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Weather and distance makes communications very difficult in the Arctic. The CubeSat project was designed to utilize advances in technology to create small satellites that would be deployed in a polar orbit. These satellites would then serve as a means of reliable communication for the Coast Guard as they operate in the Arctic. Because of the cost and small size of the device, CubeSat is an economical alternative to Sarsat and other current satellite solutions.

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With the challenges of polar orbits, CubeSats are an effective solution to standard satellites for providing coverage at a cheap affordable cost with a decay orbit that helps to minimize the impact of space debris. The future of CubeSat technology is a promising technological frontier that can offer communication solutions for high-latitude regions in sufficient numbers to ensure full coverage of regions like Alaska.

Improving Arctic maritime communications is a critical initiative within the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Arctic Strategy Implementation Plan. Currently, marine vessels operating across the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas experience limited realtime communication capability at extended ranges from shore based facilities. Low earth, polar orbiting, small satellite technology (known as CubeSats) offer a potentially useful solution to connect maritime operators conducting missions in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with their respective command and control.

The Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF) houses, tests, and maintains a prototype high-latitude ground station that will downlink maritime domain information and communications collected from CubeSats passing over the Arctic for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and United States Coast Guard (USCG) Research and Development Center (RDC). This work is in scope of the Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) between ADAC and DHS in that it involves:

• Testing and evaluating capabilities to provide Arctic Domain Awareness

• Improving command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, and enhancing information collection for maximum use in the Arctic environment

• Providing subject matter expertise in Arctic environments

In this study, the project team built and tested a Mobile Cubesat Command and Control (MC3) ground station at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) as part of the ASF’s CubeSat Antenna Farm Experiment (CAFE). ASF’s CAFE will provide a vital ground segment in the evaluation of USCG use of CubeSats in support of Arctic communications. Incidental to the planned research effort, this investigation will benefit future UAF CubeSat academic programs and research through demonstrations and evaluations of CubeSat technology to test the capabilities of these assets to monitor the Arctic.


Portrait of 		Nettie 
			 		La Belle-Hamer
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Dr. Nettie La Belle-Hamer


Nettie La Belle-Hamer, Ph.D.

Dr. Nettie La Belle-Hamer is UAF’s Interim Vice Chancellor for Research and the Director of the Alaska Satellite Facility (ASF). A lifelong Alaskan, Dr. La Belle-Hamer received her Bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1985, her Master’s and Ph.D. in space physics at the UAF in 1988 and 1994, respectively. Following graduation, Dr. La Belle-Hamer first became involved with ASF working on the NASA development of a distributed Earth science data system. After managing the first two Antarctic Mapping Missions and the RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System project at ASF, she became the ASF Science Center Manager in 1999. As the ASF Science Center manager, she was responsible for product quality issues, user community interaction, user software tool development, advanced algorithm development, the RADARSAT Geophysical Processor System project, and science outreach activities. She implemented policies and procedures for the Science Center as well as forecasted research trends and directions for ASF user community. Under her direction since 2002, ASF has grown into a strong program with a bright future in remote-sensing data access. Dr. La Belle-Hamer has successfully developed new business opportunities and continue to keep ASF at the forefront of the satellite data industry by focusing on high-quality, on-time data delivery, exemplary customer service, and visionary new product development efforts. Developing and maintaining ASF’s relationships with the U.S. and foreign government research agencies as well as a wide array of domestic and international partners requires her to use an unusual combination of scientific, management, and leadership skills. As the UAF Interim Vice Chancellor, Dr. La Belle-Hamer works to build capacity and depth in the research and development interests of UAF.