Ku Band Satellite Truck
Mobile Ku band satellite transmissions for television broadcasts started in Canada, until the Conus Communications of St. Paul, MN along with Hubcom in Florida built the first SNG or Satellite News Gathering truck in 1983. Along with the truck, and later used vans purchased from Telesat in Canada, Conus developed a comms, or communications, system which allowed satellite transmissions without the need to drop phone lines. ENG, or Electronic News Gathering was never the same, and it was now possible to go 'live' from anywhere the truck could drive, by raising the antenna, and seeing the satellite.
The development of the mobile phone, and its decreasing cost of operation and hardware over the years means trucks didn't need a satellite "comms" system in most places in the continental United States. Satellite time was also easily booked on an 'as-needed' basis, typically around $500 per hour for the common Ku band TV transmission.
Over the years, Ku band Satellite trucks have undergone changes, from large trucks with C Band dishes outfitted with landing pads and antenna wings to make them FCC compliant to more simple rapidly deployable Ku band type. The Ku band uplink vehicles are available in a series of small to large vehicles varying from a SUV, van, Sprinter, "bread truck (cutaway)", to the more common carryall (2 axle/6 tire truck). The typical Ku uplink vehicles, are as large as 13 feet 6 inches tall by 40 feet long, the largest (Non tractor trailer type) commercial units allowed on the roads of the continental United States.
Satellite Vehicles are either TV station or network-owned and custom suited to their internal usage needs, or are rental units owned by independent companies. Independently owned satellite uplink vehicles are often designed to be versatile to performing multiple uplink functions ranging from straight uplink/downlink services, network news, satellite media tours, or even being configured to being a full production vehicle.
Such large uplink trucks now have multiple camera television production capabilities all on board, as pioneered by SDTV (Satellite Digital Teleproductions) in the early 1990s. These combination, uplink with production, Transportable Earth Station (TES) are now the preferred vehicle for smaller (One to eight camera) on location live television broadcast instead of a separate uplink vehicle working alongside a larger 50 foot tractor trailer production only vehicle, although the latter is still a regular occurrence.
There are a few combination production/uplink combination vehicles where the uplink system is located on the semi tractor and the production facilities are in the semi trailer. These systems add the ability to physically separate the uplink from the production unit. Typical scenarios for this are when the production trailer has to park inside a building or if the uplink antenna has to be positioned farther away from the production trailer in order to make line-of-sight to the satellite arc.
Larger Satellite vehicles are often television production control rooms (PCR) /Mobile Newsrooms/Workspaces on wheels, operated and maintained by broadcast engineers known as satellite truck operators. Both operators, of units large and small, are known to have a vagabond lifestyle, spending large parts of their lives on the road.
Now even a simple flyaway transportable units can be packed all into two suitcases, all small enough to be airline compliant. The smaller suitcase flyaway units are often used to supplement a build on location television control room or to provide satellite uplink facilities in locations where a truck cannot be easily transported.
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