In a little less than a week, Abu Dhabi will launch its first commercial satellite into geostationary orbit. Yahsat Y1A, owned by Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat), will provide television signal, internet access and cell service to commercial customers in more than two dozen countries in the Middle East, Africa and Southwest Asia. It will also offer the military the first secure Ka band communications capacity in its coverage area.
We at AGI feel a particular kinship with the engineers at Yahsat because they use our software—STK
—in their control room. In fact, one of our engineers just returned from Abu Dhabi, where he supported the Yahsat team as they trained on STK for next week’s event—simulating attitude maneuvers, practicing anomaly resolution and altering sensor pointing to demonstrate how each movement will affect their communications capabilities
on the ground. In general, training of this type is valuable because satellite control is performed remotely and, by virtue of the distance, effectively in the blind. Yahsat wanted its operators to have the direct visual feedback of the operations they were performing to make the process of satellite control more tangible. Moreover, the majority of Yahsat's operators are new to satellite technology, making visualization even more critical to preparing for the event.
After Y1A is launched, real-time telemetry describing the satellite’s position, attitude, thruster firings and sensor pointing will be fed into STK and displayed on command center screens – giving the operators immediate situational awareness during maneuvers and command events. Yahsat will also use STK in offline mode, so that Y1A operators can visualize simulated contingencies and rehearse operator responses.
The video below goes inside the control room to tell the story. As you watch, you can see our software on the screens (look for the moving 3D satellite.) And, don't forget to keep Yahsat and Y1A in mind on March 30.