Ground Communications System
Western Aeronautical Test Range - Communications Facility
The ground communications system is supported by Quintron DICES communications equipment, handling up to 512 circuits simultaneously. There are two DICES system (nodes) which drive alternate MCC communications panels throughout the Mission Control Center (MCC) for system redundancy. The DICES system has the ability to assign up to 24 circuits at each station. The ground communications network ties together all NASA/WATR facilities in support of local aeronautical research and space program missions. Additionally, the DICES system is connected to intercenter data and voice links at building 4824, allowing conductivity to GSFC, JSC and Langley field centers. The Communications building also hosts a digital mission audio recording system that can record up to 72 channels of audio, and reproduce it in an MP3 format for quick user access.
Radio Frequency (RF) Communications System
The WATR RF Communications system provides the user with a full spectrum of air-to-ground frequency alternatives, to include the HF, VHF, and UHF bands – in both AM and FM modulation formats. Users can access the various transceivers using the DICES communications panels at any given MCC location. Typically, the MCC has a standard communication panel configuration, giving the user access to five UHF transceivers, two VHF transceivers, and one HF transceiver. Typically, the VHF radios are on Omni-directional antennas that operate in the 116 MHz to 152 MHz frequency band. Directional Yagi antennas, operating in the frequency range of 121 MHz to 135 MHz, and can be configured for use – when greater performance gain is required. The VHF radios have a fixed RF power out of 28 watts at the transmitter.
The UHF radios are normally configured on Omni-directional antennas, and operate in the frequency range of 225 MHz to 399 MHz. The standard UHF radio RF power output is 20 watts. However, a long-range UHF system, comprising of a pre-amplifier, external 100 watt power amplifier, and the choice of a high-gain Omni-directional antenna or directional tracking (parabolic) antenna is available. An HF transceiver is offered, and is configured to a steer-able high-gain Log Periodic (LP) antenna, operating in the 2-30 MHz band, with a transmit output power of 1000 watts. The Communications facility has also incorporated two wideband radio systems, operating on any frequency between 2 MHz to 1000 MHz, with AM or FM modulations available, and up to 250 watts of transmit power. Lastly, the Communications facility has integrated four VHF, 500 watt FM transceiver systems used in support of the International Space Station (ISS).