The activities of the TT&C group at SANSA Space Operations is driven primarily by the needs of international clients in Europe and the USA mainly. The operational efficiencies that these clients require to remain competitiveness in the space industry have driven the consistently reliable performance of the Hartebeesthoek (HBK) station, which has established itself as the most reputable TT&C tracking station on the African continent.
In fact, as early as the late 1960s, the station's already growing reputation for excellent performance saw its specially trained TT&C staff selected to participate in the international geodetic experiment that provided the world's scientific community with the first measurements of continental drift.
The experiment was conducted on behalf of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey between 1967 and 1969. HBK and similar facilities in South America, photographed mutually visible Earth-orbiting satellites against a star background. The results enabled scientists to achieve extreme accuracy in the calculation of intercontinental distances.
Since 1984, Hartebeesthoek has supported close to 300 spacecraft in low-Earth orbits and high-altitude geostationary orbits. The ground station notched up an unprecedented 20 launch supports during 2010 alone, while maintaining service levels at 100%.
In August 2011, the ingenuity of the TT&C team was soundly tested with its first duel launch support, which orbited two telecommunications satellites primarily intended for television broadcast services: Superbird-7 for the Japanese operator Space Communications Corporation and AMC-21 for the American SES AMERICOM operator.
All manoeuvres were performed without fault and once again proved the team's technical competency to the international space community.
A month later, the team successfully supported the launch of the GeoEye-1 spacecraft. It is the world's highest resolution commercial eye-in-the-sky that promises to offer images that are sharper and with greater clarity than any other satellite launched before it.
Today, SANSA Space Operations provides services to most major satellite manufacturers, operators and space agencies world-wide. The TT&C capabilities of that staff and facilities at Hartebeesthoek enables the station to support any ground segment requirements, from the establishment of high-tech ground facilities such as antennas and ground stations, to the operation and maintenance of such facilities for international clients.
In addition to the 19 antennas, Hartebeesthoek also operates the South African Earth observation satellite, SumbandilaSat, and hosts an Orbcomm ground station.
The Orbcomm ground station belongs to specialist US satellite telecommunications company Orbcomm and consists of two identical radomes, which are the largest at Hartebeesthoek. They consist of ultra high-frequency planar arrays on which the antennas are mounted. Orbcomm's fleet of microsatellites in low-Earth orbit enable their clients to remotely track, manage and control their assets from almost anywhere in the world.