Every mission that comes out of White Sands Missile Range requires specific cables used to read and produce important data that is vital in determining mission results. A small team within the TRAX International, LLC WSMR division dedicates itself to developing all of the cable work and fabrication for the entire installation.
Saul Gonzalez, technical services supervisor, said his team handles every cabling and fabrication work order that comes from a mission or test customer within the installation, including developing over 8,000 feet of radio frequency cables for Network Integration Evaluation. One work order for the shop could be anything from a cable repair to the fabrication of over 50,000 feet of cable, Gonzalez said.
“We have a good team of highly-specialized technicians who are dedicated to their work,” said Cisco Ortiz, TRAX electronic technician.
Gonzalez said his team works based off of work orders and each work order they receive is unique to the mission. The team must work closely with the customer to develop a precise outline of the cable being requested. Ortiz said customers will usually come in with just schematics of what they need. It is up to Ortiz and his team to determine what cables and connectors are needed and if the items are readily available. From there a level of importance is determined for the work order. Ortiz said most of the time a work order is a level one, meaning it is very important, because the cables are mission essential.
“When the material comes in we do a thorough inspection and start to fabricate it from there,” Ortiz said.
The timeline for the fabrication process varies depending on the complexity of the work order. Sometimes the work order requires developing an entirely new cable and sometimes it’s something as simple as cleaning out the wires.
Usually the team is asked to repair cables that have been mangled due to rodent bites. Gonzalez said because this is a recurring problem they now carry a special cable that is coated with cayenne pepper to prevent rodents from biting on the cable. The cables that have rodent bites on them are then repaired through connecters to complete the mission.
“We have to repair it so we don’t ruin the whole reel,” Ortiz said.
The team also handles typical repairs like repairing lucent connectors known as LC-Connectors, a connector typically used in cables that break out in the field. The team’s shop is equipped with a cable-tester machine that can detect any issues in cables simply by plugging it in and testing the continuity from end to end. Gonzalez said the machine is very popular among customers. The shop is also equipped with a fusion-splicer machine. The splicer has the ability to repair the entire cable by melting the fibers of the damaged area and fusing the remaining ends together. This is the only machine like its kind within the installation. Ortiz said bringing in the splicer was a big challenge but has proven to be very beneficial.
“Once we show customers what we’re capable of doing then they start requesting work,” Gonzalez said. “Customers come here because they know we can get it done. We’re unique to this place.”
Ortiz said more often than not the team has to reverse engineer a cable because the customer is unsure how it was developed.
“We usually make one cable to test out and proceed to whatever they need from there,” Ortiz said.
Gonzalez said most of the cables they now work with are made of fiber, a glass wire, and tactical fiber optic cable connectors known as TFOCA connectors. He said the majority of the cables are now made of fiber. Fiber is a faster form of transmitting data.
“It’s the best performance as far as moving data across a lot of equipment that’s being used,” Gonzalez said.