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Arctic Space Technologies provides Real-Time Earth ground services in polar region for Viasat Inc

The high-latitude ground station facility in northern Sweden operated by Arctic Space is now providing advantages to Viasat Real-Time Earth (RTE) customers. Viasat’s many antenna locations, providing fast downloads and more regularity for operators, are adding Piteå, Öjebyn to the list of sites. With up to 9 communication contacts per day, Piteå will increase the downlink capabilities for the polar orbiting satellites.

“We are able to support companies that provide imagery, like the type that would go into Google Maps,” said Viasat RTE business manager Aaron Hawkins. “We’re also supporting satellites that fly synthetic aperture radar sensors that can see at night and through the clouds. These can monitor anything from illegal fishing and piracy to ice movements — tracking shipping lanes to make sure they’re safe.”

“Some of these customers are able to provide so much data they can detect change down to very minute detail,” he said. “It’s useful in the insurance industry, for example. After a flood, they’ll be able to immediately detect exactly which houses were affected. It’s also useful for monitoring climate change — for instance, detecting ice melting over time.”

Benjamin Fischer, CEO of Arctic Space Technologies said the partnership will bring a new standard of processing satellite data to Europe.

“Together with Viasat, we will remove the carbon footprint from satellite data processing and align our operations with the European Green Deal,” he said. “Through the Real-Time Earth antenna system operated by Viasat and the data processing capabilities offered by Arctic Space, a Real Time Europe satellite data acquisition and processing system will be offered to satellite operators. This will allow them to acquire and process data much faster, more economically, and free of greenhouse gases.”

Northern Sweden is a sweet spot for satellite communication, with calm weather, world class infrastructure and access to renewable energy sources meaning that the carbon footprint can be reduced for customers and partners. Arctic Space has therefore entered a partnership with EcoDataCenter and their highly secure services as well as climate positive business model is available for handling, processing and storing satellite data.

“The data center is adjacent to the antenna site”, said Sandra Nilsson, COO of Arctic Space Technologies. “This gives us the opportunity to reduce latency times for data transfer with a dedicated fiber connection, and therefore enabling extremely fast and secure data operations. We are very happy to bring this to the market, and specifically to Viasat.”

Arctic Space ground station facility

The Swedish ground station facility was built in 2021 and is located at the edge of the polar circle within a very calm radio frequency region. It already hosts several international customers — with Viasat being a key partner. As a high-latitude ground station, the primary satellite mission profiles are polar orbits, mostly being used by earth observation and communication satellites.

The geographic location was a strategic decision, explains Fischer.

“Operating such a facility from Piteå, a city located at the coastal region of Sweden, comes with the benefit of much lower maintenance costs for antenna systems due to calmer weather and the availability of a nearby international airport,” he said. “This puts us into a sweet spot for extremely broad coverage in the northern hemisphere with considerably lower operational costs compared to higher latitudes. Together with our data center partner, this facility is essentially a data hub able to acquire and process tremendous amounts of data from satellites flying over Europe, in real time.”

Viasat’s RTE system

The Sweden site, which could eventually host four Viasat antennas, is Viasat’s second European RTE facility. Viasat already operates one in the United Kingdom. Viasat’s RTE network operates on five continents, with sites in North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Africa.

Real-Time Earth is Viasat’s Ground Segment-as-a-Service (GSaaS) product offering. GSaaS provides the infrastructure for satellite downlinking, uplinking, and data processing.

Viasat’s RTE technology provides fast access to data from other satellites, typically those in low-Earth orbit (LEO). While those sensors work best in low orbit, data can only be transmitted from a LEO satellite when it passes over a ground station, delaying its delivery. By leveraging the power of its world-class ground antenna systems, satellite technology, and global network coverage, Viasat can help downlink and disseminate that data quickly and securely.

“While many other companies provide similar types of service”, Hawkins said, “Viasat offers some key differentiators, including the security of its system.”

“We’re the only GSaaS provider that builds and fields its own antenna systems,” he said. “We are a global technology company that offers our customers first access to the latest in satellite and ground segment innovation.”

“For example, our planned space service is designed to allow for customers to access their imagery data within seconds of being captured using the upcoming ViaSat-3 satellite constellation — a dramatic and meaningful improvement in data delivery times.”
Viasat antenna