Speaking at a Feb. 8, 2023 ground segment panel at the 2023 SmallSat Symposium were (left to right) Chris Stott, ManSat executive chairman, Jai Dialani, Leaf Space USA managing director, Christopher Richins, RBC Signals founder and CEO, Dan Adams, KSAT USA CEO, Pam Lugos, CPI Satcom Products vice president for business development, and Tony Wilkey, AvL Technologies executive vice president. Credit: SpaceNews/Debra Werner

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – Space startups often make the mistake of waiting too long to establish the ground infrastructure to support their satellites.

“Consider the ground segment as an inherent part of the spacecraft [regulatory] filing,” Jai Dialani, Leaf Space USA managing director, said Feb. 8 at the SmallSat Symposium here. “Do not treat it as something that you have to consider down the road.”

In some cases, startups approach ground segment providers one month before launching their first satellites. In that case, it’s often impossible to help because “we have to obtain licenses for their spacecraft at our ground stations in different parts of the world,” Dialani said. “Every regulator works differently. They have different timelines and different levels of complexity.”

Christopher Richins, RBC Signals founder and CEO, added that planning ahead gives satellite operators additional flexibility in their ground segments.

“One of the things that we encourage our customers to do is to license multiple ground stations so that they have backup and flexibility available,” Richins said. “We have multiple ground stations and multiple antennas in a region. We may license multiple ground stations and antennas for a certain customer, so they have the ability to move if there is increased demand or to back something up if there’s an outage.”

The regulatory side of establishing a constellation is “the long pole in the tent,” added Chris Stott, ManSat executive chairman, who advised startups to begin speaking with ground segment providers as soon as possible.

Once the ground segment is established, antenna suppliers and ground station operators can support customers around the world.

“Being able to be able to take care of products wherever they happen to land is really critical,” said Pam Lugos, CPI Satcom Products vice president of business development for satcom products.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...