Russia's largest Satellite Communications Center Dubna turns 40

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On January 31, 2020, the Satellite Communications Center Dubna, the branch of the Russian Satellite Communications Company, celebrates the 40th anniversary since its formation. The SCC Dubna was established in 1980 as an Olympic facility for broadcasting of the 1980 Moscow Olympics to the European countries and the Atlantic region. Today, the SCC Dubna is the largest teleport of Russia and Eastern Europe.

As part of the complex of the ground-based technical facilities of the company, the SCC Dubna solves many different problems in the field of satellite communications. Among them: distribution of federal and commercial television, provision of the communication services and satellite Internet throughout Russia, including hard-to-reach regions, orbital testing and monitoring of the RSCC spacecrafts and other satellite operators.

The technological infrastructure of the SCC Dubna with the modern state-of-the-art equipment, well-established contacts and close interaction with the equipment manufacturers and communication network operators allow the SCC Dubna to render these communication services with high quality and reliability throughout the country. VSAT central ground stations occupy a special place in the structure of the SCC technical facilities. The aim of this complex is to ensure rapid deployment of the communication facilities to solve the problems of state management, access to the Internet, as well as provision of the communications services in the flashpoint areas and under the conditions of emergency situations.

The highly qualified personnel of the SCC Dubna combines the vast experience with deep knowledge, that allows us to solve successfully a wide range of problems in the high-tech and science-intensive field of telecommunications, which includes satellite communications.

 Historical background of the SCC Dubna:

The Satellite Communications Center (SCC) Dubna, the branch of the Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC), was commissioned in 1980 by the Order of the USSR Minister of Communication as an Olympic facility. The aim of the SCC Dubna was to ensure broadcasting of the competitions for the European countries and the Atlantic region during the Moscow Olympics. After closing of the Olympic Games, operation of the SCC Dubna technical equipment continued. The telephone channels were arranged for the United States, England, Brazil, the government lines were introduced between the Kremlin and the White House, the Elysee Palace and residence in Downing Street, 10. The television news were regularly exchanged with the foreign countries. Almost all foreign television stories first passed through Dubna and then inserted into the news programs of the Central Television.

In the late 70s, when the aim to cover the Central and Eastern Siberia with television broadcasting arose, the country created a television broadcasting system in the frequency range of 700 MHz, which has no analogues in the world up to now. The settlements of the BAM builders, the oil and gas industry workers of Siberia, and the Northern Sea Route ships were able to receive first one and then the second central television programs for the low-cost receivers that did not require expensive parabolic antennas. Two transmitting stations with antennas TNA-57 (12 meters) were built in Dubna for broadcasting, and in 1988 regular television broadcasts of two central programs to Siberia were started. Due to this fact, the number of the receiving stations combined with low-power television repeaters for installation in small towns increased, and by the end of the 90s their amount was already more than 10 thousand.

In 1982, the International test field was built and commissioned for testing new satellite communications technology in the frequency ranges 11/14 GHz, 20 and 30 GHz. The created network of receiving and transmitting satellite stations and ground radio-relay lines allowed to study made it possible to study the conditions of propagation of radio waves in the prospective radio ranges of satellite communications. The experiments were finished in 1998.

In the beginning of the 90s, the demand for the main digital satellite telephone lines and arrangement of the satellite television channels increased sharply. The appeared commercial television companies used technical equipment of RSCC to distribute the television programs via satellites. TV-6, NTV, TV-Center and STS started their operation in Dubna. Sovintel company constructed the Ostankino-Dubna digital radio-relay line to transmit digital telephone traffic to the satellite lines across the Atlantic. Since 2004, the SCC Dubna has ensured transmitting of the Federal digital packages to the territory of Russia and countries in the Atlantic region.

In 1996, the RSCC took part in the international competition for construction of a telemetry and remote control station for the spacecrafts of the largest European satellite communications and broadcasting company Eutelsat. For the first time, an international tender of such level was won by the Russian company, and in 1997 a contract was signed for construction of eight antennas for telemetry and remote control of ten Eutelsat spacecrafts in Dubna. The experience gained in cooperation with Eutelsat was subsequently implemented equally successfully in similar projects on remote control and monitoring of loading of the satellites of the foreign companies Intelsat and ABS.     

In relation with expansion and development of the RSCC own satellite constellation and launch of Express-AM spacecrafts, the western center of the company’s ground-based control complex was commissioned in Dubna in 2003. The center is connected with the RSCC Flight Control Center in Moscow by the technological network and includes seven transceiver ground stations to provide telemetry and remote control, as well as a correlation-phase position finder for accurate measuring the angular coordinates of the satellites.

To carry out the orbital measurements of the spacecrafts, parameters of the satellite communications earth stations, and constant monitoring of loading of the satellite trunks, the western center of the automated monitoring and measurement system, consisting of two transceivers and six receiving ground stations was built in Dubna in the same 2003. The center is connected with the Communication Networks Control Center in Moscow by the technological network and operates under its supervision.

The networks of small VSAT stations manufactured by NEC, GILAT, HUGHES, iDirect operate on the basis of the SCC Dubna. Central stations of the networks serve as a control and switching station, whose computers determine the parameters of signals emitted by each peripheral station. Since the late 90s, VSAT networks play an important role in solving state tasks for the organization of broadband communication with the participation of the RSCC. For example, a network of the federal subsystem of confidential communications was deployed in the Chechen Republic within the shortest possible time, a satellite fragment of the state automated system “Vybory” was created to solve the tasks of the Central Election Commission. The created VSAT networks were also actively used in elimination of the consequences of such emergencies as flooding in the city of Lensk, flooding in the North Caucasus, Kursk submarine disaster, etc.

The construction of a new antenna system ZSSS A9-4 was completed at the SCC Dubna in 2017. A system of such class, created in Russia for the first time, has the unique technical and design characteristics. It is designed to provide Internet access in the Ka-band to subscribers of the VSAT network.  Rendering of services through this antenna began in March 2018.

At present, the Ka-band VSAT networks are used to provide Internet access to the users throughout the country, these services are especially required in small cities and had-to-reach regions. As of the beginning of 2020, about 17 thousand subscribers were registered in the rapid access satellite system (RASS), while the number of users exceeded 40 thousand. The RASS technical capabilities allow to render services for 200 thousand subscribers at the average Internet access speed of 6–10 Mbit/s.

In January 2019, three stations of the Istar multiservice satellite communications network on UHP equipment based on the UHP equipment were deployed in the territory of the SCC Dubna, ensuring operation of the subscriber terminals through the Express-AM6, Express-AM7 and Express-AM8 spacecrafts both on the fixed and mobile objects, including on the sea vessels. 

In the past six years, a course "Engineering Space Communications Practical Training" has been regularly held for a group of students of Dubna State University based on the Satellite Communication Center. The classroom studies alternate with the practical training on working and specially allocated for this purpose equipment. The most qualified specialists of the SCC Dubna hold the classes. The course graduates fall into the ranks of the RSCC employees in the engineering specialties.