SPTR Satellite
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Broadband: South Pole TDRSS Relay (SPTR)
Aerial Photo of the SPMGT/SPTR/RF Building Complex
Aerial Photo of the SPMGT/SPTR/RF Building Complex

South Pole Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) Relay 2, or SPTR2, is the newest South Pole satellite communications system, purpose-built to communicate with the NASA Tracking and Data Relay (TDRS) satellites.  There are three in-service TDRS satellites visible to SPTR2 at different times during the South Pole day: TDRS F4, F5, and F6, which are used to provide communications services to South Pole Station.

The TDRS network has two types of service channels: high rate and low rate.  The high rate channels offer transmission speeds up to 150Mb/s, or about 100 times the speed of a typical residential Internet connection.  High rate channels are used exclusively to transfer science and operational data files from South Pole.  Low rate channels operate at rates of approximately 5Mb/s, and provide Internet and telephone services to South Pole network users, routed via the USAP Denver data center.

Wireframe drawing of the South Pole Tracking Relay-2 (SPTR-2) satellite communications ground station.

TDRS satellites are shared with NASA and other users in the space sciences community, such as the Space Shuttle External U.S. government site, International Space Station External U.S. government site, and Hubble Space Telescope External U.S. government site, so access schedules are not always consistent and predictable.

NASA makes a great effort to ensure South Pole Station is granted adequate access time to conduct science and operational communications, but cannot always provide a seamless and consistent access schedule.  Online times and durations via TDRS vary daily; however, SPTR2 is typically online and providing South Pole with communications from between two and four hours each day.

Additional Information

The NASA Space Network serves as the teleport and satellite control facility for TDRSS, including a ground station at the White Sands Complex (WSC) near Las Cruces, New Mexico.  The NSF maintains a network presence at WSC to connect back to the USAP Wide Area Network (WAN) to forward the high and low rate traffic.

NASA Space NetworkExternal U.S. government site
NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS)External U.S. government site 

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Curator: Jeffrey Scharf, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Patrick Smith, Division of Polar Programs