Interoperable, ultra-low profile, high-gain satcom on the move

 

Senior Vice President, Engineering

Trevor Lund

With all the naivete of youth, Trevor Lund dreamed of becoming an accident investigator, taking up a big-name automotive apprenticeship before rapidly falling to earth when the reality of being ‘pigeon-holed in car repairs’ bit.

But not for long. The inquisitive kid who ended up with a brown thumb after deconstructing a valve radiogram was on to the next big thing – broadcasting. He joined the BBC on an HF/RF broadcast engineering apprenticeship, a move that put him on a path to lifelong learning in the demanding field of design, installation, operation and maintenance of classified satellite systems around the world.

He launched satellites in French Guyana; gave special operations and other military forces satellite connections they could rely on; and was awarded Systems Design Authority roles for premier aerospace and defence companies. He successfully lobbied a UK prime minister to allow Royal Navy personnel to phone home on their own devices via an innovative and secure operating system of his devising. Now he is enjoying a return to commercial satcom, bringing “a bit of old school British engineering” to market, working with first-class international brains across the required engineering disciplines.

After the BBC apprenticeship, this instinctive entrepreneur quickly built up his own TV repair business. On holiday in the US, he came across a large, early Hispasat C-band satellite receiver dish in someone’s garden. There was nothing like this back home. He visited the company that supplied the hardware “for a bit of information”. That supplier later became Hughes EchoStar and Lund one of its European dealers. He largely supplied wealthy professionals who thought owning these dishes was ‘cool’. “Actually, it gave them just about three, mostly ‘late night’, movie channels.”

Eight years on, as a well-known regional satellite component supplier, he received a call from the BBC’s teleport in southwest England. The engineering team could not locate the satellite needed for one of the first televised satellite links for a football match. With just minutes to go, Lund had fixed it with a “beaten-up” satellite receiver backed by a calculation of the relative distance of a satellite broadcasting one of those old ‘late night’ movie channels which just happened to be broadcasting next to the satellite the BBC was trying to locate.

AS A FEW ENGINEERS WITH EXPENSIVE SPECTRUM ANALYSERS WERE LOOKING AT THEIR SHOES, Lund was given a pat on the back and a job offer. He rejoined the BBC and rose to spacecraft flier, doing tracking, telemetry and control initially and helping build up the teleport with massive, high-frequency antennas bouncing signals off the ionosphere to get around the world to Ascension Island. He was filling the void between radio feeds – and circumnavigating the globe in his imagination.

And then the BBC sold its teleport. It passed, with Lund, through the hands of Merlin Communications and Vosper Thorneycroft to Babcock (today). This led to a European Space Agency contract, managing an Earth station at the Ariane spacecraft launch site in French Guyana. As operations mission controller, he would use an 18-metre antenna above the launch site to track spacecraft, transmitting telemetry and receiving maintenance and performance information. After launch and ejection, he would command the solar panels to unfold and the ion engines to accelerate. “As you set it to apogee and perigee, the spacecraft would flick out to a bigger orbit beyond LEO into the Clarke Belt. Then you would decelerate and geolocate.” Monitoring and commanding activities followed as the satellite moved over Chile, Spain, Australia, and then over the horizon to Sweden and back ‘home’ to the launch site. “It was very intense. Launch generates a huge adrenalin rush with everyone focusing on their zones.” Lund saw a launcher self-destruct. “Years of endeavour and a whole mission up in smoke. People cried.”

I was passionate about advancing comms for the next-generation fighter jet to follow Eurofighter Typhoon but the lure of working in commercial satcom was greater. I wanted to bring an enterprise-grade satcom-on-the-move antenna to market at a fraction of the cost of military arrays, while unlocking multi-channel, intra-orbit connectivity.

Some 30 launches later and Lund returned to the UK where, over 12 years, he worked for a succession of companies that were associated with or became Airbus. He started with Spacecraft Systems Design Authority at Skynet, the military satellite constellation dating back to the 1950s and still flying. He designed and built the ground systems for Skynet 5, running a large DIS (Design & Integration Services) team upgrading station systems ready for the launch of the new Eurostar E3000 spacecraft. Further programmes involved the EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia consortium to construct the Al Yah 1 satellite for the UAE’s Armed Forces.

Lund moved to STS Defence as Chief Engineer and Systems Design Authority to pursue a driving ambition: to improve shipboard communications for those serving onboard UK Navy vessels. A two-minute phone call home via shipboard comms in the internet age was nowhere near enough for potential UK Royal Navy recruits in the iPhone era. A BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) solution was imperative. Lund had in mind a secure Wi-Fi network, independent of operational systems. However, the Royal Navy did not have a budget to cover it. A service welfare charity became involved, resulting in publicity that propelled Lund into the office of the First Sea Lord, with UK Prime Minister David Cameron also there. The PM said: ”This is a really good programme. Keep going, we’ll find the money.” Lund went on to deliver the BOYD system (Maritime Multimedia) in a year in partnership with Paradigm, the world’s first commercial NATO- and MAC1-compliant satellite communications company.

At aerospace, defence and security technology company Leonardo, Lund was Systems Design Authority and Executive Head of Satcom Engineering on Team Tempest for a year, assessing communications for the next-generation fighter jet to follow the Eurofighter Typhoon. However, the lure of working in commercial satcom led him to Hanwha Phasor and the prospect of producing an enterprise-grade satcom antenna costing a fraction of military arrays, while unlocking multi-channel, intra-orbit connectivity.

Its modularity particularly appeals. “Customers always want an upgrade path but we can meet link requirements precisely with asynchronous receive-and-transmit combinations ‘on the move’ and ‘on the pause’.” And since he knows so much about it, he can see opportunities in space.

For now, Lund’s feet are firmly on the ground in the drive to release Hanwha Phasor’s first antenna for land and maritime applications.

Trevor Lund’s qualifications from the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) include Certified Systems Engineering Professional. He is an Airbus Blackbelt System Design Authority.

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