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Optus satellite facility tour: photos

ZDNet Australia goes behind the scenes at Optus' satellite facility in Belrose just north of Sydney to see how the telco manages its five satellites currently in orbit.
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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Four major antennas on the ground, and a number of smaller satellites in the air send and receive data from the B3, C1 and three D series satellites Optus has in orbit.

The smaller antennas are designed to replicate the service a customer receives, and allows Optus to ensure everything is working as required.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

This antenna communicates with the B3 satellite. As this is the oldest satellite, its orbit is not as controlled as the newer satellites, and the dish must move to compensate for changes in the satellite's position. The satellite is expected to remain in orbit for around three to four more years.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Paul Sheridan, director of Optus Satellite, told ZDNet Australia that, in addition to guiding Optus' 10 satellite launches, the centre has assisted the launches of 70 other satellites for other companies.

"Because of the expertise in the building, there's a unique group of people with talent here that is found nowhere else in Australia."

Each launch takes about 10 to 15 days from start to completion.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Sheridan uses an app on his smartphone to point out where the Optus C1 satellite is located in the sky.

He said that due to the wide open land, Australia has a geographic advantage in being the home of a satellite facility. Around 120 people work in the facility in any one time.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Two main operation centres keep control of the satellites and the data they transmit. The satellite control room is operated by two controllers 24 hours a day, with two 12-hour shifts from 7am to 7pm and 7pm to 7am. The controllers are tasked with ensuring the satellites remain in position and perform routine checks on a daily basis. The satellites are powered through solar panels, and one of the more busy times of the year is during Equinox, when there is a solar eclipse for one hour a night. According to Optus, the satellites store up solar power in their batteries to ensure that the systems do not go down while the sun is blocked by the Earth.

The second room is the broadcast operations centre. This centre monitors the customer feeds being broadcast over the satellites.

Unfortunately, due to security concerns, ZDNet Australia was unable to take photos in either of the control rooms.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

The facility first opened over 25 years ago when the then-government-owned company Aussat launched its A1 satellite in 1985. As part of the deregulation of Australia's telecommunications industry, Singtel, as the first competitor to Telstra, was required to buy Aussat which then became Optus.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

A D series satellite model.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Another D series satellite model. It is expected that these satellites will remain in orbit for 18 or 19 years.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

The datacentre controls all the data coming in and going out to the satellites.

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10 of 16 Josh Taylor/ZDNet

(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Optus satellite customers include Foxtel, ABC, as well as the government's Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service that delivers digital television to regional and remote areas of Australia.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Each customer has its own rack for controlling their data.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

The Optus B2 satellite was destroyed at launch in 1992. According to the telco, debris from the satellite landed in a rice paddy in China.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Power amplifiers boost the power to the antennas.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

A rack controlling Foxtel data.

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(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

These are Defence Department racks. Optus provides satellite communications services to the Defence Department as well as for US government agencies in Antarctica.

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16 of 16 Josh Taylor/ZDNet

(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Optus plans to launch its next satellite in the D series, named the Optus 10, in 2013.

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