Space Norway restores redundancy for Svalbard ground stations

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TAMPA, Fla. — Space Norway has restored communications on an undersea fiber-optic cable it operates between its Svalbard satellite station and mainland Norway, which had left the Arctic region without a backup connection after failing Jan. 7.

A shunt failure caused a loss of power to signal repeaters on one of two cables that connect the Arctic region, state-run Space Norway said Jan. 19. 

“Through a work around applying alternate power supply to the damaged cable, the redundancy was restored during the evening of January 18th, 2022,” state-run Space Norway’s head of infrastructure Dag Stølan said in a news release.

“This minimizes the operating risk until final cable repair can be performed probably in the February 2022 timeframe, depending on the availability of cable vessel and the necessary weather conditions.”

KSAT, which Space Norway half owns and uses the cables to connect 100 Svalbard ground stations, said customer services from the archipelago continue to operate normally.

“The damaged segment has been stable in operations after data traffic was re-established, meaning that redundancy to Svalbard is now available in standby mode,” KSAT head of communications Nina Soleng told SpaceNews in a Jan. 20 email.

Soleng said work is ongoing to identify the exact location of the power supply issue.

A subsea visual inspection involving a remotely operated vehicle is “planned for next week,” she said.

Maxar imagery taken Jan. 18 showing the damage the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano’s eruption caused to a nearby port. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies.

Meanwhile, satellite communications providers have been racing to restore connectivity in Tonga, after a Jan. 15 volcanic eruption damaged international and domestic telecoms cables that connect the country.

Speedcast said Jan. 21 that it helped restore services for the South Pacific nation within days of the disaster, including for the country’s major banking services.

Tonga’s residents have been able to make their first international calls since the eruption using SES’s C-band capacity, SES said in a separate Jan. 21 announcement.

And Intelsat said it has helped deploy emergency communications services to support humanitarian aid to Tonga and the archipelago.

SpaceX’s Elon Musk tweeted that he is seeking confirmation of a need to provide Tonga with terminals that could connect to its low Earth orbit Starlink broadband network.

“This is a hard thing for us to do right now, as we don’t have enough satellites with laser links and there are already [satellites in geostationary orbit] that serve the Tonga region,” Musk said.

“That is why I’m asking for clear confirmation.”