous broadband coverage of latitudes above 65°.

Space and Hardware Components

The ASBM spacecraft are based on the Northrop Grumman GEOStar 3 platform, measuring 3 x 3 x 4 m in stowed configuration, and 27 m in length with the solar panels deployed. ASBM-1 and -2 have dry masses of 2035 kg and 1925 kg respectively, 7235 W of end-of-life power consumption, and are propelled by bi-propellant for orbital manoeuvres and monopropellant for stationkeeping. The mission has a 15 year design life.

Overview

The Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission (ASBM) of Space Norway’s HEOSAT is a dual satellite mission that aims to provide internet connectivity to the Arctic. The pair of satellites will together provide constant broadband coverage over the North Pole and high-latitude regions that existing satellites do not pass over. The satellites are constructed by US-based company Northrop Grumman. A growing interest in the Arctic is being cultivated through economic benefits and changes in climate, which calls for the development of better infrastructure. 1) 2) 5)

Figure 1: ASBM illustration (Image credit: Northrop Grumman Space Systems)

Remote and disconnected regions like the Arctic lack terrestrial broadband infrastructure, so rely on coverage provided from satellite constellations like SpaceX’s StarlinkOneWeb, and Iridium. ASBM will leverage two tandem satellites in the world’s first highly-elliptical orbit (HEO) mission carrying a commercial broadband service payload. 1) 4)

The two satellites, ASBM-1 and -2, will operate in highly elliptical polar orbits that cross over each other at the North pole. The spacecraft will speed up over the South pole when approaching their perigee (point in the orbit closest to Earth) and slow down over the North pole at apogee (point in the orbit farthest from Earth), such that the spacecraft spend a maximal portion of their orbital periods over the Arctic. With two satellites, there will always be at least one spacecraft providing coverage at all times. 1)

The satellites will host a suite of payloads for both radio communications and military purposes. These include Ka-band radio instruments from Viasat, an X-band radio for Norway’s Ministry of Defence, and two high-frequency instruments for the US Space Force. Additionally, ASBM-1 will house a radiation monitoring instrument built by the European Space Agency and the Norwegian company Integrated Detector Electronics AS (IDEAS). 1) 2)

Due to retreating polar ice driven by climate change, the Arctic has an increasing strategic significance best addressed from space. The US and Norway plan to collaborate on increased space domain awareness, communications, intelligence, launch capacity, education, and research and development - with ASBM playing a key role in this cooperation. 6)

Resources previously inaccessible have been made available by melting ice from increasing global temperatures are becoming sought after by many nations, both for commercial and military exploitation. However, the Arctic lacks the basic infrastructure to be exploited safely and securely given its harsh environment and weather conditions, making operations from space crucial. The Arctic circle hosts economic value in fisheries, minerals and oil & gas, which makes it of interest to countries within the Arctic council and beyond. Surveys estimate that 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas reserves lie in the Arctic, which have remained inaccessible until recent years. 6) 8)

Spacecraft

The ASBM satellites are based on the Northrop Grumman GEOStar 3 platform, with approximate masses of two tonnes and measuring 3 m x 3 m x 4 m. The spacecraft feature deployable solar panels that span 27 m when fully extended. 2)

Table 1: ASBM spacecraft specifications 2)

Parameter

Specification

Platform

GEOStar3-123-10

Design Life

15 years target lifetime with 16 years worth of fuel

Dry Mass

2035 kg (ASBM-1) and 1925 kg (ASBM-2)

Wet Mass

3695 kg (ASBM-1) and 3505 kg (ASBM-2)

Power

7235 W

Battery Capacity

9910 Wh

Propulsion

Bi-propellant (orbit transfers and maintenance), Monopropellant (stationkeeping)

 

Launch

Orbit

The two ASBM satellites will operate in a TAP (Three Apogee Period) orbit with an apogee of 43,500 km and a perigee of 8,100 km, from the same orbital plane separated by eight hours. Each orbit has a 65 degree inclination and 16 hour period, which enables full coverage of latitudes above 65 degrees. Each satellite will be active for approximately ten hours per period, which grants a two-hour window in which both satellites can operate simultaneously. 2) 7)

Figure 2: ASBM orbital configuration animation, highlighting the TAP orbit’s capability for constant coverage over the high-latitude North with two satellites in the same orbital plane. (Video credit: Space Norway)

Mission Status

  • March 2024: ASBM completes near field ranging (NFR) testing, which involves measuring the radio frequency (RF) propagation between satellite antennas and receivers. NFR testing is part of the final systems integration test (FIST) that ensures all systems are functioning and were not damaged in the TVAC and dynamic tests. Small deviations in a beam’s parameters like directionality and gain will have massive effects over long distances such as the 43,500 km apogee over the North Pole, so ensuring instrumentation is calibrated properly is imperative to mission operations. 17)
  • The antennas are tested in an anechoic chamber, which is covered in a spiky absorbent material that reduces interference from reflected waves. Signals are transmitted from the satellite’s antenna toward a moveable receiver, and the received signal pattern is verified.
Figure 3: ASBM satellite in anechoic chamber for NFR testing (Image credit: Northrop Grumman)
  • December 2023: HEOSAT and Northrop Grumman perform compatibility tests for communication between the ground segment and satellites. The Satellite Operation Centre (SOC) performs tests with a spacecraft simulator, which acts as a digital copy of the ASBM, sending telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) data through the ground station network. 16)
Figure 4: ASBM satellite surrounded by seven-metre high arrays of loudspeakers for sound testing in a launch simulation (Image credit: Northrop Grumman)
  • May 2023: The ASBM satellites undergo thermal vacuum testing (TVAC), which involves subjecting the spacecraft to the conditions of the upper atmosphere and space through extreme temperature gradients in the vacuum. Due to the satellites’ HEO, they will be subject to temperature variations ranging from 100 °C to -60 °C per orbit. 10) 11)
  • October 31, 2023: The ASBM satellites complete their TVAC tests and undergo dynamics testing, which verify the spacecraft’s structural integrity under the conditions of the rocket fairing during launch. This includes acoustic, vibration, and shock testing. The vibration phase simulates the intense shaking that payloads are subject to during launch, by attaching them to a payload ring and moving them in three axes. For the sound testing phase, the satellites are placed on a platform surrounded by loudspeakers and exposed to 135 dB, and for the shock testing phase they are subjected to a separation shock, which is what the satellites experience when they are released from the rocket’s upper stage once in orbit. 15)
Figure 5: ASBM-1 pictured entering a TVAC chamber for environmental testing at Northrop Grumman’s satellite manufacturing facility in Virginia, US (Image credit: Northrop Grumman)

Both satellites complete their TVAC testing in October 2023, and begin final testing and readiness procedures. The satellites will then be transferred to the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California for launch. 14)

  • June 8, 2022: USSF delivers the first of its two military communication payloads, the Enhanced Polar Systems-Recapitalization (EPS-R) instrument, to Northrop Grumman for integration with ASBM. 12)
  • August 2020: ASBM passes its critical design review, in which the mission’s final design is agreed upon. 9)
  • February 2020: ASBM completes its first design phase and undergoes a preliminary design review, whereby each supplier contributes to the location and placement of payloads, and specifies sub-system and operational requirements. 9)
  • July 3, 2019: HEOSAT is established by Space Norway and the ASBM programme is initiated. Contracts are approved, including those for the satellites’ construction by Northrop Grumman, ground segment by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), and Ka band payload by Viasat (formerly Inmarsat). The Norwegian government confirms an equity infusion of up to 101 million USD for ASBM. 8)

Sensor Complement

Global Xpress 10 (GX-10)

ASBM will house a Viasat GX-10 Ka-band payload on each satellite; GX-10a onboard ASBM-1 and GC-10b onboard ASBM-2. The payloads will extend Viasat’s global mobile broadband service to cover the Arctic. 4)

X-band Radio Communications Instrument

The X-band instrument of Space Norway was developed for the Norwegian Ministry of Defense and will provide Arctic radio communication coverage alongside the Wideband Global Satcom constellation. 2)        

Norwegian Radiation Monitor (NORM)

NORM aims to observe the radiation environment in orbit and gather data for the development of radiation protection for ESA’s Galileo Second Generation constellation, by measuring the kinetic energy of charged particles in space. The TAP orbit of ASBM will see the satellite passing through varying regions of charged particle flux, making the mission ideal for the validation of radiation environment models. NORM will be housed only on ASBM-1. 2) 18)

NORM’s detector consists of nine Silicon diodes and Aluminum/Tantalum absorbers, and will measure electrons with energies between 0.5 - 7 MeV and protons between 7 - 200 MeV. NORM was jointly developed by ESA, IDEAS, Space Norway and the Norwegian Space Agency.

Enhanced Polar Systems-Recapitalization (EPS-R)

EPS-R is an extremely high frequency (EHF) MILSATCOM instrument that will extend the USSF’s EPS services with continuous secure satellite communications for US polar forces operating in the Arctic. 12) 13)

Ground Segment

The Satellite Operations Centre (SOC) for ASBM will be established in North Norway. USSF is building a ground station at Clear Space Force Station, Alaska, to operate the EPS-R payloads. The ABSM satellites will be operated by KSAT, providing the mission with TT&C support from its launch and early orbit phase (LEOP) through to end of life and decommissioning. 1) 19)

References  

1) Sandra Erwin, “Arctic broadband satellites complete key tests ahead of mid-2024 launch,” Space News, November 29, 2023, URL: https://spacenews.com/arctic-broadband-satellites-complete-key-tests-ahead-of-mid-2024-launch/

2) Space Norway HEOSAT, URL: https://spacenorway.no/en/heosat/

3) “Viasat's second Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission satellite completes thermal vacuum test,” December 1, 2023, URL: https://www.adsadvance.co.uk/viasat-s-second-arctic-satellite-broadband-mission-satellite-completes-thermal-vacuum-test.html

4) “Arctic set for high-speed broadband as polar mission completes key milestone,” June 29, 2023, URL: https://www.inmarsat.com/en/news/latest-news/corporate/2023/arctic-set-for-high-speed-broadband.html

5) Birkeland R, “An overview of existing and future satellite systems for arctic communication,” Proceedings of ESA small satellites systems and services, 2014, URL: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Roger-Birkeland-2/publication/269389702_An_Overview_of_Existing_and_Future_Satellite_Systems_for_Arctic_Communication/links/548811210cf268d28f073444/An-Overview-of-Existing-and-Future-Satellite-Systems-for-Arctic-Communication.pdf

6) Bjørkum K. Arctic Space Strategy. Strategic Studies Quarterly. 2021 Oct 1;15(3):88-112, URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/48618298

7) Lachance, Richard & McConnell, John & Mcelroy, C. & O'Neill, Norm & Nassar, Ray & Buijs, Henry & Rahnama, Peyman & Walker, Kaley & Martin, Randall & Sioris, Christopher & Garand, Louis & Trishchenko, Alexander & Bergeron, Martin, “PCW/PHEOS-WCA: Quasi-geostationary Arctic measurements for weather, climate and air quality from highly eccentric orbits.” Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering, 8533, 2012, DOI: 10.1117/12.974795.

8) “ASBM Milestones,” Space Norway, URL: https://spacenorway.no/en/heosat/milestones/

9) “How to build a satellite – Preliminary and Critical Design Review,” Space Norway, May 16 2020, URL: https://spacenorway.no/en/how-to-build-a-satellite-preliminary-and-critical-design-review/

10) “Northrop Grumman Achieves Key Milestone in Arctic Satellite Broadband Mission,” Northrop Grumman, August 7, 2023, URL: https://news.northropgrumman.com/news/releases/northrop-grumman-achieves-key-milestone-in-arctic-satellite-broadband-mission

11) “ASBM gets hot flashes – the TVAC test,” Space Norway, URL: https://spacenorway.no/en/asbm-gets-hot-flashes-the-tvac-test/

12) Sandra Erwin, “Space Force delivers first of two U.S. payloads to launch on Space Norway’s arctic broadband mission,” June 9, 2023, URL: https://spacenews.com/space-force-delivers-first-of-two-u-s-payloads-to-launch-on-space-norways-arctic-broadband-mission

13) “USSF’s EPS-R Program on Schedule for Historic Polar Mission,” United States Space Force, December 8, 2021, URL: https://www.spaceforce.mil/News/Article/2866035/ussfs-eps-r-program-on-schedule-for-historic-polar-mission/

14) “Viasat's Broadband Arctic Extension Closer as Spacecraft Complete Key Tests,” Viasat, November 21, 2023, URL: https://investors.viasat.com/news-releases/news-release-details/viasats-broadband-arctic-extension-closer-spacecraft-complete 

15) “Rocking our satellites – ASBM in concert,” Space Norway, October 31st, 2023, URL: https://spacenorway.no/en/rocking-our-satellites-asbm-in-concert/

16) “Compatibility-test for the ASBM satellites – getting close to launch,” Space Norway, April 17, 2024, URL: https://spacenorway.no/en/compatibility-test/

17) “Near Field Range test – Reaching one of ASBM’s last major milestones,” Space Norway, April 17, 2024, URL: https://spacenorway.no/en/near-field-range-test-reaching-one-of-asbms-last-major-milestones/

18) “NORM – Space Radiation Monitor,” Integrated Detector Electronics AS, URL: https://ideas.no/products/norm/

19) “KSAT Adds Satellite + Mission Control Services,” satnews, February 7, 2022, URL: https://news.satnews.com/2022/02/07/ksat-adds-satellite-mission-control-services/

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