Cornwall or a comet, the process of radio planning and modelling is the same.
The remarkable images and data that the Philae lander has been relaying from a comet around 300 million miles from Earth represent astounding engineering but routine radio planning, according to ATDI managing director Peter Paul.
“Don’t get me wrong – the people behind Philae and the Rosetta orbiter are heroes and heroines to anybody who understands the first thing about engineering,” he says. “But, as to their radio planning, it’s what ATDI does on pretty much every day of the week.
“If you’re planning and modelling a mobile phone network in Cornwall and you’ve got a base station on top of a 200-foot mast or your transmitter is 300 million miles away on a comet, the principles are the same. You have to make certain the signal you want does not interfere with others and is not interfered with by others. Ensuring that for customers in the commercial, military and governmental sectors is how ATDI has built its reputation over the last 20 years.”
Peter notes that Philae is unlikely to be the cause of interference. With a one-watt transmitter, its signal when it hits Earth is likely to be around -277dBm.
Broadcasts from Philae and Rosetta are being monitored by the European Space Agency’s worldwide array of antennae, ESTRACK.
“These are highly-directional antennae using massive gain to gather as much of the signal as they can. It’s a very precious commodity and nobody wants to miss any – which is not dissimilar to how some people in Cornwall feel about the phone calls.”