AmerHis undergoing in-orbit tests
The first in-orbit tests of the AmerHis 'switchboard in space' are being carried out at the Hispasat Ground Station in Arganda, Spain. Comprehensive payload tests will follow including verification of the system performance.
Launched less than two months ago and now located in geostationary orbit at 61 degrees West, AmerHis is carried aboard Hispasat's Amazonas satellite and heralds a new era in satellite communications. The first European telecommunications satellite with onboard processing, AmerHis will enable Hispasat to provide high performance interactive multimedia services to North America, South America and Europe.
Testing began on 24 September 2004 and has been completely successful, meaning that together with Alcatel, Hispasat can begin verification of the data. Once accepted, the official commercial transfer to Hispasat can be made and full exploitation of AmerHis' capabilities will begin; some of these capabilities include high-speed Internet access, MPEG-based services, video and radio on demand, all at a much lower cost than previously possible.
The most recent in-orbit test was performed methodically, first with dedicated down-link and up-link operations to check basic payload functions. Following this, tests were done of the signal transmission from Arganda to another ground station near Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, detailed payload signal processing checks, and finally radio-frequency parameter exploitation and signal routing.
Felix Petz, Multimedia Payload Engineer for ESA was present throughout the test. "I'm very satisfied that the AmerHis payload responded as expected to all signal and tele-command transmissions," he said. "It matches with what we anticipated based on ground tests we carried out before launch."
Among the benefits to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be the ability to manage their own low-cost gateways, in turn providing reliable Internet access to subscribers. Corporate services will also profit. Companies with multiple branch offices will be able to more easily set up their own Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and share their allocated capacity between all branch offices.
The AmerHis payload will work like a switchboard in space, managed by a Network Control Centre on the ground able to configure the payload, assign capacity and manage user traffic. It also offers multiplexing and de-multiplexing of MPEG-2 transport streams that will extend the number of video services enormously. In addition, AmerHis supports a wide variety of applications and tele-services from video broadcasting on demand to videoconferencing.
This ambitious project is the product of a collaboration between Alcatel Espacio, Mier Communicaciones and Indra Espacio of Spain, Alcatel Space of France, EMS Technology from Canada and Nera ASA from Norway. It is funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) and supported by the Spanish Centre of the Industrial and Technological Development (CDTI). The international scope of the project represents symbolic cooperation between national agencies, operators and industry.
With coverage over all of Latin America, the United States and Canada as well as transatlantic capacity allowing coverage of Europe and northern Africa, not to mention the use of C and Ku bands, Amazonas is also a prime example of what can be done to bridge the digital divide.