The number of satellites in orbit is increasing – recent studies suggest that more than 900 satellites will be launched each year between 2020 and 2028. This includes not only Earth Observation constellations, but also numerous Internet of Things (IoT) constellations, unique science missions, and myriad other smallsat-based applications.
Despite this mission diversity, there is a common denominator: all satellites must communicate with the ground at least once in a while. This means that the global connectivity and data backhaul KSAT provides are increasingly important.
To support the increased number of satellites and the requirements from satellite owners, KSAT has brought ground station services to the next level. It is no longer one satellite accessed by one antenna at one location: the KSATLITE global network is fully integrated and operational. It consists of more than twenty antennas at KSAT’s worldwide locations, and the system is designed to provide full network centric operation.
Leveraging up-to-date Application Programming Interfaces (API), the overall network is flexible, dynamic and robust. Satellite owners and operators can interface directly with the KSAT scheduling database from their Mission Operation Centers (MOCs) - whether at a traditional MOC or in the cloud.
Image: KSATLITE customer interface, GUI built on KSAT APIs.
The development of KSATLITE was based on the key principles of ease-of-use, flexibility, and the reliability KSAT is known for. Its interfaces are clean and simple, and its design and implementation leverage experience from 50 years of satellite operations. Hence, KSAT has focused on sectors where we have a strong technological and operational experience.
The value chain associated with satellite manufacturing, launch, and operations has been reassessed in recent market studies, and a typical representation is displayed in the figure shown below. It shows significant growth and a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10–15% for satellite operations and related services. For satellite manufacturing the comparable numbers are 18–43%. While some players find it tempting to grasp as much as possible within this growing value KSAT has taken a different approach. By focusing on key elements in the value chain where we have unique know-how, KSAT can provide tailored and customer-optimized services. Innovation and new technology are fused into existing services, easing everyday life for the satellite owner, who then can focus on the satellite,the mission, and the end use, while KSAT provides the connectivity.
Today’s industry focus lies with integrating infrastructure elements (satellite operations) with value added services. In recent months, the focus on cloud storage and cloud computing have increased dramatically. Getting data into the cloud as fast as possible has been prioritized. At KSAT, we do not see this as the answer to all problems: providing Near Real-Time (NRT) services, where information must be extracted and delivered to the end user in less that 10 minutes, is not possible in a distributed all-cloud environment.
Actually, critical processes have to be moved closer to the data instead of sending the data to the process. KSAT has elected to execute vessel detection algorithms at the foot of the antenna itself. One could argue that ideally such algorithms would be performed onboard the satellite, but for practical reasons, ground-based processing and analysis is easier and more cost-effective. Over the last 12 months, KSAT has implemented the new integrated approach to several satellites supported by the company’s global network of ground stations.
KSAT has renewed its ground network operation, with Ground Stations as-a-service being refined and empowered with new technologies. Antennas to communicate with satellites are straightforward; integrated ground stations as-a-service such as KSAT provides, require unique expertise to execute well.
Read more about our Ground Station Services