Going Where Satellites Go: Polar Plunge

For eight years during the Cold War, the United States kept a fleet of bombers high above the Arctic around the clock. The Arctic was of great strategic importance at the time for its proximity to the then-Soviet Union. With this in mind, the US flew bombers in patterns over vast swaths of ice to provide the greatest possible degree of readiness.

Those bombers eventually stopped flying their missions, and Cold War tensions slowly dissipated — what would remain, however, was the geopolitical importance of the Arctic. Although it is still a critical puzzle piece in defense operations on a global scale, the Arctic adopted a new badge of honor for those in the space sector: a critical contact opportunity for satellites in polar orbit.

As satellites travel in polar orbit, they don’t hesitate to make demands of ground infrastructure. If a satellite operates in polar orbit, then the ground infrastructure must rise to the occasion. In this case, it means establishing contact points below the path of the satellites in the Arctic—a uniquely challenging but absolutely critical location for satellite ground networks.

It is for this reason that ATLAS Space Operations and Quintillion collaborated to build the northernmost ground station on US soil at 71°N. The first 3.7-meter S and X band antenna represents the beginning of a larger teleport build-out at the site to accommodate growing space data demand. Our new ground station in Utqiagvik, Alaska offers the best opportunity to transmit data as your satellite makes its way around the Earth. The newly operational ground station transmits in S and X-bands, making use of ATLAS’ Freedom Platform to manage satellite passes and deliver valuable data to clients using the antenna.

From the Cold War to modern satellite communications, the Arctic has retained its geopolitical crown. With this addition and four brand new ground stations, ATLAS combines the right mix of hardware and software for robust, secure, and efficient communications.