KSAT rapidly expands KSATlite small satellite network

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SAN FRANCISCO — KSAT is rapidly installing antennas around the world to keep pace with the dramatic rise in small satellite activity.

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.

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.”