At KVH Industries, satellite antennas must survive the ride – or else. As a leading innovator in satellite Internet, voice, and television services for in-motion users at sea, on land, and in the air, KVH sees its TracPhone® and TracVision® antennas mounted everywhere from commercial cargo ships crossing the North Sea to U.S. Coast Guard cutters patrolling the coastline, and news-team vehicles chasing storms on unpaved roads.
That’s where the ride comes in: To ensure the antennas receive rigorous testing approximating real-life extreme conditions, KVH uses a dedicated testing facility adjacent to the company’s Middletown, Rhode Island, headquarters, equipped with a custom-made hexapod motion simulator called a Stewart Table.
“The motion table simulates realistic sea motions like those experienced on yachts and commercial vessels during really bad weather,” explains Brian Arthur, KVH’s VP -Product Development, “It enables us to test our products at 30 degrees tilt and pitch and roll, at velocities up to 45 degrees/second, and at accelerations up to 120 degrees/second² at a 2-second period.”
The motion simulator manipulates pistons and rotates huge gears to simulate realistic, tumultuous movements – made possible by the Stewart Table’s six legs, which all change length independently. KVH’s hexapod is positioned just inside the testing facility’s curved wall of polycarbonate windows, which were designed specifically to optimize the view of the satellites in the Clarke Belt. Orbiting 22,500 miles above the equator, those satellites provide TV and communications signals to KVH antennas.
Any satellite antenna mounted on top of the Stewart Table is moved – violently – through the six degrees of freedom deemed possible by laws of physics: three linear movements (lateral, longitudinal, and vertical) and three rotations (pitch, roll, and yaw). KVH’s fielded antennas must be capable of maintaining a lock on the satellite without any malfunctions due to vigorous or unexpected movement.
For KVH TracPhone and TracVision antennas, a ride on the hexapod is standard procedure during development – an important step in the process of ensuring maximum performance of the satellite antenna systems. If it’s a KVH satellite antenna, it has survived this wild ride, ensuring great tracking for users at sea, on land, and in the air.