RBC Signals, a satellite communications company, has created a network of more than 65 antennas in more than 40 global locations. Credit: RBC Signals

SAN FRANCISCO – RBC Signals, a startup creating a global network of satellite ground stations, announced it’s first U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) award June 17.

Under the Phase 1 SBIR award managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate, Seattle-based RBC Signals will explore “multi-mission intelligent edge computing infrastructure in ground stations within the RBC Signals global network,” according to a June 17 news release.

Many of the new Earth Observation or Internet of Things constellations transmit large volumes of data from satellites to ground stations. Instead of forwarding all the data to data centers, constellation operators are opting to perform some processing on the satellite and more processing when it first reaches the ground, Ron Faith, RBC Signals president and chief operating officer, told SpaceNews.

“Some ground stations are very remote, which can make the backhaul quite expensive,” Faith said. “You can do some initial image processing to frame images and quickly assess what to prioritize” at the ground station. Earth observation constellation operators might decide, for example, to set aside images of clouds and quickly transmit only images with clear views, he added.

Since it was founded in 2015, RBC Signals has created a network of ground stations by combining excess capacity in existing ground communications networks with its own antennas. Now, RBC Signals has a network of more than 65 antennas in more than 40 locations supporting various satellite communications frequency bands.

Initially, RBC Signals focused on the commercial satellite communications market. In the last six months, the company has been “pursuing government business aggressively and beginning to win government business,” Faith said. The government work “gives us more diversity in revenues” and the government “is a more stable and predictable customer,” he added.

Throughout the defense and intelligence agencies, leaders are looking for ways to quickly gain access to information from sensors on the ground, in the air and in space.

“There are a lot of exciting things going on in the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” Faith said. “They want to have more commercial partners to augment their capabilities and bring more innovation into their space efforts,” he added.

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...