In a previous article, we questioned whether Ground Stations as a Service will be the future of space. Our conclusion is that, for certain sectors, GSaaS certainly offers advantages.
To understand why, and which sectors will get the most from GSaaS, it’s worth digging into these benefits in more detail.
To briefly recap, GSaaS involves renting a satellite ground station to communicate with a satellite, rather than a company building its own infrastructure. This is advantageous for plenty of companies, especially startups, which may lack the funds or technology to build their own ground stations.
However, it is also utilised by larger companies, such as Telespazio (a Leonardo company). Companies like this operate on a hybrid model where they can outsource some of the excess bandwidth to a GSaaS provider.
And this brings us to the first two major benefits: cost savings and expertise. Ground stations are expensive to build and maintain and require extensive knowledge to manage. Renting bandwidth from a ground station means satellite companies only pay for what they need rather than long-term production and upkeep.
Similarly, GSaaS is reliable and flexible. Ground stations involved in these kinds of networks typically act as middle-companies, but part of their responsibility is to maintain equipment and network connections. As such, a satellite company can (theoretically) make use of any available ground station if others are out of action.
GSaaS is also a massively scalable solution. Taking advantage of this kind of network is the equivalent to almost instant access to billion-pound infrastructure, and satellite operators can use as much or as little as they need. Regardless of the company’s size, jumping into an established and scalable network when needed is almost always a cost-effective option.
Finally, GSaaS can give companies access to new technology. For example, a small startup might not have the existing technology to take advantage of different bandwidths or security and automation features. Depending on the extent of the GSaaS network, these could be included in the service, giving companies a massive boost in what they can do.
It’s difficult to say explicitly which countries are doing best in the GSaaS sector. If nothing else, it can depend on factors such as the specific application or industry under consideration.
For example, the US and Europe are well-known for their strong aerospace and satellite industries, meaning they have most of the building blocks for establishing a GSaaS network. On the other hand, countries like Russia and China have a strong focus on space technology and R&D development. As such, they also have the capability to establish leading GSaaS networks.
Then we have private multinational companies. While these don’t fit specifically into the question, they’re certainly worth mentioning because of their global reach. The two most obvious companies are Microsoft and Amazon, both of which have GSaaS networks.
Amazon’s AWS Ground Station and Microsoft’s Azure Orbital are worldwide networks that have the potential to overtake a single country in terms of offerings. Amazon’s AWS, for example, has ground stations in Bahrain, Stockholm, the US, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and more. Within this growing industry, they are powers that cannot be overlooked.
Alongside other developments in the space industry, GSaaS has a lot of potential. When you combine it with reusable rockets and renting launch space, there is very little that stands in the way of companies wanting to add their satellites to orbit. The next decade or so promises major changes to the way we interact with space, and GSaaS will likely be a major part of this.