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Andøya Space Center gets long distance intercom system

IP-based system provides uninterrupted, high quality, extremely reliable voice communication across remote locations in mission-critical applications

Picture: Rolv Valle

The Andøya Space Center is located two degrees north of the Arctic Circle in northern Norway and is the site of Clear-Com’s northernmost installation. There has also been an install at a separate rocket launch site several hundred kilometers away at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard.

Established in 1962, Andøya Space Center is a solution provider for sounding rocket, balloon and remotely piloted aircraft operations. A sounding rocket is designed to take measurements and perform scientific experiments during its sub-orbital flight.

The new Clear-Com installation is based around the HelixNet digital network partyline system with LQ IP interfaces, and was chosen to overcome challenges including audio quality and long cable runs, as well as introducing flexibility to the system configuration and taking advantage of IP technology.

Multi-channel comms
The Andøya Space Center’s existing intercom system featured analogue two-wire and four-wire technology. “As the activity at Andøya Space Center increased, we had a need to expand the intercom to enable multi-channel communication over long distances – anywhere from a few kilometres locally here at Andøya to several hundred kilometres to Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard,” says Halgeir Wold, project manager documentation, Andøya Space Center. “The intercom system had grown ad hoc, with some cable runs of up to 1,500m. This eventually generated so much noise and crosstalk on the lines that it became a problem for us.”

With previous experience of Clear-Com’s analogue solutions, the team once again turned to the communications specialists to discuss their requirements, which included the possibilities for intercom over IP.

“We have had comprehensive communication with Clear-Com’s representative, Soundware in Norway, throughout the process and they helped us to specify what we needed,” says Wold. “We borrowed a demo system to do some testing and were satisfied that the system based on HelixNet and LQ IP interfaces would provide the clarity and flexibility required.”

Rolv Valle, product manager, Soundware says: “During the proof of concept stage, Soundware demonstrated the combined flexibility of HelixNet and LQ, which further improved the audio quality of the Andøya Space Center’s digital system.”

The main HelixNet system is installed at Andøya Space Centre headquarters at Andenes, which houses important functions including Mission Control, Telemetry Control and Launch Control. The system includes three HelixNet HMS-4X master panels and several LQ IP to four-wire and IP to two-wire interfaces, plus remote panels, speaker stations and wired beltpacks.

Andenes over IP
The Svalbard operation features a HelixNet master panel and an Encore Partyline system connected via four LQ IP to two-wire interfaces, which in turn are connected to the system at Andenes over IP. An additional two HelixNet speaker station panels are located at two research stations in Longyearbyen – the EISCAT Svalbard Radar, a Northern Lights observatory, and the Kjell Henriksen Observatorium. These panels are also connected over IP directly to a HelixNet HMS at Andenes.

“A rocket launch is not something we take lightly, and uninterrupted communication with high quality is critical to us during these times,” states Wold. “All communications in connection with a launch, including countdown, now takes place on the Clear-Com system. The combination of HelixNet and LQ IP interfaces have given us a significant improvement in the quality of the intercom. We are now far more flexible because we can configure a HelixNet panel here at the office, and then send it to the location it will be used. The user at the remote site simply has to connect it to the network and we are up and running right away. It cannot be any easier than that! Plus, the sound quality is also significantly improved and all the users give us very good feedback on this.

“We have tried to keep the number of panels to a minimum by distributing the important communication to the PA system at the site, to locations where one may need to keep track of what’s happening such as corridors, break rooms and canteens,” continues Wold. “That way one can keep track of what’s happening without necessarily being in front of a panel.”

Users can also connect to the system remotely via the Agent-IC mobile app for Android and IOS, hosted by the LQ panels, so they can move around the facility or maintain communication when the road is closed in connection with a rocket launch.

Wold concludes: “Overall, the system has made our everyday life easier. The flexibility we have to move a HelixNet panel from one location to another, or reconfigure our setup quickly and easily over a web interface, is really a big improvement. I have full control of the system from my office, without having to send personnel out in the field.”