KSAT (Kongsberg Satellite Services) Global Ground Station Network
KSAT is the world-leading company for maritime monitoring and surveillance services using satellite-based data from several radars- and optical services. 1)
KSAT provides unbiased multi-mission near real-time services providing accurate information based on satellites to users worldwide in less than 20 minutes from data acquisition. The combination of KSAT ground station network and services is unrivalled.
Kongsberg Satellite Services AS (KSAT) is a Norwegian company, uniquely positioned to provide ground station and earth observation services for polar-orbiting satellites. With three interconnected polar ground stations; Tromsø at 69°N, Svalbard (SvalSat) at 78°N and Antarctic TrollSat Station at 72°S, combined with a mid-latitude network of stations in South Africa, Dubai, Singapore and Mauritius, KSAT operates over 60 antennas optimally positioned for access to polar and geostationary orbiting satellites.
KSAT, with HQs in Tromsø, Norway, provides an extensive Ground Network consisting of stations ideally located at both poles and at handpicked mid-latitude locations to ensure continuous access to your satellites. 2)
Figure 1: Overview of the KSAT Global Ground Network (image credit: KSAT)
Pioneering the industry for over 50 years, KSAT has established a unique knowledge base and has perfected a well proven “build–operate-integrate” service concept.
The KSAT global network offers links in the following frequencies bands:
• Operational K-band.
“KSAT focuses on end-to-end services. It is one thing to build ground stations, but to provide dependable end-to-end services where data is reliably delivered is something else.” Statement of Rolf Skatteboe, CEO an President of KSAT.
Svalbard Satellite Ground Station, the unique location at 78º North – almost at the North Pole – ensures a complete coverage that provides access to every orbit – 14 of 14. It is today recognized as the best-located ground station in the world for satellite control. In combination with the Antarctic, Troll Satellite Ground Station, located at 72º South, KSAT offers a truly unique Pole-to-Pole capability.
Supporting missions from both Svalbard and Troll allows for global data acquisition and TT&C twice every orbit, enabling rapid data access worldwide, with baseline latency of 45-minutes for LEO spacecraft.
In addition, the KSAT ground station in Inuvik, Punta Arenas, and Nuuk are all extremely important additions to the KSAT Global Network. Strategically located on the far south tip of the South American continent, the Punta Arenas station completes the global coverage footprint operating perfectly in concert with the KSAT Antarctic Station. They complement each other and in combination, they provide a unique capacity in the southern hemisphere that is unparalleled in the market.
The KSAT stations at Inuvik and Greenland likewise complement the Svalbard Station, providing even more capacity in the northern hemisphere. KSAT also provides optimized locations in mid-latitude regions. These stations provide strategic locations for direct reception of satellite data to reduce data latency.
Ka-band Support: Due to requirements for larger data rates from space to ground, KSAT has invested in brand-new state-of-the-art Ka-band solutions for its customers. The Pole-to-Pole service is available and operational in Ka-band from key locations. Due to low precipitation rates, the Arctic and Antarctica deserts of SvalSat and TrollSat are ideally located to receive Ka-band data. KSAT can also provide solutions in Ka-band from optimized sites in the mid-latitude regions.
Figure 2: Overview of KSAT service provision with its global ground station network (image credit: KSAT)
• TT&C Services: KSAT provides TT&C (Telemetry, Tracking and Command) services for LEO satellites. Available from its global and integrated network in S-band and UHF/VHF frequencies.
• Data Acquisition Services: KSAT Data Acquisition services are provided from the global network, for real-time acquisition and data dump of on-board storage in S-, X-, Ka-, C-, L- and UHF-band. We also provide advanced data processing and distribution to any place in the world.
• Data Communication Solutions: KSAT provides complete end-to-end data backhaul solutions, from the satellite to customer sites worldwide (Customer Data Centre or Mission Control Centre). Through a close partnership with telecommunication providers, we guarantee reliable and cost-efficient solutions.
• Hosting & Maintenance Services: KSAT provides hosting and maintenance services to a number of satellite operators within the navigation and satellite communication segments. The long-term operational experience of KSAT in implementation at locations worldwide, and the ability to understand local conditions, facilitate and adapt to different environments, assures the best hosted network solutions for our customers.
• Launch and Early Orbit Support: The operations during LEOP (Launch and Early Operations Phase) are among the most critical of a mission. Supporting launch vehicle and payload in this critical phase is an art brought to perfection by KSAT. Through an extensive set of strategically located ground stations around the globe, KSAT is capable to tailor its support map to fit every launch trajectory.
• KSATlite: The Lite-concept is a low-cost Global Ground network, optimized for small satellites and big constellations. The small-aperture, global ground network, where the standardized and scalable services, are catered to the specific needs of the fast growing New Space- and SmallSat industry.
Figure 3: As of October 2020, KSAT has 24 ground station sites around the world for satellite data reception, Svalbard is the world's largest and uniquely located at 78º North. The Svalbard Satellite Station is also referred to as SvalSat. SvalSat, located only 1200 km south of the North Pole on Spitsbergen, is recognized as the most optimally located ground station in the world for satellite control. Today SvalSat comprises a state of the art station building operated by a team of skilful and experienced engineers and operators 24/7 365 days a year. The SvalSat site offers a large amount of flexibility for our customers and has a vast potential for further expansion. (image credit: KSAT)
KSAT development and status
• May 5, 2021: KSAT is rapidly installing antennas around the world to keep pace with the dramatic rise in small satellite activity. 3)
- In 2021 alone, Norway-based KSAT is on track to add 42 antennas to KSATlite, its network that supports small satellite constellations. At the end of 2020, that network included 22 antennas.
Figure 4: KSAT's global ground station network includes 100 antennas in Svalbard, Norway. The company reached the milestone earlier this year when it installed a large Ka-band antenna there. KSAT's global network includes 200 antennas (immage credit: KSAT)
- In the span of six months, from September 2020 to March 2021, traffic on the KSATlite network grew as quickly as it did for KSAT’s overall network between 2010 and 2018, Rolf Skatteboe, KSAT CEO and president told SpaceNews by email. “The main reason for this is that all of the satellite operators are expanding their fleet, moving from that one satellite to a constellation of many,” he added.
- Traffic on the KSATlite network doubled from 10,000 satellite passes per month to 20,000 satellite passes in the span of six months in 2020. By June, the network is likely to handle 30,000 passes because it already is exceeding 1,000 daily passes. — KSAT sees no signs of the growth rate slowing.
- “On the contrary, looking at the number of new satellites in the pipeline and the launch frequency this is a continuing trend,” Amund Nylund, KSAT chief operations officer, said in a statement. “We believe this reflects the current pace of the commercial space industry and speaks to the success of the KSATlite product in this fast-growing market.”
- KSAT has added eight antennas to its KSATlite network this year. Another 34 have been ordered as the company prepares to deploy two to three antennas per month “spread all over the globe, from Svalbard [Norway] in the north to Troll [Antarctica] in the south,” said KSAT spokeswoman Nina Soleng. In addition to expanding capacity at existing ground station sites, KSAT is evaluating new sites.
- KSAT executives also attribute the growth in traffic to the flexibility the company has built into the KSATlite network.
- “Traditionally the satellite defined the requirements for the ground station, consequently the ground stations had to adopt mission-specific equipment,” Soleng said. “KSAT standardized the ground station and if the satellite owner implemented the ground stations requirements, they would get a generic interface to the ground. This network-centric approach increases operational flexibility and reduces cost.”
• December 21, 2020: Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) and the US based satellite operator Maxar have prolonged and extended an existing contract related to data reception from and control of Maxar existing and coming Earth Observation Satellites. 4)
- «The cooperation with Maxar is important for KSAT and this contract strengthens KSAT’s position as the world leading provider of Ground stations as a service. Satellite data reception and control is a key competence for KSAT», said Rolf Skatteboe, President and CEO of KSAT.
- The service will be delivered from several ground stations in the KSAT network which spans more than 25 locations worldwide, and KSAT will build two new stations in Australia and in Maspalomas, the Canary Islands to support Maxar. The antennas are controlled from the Tromsø Network Operation Centre, (TNOC) located at the Headquarters of KSAT in Tromsø, Norway. The contract will strengthen the company’s position as a world’s leading provider of services related to satellite operation, data reception and control.
• October 17, 2020: FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about the ground-breaking rainforest monitoring project lead by KSAT. One month after the announcement, people from all over the world have reached out, showing their interest and wondering when and where they can get access to this information. The partners have released a video and compiled frequently asked questions giving a flavor of what is to come and how it will be accessible. 5)
- The service itself will launch at the end of October. We are currently in the set up phase and busy readying everything in time for launch day. After launch is when the data as well as the 24/7 support becomes available.
- Together with Planet, Airbus and Norway’s International Climate and Forests Initiative (NICFI), we have released this video providing some more information about the background for the project, where important voices from all over the world explains the importance of making the information available for all. The partners have also compiled frequently asked questions in a document to give a flavor of what is to come and how it will be accessible.
Figure 5: Planet, KSAT And Airbus Awarded First-Ever Global Contract To Combat Deforestation. Norway's Ministry of Climate and Environment today awarded an international contract to Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), who, together with Planet and Airbus, will provide universal access to high-resolution satellite monitoring of the tropics in order to support efforts to stop deforestation and save the world’s tropical forests (video credit: KSAT) .
• 09 October 2020: KSAT has delivered more than 20,000 passes on the KSATlite network in September. This is an all-time-high for LITE, doubling the number of supports per month since January this year, and the growth seems to be continuing. 6)
- KSATlite is KSAT's easy-to-use ground network solution offering optimized support for Smallsats and big constellations. The offered solution has gained popularity in the Smallsat marketplace and is currently experiencing high demand. At the beginning of the year, the KSATlite network accounted for 10,000 contacts out of the 50,000 monthly contacts on the KSAT global network. By the end of September that number was more than 20,000.
- “The growth we see now confirms that the way we operate matches perfectly the specific needs of customers in this market segment, both on solutions and price point says Kristian Jenssen, Director of KSATlite. “It makes me extremely proud to see that the automated systems we have developed are scaling up seamlessly, and that we are able to handle both LEOP (Launch and Early Orbit Phase) and big constellation support with just a small team.”
- The strong growth is caused by several factors but clearly indicates a vibrant and growing commercial space industry despite COVID -19. The total volume is growing due to the number of customers, the number of satellites launched, as well as the number of contacts required by both new and existing customers.
Figure 6: KSAT passed 20,000 contacts in September 2020 on the KSATlite Smallsat Network (image credit: KSAT)
The sky is not the limit
- KSATlite is set up with a software-optimized scheduling system. Leveraging up-to-date Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enables efficient support for even the big LEO broadband and IoT constellations and the team is experienced in handling Launch vehicle, LEOP, and in-orbit support ensuring mission success throughout spacecraft lifecycle.
- Since August the LITE-team has provided LEOP support for close to thirty satellites on 6 launchers, 3 of them within the same week, thus demonstrating an unmatched ability to tackle high volumes across the network as well as simultaneous support capacity.
- “We have good reason to believe that this growth will continue. The sky is not the limit as they say, continues Kristian. “Easy integration of new missions means new satellites can easily be added. It’s a scalable system that allows satellite operators to scale their ground communications support as the constellation grows- and technically our systems are ready for another doubling.”
- It makes me extremely proud to see that the automated systems we have developed are scaling up seamlessly, and that we are able to handle both LEOP and big constellation support with just a small team says Kristian Jenssen, Director KSATlite.
• June 28, 2019: Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) has been chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to deliver ground station services for NASAs new satellites. 7)
- The agreement requires KSAT to expand its Pole to Pole network with high frequency Ka-band on Svalbard and in Punta Arenas. The contract greatly strengthens KSAT’s position as a supplier of ground station services.
- “This strategically important agreement shows we are world leading and the only actor capable of delivering operational services on Ka-band. This service will considerably increase bandwidth enabling NASA to transmit information faster and more reliably,” said KSAT Chief Executive Officer, Rolf Skatteboe.
- The service for the period 2020 – 2023 is valued at 40 MNOK (4.4 MUSD) and for the period 2020 – 2037 the value is estimated at 132 MNOK (14.9 MUSD). The work will be coordinated from KSAT Tromsø Network Operations Centre (TNOC) located at the company head office in Tromsø.
- KSAT provides services associated with both data reception and control of satellites in polar orbit. Stations in the Arctic (Svalbard) and the Antarctic (Troll) constitute the foundation of our “Pole to Pole” concept which makes possible the delivery of community-critical services, such as meteorological, every 50 minutes.
• July 10, 2019: For more than thirty years Norwegian company KSAT (Kongsberg Satellite Services) has been running and operating ground stations to receive data from satellites. Their other focus lies on services around the actual data. KSAT provides near real time monitoring services, which means that data is collected and delivered as a product less than ten minutes after the capture. KSAT President Rolf Skatteboe explains how clients have been using these data. 8)
- Of the 23 KSAT ground stations spread around the globe, consisting of more than 170 remotely controlled antennas, around ten of them are used for earth observation services. KSAT data hub and Headquarters are in Norway. KSAT also provides optimized locations for satellites in polar, inclined and equatorial orbits.
Sat data in the cloud
- KSAT customers include both public and commercial users who have urgent, time-sensitive, operational requirements, as well as satellite owners and operators. For its data, KSAT is running a private cloud. “It’s compatible to other clouds. We can work with Amazon cloud, Google Cloud and Microsoft, to mention a few. At this moment, we do not have any specific government using cloud data, it is all private.”
- As to a specific focus area, the maritime sector is of importance: “Ship detection is a big thing these days. When piracy was at its peak, one of the challenges was the size of the boats. Some pirates have wooden boats, which are difficult to see from a radar. But now the quality of software solutions has increased, as have the number of satellites, so these services became much more useful.” Radar images form the basis of this service, in combination with the Automatic Identification system for ships. “Every ship of certain size needs to inform who they are, but they can fake it, so it is not that secure .... it just helps to identify the good guys. The identification system merely limits the number of ships that a satellite needs to look at.” There are different ways of doing analytics as well. “If you take a fishing vessel as an example, it would act in a specific ‘fishing pattern’. And if a tanker is going from A to B and, suddenly, it is doing something else, you would really like to look at it.”
Satellites adopting to ground station
- The other focus within KSAT is to make a satellite adopt to the ground station as opposed to a ground station adopting to the satellite. “When you build a satellite, you are focusing on that thing you are building; it is the dearest thing in your life. And you design it only with your own requirements in mind. Only later you will realize that you need to record the data once it’s on the ground. And suddenly, you will need a ground segment, which becomes super expensive if you have a lot of very special stuff on your satellite. But of course, that can be fixed. We can help you with that.”
Figure 7: Rolf Skatteboe, President of KSAT during World Satellite Business Week in Paris, France (photo: Geospatial World)
Ground stations where the market asks for it
- With the amount of ground stations that KSAT currently owns, its growth path is to develop ground stations where the market asks for it, instead of deciding where to build the next one. “We try to help the market to optimize their investments. For example, if a customer wants to have a ground station in Australia, where we already have one in New Zealand, we will ask if they really need it to be in Australia. or it is better to share the cost and come to New Zealand. And we have seen that happen. The predicted number of satellites are high and there are 1500 flying satellites and 3500 predicted launches to be conservative.”
- Right now, IoT applications are coming. The Internet of Things, tracking devices, that’s a short answer, different types of tracking devices. Stuff that moves and stuff that you want to control from space from many locations. It needs to be faster by default. You cannot monitor a tracker once in every three days. That is why you need more satellites, smaller satellites, cheaper satellites. It is an interesting business and area. On the application side, I personally think the maritime surveillance is focused on illegal fishery and ship detection. There, IoT will be a good market.”
• September 22, 2020: Planet, KSAT and Airbus Awarded First-Ever Global Contract to Combat Deforestation. 9)
- Norway’s Ministry of Climate and Environment today awarded an international contract to Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), who, together with Planet and Airbus, will provide universal access to high-resolution satellite monitoring of the tropics in order to support efforts to stop deforestation and save the world’s tropical forests. Through this program, the coalition of three geospatial organizations will bring new technologies and transparency to advance the mission of Norway’s International Climate and Forests Initiative (NICFI). This contract, valued up to 405M NOK (~$43.5M, ~37M €), is designed to protect the world’s tropical forests and provide sustainable pathways to economic development for forest communities and countries.
- “This will revolutionize global forest monitoring. Better insight into what is happening in the rainforests will enhance efforts to protect these priceless ecosystems”, says Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment.
- This unique and distinct partnership between the public and private sectors is the result of a comprehensive public procurement process led by Norway, with the ambition to utilize technology and data to help facilitate solutions towards the global challenge of tropical deforestation. Planet will provide high-resolution (sub-5m per pixel) Basemaps of the full tropics, covering over 64 developing countries, updated every month. These will be freely available for anyone to view and use through Norway’s technology partners like Global Forest Watch. Additionally, beginning in mid-October, anyone will be able to download the analysis-ready monthly Basemaps of these regions through Planet’s online satellite imagery platform, Planet Explorer, for the purpose of supporting NICFI’s mission. Planet, KSAT and Airbus will also work with select Norwegian partners to share the original image data, providing key global science and policy leaders with Planet’s daily imagery and Airbus’s unique high-resolution archive.
- “Revolutionizing satellite data so we could see deforestation happening fast enough to stop it was one of the key reasons we founded Planet nine years ago,” said Will Marshall, CEO and co-founder of Planet. “We are honored to partner with Norway, KSAT and Airbus on this global crisis. Norway has taken a systematic approach to measuring natural capital in the key area of tropical forests, demonstrating the way to enable the transition to a sustainable economy.”
- This comprehensive offer is part of a team led by KSAT, the world-leading provider of Ground Station services and Earth Observation products drawing from the largest portfolio of satellites, who is the first point of contact and technical support for this Contract.
- Aerospace industry pioneer Airbus is also on the team and is uniquely positioned to contribute to the project with its huge archive of SPOT high resolution imagery, dating back to 2002-2015. Airbus’ SPOT satellites paved the way for the commercial use of satellite images by allowing coverage of large areas in record time for this resolution. This imagery archive represents a unique historical heritage at this scale to monitor the evolution of our planet over time.
- “Our satellites have been monitoring the Earth for over thirty-five years, supporting a wide range of environmental initiatives fighting deforestation. Our unique library of millions of square kilometers of imagery, built over decades, is a key asset in the fight against deforestation,” said François Lombard, head of Intelligence Business at Airbus Defence and Space. “Indeed our SPOT-5 archive will allow users to go back in time and understand the processes that led to the current situation, in order to help prevent them from happening again in the future.”
- One of the most compelling cases for these joint technical capabilities is monitoring and measuring forests by working with leaders in the international community. Satellite imagery is currently being utilized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to monitor and protect the forests in Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico and Mozambique. While Global Forest Watch is providing access to geospatial data to the public through the NICFI contract, it’s also working with the Forest Development Authority in Liberia, Amazon Conservation Association (ACA) and many more. It is clear that a global coalition is required to make a considerable impact on the 28 million hectares of forests being cut down every year while working to protect what is left.
- “We are pleased to bring together two industry-leading providers of optical satellite imagery in this disruptive initiative by NICFI and the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and the Environment. By providing high resolution satellite images and making them publicly available, KSAT will contribute to a needed transparency with the goal to stop global deforestation,” said Rolf Skatteboe, president and CEO of KSAT. “This contract is important to KSAT and our joint effort aligns perfectly with our other global environmental monitoring and protection initiatives.”
Figure 8: Global map showing the extent of monthly Planet Basemaps to be provided through the partnership for tropical forest monitoring 2020 (image credit: Planet Labs Inc.)
• December 15, 2017: “This is a very special milestone for Kongsberg Satellite Services. Looking back to when it all started exactly fifty years ago we’ve had an impressive and tremendous development from a handful of employees at the start to more than 160 today”, says Rolf Skatteboe, President of Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT). 10)
Figure 9: For half a Century data from satellites has been downloaded to the arctic city of Tromsø (video credit: Kongsberg Gruppen,Ove Ronny Haraldsen)
- Since the first space industry establishment in Tromsø in 1967 for research related activities, Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) has grown to become a world leading and global commercial provider of satellite tracking and control, launch support and data reception.
- “This is a very special milestone for Kongsberg Satellite Services. Looking back to when it all started exactly fifty years ago we’ve had an impressive and tremendous development from a handful of employees at the start to more than 160 today”, says Rolf Skatteboe, President of Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT).
- KSAT has grown to be the world largest provider of ground station services for satellites. Today KSAT communicates with satellites more than 33,000 times a month. KSAT has more than 130 antennas installed on 25 different locations worldwide.
“A Shining Star”
- The main control center is located in Tromsø, Norway. In Tromsø, KSAT currently collects satellite data from its stations worldwide – from Svalbard in the north to the Antarctic in the south.
- The main station on the island of Svalbard is the largest in the world for reception of satellite data from polar orbiting satellites. This station is the only station in the world that can download data from the satellites every time they fly around the earth, (14 times per day), thus enabling rapid delivery of weather data and services like oil spill monitoring- and vessel detection to users all over the world.
- Eline Oftedal from the Norwegian Industrial Forum for Space Activities states: “KSAT has been very dedicated over very many years. They have seen opportunities and seized them and built on it. I think they are extremely good at turning around fast when the market is changing. KSAT is a shining star in the Norwegian space industry”.
Figure 10: On May 17, 1968, the team at Tromsø Telemetry Station was able to celebrate that the first support of a satellite launch from the new station in Tromsø was successful. Extensive preparations had paid off - the satellite was in orbit (image credit: KSAT)
- In 1967, the Tromsø satellite station was constructed in an elevated position with views of the town. As Tromsø is north of the Arctic Circle, the station is able to download data from polar orbiting satellites at almost every pass.
- The establishment of space related services in Tromsø was primarily for research activities, while today KSAT is a world leading commercial provider of important ground station services.
- “Some of the space activities cradle is here in Tromsø. 50 years ago, the first satellite receiving station was build and the main task was to communicate with polar orbiting satellites. After that, we initiated the activities at Svalbard 20 years ago. 15 years ago, KSAT was founded based on the legacy of the first receiving station here in Tromsø”, says Rolf Skatteboe.
Oil Spill and Vessel Detection
- With three interconnected polar ground stations at Tromsø, Svalbard and Antarctica, and a growing mid-latitude network, KSAT operates about 130 antennas world-wide, optimally positioned for access to polar orbits.
- The Tromsø Network Operations Centre is staffed 24/7-365 days, and remotely operating facilities around the world as one single interconnected network.
What can you say about the years to come for KSAT?
- “The years to come are interesting. Receiving information from satellites is one thing, but using the information for important services like ship detection and oil spill detection and environmental monitoring is where we are heading. These days the quest against illegal fishing is something that we are focusing strongly on”, concludes Skatteboe.
• January 21, 2016: Norway-based Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) is adapting its ground network to cater to the growing small satellite market. The company has launched 20 ground station sites across the globe through its KSAT Lite services, which aims to reduce cost and up utility for SmallSat customers who need everything, including costs, to be, well, smaller. 11)
- “Smaller satellites are sometimes using different frequencies, such as UHF or VHF, instead of traditional S- or X-band. Some of them are flying in lower orbits so they can use smaller antenna dishes. On the other hand, there are more of them so they sometimes need more antennas. We call it the ten-times game: 10-times smaller, 10-times cheaper, 10-times faster and they are looking for 10-times lower cost,” KSAT President Rolf Skatteboe told Via Satellite.
- Over the last year or so, the company noticed that the small satellite market was expanding and Skatteboe felt it was important to have a service offering that is tailored to that market and scaled to the actual requirements of SmallSat operators.
- “We saw that a number of the new comers were trying to use whatever technology was available,” said Skatteboe. “You don’t necessarily take the big truck out of the garage when you only need a small electric car.”
- The company sat down and looked to work out what those specs might be, to standardize the system and propose a network with a common interface that would be more efficient to build. Already, lead-time to build a new site or antenna is down to about 12 months for a large system to three months for a smaller system.
- We are trying to standardize everything and simplify the interfaces. We are using 3.7-meter antennas, and sometimes 4.2 meters,” said Skatteboe, speaking to the KSAT Lite offering for SmallSats. And while the company has received skepticism surrounding the size of the antennas, KSAT finds this has been sufficient thus far to capture downlinked data from SmallSats. “Our experience is that this gives sufficient G/T margins. In general, there are a lot of margins in space and our experience is that you can get by with smaller systems than anticipated. We are encouraging our partners to standardize as well. X- and S-band are great frequencies, but licensing might be a problem. We are suggesting Ka-band, but are trying to avoid UHF and VHF due to local interference.”
- KSAT is now operating around 100 antennas around the world and is communicating with more than 70 satellites approximately 22,000 times every month. Skatteboe says that about one in every 10 operational contracts they have is with a SmallSat operator and they are working with around 15 to 20 small satellite users.
- Currently, the company tries to support the most common SmallSat orbits by minor augmentations of the existing KSAT network, hence the stations are polar and optimized toward the International Space Station (ISS) orbits since a lot of small satellites are released from the ISS, according to Skatteboe. These tend to be around the mid-latitude There are also ground stations that offer access to pole-to-pole support for users that require more frequent access.
- The company encourages customers in similar regions to share ground stations in order to cut costs. “For example, if there is a user in Australia who would like a station and one user in New Zealand who would also like to put one in, we would approach both companies and suggest they share the ground station in a location that is useful for both of them in order to save on operations costs,” explained Skatteboe.
- For SmallSat customers, making the ground stations more cost effective allows them to build more ground stations as they add more satellites to their constellations, which often start out small and then scale up as their companies and missions gain speed.
- “A lot of small satellites are in constellations and they start with a batch of just a few, five or 10, and then they scale up afterward. A lot of the startups would like to see that the systems are working before they deploy a full ground segment to capture all the data, so with this we can have a scalable solution for them,” Skatteboe said.
- The current 20-station network is scaled to meet the requirements SmallSat customers see today. While Skatteboe anticipates that demand will continue to rise in the booming small satellite market, he doesn’t anticipate the company will see demand increasing indefinitely as steeply as it is has in the past year.
- “There are a number of players out there that have proposals for quite a number of satellites, but we anticipate there will be a consolidation in the market,” he said. “While some of these companies will certainly be around, this seems to be something of a ‘satellite bubble,’ which you can compare to the Dot Com bubble, where Silicon Valley took off in the Dot Com age and while some Web companies are still around, some disappeared.”
- For now, the company is looking to put as many satellites as possible on the existing network to help keep costs down, but is looking to future advancements in automation in order to cater to the long-term SmallSat market.
- ”You cannot have extensive human interaction when you schedule hundreds of satellites. Then the machines have to communicate,” said Skatteboe.
Figure 11: The KSAT global ground network with 20 stations in 2016 (image credit: KSAT)
• June 27, 2014: Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) to directly receive top-of-the-class radar satellite data starting in late 2014. 12)
- Airbus Defence and Space and Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) have signed a multi- million-euro agreement for the delivery and installation of a Direct Receiving Station (DRS) for TerraSAR-X and its twin satellite TanDEM-X in Norway.
- Through data reception at KSAT’s premises in Svalbard and processing in Tromsø, this system – scheduled to be operational by the end of 2014 – will support a globally unique near real-time capability that will in particular significantly enhance maritime monitoring services.
- “This agreement will strengthen our position as an independent, near real-time multi-mission service provider in the global market,” said Jan Petter Pedersen, Vice President of KSAT. “This high-quality radar data is particularly valuable for our global oil spill and vessel detection services and for Arctic services, where updated and reliable information about ice and ice conditions is the key.”
- Airbus Defence and Space will equip KSAT with one of the first of its multi-mission DRSs. Initially, the station will receive and process data from TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X. However, KSAT will also have the option of drawing on Airbus Defence and Space’s entire satellite constellation, including the Pleiades twins, SPOT-6 and the upcoming SPOT-7, as well as the future PAZ (owned and to be operated by Hisdesat).
- “While KSAT has chosen to receive TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X data only at this point, Airbus Defence and Space’s highly flexible and cost-efficient multi-mission DRS gives the company the option to extend its reception services. The agreement includes the option to draw on the future radar satellite PAZ, scheduled to enter into operation in 2015,” said Bernhard Brenner, Head of Airbus Defence and Space’s Geo-Intelligence program line.
- Access to this northernmost receiving station will provide Airbus Defence and Space customers with improved near real-time services particularly valuable for regular monitoring applications. In parallel, KSAT will now be able to widely distribute TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X SAR data to develop new and enhanced services on a global basis.
- Among the many applications of the weather-independent TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X SAR satellites – owned by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and commercially exploited by Airbus Defence and Space – are maritime monitoring services like oil spill or vessel detection. They also support near real-time requirements for maritime safety during winter, given that X-band imagery enables precise detection, measurement and tracking of ice flows on a daily basis, including the prediction of future movements.
- KSAT operates a ground station network consisting of the headquarter and the station in Tromsø, the high latitude stations at Svalbard and in Antarctica, and the four new mid- latitude stations in South-Africa, Dubai, Mauritius and Singapore. Combining the ground network capabilities and the near real-time value added services differentiates KSAT from other providers.
- With this new DRS, Airbus Defence and Space extends its receiving station network of some 40 DRS worldwide – confirming its status as the largest in the world today.
The Troll Satellite Station, simply known as TrollSat, is a satellite ground station located at Troll in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. The Earth station is owned by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), a joint venture between the Kongsberg Group and the Norwegian Space Center. The radomes are located on top of Jutulsessen, a nunatak area next to the research station at Troll. The research station is operated by the Norwegian Polar Institute, which also maintains the Earth station. TrollSat started operations on 1 March 2007 and was officially opened on 20 January 2008. 13)
The Earth station serves low Earth orbit satellites and consists of a 7.3-meter antenna capable of S- band and X- band reception. Information is relayed using a 4.8-meter and a 7.6-meter C- band uplink. Operations control is carried out by KSAT in Tromsø, Norway. Satellites using TrollSat include RADARSAT, GeoEye, WorldView, Galileo and CHEOPS. The system is coordinated with Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) in Longyearbyen, Norway, which combined offer downloading twice per orbit.
TrollSat is located at 72º 01' 00'' South and 2º 32' 00'' East.
Troll was established as a research station by the Norwegian Polar Institute in 1990. The station took its name from the surrounding jagged mountains, which resemble trolls of Norse mythology. Already at this time, there were proposals by the Norwegian Space Centre to establish an Earth station at Troll, but the lack of all-year activity stranded the plans. Instead, SvalSat was established to serve as an Earth station for NASA's Earth Observing System (EOS). Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen was selected because of its high latitude, which allows all satellites with an orbit above 500 km to use only a single ground station—yet download from every orbit. The Svalbard facility opened on 15 April 1999 and was originally owned by the NRS (Norwegian Space Centre). Kongsberg Satellite Services was established in 2002 to jointly operate SvalSat and Tromsø Satellite Station (TSS).
In 2003, Norwegian authorities decided to extend its operations in Antarctica by establishing an all-year research station. By then, Norway was the only country with a territorial claim to Antarctica to not have an all-year research station on the continent. Construction was carried out from December 2004 through February 2005. To ease logistics, Norway took the initiative to establish Dronning Maud Land Air Network (DROMLAN), a cooperation between the countries with bases in Queen Maud Land to streamline transport costs. The permanent Troll Airfield was opened on 11 February 2005.
The basis for TrollSat was an agreement signed in 2006 between the Norwegian Polar Institute, the Norwegian Space Centre and Kongsberg Satellite Services. It specified that the Space Centre would install a Kongsberg-built radome, while the Polar Institute would provide power and undertake maintenance. In exchange, they could freely use the Earth station for their own transmission needs. The commercial activities would be carried out by Kongsberg Satellite Services. A concern was raised regarding if satellite downloading would violate the Antarctic Treaty, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs negated. The station started operations on 1 March 2007 and was officially opened by Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg.
Operation: TrollSat is owned and operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), which is again equally owned by Kongsberg Defence and Aerospace and the Norwegian Space Centre, the latter which is again owned by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. KSAT is not tied to a particular operator of satellites and the antennas communicate with multiple satellites, thus reducing costs compared to dedicated ground stations. For a typical satellite, data is delivered to the end customer no more than thirty minutes after downloading.
KSAT (Kongsberg Satellite Services) History
- From our headquarters in Norway, we have been pioneering the ground segment business since 1968, and have introduced the near real-time concept within operational monitoring services as early as the 1990’s.
- Ownership: SAT is owned equally (50/50) by Space Norway AS (50%), and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS (50%).
- Space Norway AS is a state-owned enterprise of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries. The enterprise was established in 1995 as a subsidiary of the Norwegian Space Centre.
- Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace AS is a wholly owned subsidiary of Kongsberg Gruppen. Kongsberg is an international technology group, established in 1814.
Table 1: Key milestones of KSAT
- We are committed to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Principles. The Goals shall reflect KSAT as a responsible company; a respectful workplace with focus on human rights, corporate social responsibility, protection of the environment and technological innovation.
- KSAT is continuously working to provide innovative and efficient end-to-end services. Through building resilient infrastructure, the KSAT Global Ground Network deliver data and global satellite communication services in a reliable manner. The business model and the development of new technology facilitates increased access to affordable satellite-based internet in the future.
- Furthermore, KSAT provides sophisticated Earth Observation (EO) services. Through monitoring the environment KSAT contributes to securing a sustainable ecosystem for life on land and at sea. By expert analysis of satellite data, information vital for management and impact reduction through early warning on acute pollution, vessel activity, ice movements and deforestation are reported to end users all over the world. In this respect KSAT is a world leading provider of oil spill monitoring and emergency support to prevent and reduce damages from oil slick pollution, as well as vessel detection services contributing to the global fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
• Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) was established in 1996 and is today the world’s largest commercial ground station with more than 31 state-of-the-art multi-mission and customer dedicated antenna systems in C-, L-, S- and X-band. 16)
- After decades of business in a high pressure, extremely challenging environment, with ground-breaking achievements, we can now celebrate more than 50 years of delivering excellence.
- In 2004 a redundant fiber optical communication links between Svalbard and mainland Norway was established. The fiber infrastructure project was initiated to ensure highly proficient and cost-efficient communication solutions to our customers. The fiber communication is adaptable and KSAT may provide a tailor-made solution from ground station to customer sites.
- When operating an advanced technical satellite ground station in the Arctic or Antarctic, continuity and experience are important factors to maintain the required level of proficiency. KSAT Arctic Ground Stations are at all times staffed by highly skilled operations engineers. KSAT’s Antarctic TrollSat station is remotely operated from Tromsø and year-round staffed for on-site corrective engineering operations and preventive maintenance. KSAT operations engineers have broad experience through engineering and maintenance activities. In a Polar environment special competencies are necessary to secure personnel safety. KSAT continuously focus on these issues and provide adequate training to each employee. KSAT is certified according to the ISO 9001:2000 standard.
About Kongsberg Satellite Service
- Kongsberg Satellite Services AS (KSAT) is a commercial Norwegian enterprise, uniquely positioned to provide ground station and Earth observation services for polar orbiting satellites. With three interconnected polar ground stations; Tromsø at 69°N, Svalbard (SvalSat) at 78°N and Antarctic TrollSat Station at 72°S, and a growing mid-latitude network, KSAT operates over 50 antennas optimally positioned for access to polar orbits. KSAT supports more than 60 satellites, including high resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and electrooptical satellites, allowing us to provide Earth observation data and services to a wide range of customers. The Tromsø Network Operations Centre is staffed 24/7-365 days, and remotely operating facilities around the world as one single interconnected network.
1) ”Kongsberg Satellite Services,” Kongsberg, 2020, URL: https://www.kongsberg.com/kda/products/space/products/satellite-services/
2) ”Ground Network as-a-service,” KSAT, 2020, URL: https://www.ksat.no/services/ground-station-services/
”KSAT, a KONGSBERG company, has entered into a contract for
delivery of ground station services for data reception and control of
optical Earth Observation Satellites. The contract includes an
extension of 280 MNOK of an existing contract with a total value of 680
MNOK in the period 2021 – 2026,” Kongsberg News, 21
December 2020, URL: https://www.kongsberg.com/newsandmedia/news-archive/20202/
5) ”FAQ about the ground-breaking rainforest monitoring project lead by KSAT,” KSAT, 17 October 2020, URL: https://www.ksat.no/news/news-archive/2020/faq-deforestation-monitoring/
”KSAT has delivered more than 20 000 passes on the KSATlite
network in September. This is all-time-high for LITE, doubling the
number of supports per month since January this year, and the growth
seems to be continuing,” KSAT, 09 October 2020, URL: https://www.ksat.no
7) ”KSAT wins strategically important contract with NASA,” KSAT, 28 June 2019, URL: https://www.kongsberg.com/newsandmedia/news-archive
8) Remco Takken, ”The near real time services of KSAT,” Geospatial World, 10 July 2019, URL: https://www.geospatialworld.net/blogs/ground-stations-near-real-time-satellite-services-of-ksat/
Tara O'Shea, ”Planet, KSAT and Airbus Awarded First-Ever Global
Contract to Combat Deforestation,” 22 September 2020, URL: https://www.planet.com/pulse/
10) ”50th Anniversary of Kongsberg Satellite Services,” KSAT, 15 December 2017, URL: https://www.kongsberg.com/kmagazine/2017/12/50-years-satellite-data/
11) Juliet Van Wagenen, ”KSAT Launches 20 Ground Station Network for SmallSats,” Via Satellite, 21 January 2016, URL: https://www.satellitetoday.com/innovation/
”Airbus Defence and Space supplies KSAT with Norway’s first
TerraSAR-X Direct Receiving Station,” Airbus, 27 June 2014, URL: https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2014/06/
13) ”Troll Satellite Station,” Wikipedia, URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_Satellite_Station
15) ”A Company Presentation,” KSAT, URL: https://www.ksat.no
16) ”Kongsberg Satellite Services,” URL: https://www.svalbardblues.com
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: ”Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors” (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).