A test build of the antenna at the manufacturer's Texas site...source: the
RIES Construction Camera information tab on the USAP webcam page.
Another non-AIMS project underway during 2018-19 was site preparation for the Ross Island Earth Station (RIES) project, which will replace the current Black Island satellite terminal and provide significantly greater bandwidth for data transmission, communication, and internet (Black Island will remain as a backup). The new earth station is located on the northwest corner of the "T-site Plateau" and include a 13-meter antenna housed inside of a 21m radome. Some site information below:
The effort during the 2018-19 season included leveling the hilltop site...drilling holes for explosive blasts and then clearing more than 55,000 cubic yards of material from about two acres of the site. Additionally, some of the cable tray supports for power and communications were installed between the site and the existing T-Site building 221. The earth station will eventually be connected to the "IT&C Primary." The antenna dish will look north to access satellites to be launched by a NOAA partnership which "includes the NOAA collaboration with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT). EUMETSAT will launch a series of enhanced satellites beginning in Fall 2021 that will outstrip the current capacity of the present BITF satellite communications infrastructure supporting the collaboration between NSF and NOAA." The antenna vendor was General Dynamics Satcom; that company was later purchased by Communications & Power Industries. Its components arrived in McMurdo on the January 2019 resupply vessel. And more recently, in February 2019, DataPath, Inc. was awarded a prime contract from ASC/Leidos to provide software and integration support to the RIES project, per their 19 February 2019 press release.
Most of the information in the previous paragraphs, including the three drawings above as well as significant additional details, appear in the RIES project environmental document submitted to the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat in December 2017 and available here, it is from the Antarctic Treaty EIA database. The photo of the rock drill at work is from David Huntsman.
Since 2018-19, that pesky pandemic intervened to slow construction...but in 2021-22 the project was being completed.