One of the two undersea cables that connect the Norwegian archipelago of Spitsbergen in the North Atlantic with the Norwegian mainland has failed and there is currently no reserve for the connection of the world’s largest satellite ground station to the rest of the world. This was announced by the Norwegian state company Space Norway, which is responsible for the operation of the submarine cables. Both are over 1300 kilometers long. Last Friday it was found that one of the two cables is no longer working, the error is about 130 to 230 kilometers from Svalbard’s main town Longyearbyen, where the seabed drops from 300 meters to 2700 meters. A special cable ship is needed for repairs. How long this will take is still unclear.
Location advantage in the extremely far north
The Svalbard Undersea Cable System not only connects the two and a half thousand people on Svalbard – the official name of the archipelago – to the Internet and the rest of the world, but above all the world’s largest satellite ground station Svalbard satellittstasjon (SvalSat). With over 100 antennas Unlike almost everywhere else, satellites in a low polar orbit can be contacted once every time they orbit the earth. The station is operated by the semi-public company Kongsberg Satellite Services AS (KSAT). In order to connect the station safely and reliably to the global communication infrastructure, the two undersea cables were laid in 2003. Space Norway insures nowthat the second cable was working properly and that the failure merely lost the redundancy. Norway’s government too keeps an eye on the failure.
SvalSat was opened in 1997 and is an important part of the infrastructure of the space agencies NASA and ESA, but also of the European organization for the use of meteorological satellites Eumetsat. Among other things, this is used to establish contact with the earth observation satellites in the Copernicus program, explains the ESA. The station is also important for the Galileo satellite navigation system; some correction commands would be transmitted there, explains the ESA. At the same time, the facility is one of the most remote of its kind. Even the few kilometers long road to Spitsbergen’s main town, Longyearbyen, is regularly not passable, and the station’s two dozen-strong crew can work for a week or two without supplies. In addition, there is a real risk of attacks by polar bears, of which there are more than humans on the island.