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Tobyhanna takes on worldwide satellite communications project

by Anthony Ricchiazzi

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (Army News Service, March 27, 1998) -- Tobyhanna has embarked on a multi-million dollar mission to install and test a wide variety of Defense Satellite Communications Systems at sites located worldwide.

Additionally, Tobyhanna will provide orientation training to field users at select sites. Approximately 102 Department of Defense satellite sites comprise the DSCS network.

On Jan. 15, Lt. Col. Valerie Rasmussen, product manager, Defense Satellite Communications System Installations, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command Systems Management center and Tobyhanna forged a new partnership by signing a Memorandum of Agreement for DSCS Installations.

"This MOA initializes the first steps towards posturing ourselves for future partnerships," said Jim Mangino, Satellite Communications Systems director. "This new bond further solidifies our working relationship with CECOM."

"Our basic mission is to install, integrate, and test DSCS earth terminals and related items," said Frank Noone, project manager for the mission. "We will also provide production services for the fabrication, assembly, wiring and integration of equipment to meet individual installation site requirements."

Examples of SATCOM equipment that Tobyhanna will be installing are the AN/GSC-52 and AN/GSC-39 Strategic Ground Terminals with OE-371 and OE-222 Antenna Units and a wide variety of Digital Communications Satellite Subsystem equipment.

"All directorates will be involved; however, the lead will be taken by SATCOM's Site Staging and Strategic Terminals Divisions," Noone said. "Work performed on-site will include cable fabrication and fiber optics as well as component and system installation."

Tobyhanna will also provide emergency on-site technical assistance for each site after the installation is completed.

Installation is completed in three phases. The first phase is a site survey conducted by the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., with Tobyhanna's participation.

The survey will identify specific requirements for each site; each is unique, depending upon the amount of communications traffic involved.

After the survey, an Engineering Installation Plan is prepared by USAISEC personnel which delineates the site-specific installation requirements. Phase three comprises the actual system installation and testing/acceptance.

Depot personnel have already solved a challenge involving the radomes (ray-domes) which protect some of the antennas.

"The radomes must be removed to replace the 40-foot satellite antenna," Noone said. "The problem was that each radome had to be manually dismantled in the past. This is a very labor-intensive and costly task. We thought there must be a better way."

Mechanical engineer Gene Curran and electronics integrated systems mechanic Bill Stevens Jr. theorized that instead of taking the entire radome apart, only the top portion, which is fiberglass supported by aluminum struts, needed to be removed.

Using Computer Aided Engineering finite element mechanical simulations, they developed a method for safely removing only the top section, which reduced the time required over the manual method from eight weeks to five days.

Tobyhanna's team was able to prove the theory at the initial installation of an OE-222 Antenna at CECOM from Jan. 26 through Feb. 7.

"The depot team did an outstanding job despite facing the worst rain storm in the Monmouth area since 1992," Noone said.

"The mission was completed on schedule and within cost. We could not have completed this mission so successfully without the dedication and hard work of the installation team and the exceptional support provided by all depot organizations," said Dominic Cusatis, Strategic Terminals Division chief.

"None of this work is new to us," Noone pointed out. "We have the capability and technical know-how already. "The most difficult aspect will be getting the necessary number of people trained in a relatively short time."

Noone said the engineers and technicians involved in the new workload look forward to the challenges which lie ahead on future installations.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest facility for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of hundreds of communications-electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Approximately 3,100 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

(Editor's note: Ricchiazzi is a public affairs specialist at Tobyhanna Army Depot.)



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