Space communication center in Dubna - satellites, TV and communications

What do you know about satellite communications? Some satellites are flying above us, they are transmitting something, and someone is controlling them somewhere. That's about such a set of stamps exists in the head of an ordinary person, and the layman has no chance to get to space communication objects, excursions are not provided there. In any case, with us, you can only look at the antennas from behind the fence, sigh and move on. Therefore, when Tricolor TV, a satellite TV operator, invited me on an excursion to the Space Communications Center in Dubna, the largest in Russia, I had no doubts that I should go.

The city of Dubna near Moscow is 130 kilometers away, the road is good, and you can get there in two hours. That is how long we waited for a lost bus from the 33rd region, which could not find a rendezvous point near the Dynamo metro. The temptation to spit on everything and not go was too great, but he overcame himself. After two hours with a penny, of which we stood for an hour and a half and just froze on the street, the bus appeared, by that time we had moved a little and warmed ourselves in a cafe on the Aeroport metro station. The schedule went to hell, but after loading into our vehicle with a Kazakh driver who did not speak Russian well, we set off for Dubna. In order not to be distracted by this part of the story, I’ll say right away that we didn’t make it back in time, some people missed their train to St. Petersburg, and there were stops a couple of times along the way, and the driver rattled his instruments, repaired something in his tarantayka, on which was written on the side "Bus of military intelligence veterans."It was a fate from which, as you know, there is no escape and no hiding. The third stop happened near Moscow, on the ramp, the driver could not overcome the rise. And I forgot about the handbrake, so I slowly and inevitably began to move down to the cars from behind. They hummed, we yelled for him to pull the handbrake. We got up. About ten minutes later, somehow, and with such and such a mother, the bus started up, but it smelled of burning, and after two hundred meters it finally died. I did not wait for the end of the story, I caught a car and rushed to the city, since there was no time at all, and fatigue from such a trip came on. Perhaps this press tour can be considered held in spite of, not thanks to. On this, I will complete the lyrical digression and return to space affairs.

Dubna is considered a science city, the city is small and not replete with sights, it’s definitely not worth going here for impressions. Outside the window flashed the main street lined with shops, gray paint, then the old houses on Dachnaya Street, which were obviously built after the war, and once they most likely were communal apartments. Some were lined with cheerful plastic panels, which created even more dissonance. The names of the store "Izyuminka" and similar delights - all this is modern Dubna. Somehow I drove here from Dmitrov and saw a huge chair, a locomotive near the station, and also a huge monument to Lenin, that's all that can be found remarkable. Our road goes along nondescript buildings and rests on the gates of the Space Communications Center. What was I waiting for?

I also listened to Dire Straits on a cassette Walkman, and one of my favorite albums is “On the night”, which came out in the spring of 93. On the cover are large radio telescopes in New Mexico, which have repeatedly flashed in various Hollywood films about the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. I was lucky to get to New Mexico and look at almost three dozen 25-meter antennas, which became a living symbol of the space race of the 70s. Competition is a wonderful thing that forces officials to open their wallets and pay for seemingly useless research. As a child, I saw a huge antenna of the RT-70 telescope in Evpatoria, and around - antennas of the deep space communication complex. This place was impressive from afar, it was impossible to get into the territory, it was a closed and secure facility. But a 70-meter monster cannot be hidden behind a fence and cannot be hidden in any way.

I was already ready for what satellite communications antennas look like, I saw them in different countries of the world, but I never visited the Space Communications Center, where you could see how it all works in conjunction, because antennas are only visible part of the complex. By modern standards, the complex in Dubna should have become infinitely outdated, the first antenna - a 32-meter NEC cup, was supplied for the Olympics-80, at that time it was a work of art, the best option available. The complex itself in Dubna was created for broadcasting the picture of the Olympics to North America, it was transmitted to the Intelsat geostationary satellite over the Atlantic. And this complex was built in a very short time, and only then it began to take on new tasks and acquired an increasing number of antennas.

For example, in front of you is a 12-meter TNA-57 antenna, made in the USSR, it worked for the Horizon satellite.

This complex after the Olympics was used to organize government communications with the White House, London and Paris, and other countries. But besides this, television came to Dubna, the complex received a picture of Western TV channels and transferred it to the technical center on Shabolovka, and from there it was already given to Ostankino.

Among the notable projects that have been implemented here, I want to briefly touch on television broadcasting at a frequency of 700 MHz, which was created for Siberia. Since 1988, two central TV channels have been launched in this region, and due to the peculiarities of the project, installation of parabolic antennas for reception was not required, there are no analogues to this project in the world. They installed low-power receivers, as well as repeaters, which transmitted the signal. There was no construction of television towers like the one you can see in Baku and other cities of the former Soviet Union, they were created according to a standard design and were placed only in large, significant centers. There was no point in putting such monsters in Siberia, it was expensive and pointless, given the population density.

Then there was the disappearance of the USSR, the troubled years in which the Center was able to win a tender to manage the Eutelsat satellites, which it still does today, among other tasks. On an area of ​​several hectares, there are 24 antennas with a diameter of 2.4 to 32 meters, which can perform the entire range of tasks that you can imagine.

The staff of the center is 115 people, there are 8 people per shift, two security guards, three operators in the control center, one operator monitoring the position of the satellites, and two technical employees. Not very much, but most of the work today is done by computers, human intervention is minimized.

The entire facility has redundant protection, uninterruptible power supplies are switched on at the moment of interruption in the supply of electricity from the outside, diesel generators are automatically started within five minutes, which can work autonomously for up to 4 days. Two fiber optic lines are made independent (20 Gbit / s each), connected to the technical center on Shabolovka. There is also an exit to the M9 traffic exchange point.

Our guide to the facility was Alexander Duka, director of the center and a true veteran of space communications who has been working in this field for 39 years. I have great respect for all those who have chosen their own path and, without turning off, follow it, and go at different times, both good and bad. In my coordinate system, this is the correct path.

During a leisurely walk around the complex, I was able to torture Alexander Petrovich on many topics and ask a lot of stupid questions, and he patiently answered them.

— Oh, why is there a microwave sign here?

— Just a warning, according to safety regulations, earlier the antennas were larger and radiated strongly, but now you can stand quietly for hours, you won’t feel anything. First of all, the eyes begin to hurt from microwave radiation, this is a sure sign that they received radiation.

— Is it true that the antenna cutoff has the largest radiation?

— I don’t know what you call a cut, probably this is what we call overflow. Look, if you stand on the side of the antenna, so that you can see the side of the bowl and the reflector at the same time, then there will be the largest radiation. Antennas were specifically designed this way to improve their performance.

The development of electronics has had a positive effect on how antennas change in such complexes, they are reduced, there is no need for antennas to remain huge. Despite the fact that satellites in geostationary orbits are 36 thousand kilometers away, the antennas have changed both on them and on Earth. I am sure that you noticed how household satellite TV antennas were shredded, there is no longer a need for large dishes. This is progress in electronics, which is visible to the naked eye.

It is generally accepted that a satellite in geostationary orbit is stationary relative to an observer on Earth, in particular, an antenna that monitors it and transmits information. Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Imagine that you have a balloon on a thread, you unwind the thread to the end and watch the balloon rush about in the wind. It does not hang motionless at one point, approximately the same thing happens with satellites, they can lose altitude, deviate slightly from a given orbit, and the task of the ground control center is to correct their orbit so that they remain motionless. Each satellite receives an orbit correction at least once a day. And this explains their service life of fifteen years, during which time, as a rule, the fuel for orbit correction runs out and the satellite needs to be replaced.

We had an interesting discussion about what resource the satellites require. Is the current 15 years enough and is it necessary to increase the service life of satellites. There are two points of view here. The progress in electronics over 15 years is such that replacement of satellites becomes a necessity, it is possible to reduce the weight of electronics and its characteristics, increase the sensitivity of antennas and their range, increase the fuel supply, which will indirectly increase the service life of the satellite. The basis of this approach is that satellites must be changed in order to replace electronics with them. The second approach does not negate the need to replace satellites, but assumes their longer service life, since one launch costs space money, and the longer the device is in orbit, the cheaper it will cost.

I've been to many control centers and I think the most complex, technologically advanced are those of mobile operators. They are saturated with electronics, projection systems, monitor hundreds of parameters on their networks throughout the country.

This is space technology in every sense, the cutting edge of IT, but in a real ground-based space communications center everything is much simpler, as if it were an ordinary data center, in which there is nothing special. A room in which an old LED clock is on the wall, many monitors are hung along the walls, computers on different versions of systems, from Linux to Windows, simple diagrams on the screens, especially if you do not imagine that these diagrams are a description of the operation of the satellite that hangs overhead at an altitude of 36 thousand kilometers.

< img src="https://mobile-review.com/articles/2015/image/dubna-space/pic/main-control/09.jpg"/>

In another building there is a center in which there is one operator, he controls only the position of the satellites. Subaru and a very nice woman, Narine talks about her work with passion. There are signs on the doors in the complex, an additional inscription about where it is dangerous and where it is not.

During a thunderstorm or hurricane, communications may go out, unless this applies to government channels, they operate at frequencies that are not a hindrance to bad weather. Narine's task is to make sure that the commercial satellites operated by the center are not lost regardless of the weather and there are no interruptions in their work. If thirty years ago antennas searched for satellites “widely”, now the beam, like a needle, is clearly directed, and this is helped by computer peripherals, which greatly facilitate life and work at the Space Communications Center. Twenty years ago, the human factor led to the fact that the satellite could be “lost” for 5-10 minutes, today with the help of computers this time is much less.

Everywhere there are ordinary racks with servers, they process the information that goes to the ground-based Space Communications Center via optics. Moreover, this is both commercial information, for example, data or telephone conversations, a signal for satellite television, and government communications. As soon as we start talking about government communications, a lot of questions immediately flash through our heads, why there is so little protection, why the site is not top-secret. The answer lies on the surface: the teleport, which is what the Space Communications Center is also called, simply transmits data. No encryption of this data, its processing or modification, just as the satellites do nothing of the kind, they simply transmit data from point A to point B, without affecting them in any way. In the case of government communications, an encrypted data stream goes to the satellite, the encryption process itself assumes that even having intercepted it from the air, the attacker will not be able to decrypt it in the coming years. Therefore, there is no special secrecy, as well as people in uniform hiding behind the local stunted vegetation.

Another question that often worries local residents and, apparently, is constantly asked by visitors, is how much money the complex exists for. Is it true that the state pays for its existence from taxes, which means that every citizen contributes his penny to it. The question is clearly painful, like any question about money, but Alexander Petrovich is clearly used to answering it: "We have a self-supporting organization, we have commercial relations with different companies, for some we manage satellites and transmit information, somewhere we only transmit information" . The complex learned to make money in the 90s. They don’t show off here, but it’s clear that there is an owner on the territory, everything is clean, the paths are swept and cleaned, the rooms are cleaned.

There are many ground-based space communication centers in the world, the largest in Europe is located in Italy. I was surprised to learn that in France many infrastructure projects are being built using satellite communications, despite its high cost in the initial installation of equipment. The explanation that I heard was given by the example of gas stations. Despite the presence of optics in many cities, it was difficult to connect each gas station with it - not everywhere it is possible to stretch it to the station, each time the cost is different, and it is impossible to include in the project fixed costs for the Internet, which is necessary both for operational activities (connection with the bank), and for organizing security at the facilities (panic button). It turned out that satellite communication for a large network of gas stations is not just an alternative, but an option that turns out to be cheaper in the long run, and also much easier to calculate. But the most important thing is that, regardless of the installation location, the company knows that this connection will work almost always and in any conditions, with a number of reservations, but still.

A stereotype has always lived and continues to live in my head that satellite communications are expensive. And this is despite the fact that voice prices have fallen dramatically over the past ten years, however, they remain very high. Another thing is that this direction continues to develop actively in our North, there is no other communication than satellite, and most likely will not be in the coming decades. It is too long to lay optics in permafrost or tundra that are not adapted to such temperatures, its operation becomes golden. This means that it is easier to increase the bandwidth of satellites in order to give people not only calls, but also mobile Internet and television.

For Russia, satellite communication remains one of the most cost-effective ways to provide Internet, television and mobile communications to remote corners, in territories where population density is minimal and there is no reason to build terrestrial infrastructure. This was well understood in the 1970s, and the USSR was actively moving in this direction. In the 90s, we lost the development vector, but since the 2000s we have been actively starting to develop this direction again, just remember the GLONASS navigation system, the military segment of satellites, as well as civilian devices that provide communications and television. The Space Communications Center in Dubna is civil, I briefly described what they are doing here and how everything works, I think you have an idea of ​​what kind of object it is and how it works. On my own behalf, I want to note that there are few countries in the world that have such a number of satellite constellations for various purposes and are able to build them up, as well as support, and most importantly, develop them. And the fact that Russia is one of the leaders in this direction is foolish to deny or dispute. Having your own satellites allows you to create appropriate services, for example, satellite television, about which I would like to say a few words now.

Satellite TV in Russia - Tricolor TV as a market leader

For me, satellite TV started with NTV+ in 1997, complete with a green dish and a rather limited set of channels. Then there were a lot of jokes about these plates, the most memorable sounded like this - it’s good that you yourself marked your apartment and made it easier for thieves to do their job. There must have been some truth in it. Tricolor appeared on the market at the end of 2005, which is very late by the standards of the satellite TV market. Even today, the company tries not to mention NTV + directly, they talk about “other”, “another premium operator in the past” and similar things. Considering that Tricolor TV has the maximum audience today, it is not clear why they do not mention a weaker competitor, and this is clearly hammered into their consciousness, as it sounds both at press conferences and in private conversations, people automatically replace the name NTV + with which - something equivocal.

But let's get back to Tricolor TV and talk a little about numbers to represent the company's position in the market.

The company has 11.6 million households connected, the accounting policy is set so that only those who pay for the subscription are counted, that is, these are live subscribers. We can assume that the minimum audience, measured in the number of viewers, exceeds 30 million people, since, as a rule, not one person, but a family lives in one house or apartment.

The company's revenue is growing, as well as ARPU, but the most interesting indicator is the number of subscribers receiving HD content, in the third quarter of 2015 there were more of them - 6 million. The operator has 30 channels in HD quality, there are also two channels in UltraHD. The difference is that here the resolution is 3840x2160 pixels (50 frames per second) versus the standard 1920x1080 pixels for HD (30 frames per second). According to the geography of broadcasting in Russia, Tricolor TV receivers can be available to 96% of the country's population, they fall under the area of ​​satellite operation. In terms of the number of subscribers, Tricolor TV is the fourth in the world after DirecTV, DishTV and Dish Network. Not a bad indicator, what do you think?

A highly competitive situation has developed in the satellite TV market in Russia, there are several players, and Tricolor TV is the leader in its segment.

But the most interesting thing is that satellite TV in Russia occupies 71% of the entire pay TV market. An interesting market segment that does not exist in many countries, where it is replaced by cable TV, which never took off in Russia. A huge country and very different needs in how much you need to invest in order to achieve serious coverage and reach viewers.

One can dream up where satellite TV will develop in the coming years, although it is more correct to count decades, there is a clear link to the launch of new satellites. I am sure that the throughput of satellites will increase, they will begin to transmit more HD content, as well as Ultra HD. It is possible that a higher resolution will be launched for marketing purposes, but this is often meaningless, as well as the creation of channels with a three-dimensional picture, this direction has not taken off anywhere in the world. I'm sure satellite TV in the next generation can get interactive features, in particular, feedback from the satellite, perhaps a “video on demand” function, where the ordered transmission will be given on the satellite, in fact, it will be taken from the broadcast or it will be recorded in the memory of the ground receiver. There are many ways to save content without violating the limited resources of the satellite. But interactivity is the next step that can take television to another level, and this is clearly visible in South Korea, where this format has been popular for more than five years and is actively developing. It's just a completely different world, you need to plunge into it in order to understand what it brings to life.

In this short article, I did not aim to embrace the immensity and tell about everything in the world, I wanted to dwell on the issues of the ground-based Space Communications Center, to allow you to look into its territory and see how it works. A short story about Tricolor TV complements this report and shows that everything is not so bad in terms of both technology and their penetration into our homes, Russia is firmly among the top three countries in the world in terms of the number of satellite TV viewers. And the quality is good in every way. Another point that I have known about for a long time, but in the same Tricolor TV they hardly talk about it and do not emphasize it - all receivers, subscriber equipment are developed in Russia, as well as produced in the country. So it turned out to be easier and better than placing orders in China. Here is such an amazing story that I hope will make you take a different look at what is happening in the high-tech sector in Russia. But this is only a small piece of the television and satellite communications market, there are other aspects that can be talked about a lot. I wanted you to get a general idea about this market and technologies, I hope that I have achieved my goal and now you know a little more about satellite TV and how the teleport, or Space Communications Center, works.

Space communication center in Dubna - satellites, TV and communications

What do you know about satellite communications? Some satellites are flying above us, they are transmitting something, and someone is controlling them somewhere. That's about such a set of stamps exists in the head of an ordinary person, and the layman has no chance to get to space communication objects, excursions are not provided there. In any case, with us, you can only look at the antennas from behind the fence, sigh and move on. Therefore, when Tricolor TV, a satellite TV operator, invited me on an excursion to the Space Communications Center in Dubna, the largest in Russia, I had no doubts that I should go.

The city of Dubna near Moscow is 130 kilometers away, the road is good, and you can get there in two hours. That is how long we waited for a lost bus from the 33rd region, which could not find a rendezvous point near the Dynamo metro. The temptation to spit on everything and not go was too great, but he overcame himself. After two hours with a penny, of which we stood for an hour and a half and just froze on the street, the bus appeared, by that time we had moved a little and warmed ourselves in a cafe on the Aeroport metro station. The schedule went to hell, but after loading into our vehicle with a Kazakh driver who did not speak Russian well, we set off for Dubna. In order not to be distracted by this part of the story, I’ll say right away that we didn’t make it back in time, some people missed their train to St. Petersburg, and there were stops a couple of times along the way, and the driver rattled his instruments, repaired something in his tarantayka, on which was written on the side "Bus of military intelligence veterans."It was a fate from which, as you know, there is no escape and no hiding. The third stop happened near Moscow, on the ramp, the driver could not overcome the rise. And I forgot about the handbrake, so I slowly and inevitably began to move down to the cars from behind. They hummed, we yelled for him to pull the handbrake. We got up. About ten minutes later, somehow, and with such and such a mother, the bus started up, but it smelled of burning, and after two hundred meters it finally died. I did not wait for the end of the story, I caught a car and rushed to the city, since there was no time at all, and fatigue from such a trip came on. Perhaps this press tour can be considered held in spite of, not thanks to. On this, I will complete the lyrical digression and return to space affairs.

Dubna is considered a science city, the city is small and not replete with sights, it’s definitely not worth going here for impressions. Outside the window flashed the main street lined with shops, gray paint, then the old houses on Dachnaya Street, which were obviously built after the war, and once they most likely were communal apartments. Some were lined with cheerful plastic panels, which created even more dissonance. The names of the store "Izyuminka" and similar delights - all this is modern Dubna. Somehow I drove here from Dmitrov and saw a huge chair, a locomotive near the station, and also a huge monument to Lenin, that's all that can be found remarkable. Our road goes along nondescript buildings and rests on the gates of the Space Communications Center. What was I waiting for?

I also listened to Dire Straits on a cassette Walkman, and one of my favorite albums is “On the night”, which came out in the spring of 93. On the cover are large radio telescopes in New Mexico, which have repeatedly flashed in various Hollywood films about the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. I was lucky to get to New Mexico and look at almost three dozen 25-meter antennas, which became a living symbol of the space race of the 70s. Competition is a wonderful thing that forces officials to open their wallets and pay for seemingly useless research. As a child, I saw a huge antenna of the RT-70 telescope in Evpatoria, and around - antennas of the deep space communication complex. This place was impressive from afar, it was impossible to get into the territory, it was a closed and secure facility. But a 70-meter monster cannot be hidden behind a fence and cannot be hidden in any way.

I was already ready for what satellite communications antennas look like, I saw them in different countries of the world, but I never visited the Space Communications Center, where you could see how it all works in conjunction, because antennas are only visible part of the complex. By modern standards, the complex in Dubna should have become infinitely outdated, the first antenna - a 32-meter NEC cup, was supplied for the Olympics-80, at that time it was a work of art, the best option available. The complex itself in Dubna was created for broadcasting the picture of the Olympics to North America, it was transmitted to the Intelsat geostationary satellite over the Atlantic. And this complex was built in a very short time, and only then it began to take on new tasks and acquired an increasing number of antennas.

For example, in front of you is a 12-meter TNA-57 antenna, made in the USSR, it worked for the Horizon satellite.

This complex after the Olympics was used to organize government communications with the White House, London and Paris, and other countries. But besides this, television came to Dubna, the complex received a picture of Western TV channels and transferred it to the technical center on Shabolovka, and from there it was already given to Ostankino.

Among the notable projects that have been implemented here, I want to briefly touch on television broadcasting at a frequency of 700 MHz, which was created for Siberia. Since 1988, two central TV channels have been launched in this region, and due to the peculiarities of the project, installation of parabolic antennas for reception was not required, there are no analogues to this project in the world. They installed low-power receivers, as well as repeaters, which transmitted the signal. There was no construction of television towers like the one you can see in Baku and other cities of the former Soviet Union, they were created according to a standard design and were placed only in large, significant centers. There was no sense in putting such monsters in Siberia, it was expensive and pointless, given the population density.

Then there was the disappearance of the USSR, the troubled years in which the Center was able to win a tender to manage the Eutelsat satellites, which it still does today, among other tasks. On an area of ​​several hectares, there are 24 antennas with a diameter of 2.4 to 32 meters, which can perform the entire range of tasks that you can imagine.

The staff of the center is 115 people, there are 8 people per shift, two security guards, three operators in the control center, one operator monitoring the position of the satellites, and two technical employees. Not very much, but most of the work today is done by computers, human intervention is minimized.

The entire facility has redundant protection, uninterruptible power supplies are switched on at the moment of interruption in the supply of electricity from the outside, diesel generators are automatically started within five minutes, which can work autonomously for up to 4 days. Two fiber optic lines are made independent (20 Gbit / s each), connected to the technical center on Shabolovka. There is also an exit to the M9 traffic exchange point.

Our guide to the facility was Alexander Duka, director of the center and a true veteran of space communications who has been working in this field for 39 years. I have great respect for everyone who has chosen their own path and, without turning off, follows it, and goes at different times, both good and bad. In my coordinate system, this is the correct path.

During a leisurely walk around the complex, I was able to torture Alexander Petrovich on many topics and ask a lot of stupid questions, and he patiently answered them.

— Oh, why is there a microwave sign here?

— Just a warning, according to safety regulations, earlier the antennas were larger and radiated strongly, but now you can stand quietly for hours, you won’t feel anything. First of all, the eyes begin to hurt from microwave radiation, this is a sure sign that they received radiation.

— Is it true that the antenna cutoff has the largest radiation?

— I don’t know what you call a cut, probably this is what we call overflow. Here, look, if you stand on the side of the antenna, so that you can see the side of the bowl and the reflector at the same time, then there will be the largest radiation. Antennas were specifically designed this way to improve their performance.

In this conversation, I learned a lot about satellite communications, perhaps as much as in my entire previous life. For example, once the governor of Yakutia came to the center and compared his region with India, the area is comparable, and the population is less than a million people! And how can you provide everyone with communications and television? Nothing else but a satellite remains. To my shame, I never looked at the map of Yakutia, already on the way back I was preoccupied with this issue. It turns out that this is the largest region in Russia, as well as in the world. More than Kazakhstan or Argentina.

Another discovery for me was that ground-based space communication complexes are always built for satellites. That is, the antennas are selected according to the characteristics of the satellites, everything else remains unchanged. This is approximately the same logic that is present in the construction of military submarines, they are created for specific ballistic missiles, of course, if these are missile carriers and this is their main specialization. Slow speed, low visibility on radars, but the ability to fire from any position.

The development of electronics has had a positive effect on how antennas change in such complexes, they are reduced, there is no need for antennas to remain huge. Despite the fact that satellites in geostationary orbits are 36 thousand kilometers away, the antennas have changed both on them and on Earth. I am sure that you have noticed how household satellite TV antennas were shredded, there is no longer a need for large dishes. This is progress in electronics, which is visible to the naked eye.

It is generally accepted that a satellite in geostationary orbit is stationary relative to an observer on Earth, in particular, an antenna that monitors it and transmits information. Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Imagine that you have a balloon on a thread, you unwind the thread to the end and watch the balloon rush about in the wind. It does not hang motionless at one point, approximately the same thing happens with satellites, they can lose altitude, deviate slightly from a given orbit, and the task of the ground control center is to correct their orbit so that they remain motionless. Each satellite receives an orbit correction at least once a day. And this explains their service life of fifteen years, during which time, as a rule, the fuel for orbit correction runs out and the satellite needs to be replaced.

We had an interesting discussion about what resource the satellites require. Is the current 15 years enough and is it necessary to increase the service life of satellites. There are two points of view here. The progress in electronics over 15 years is such that replacement of satellites becomes a necessity, it is possible to reduce the weight of electronics and its characteristics, increase the sensitivity of antennas and their range, increase the fuel supply, which will indirectly increase the service life of the satellite. The basis of this approach is that satellites must be changed in order to replace electronics with them. The second approach does not deny the need to replace satellites, but assumes their longer service life, since one launch costs space money, and the longer the device is in orbit, the cheaper it will cost.

I've been to many control centers and I think the most complex, technologically advanced are those of mobile operators. They are saturated with electronics, projection systems, monitor hundreds of parameters on their networks throughout the country.

This is space technology in every sense, the cutting edge of IT, but in a real ground-based space communications center everything is much simpler, as if it were an ordinary data center, in which there is nothing special. A room in which an old LED clock is on the wall, many monitors are hung along the walls, computers on different versions of systems, from Linux to Windows, simple diagrams on the screens, especially if you do not imagine that these diagrams are a description of the operation of the satellite that hangs overhead at an altitude of 36 thousand kilometers.

< img src="https://mobile-review.com/articles/2015/image/dubna-space/pic/main-control/09.jpg"/>

In another building there is a center in which there is one operator, he controls only the position of the satellites. Subaru and a very nice woman, Narine talks about her work with passion. There are signs on the doors in the complex, an additional inscription about where it is dangerous and where it is not.

During a thunderstorm or hurricane, communications may go out, unless this applies to government channels, they operate at frequencies that are not a hindrance to bad weather. Narine's task is to make sure that the commercial satellites operated by the center are not lost regardless of the weather and there are no interruptions in their work. If thirty years ago antennas searched for satellites “widely”, now the beam, like a needle, is clearly directed, and this is helped by computer peripherals, which greatly facilitate life and work at the Space Communications Center. Twenty years ago, the human factor led to the fact that the satellite could be “lost” for 5-10 minutes, today with the help of computers this time is much less.

Everywhere there are ordinary racks with servers, they process the information that goes to the ground-based Space Communications Center via optics. Moreover, this is both commercial information, for example, data or telephone conversations, a signal for satellite television, and government communications. As soon as we start talking about government communications, a lot of questions immediately flash through our heads, why there is so little protection, why the site is not top-secret. The answer lies on the surface: the teleport, which is what the Space Communications Center is also called, simply transmits data. No encryption of this data, its processing or modification, just as the satellites do nothing of the kind, they simply transmit data from point A to point B, without affecting them in any way. In the case of government communications, an encrypted data stream goes to the satellite, the encryption process itself assumes that even having intercepted it from the air, the attacker will not be able to decrypt it in the coming years. Therefore, there is no special secrecy, as well as people in uniform hiding behind the local stunted vegetation.

Another question that often worries local residents and, apparently, is constantly asked by visitors, is how much money the complex exists for. Is it true that the state pays for its existence from taxes, which means that every citizen contributes his penny to it. The question is clearly painful, like any question about money, but Alexander Petrovich is clearly used to answering it: "We have a self-supporting organization, we have commercial relations with different companies, for some we manage satellites and transmit information, somewhere we only transmit information" . The complex learned to make money in the 90s. They don’t show off here, but it’s clear that there is an owner on the territory, everything is clean, the paths are swept and cleaned, the rooms are cleaned.

There are many ground-based space communication centers in the world, the largest in Europe is located in Italy. I was surprised to learn that in France many infrastructure projects are being built using satellite communications, despite its high cost in the initial installation of equipment. The explanation that I heard was given by the example of gas stations. Despite the presence of optics in many cities, it was difficult to connect each gas station with it - not everywhere it is possible to stretch it to the station, each time the cost is different, and it is impossible to include in the project fixed costs for the Internet, which is necessary both for operational activities (connection with the bank), and for organizing security at the facilities (panic button). It turned out that satellite communication for a large network of gas stations is not just an alternative, but an option that turns out to be cheaper in the long run, and also much easier to calculate. But the most important thing is that, regardless of the installation location, the company knows that this connection will work almost always and in any conditions, with a number of reservations, but still.

A stereotype has always lived and continues to live in my head that satellite communications are expensive. And this is despite the fact that voice prices have fallen dramatically over the past ten years, however, they remain very high. Another thing is that this direction continues to develop actively in our North, there is no other communication than satellite, and most likely will not be in the coming decades. It is too long to lay optics in permafrost or tundra that are not adapted to such temperatures, its operation becomes golden. This means that it is easier to increase the bandwidth of satellites in order to give people not only calls, but also mobile Internet and television.

For Russia, satellite communication remains one of the most cost-effective ways to provide Internet, television and mobile communications to remote corners, in territories where population density is minimal and there is no reason to build terrestrial infrastructure. This was well understood in the 1970s, and the USSR was actively moving in this direction. In the 90s, we lost the development vector, but since the 2000s we have been actively starting to develop this direction again, just remember the GLONASS navigation system, the military segment of satellites, as well as civilian devices that provide communications and television. The Space Communications Center in Dubna is civil, I briefly described what they are doing here and how everything works, I think you have an idea of ​​what kind of object it is and how it works. On my own behalf, I want to note that there are few countries in the world that have such a number of satellite constellations for various purposes and are able to build them up, as well as support, and most importantly, develop them. And the fact that Russia is one of the leaders in this direction is foolish to deny or dispute. Having your own satellites allows you to create appropriate services, for example, satellite television, about which I would like to say a few words now.

Satellite TV in Russia - Tricolor TV as a market leader

For me, satellite TV started with NTV+ in 1997, complete with a green dish and a rather limited set of channels. Then there were a lot of jokes about these plates, the most memorable sounded like this - it’s good that you yourself marked your apartment and made it easier for thieves to do their job. There must have been some truth in it. Tricolor appeared on the market at the end of 2005, which is very late by the standards of the satellite TV market. Even today, the company tries not to mention NTV + directly, they talk about “other”, “another premium operator in the past” and similar things. Considering that Tricolor TV has the maximum audience today, it is not clear why they do not mention a weaker competitor, and this is clearly hammered into their consciousness, as it sounds both at press conferences and in private conversations, people automatically replace the name NTV + with which - something equivocal.

But let's get back to Tricolor TV and talk a little about numbers to represent the company's position in the market.

The company has 11.6 million households connected, the accounting policy is set so that only those who pay for the subscription are counted, that is, these are live subscribers. We can assume that the minimum audience, measured in the number of viewers, exceeds 30 million people, since, as a rule, not one person, but a family lives in one house or apartment.

The company's revenue is growing, as well as ARPU, but the most interesting indicator is the number of subscribers receiving HD content, in the third quarter of 2015 there were more of them - 6 million. The operator has 30 channels in HD quality, there are also two channels in UltraHD. The difference is that here the resolution is 3840x2160 pixels (50 frames per second) versus the standard 1920x1080 pixels for HD (30 frames per second). According to the geography of broadcasting in Russia, Tricolor TV receivers can be available to 96% of the country's population, they fall under the area of ​​satellite operation. In terms of the number of subscribers, Tricolor TV is the fourth in the world after DirecTV, DishTV and Dish Network. Not a bad indicator, what do you think?

A highly competitive situation has developed in the satellite TV market in Russia, there are several players, and Tricolor TV is the leader in its segment.

But the most interesting thing is that satellite TV in Russia occupies 71% of the entire pay TV market. An interesting segment of the market, which does not exist in many countries, where it is replaced by cable TV, which never took off in Russia. A huge country and very different needs in how much you need to invest in order to achieve serious coverage and reach viewers.

One can dream up where satellite TV will develop in the coming years, although it is more correct to count decades, there is a clear link to the launch of new satellites. I am sure that the throughput of satellites will increase, they will begin to transmit more HD content, as well as Ultra HD. It is possible that a higher resolution will be launched for marketing purposes, but this is often meaningless, as well as the creation of channels with a three-dimensional picture, this direction has not taken off anywhere in the world. I'm sure satellite TV in the next generation can get interactive features, in particular, feedback from the satellite, perhaps a “video on demand” function, where the ordered transmission will be given on the satellite, in fact, it will be taken from the broadcast or it will be recorded in the memory of the ground receiver. There are many ways to save content without violating the limited resources of the satellite. But interactivity is the next step that can take television to another level, and this is clearly visible in South Korea, where this format has been popular for more than five years and is actively developing. It's just a completely different world, you need to plunge into it in order to understand what it brings to life.

Space communication center in Dubna - satellites, TV and communications

What do you know about satellite communications? Some satellites are flying above us, they are transmitting something, and someone is controlling them somewhere. That's about such a set of stamps exists in the head of an ordinary person, and the layman has no chance to get to space communication objects, excursions are not provided there. In any case, with us, you can only look at the antennas from behind the fence, sigh and move on. Therefore, when Tricolor TV, a satellite TV operator, invited me on an excursion to the Space Communications Center in Dubna, the largest in Russia, I had no doubts that I should go.

The city of Dubna near Moscow is 130 kilometers away, the road is good, and you can get there in two hours. That is how long we waited for a lost bus from the 33rd region, which could not find a rendezvous point near the Dynamo metro. The temptation to spit on everything and not go was too great, but he overcame himself. After two hours with a penny, of which we stood for an hour and a half and just froze on the street, the bus appeared, by that time we had moved a little and warmed ourselves in a cafe on the Aeroport metro station. The schedule went to hell, but after loading into our vehicle with a Kazakh driver who did not speak Russian well, we set off for Dubna. In order not to be distracted by this part of the story, I’ll say right away that we didn’t make it back in time, some people missed their train to St. Petersburg, and there were stops a couple of times along the way, and the driver rattled his instruments, repaired something in his tarantayka, on which was written on the side "Bus of military intelligence veterans."It was a fate from which, as you know, there is no escape and no hiding. The third stop happened near Moscow, on the ramp, the driver could not overcome the rise. And I forgot about the handbrake, so I slowly and inevitably began to move down to the cars from behind. They hummed, we yelled for him to pull the handbrake. We got up. About ten minutes later, somehow, and with such and such a mother, the bus started up, but it smelled of burning, and after two hundred meters it finally died. I did not wait for the end of the story, I caught a car and rushed to the city, since there was no time at all, and fatigue from such a trip came on. Perhaps this press tour can be considered held in spite of, not thanks to. On this, I will complete the lyrical digression and return to space affairs.

Dubna is considered a science city, the city is small and not replete with sights, it’s definitely not worth going here for impressions. Outside the window flashed the main street lined with shops, gray paint, then the old houses on Dachnaya Street, which were obviously built after the war, and once they most likely were communal apartments. Some were lined with cheerful plastic panels, which created even more dissonance. The names of the store "Izyuminka" and similar delights - all this is modern Dubna. Somehow I drove here from Dmitrov and saw a huge chair, a locomotive near the station, and also a huge monument to Lenin, that's all that can be found remarkable. Our road goes along nondescript buildings and rests on the gates of the Space Communications Center. What was I waiting for?

I also listened to Dire Straits on a cassette Walkman, and one of my favorite albums is “On the night”, which came out in the spring of 93. On the cover are large radio telescopes in New Mexico, which have repeatedly flashed in various Hollywood films about the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. I was lucky to get to New Mexico and look at almost three dozen 25-meter antennas, which became a living symbol of the space race of the 70s. Competition is a wonderful thing that forces officials to open their wallets and pay for seemingly useless research. As a child, I saw a huge antenna of the RT-70 telescope in Evpatoria, and around - antennas of the deep space communication complex. This place was impressive from afar, it was impossible to get into the territory, it was a closed and secure facility. But a 70-meter monster cannot be hidden behind a fence and cannot be hidden in any way.

I was already ready for what satellite communications antennas look like, I saw them in different countries of the world, but I never visited the Space Communications Center, where you could see how it all works in conjunction, because antennas are only visible part of the complex. By modern standards, the complex in Dubna should have become infinitely outdated, the first antenna - a 32-meter NEC cup, was supplied for the Olympics-80, at that time it was a work of art, the best option available. The complex itself in Dubna was created for broadcasting the picture of the Olympics to North America, it was transmitted to the Intelsat geostationary satellite over the Atlantic. And this complex was built in a very short time, and only then it began to take on new tasks and acquired an increasing number of antennas.

For example, in front of you is a 12-meter TNA-57 antenna, made in the USSR, it worked for the Horizon satellite.

This complex after the Olympics was used to organize government communications with the White House, London and Paris, and other countries. But besides this, television came to Dubna, the complex received a picture of Western TV channels and transferred it to the technical center on Shabolovka, and from there it was already given to Ostankino.

Among the notable projects that have been implemented here, I want to briefly touch on television broadcasting at a frequency of 700 MHz, which was created for Siberia. Since 1988, two central TV channels have been launched in this region, and due to the peculiarities of the project, installation of parabolic antennas for reception was not required, there are no analogues to this project in the world. They installed low-power receivers, as well as repeaters, which transmitted the signal. There was no construction of television towers like the one you can see in Baku and other cities of the former Soviet Union, they were created according to a standard design and were placed only in large, significant centers. There was no point in putting such monsters in Siberia, it was expensive and pointless, given the population density.

Then there was the disappearance of the USSR, the troubled years in which the Center was able to win a tender to manage the Eutelsat satellites, which it still does today, among other tasks. On an area of ​​several hectares, there are 24 antennas with a diameter of 2.4 to 32 meters, which can perform the entire range of tasks that you can imagine.

The staff of the center is 115 people, there are 8 people per shift, two security guards, three operators in the control center, one operator monitoring the position of the satellites, and two technical employees. Not very much, but most of the work today is done by computers, human intervention is minimized.

The entire facility has redundant protection, uninterruptible power supplies are switched on at the moment of interruption in the supply of electricity from the outside, diesel generators are automatically started within five minutes, which can work autonomously for up to 4 days. Two fiber optic lines are made independent (20 Gbit / s each), connected to the technical center on Shabolovka. There is also an exit to the M9 traffic exchange point.

Our guide to the facility was Alexander Duka, director of the center and a true veteran of space communications who has been working in this field for 39 years. I have great respect for all those who have chosen their own path and, without turning off, follow it, and go at different times, both good and bad. In my coordinate system, this is the correct path.

During a leisurely walk around the complex, I was able to torture Alexander Petrovich on many topics and ask a lot of stupid questions, and he patiently answered them.

— Oh, why is there a microwave sign here?

— Just a warning, according to safety regulations, earlier the antennas were larger and radiated strongly, but now you can stand quietly for hours, you won’t feel anything. First of all, the eyes begin to hurt from microwave radiation, this is a sure sign that they received radiation.

— Is it true that the antenna cutoff has the largest radiation?

— I don’t know what you call a cut, probably this is what we call overflow. Look, if you stand on the side of the antenna, so that you can see the side of the bowl and the reflector at the same time, then there will be the largest radiation. Antennas were specifically designed this way to improve their performance.

In this conversation, I learned a lot about satellite communications, perhaps as much as in my entire previous life. For example, once the governor of Yakutia came to the center and compared his region with India, the area is comparable, and the population is less than a million people! And how can you provide everyone with communications and television? Nothing else but a satellite remains. To my shame, I never looked at the map of Yakutia, already on the way back I was preoccupied with this issue. It turns out that this is the largest region in Russia, as well as in the world. More than Kazakhstan or Argentina.

Another discovery for me was that ground-based space communication complexes are always built for satellites. That is, the antennas are selected according to the characteristics of the satellites, everything else remains unchanged. This is approximately the same logic that is present in the construction of military submarines, they are created for specific ballistic missiles, of course, if these are missile carriers and this is their main specialization. Slow speed, low visibility on radars, but the ability to fire from any position.

The development of electronics has had a positive effect on how antennas change in such complexes, they are reduced, there is no need for antennas to remain huge. Despite the fact that satellites in geostationary orbits are 36 thousand kilometers away, the antennas have changed both on them and on Earth. I am sure that you have noticed how household satellite TV antennas were shredded, there is no longer a need for large dishes. This is progress in electronics, which is visible to the naked eye.

It is generally accepted that a satellite in geostationary orbit is stationary relative to an observer on Earth, in particular, an antenna that monitors it and transmits information. Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Imagine that you have a balloon on a thread, you unwind the thread to the end and watch the balloon rush about in the wind. It does not hang motionless at one point, approximately the same thing happens with satellites, they can lose altitude, deviate slightly from a given orbit, and the task of the ground control center is to correct their orbit so that they remain motionless. Each satellite receives an orbit correction at least once a day. And this explains their service life of fifteen years, during which time, as a rule, the fuel for orbit correction runs out and the satellite needs to be replaced.

We had an interesting discussion about what resource the satellites require. Is the current 15 years enough and is it necessary to increase the service life of satellites. There are two points of view here. The progress in electronics over 15 years is such that replacement of satellites becomes a necessity, it is possible to reduce the weight of electronics and its characteristics, increase the sensitivity of antennas and their range, increase the fuel supply, which will indirectly increase the service life of the satellite. The basis of this approach is that satellites must be changed in order to replace electronics with them. The second approach does not deny the need to replace satellites, but assumes their longer service life, since one launch costs space money, and the longer the device is in orbit, the cheaper it will cost.

I've been to many control centers and I think the most complex, technologically advanced are those of mobile operators. They are saturated with electronics, projection systems, monitor hundreds of parameters on their networks throughout the country.

This is space technology in every sense, the cutting edge of IT, but in a real ground-based space communications center everything is much simpler, as if it were an ordinary data center, in which there is nothing special. A room in which an old LED clock is on the wall, many monitors are hung along the walls, computers on different versions of systems, from Linux to Windows, simple diagrams on the screens, especially if you do not imagine that these diagrams are a description of the operation of the satellite that hangs overhead at an altitude of 36 thousand kilometers.

< img src="https://mobile-review.com/articles/2015/image/dubna-space/pic/main-control/09.jpg"/>

In another building there is a center in which there is one operator, he controls only the position of the satellites. Subaru and a very nice woman, Narine talks about her work with passion. There are signs on the doors in the complex, an additional inscription about where it is dangerous and where it is not.

During a thunderstorm or hurricane, communications may go out, unless this applies to government channels, they operate at frequencies that are not a hindrance to bad weather. Narine's task is to make sure that the commercial satellites operated by the center are not lost regardless of the weather and there are no interruptions in their work. If thirty years ago antennas searched for satellites “widely”, now the beam, like a needle, is clearly directed, and this is helped by computer peripherals, which greatly facilitate life and work at the Space Communications Center. Twenty years ago, the human factor led to the fact that the satellite could be “lost” for 5-10 minutes, today with the help of computers this time is much less.

Everywhere there are ordinary racks with servers, they process the information that goes to the ground-based Space Communications Center via optics. Moreover, this is both commercial information, for example, data or telephone conversations, a signal for satellite television, and government communications. As soon as we start talking about government communications, a lot of questions immediately flash through our heads, why there is so little protection, why the site is not top-secret. The answer lies on the surface: the teleport, which is what the Space Communications Center is also called, simply transmits data. No encryption of this data, its processing or modification, just as the satellites do nothing of the kind, they simply transmit data from point A to point B, without affecting them in any way. In the case of government communications, an encrypted data stream goes to the satellite, the encryption process itself assumes that even having intercepted it from the air, the attacker will not be able to decrypt it in the coming years. Therefore, there is no special secrecy, as well as people in uniform hiding behind the local stunted vegetation.

Another question that often worries local residents and, apparently, is constantly asked by visitors, is how much money the complex exists for. Is it true that the state pays for its existence from taxes, which means that every citizen contributes his penny to it. The question is clearly painful, like any question about money, but Alexander Petrovich is clearly used to answering it: "We have a self-supporting organization, we have commercial relations with various companies, we manage satellites for some and transmit information, somewhere we only transmit information" . The complex learned how to make money in the 90s. They don’t show off here, but it’s clear that there is an owner on the territory, everything is clean, the paths are swept and cleaned, the rooms are cleaned.

There are many ground-based space communication centers in the world, the largest in Europe is located in Italy. I was surprised to learn that in France many infrastructure projects are being built using satellite communications, despite its high cost in the initial installation of equipment. The explanation that I heard was given by the example of gas stations. Despite the presence of optics in many cities, it was difficult to connect each gas station with it - not everywhere it is possible to stretch it to the station, each time the cost is different, and it is impossible to lay in the project the fixed costs of conducting the Internet, which is necessary both for operational activities (communication with the bank), and for organizing security at the facilities (panic button). It turned out that satellite communication for a large network of gas stations is not just an alternative, but an option that turns out to be cheaper in the long run, and also much easier to calculate. But the most important thing is that, regardless of the installation location, the company knows that this connection will work almost always and in any conditions, with a number of reservations, but still.

A stereotype has always lived and continues to live in my head that satellite communications are expensive. And this is despite the fact that voice prices have fallen dramatically over the past ten years, however, they remain very high. Another thing is that this direction continues to develop actively in our North, there is no other communication than satellite, and most likely will not be in the coming decades. It is too long to lay optics in permafrost or tundra that are not adapted to such temperatures, its operation becomes golden. This means that it is easier to increase the bandwidth of satellites in order to give people not only calls, but also mobile Internet and television.

For Russia, satellite communication remains one of the most cost-effective ways to provide Internet, television and mobile communications to remote corners, in territories where population density is minimal and there is no reason to build terrestrial infrastructure. This was well understood in the 1970s, and the USSR was actively moving in this direction. In the 90s, we lost the development vector, but since the 2000s we have been actively starting to develop this direction again, just remember the GLONASS navigation system, the military segment of satellites, as well as civilian devices that provide communications and television. The Space Communications Center in Dubna is civil, I briefly described what they are doing here and how everything works, I think you have an idea of ​​what kind of object it is and how it works. On my own behalf, I want to note that there are few countries in the world that have such a number of satellite constellations for various purposes and are able to build them up, as well as support, and most importantly, develop them. And the fact that Russia is one of the leaders in this direction is foolish to deny or dispute. Having your own satellites allows you to create appropriate services, for example, satellite television, about which I would like to say a few words now.

Satellite TV in Russia - Tricolor TV as a market leader

For me, satellite TV started with NTV+ in 1997, complete with a green dish and a rather limited set of channels. Then there were a lot of jokes about these plates, the most memorable sounded like this - it’s good that you yourself marked your apartment and made it easier for thieves to do their job. There must have been some truth in it. Tricolor appeared on the market at the end of 2005, which is very late by the standards of the satellite TV market. Even today, the company tries not to mention NTV + directly, they talk about “other”, “another premium operator in the past” and similar things. Considering that Tricolor TV has the maximum audience today, it is not clear why they do not mention a weaker competitor, and this is clearly hammered into their consciousness, as it sounds both at press conferences and in private conversations, people automatically replace the name NTV + with which - something equivocal.

But let's get back to Tricolor TV and talk a little about numbers to represent the company's position in the market.

The company has 11.6 million households connected, the accounting policy is set so that only those who pay for the subscription are counted, that is, these are live subscribers. We can assume that the minimum audience, measured in the number of viewers, exceeds 30 million people, since, as a rule, not one person, but a family lives in one house or apartment.

The company's revenue is growing, as well as ARPU, but the most interesting indicator is the number of subscribers receiving HD content, in the third quarter of 2015 there were more of them - 6 million. The operator has 30 channels in HD quality, there are also two channels in UltraHD. The difference is that here the resolution is 3840x2160 pixels (50 frames per second) versus the standard 1920x1080 pixels for HD (30 frames per second). According to the geography of broadcasting in Russia, Tricolor TV receivers can be available to 96% of the country's population, they fall under the area of ​​satellite operation. In terms of the number of subscribers, Tricolor TV is the fourth in the world after DirecTV, DishTV and Dish Network. Not a bad indicator, what do you think?

A highly competitive situation has developed in the satellite TV market in Russia, there are several players, and Tricolor TV is the leader in its segment.

But the most interesting thing is that satellite TV in Russia occupies 71% of the entire pay TV market. An interesting segment of the market, which does not exist in many countries, where it is replaced by cable TV, which never took off in Russia. A huge country and very different needs in how much you need to invest in order to achieve serious coverage and reach viewers.

One can dream up where satellite TV will develop in the coming years, although it is more correct to count decades, there is a clear link to the launch of new satellites. I am sure that the throughput of satellites will increase, they will begin to transmit more HD content, as well as Ultra HD. It is possible that a higher resolution will be launched for marketing purposes, but this is often meaningless, as well as the creation of channels with a three-dimensional picture, this direction has not taken off anywhere in the world. I'm sure satellite TV in the next generation can get interactive features, in particular, feedback from the satellite, perhaps a “video on demand” function, where the ordered transmission will be given on the satellite, in fact, it will be taken from the broadcast or it will be recorded in the memory of the ground receiver. There are many ways to save content without violating the limited resources of the satellite. But interactivity is the next step that can take television to another level, and this is clearly visible in South Korea, where this format has been popular for more than five years and is actively developing. It's just a completely different world, you need to plunge into it in order to understand what it brings to life.

In this short article, I did not aim to embrace the immensity and tell about everything in the world, I wanted to dwell on the issues of the ground-based Space Communications Center, to allow you to look into its territory and see how it works. A short story about Tricolor TV complements this report and shows that everything is not so bad in terms of both technology and their penetration into our homes, Russia is firmly among the top three countries in the world in terms of the number of satellite TV viewers. And the quality is good in every way. Another point that I have known about for a long time, but in the same Tricolor TV they hardly talk about it and do not emphasize it - all receivers, subscriber equipment are developed in Russia, as well as produced in the country. So it turned out to be easier and better than placing orders in China. Here is such an amazing story that I hope will make you take a different look at what is happening in the high-tech sector in Russia. But this is only a small piece of the television and satellite communications market, there are other aspects that can be talked about a lot. I wanted you to get a general idea about this market and technologies, I hope that I have achieved my goal and now you know a little more about satellite TV and how the teleport, or Space Communications Center, works.

Space communication center in Dubna - satellites, TV and communications

What do you know about satellite communications? Some satellites are flying above us, they are transmitting something, and someone is controlling them somewhere. That's about such a set of stamps exists in the head of an ordinary person, and the layman has no chance to get to space communication objects, excursions are not provided there. In any case, with us, you can only look at the antennas from behind the fence, sigh and move on. Therefore, when Tricolor TV, a satellite TV operator, invited me on an excursion to the Space Communications Center in Dubna, the largest in Russia, I had no doubts that I should go.

The city of Dubna near Moscow is 130 kilometers away, the road is good, and you can get there in two hours. That is how long we waited for a lost bus from the 33rd region, which could not find a rendezvous point near the Dynamo metro. The temptation to spit on everything and not go was too great, but he overcame himself. After two hours with a penny, of which we stood for an hour and a half and just froze on the street, the bus appeared, by that time we had moved a little and warmed ourselves in a cafe on the Aeroport metro station. The schedule went to hell, but after loading into our vehicle with a Kazakh driver who did not speak Russian well, we set off for Dubna. In order not to be distracted by this part of the story, I’ll say right away that we didn’t make it back in time, some people missed their train to St. Petersburg, and there were stops a couple of times along the way, and the driver rattled his instruments, repaired something in his tarantayka, on which was written on the side "Bus of military intelligence veterans."It was a fate from which, as you know, there is no escape and no hiding. The third stop happened near Moscow, on the ramp, the driver could not overcome the rise. And I forgot about the handbrake, so I slowly and inevitably began to move down to the cars from behind. They hummed, we yelled for him to pull the handbrake. We got up. About ten minutes later, somehow, and with such and such a mother, the bus started up, but it smelled of burning, and after two hundred meters it finally died. I did not wait for the end of the story, I caught a car and rushed to the city, since there was no time at all, and fatigue from such a trip came on. Perhaps this press tour can be considered held in spite of, not thanks to. On this, I will complete the lyrical digression and return to space affairs.

Dubna is considered a science city, the city is small and not replete with sights, it's definitely not worth going here for impressions. Outside the window flashed the main street lined with shops, gray paint, then the old houses on Dachnaya Street, which were clearly built after the war, and once they most likely were communal apartments. Some were lined with cheerful plastic panels, which created even more dissonance. The names of the store "Izyuminka" and similar delights - all this is modern Dubna. Somehow I drove here from Dmitrov and saw a huge chair, a locomotive near the station, and also a huge monument to Lenin, that's all that can be found remarkable. Our road goes along nondescript buildings and rests on the gates of the Space Communications Center. What was I waiting for?

I also listened to Dire Straits on the cassette Walkman, and one of my favorite albums is “On the night”, which was released in the spring of 93. On the cover are large radio telescopes in New Mexico, which have repeatedly flashed in various Hollywood films about the search for extraterrestrial civilizations. I was lucky to get to New Mexico and look at almost three dozen 25-meter antennas, which became a living symbol of the space race of the 70s. Competition is a wonderful thing that forces officials to open their wallets and pay for seemingly useless research. As a child, I saw in Evpatoria a huge antenna of the RT-70 telescope, and around - the antennas of the deep space communication complex. This place was impressive from afar, it was impossible to get into the territory, it was a closed and secure facility. But a 70-meter monster cannot be hidden behind a fence and cannot be hidden in any way.

I was already ready for what satellite communications antennas look like, I saw them in different countries of the world, but I never visited the Space Communications Center, where you could see how it all works in conjunction, because antennas are only visible part of the complex. By modern standards, the complex in Dubna should have become infinitely outdated, the first antenna - a 32-meter NEC cup, was supplied for the Olympics-80, at that time it was a work of art, the best option available. The complex itself in Dubna was created for broadcasting the picture of the Olympics to North America, it was transmitted to the Intelsat geostationary satellite over the Atlantic. And this complex was built in a very short time, and only then it began to take on new tasks and acquired an increasing number of antennas.

For example, in front of you is a 12-meter TNA-57 antenna, made in the USSR, it worked for the Horizon satellite.

This complex after the Olympics was used to organize government communications with the White House, London and Paris, and other countries. But besides this, television came to Dubna, the complex received a picture of Western TV channels and transferred it to the technical center on Shabolovka, and from there it was already given to Ostankino.

Among the notable projects that have been implemented here, I want to briefly touch on television broadcasting at a frequency of 700 MHz, which was created for Siberia. Since 1988, two central TV channels have been launched in this region, and due to the peculiarities of the project, installation of parabolic antennas for reception was not required, there are no analogues to this project in the world. They installed low-power receivers, as well as repeaters, which transmitted the signal. There was no construction of television towers like the one you can see in Baku and other cities of the former Soviet Union, they were created according to a standard design and were placed only in large, significant centers. There was no sense in putting such monsters in Siberia, it was expensive and pointless, given the population density.

Then there was the disappearance of the USSR, the troubled years in which the Center was able to win a tender to manage the Eutelsat satellites, which it still does today, among other tasks. On an area of ​​several hectares, there are 24 antennas with a diameter of 2.4 to 32 meters, which can perform the entire range of tasks that you can imagine.

The staff of the center is 115 people, there are 8 people per shift, two security guards, three operators in the control center, one operator monitoring the position of the satellites, and two technical employees. Not very much, but computers do most of the work today, human intervention is minimized.

The entire facility has redundant protection, uninterruptible power supplies are switched on at the moment of interruption in the supply of electricity from the outside, diesel generators are automatically started within five minutes, which can work autonomously for up to 4 days. Two fiber optic lines are made independent (20 Gbit / s each), connected to the technical center on Shabolovka. There is also an exit to the M9 traffic exchange point.

Our guide to the facility was Alexander Duka, director of the center and a true veteran of space communications who has been working in this field for 39 years. I have great respect for everyone who has chosen their own path and, without turning off, follows it, and goes at different times, both good and bad. In my coordinate system, this is the correct path.

During a leisurely walk around the complex, I was able to torture Alexander Petrovich on many topics and ask a lot of stupid questions, and he patiently answered them.

— Oh, why is there a microwave sign here?

— Just a warning, according to safety regulations, earlier the antennas were larger and radiated strongly, but now you can stand quietly for hours, you won’t feel anything. First of all, the eyes begin to hurt from microwave radiation, this is a sure sign that they received radiation.

— Is it true that the antenna cutoff has the largest radiation?

— I don’t know what you call a cut, probably this is what we call overflow. Here, look, if you stand on the side of the antenna, so that you can see the side of the bowl and the reflector at the same time, then there will be the largest radiation. Antennas were specifically designed this way to improve their performance.

In this conversation, I learned a lot about satellite communications, perhaps as much as in my entire previous life. For example, once the governor of Yakutia came to the center and compared his region with India, the area is comparable, and the population is less than a million people! And how can you provide everyone with communications and television? Nothing else but a satellite remains. To my shame, I never looked at the map of Yakutia, already on the way back I was preoccupied with this issue. It turns out that this is the largest region in Russia, as well as in the world. More than Kazakhstan or Argentina.

Another discovery for me was that ground-based space communication complexes are always built for satellites. That is, the antennas are selected according to the characteristics of the satellites, everything else remains unchanged. This is approximately the same logic that is present in the construction of military submarines, they are created for specific ballistic missiles, of course, if these are missile carriers and this is their main specialization. Slow speed, low visibility on radars, but the ability to fire from any position.

The development of electronics has had a positive effect on how antennas change in such complexes, they are reduced, there is no need for antennas to remain huge. Despite the fact that satellites in geostationary orbits are 36 thousand kilometers away, the antennas have changed both on them and on Earth. I am sure that you have noticed how household satellite TV antennas were shredded, there is no longer a need for large dishes. This is progress in electronics, which is visible to the naked eye.

It is generally accepted that a satellite in geostationary orbit is stationary relative to an observer on Earth, in particular, an antenna that monitors it and transmits information. Unfortunately, this is only partly true. Imagine that you have a balloon on a thread, you unwind the thread to the end and watch the balloon rush about in the wind. It does not hang motionless at one point, approximately the same thing happens with satellites, they can lose altitude, deviate slightly from a given orbit, and the task of the ground control center is to correct their orbit so that they remain motionless. Each satellite receives an orbit correction at least once a day. And this explains their service life of fifteen years, during which time, as a rule, the fuel for orbit correction runs out and the satellite needs to be replaced.

We had an interesting discussion about what resource the satellites require. Is the current 15 years enough and is it necessary to increase the service life of satellites. There are two points of view here. The progress in electronics over 15 years is such that replacement of satellites becomes a necessity, it is possible to reduce the weight of electronics and its characteristics, increase the sensitivity of antennas and their range, increase the fuel supply, which will indirectly increase the service life of the satellite. The basis of this approach is that satellites must be changed in order to replace electronics with them. The second approach does not negate the need to replace satellites, but assumes their longer service life, since one launch costs space money, and the longer the device is in orbit, the cheaper it will cost.

I've been to many control centers and I think the most complex, technologically advanced are those of mobile operators. They are saturated with electronics, projection systems, monitor hundreds of parameters on their networks throughout the country.

This is space technology in every sense, the cutting edge of IT, but in a real ground-based space communications center everything is much simpler, as if it were an ordinary data center, in which there is nothing special. A room in which an old LED clock is on the wall, many monitors are hung along the walls, computers on different versions of systems, from Linux to Windows, simple diagrams on the screens, especially if you do not imagine that these diagrams are a description of the operation of the satellite that hangs overhead at an altitude of 36 thousand kilometers.

In another building there is a center in which there is one operator, he controls only the position of the satellites. An adult Subaru and a very pleasant woman, Narine talks about her work with enthusiasm. There are signs on the doors in the complex, an additional inscription about where it is dangerous and where it is not.

In another building there is a center in which there is one operator, he controls only the position of the satellites. adult Subaru Subaru and a very pleasant woman Narine enthusiastically talks about her work. There are signs on the doors in the complex, an additional inscription about where it is dangerous and where it is not.

During a thunderstorm or hurricane, communications may go out, unless this applies to government channels, they operate at frequencies that are not a hindrance to bad weather. Narine's task is to make sure that the commercial satellites operated by the center are not lost regardless of the weather and there are no interruptions in their work. If thirty years ago antennas searched for satellites “widely”, now the beam, like a needle, is clearly directed, and this is helped by computer peripherals, which greatly facilitate life and work at the Space Communications Center. Twenty years ago, the human factor led to the fact that the satellite could be “lost” for 5-10 minutes, today with the help of computers this time is much less.

Everywhere there are ordinary racks with servers, they process the information that goes to the ground-based Space Communications Center via optics. Moreover, this is both commercial information, for example, data or telephone conversations, a signal for satellite television, and government communications. As soon as we start talking about government communications, a lot of questions immediately flash through our heads, why there is so little protection, why the site is not top-secret. The answer lies on the surface: the teleport, which is what the Space Communications Center is also called, simply transmits data. No encryption of this data, its processing or modification, just as the satellites do nothing of the kind, they simply transmit data from point A to point B, without affecting them in any way. In the case of government communications, an encrypted data stream goes to the satellite, the encryption process itself assumes that even having intercepted it from the air, the attacker will not be able to decrypt it in the coming years. Therefore, there is no special secrecy, as well as people in uniform hiding behind the local stunted vegetation.

Another question that often worries local residents and, apparently, is constantly asked by visitors, is how much money the complex exists for. Is it true that the state pays for its existence from taxes, which means that every citizen contributes his penny to it. The question is clearly painful, like any question about money, but Alexander Petrovich is clearly used to answering it: "We have a self-supporting organization, we have commercial relations with different companies, for some we manage satellites and transmit information, somewhere we only transmit information" . The complex learned to make money in the 90s. They don’t show off here, but it’s clear that there is an owner on the territory, everything is clean, the paths are swept and cleaned, the rooms are cleaned.

There are many ground-based space communication centers in the world, the largest in Europe is located in Italy. I was surprised to learn that in France many infrastructure projects are being built using satellite communications, despite its high cost in the initial installation of equipment. The explanation that I heard was given by the example of gas stations. Despite the presence of optics in many cities, it was difficult to connect each gas station with it - not everywhere it is possible to stretch it to the station, each time the cost is different, and it is impossible to include in the project fixed costs for the Internet, which is necessary both for operational activities (connection with the bank), and for organizing security at the facilities (panic button). It turned out that satellite communication for a large network of gas stations is not just an alternative, but an option that turns out to be cheaper in the long run, and also much easier to calculate. But the most important thing is that, regardless of the installation location, the company knows that this connection will work almost always and in any conditions, with a number of reservations, but still.

A stereotype has always lived and continues to live in my head that satellite communications are expensive. And this is despite the fact that voice prices have fallen dramatically over the past ten years, however, they remain very high. Another thing is that this direction continues to develop actively in our North, there is no other communication than satellite, and most likely will not be in the coming decades. It is too long to lay optics in permafrost or tundra that are not adapted to such temperatures, its operation becomes golden. This means that it is easier to increase the bandwidth of satellites in order to give people not only calls, but also mobile Internet and television.

For Russia, satellite communication remains one of the most cost-effective ways to provide Internet, television and mobile communications to remote corners, in territories where population density is minimal and there is no reason to build terrestrial infrastructure. This was well understood in the 1970s, and the USSR was actively moving in this direction. In the 90s, we lost the development vector, but since the 2000s we have been actively starting to develop this direction again, just remember the GLONASS navigation system, the military segment of satellites, as well as civilian devices that provide communications and television. The Space Communications Center in Dubna is civil, I briefly described what they are doing here and how everything works, I think you have an idea of ​​what kind of object it is and how it works. On my own behalf, I want to note that there are few countries in the world that have such a number of satellite constellations for various purposes and are able to build them up, as well as support, and most importantly, develop them. And the fact that Russia is one of the leaders in this direction is foolish to deny or dispute. Having your own satellites allows you to create appropriate services, for example, satellite television, about which I would like to say a few words now.

Satellite TV in Russia - Tricolor TV as a market leader

For me, satellite TV started with NTV+ in 1997, complete with a green dish and a rather limited set of channels. Then there were a lot of jokes about these plates, the most memorable sounded like this - it’s good that you yourself marked your apartment and made it easier for thieves to do their job. There must have been some truth in it. Tricolor appeared on the market at the end of 2005, which is very late by the standards of the satellite TV market. Even today, the company tries not to mention NTV + directly, they talk about “other”, “another premium operator in the past” and similar things. Considering that Tricolor TV has the maximum audience today, it is not clear why they do not mention a weaker competitor, and this is clearly hammered into their consciousness, as it sounds both at press conferences and in private conversations, people automatically replace the name NTV + with which - something equivocal.

But let's get back to Tricolor TV and talk a little about numbers to represent the company's position in the market.

The company has 11.6 million households connected, the accounting policy is set so that only those who pay for the subscription are counted, that is, these are live subscribers. We can assume that the minimum audience, measured in the number of viewers, exceeds 30 million people, since, as a rule, not one person, but a family lives in one house or apartment.

The company's revenue is growing, as well as ARPU, but the most interesting indicator is the number of subscribers receiving HD content, in the third quarter of 2015 there were more of them - 6 million. The operator has 30 channels in HD quality, there are also two channels in UltraHD. The difference is that here the resolution is 3840x2160 pixels (50 frames per second) versus the standard 1920x1080 pixels for HD (30 frames per second). According to the geography of broadcasting in Russia, Tricolor TV receivers can be available to 96% of the country's population, they fall under the area of ​​satellite operation. In terms of the number of subscribers, Tricolor TV is the fourth in the world after DirecTV, DishTV and Dish Network. Not a bad indicator, what do you think?

A highly competitive situation has developed in the satellite TV market in Russia, there are several players, and Tricolor TV is the leader in its segment.

But the most interesting thing is that satellite TV in Russia occupies 71% of the entire pay TV market. An interesting segment of the market, which does not exist in many countries, where it is replaced by cable TV, which never took off in Russia. A huge country and very different needs in how much you need to invest in order to achieve serious coverage and reach viewers.

One can dream up where satellite TV will develop in the coming years, although it is more correct to count decades, there is a clear link to the launch of new satellites. I am sure that the throughput of satellites will increase, they will begin to transmit more HD content, as well as Ultra HD. It is possible that a higher resolution will be launched for marketing purposes, but this is often meaningless, as well as the creation of channels with a three-dimensional picture, this direction has not taken off anywhere in the world. I'm sure satellite TV in the next generation can get interactive features, in particular, feedback from the satellite, perhaps a “video on demand” function, where the ordered transmission will be given on the satellite, in fact, it will be taken from the broadcast or it will be recorded in the memory of the ground receiver. There are many ways to save content without violating the limited resources of the satellite. But interactivity is the next step that can take television to another level, and this is clearly visible in South Korea, where this format has been popular for more than five years and is actively developing. It's just a completely different world, you need to plunge into it in order to understand what it brings to life.