Blast Off—Artel, ULA Partner for Reliable Signal in New Vulcan Rocket

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(Image credit: Artel Video Systems)

Artel Video Systems (opens in new tab) and launch service provider United Launch Alliance (ULA) are teaming up for taker off. ULA has selected Artel's FiberLink media-transport devices to support several years' worth of missions for its new Vulcan rocket. Vulcan is the latest in a series of ULA vehicles that launch spacecraft into orbit for the U.S. Space Force, NASA, and commercial customers.

"Artel's products have demonstrated to be of the highest quality for the best value and longest life," said Sheryl Platte, supply chain director at ULA. "They have been deployed in the past for similar applications and environments, so we were sure that they would do the job and eliminate any uncertainty about performance. They also met our requirements for modularity since the environment isn't suitable for rack-based equipment."

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A NASA rocket ship prepares to take off.

(Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

As ULA's most powerful rocket to date, Vulcan promises to be the nation's new workhorse in space launch. Right now Vulcan is set to deploy 60% of the country's national security payloads for the U.S. military through 2027. Also, Amazon has contracted Vulcan for Project Kuiper, an initiative to increase global broadband access through a constellation of 3,236 advanced satellites in low Earth orbit. Vulcan will handle 38 launches—the majority of the Project Kuiper satellite constellation.

With every launch mission, Vulcan will make its way from the integration facility to the launch pad. ULA must monitor and support the health of both the transport system and the launch vehicle during the journey to the launch pad and during the countdown. The task requires devices that are powerful enough to move 4K/UHD video up to a mile over single-mode fiber; flexible enough to transport IRIG time code in multiple standards over either single-mode or multimode fiber; and able to carry audio, data, and control signals.

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ULA will install the following Artel products in multiple Vulcan-specific trailers that contain rocket and payload support electronics:

  • FiberLink 3514/3515 4K/UHD transmitter and receiver pairs—Low-profile, four-port devices that transport 4K/UHD video over single-mode fiber with enough power to reach up to 50 kilometers, so distance will not be a concern.
  • FiberLink XA-/RA-1900 IRIG transmitter and receiver pairs—Fiber-optic systems that transmit IRIG time-code formats A through H over standard multimode or single-mode fiber at 850 nanometers or 1310 nanometers, meeting the requirement for flexibility and accommodating the range of IRIG standards mandated by ULA's customer.
  • FiberLink 3390/3391 audio and data transmitter and receiver pairs—Devices that carry audio of the facilities ULA monitors, along with telemetry data and control.

From within the trailers, the Artel products will transmit signals from the launch pad area to the various ground segments in the complex (mission control, remote terminals, etc.) so that ULA technicians can ensure everything is going as planned and can support the mission as needed. ULA will use the information to analyze launch performance and, most importantly, to monitor in the event of failure.

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ULA will install the Artel gear in the monitoring trailers in the fall, with the first Vulcan launch planned for early 2023.

"With Artel FiberLink devices, ULA can keep a close eye on the rocket and transport vehicles and support their operation from transfer to blast-off," said Randy Sheets, national accounts manager at Artel. "ULA is the national leader in building and operating rockets that take spacecrafts into orbit, and it's gratifying to be able to help such an esteemed organization doing important scientific work. ULA can count on Artel to provide reliable monitoring support for years to come."

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