Soon after ProtoStar of Bermuda launches its first satellite in June, the company will become the first to use Integral Systems’ new Executive Dashboard software, which will collect data from each part of the satellite ground control system and provide a snapshot view of the key system performance attributes.
Lanham, Md.-based Integral signed on with ProtoStar in July 2007 to provide an end-to-end ground system for the company’s ProtoStar-1 satellite, the first of two planned satellites that will provide satellite television and broadband
Internet capabilities for a wide
area of Asia. Integral also
announced April 22 it has been awarded a contract to provide
a similar satellite ground system for ProtoStar-2, currently slated for launch in early 2009.
already has delivered the full ground system for ProtoStar-1, which is the most comprehensive commercial satellite ground system Integral has ever built. Integral provided its Epoch Integrated Product Suite
satellite control system and Orbital Analysis System
flight dynamics system for both the primary and back-up ground control systems. The system also includes a network management system built by Newpoint Technologies, an Integral subsidiary,
and a carrier monitoring and interference detection system built by
SAT Corp., another Integral subsidiary. Globecomm Systems is a subcontractor providing the radio frequency conversion and antenna systems.
Though the ground system is ready to begin controlling the satellite as soon as it is launched, ProtoStar will not be using the Executive Dashboard software until its official release in July, James Kramer, Integral’s director of commercial command and control systems,
said in an April 16 interview
. The Dashboard is designed to be a bolt-on addition to any integrated ground system that can be incorporated at any time.
Historically, satellite ground control systems have been a series of “stovepipe” systems, Kramer said. One part of a system would be used for command and control of the satellite, another part would be used for monitoring the payload, and other parts would be used for managing the network and controlling other satellite equipment.
As such, each of those systems
traditionally has been monitored separately, Kramer said. Integral’s Dashboard product monitors each system, pulls that data together and applies predefined performance metrics to it to generate a graphic display of information. It is not designed to generate up-to-the-second satellite data;
rather, it provides critical system information and serves as an analysis tool that can show what has been going on for the past hour, week or month.
“This is the kind of data extraction tool that businesses have been using for years to improve operational efficiency,” Kramer said. “We’re only now bringing it to the satellite command and control industry.”
The most significant challenge in designing this software was not a technical one; it was
defining the key performance indicators that turn volumes of data into actionable information for executives, Kramer said.
After unveiling a prototype of the software at the Satellite 2008 conference in Washington, Integral
received heavy interest in the product and
now is fine-tuning the key performance indicators based on input from potential customers.
Though initially designed for geosynchronous communications satellites, the Dashboard software could work with a variety of satellite mission types. Users representing a broad spectrum of satellite operators, including the commercial industry and U.S. civilian and military agencies, have been providing feedback. Though he could not say if the Dashboard product was a part of the bid Integral and partner Northrop Grumman Corp. submitted to the U.S. Air Force to build the ground control system for the GPS 3 constellation, Kramer said the service has indicated its interest in the product.
“Fundamentally, a ground system is a ground system,” Kramer said. “You could define key performance indicators for more than just [geosynchronous communications] operations. You could even use this in an application that doesn’t have satellites just to monitor a ground network you are controlling.”
Many customer suggestions, such as reconfigurable key performance indicators and automated reporting capability, will not be available on the first commercial version released in July but will be added to later versions of the software.