The ground segment is vital to space missions, as it manages radio interfaces with spacecraft. There’s been a recent rise in ground segment as a service to aid the increase in smaller companies launching satellites without the traditional infrastructure.
This means the role of the ground segment engineer is also becoming more important. But what does the ground segment engineer do, and why is their role so critical in deep space missions? Let’s take a look.
Ground segment engineers are concerned with telemetry for satellites and spacecraft. Specifically, they design, create and maintain the ground station networks that are necessary for communicating with space vehicles.
Ground stations may or may not be separate from control centres, which manage missions. A ground station (especially in the ground station as a segment market) may just consist of the equipment needed to directly communicate with the spacecraft.
Depending on the location and design of the ground station, engineers may monitor and control them remotely or in person. Part of the job role will also involve managing backup ground stations, which are designed to take over in the event of a failure in the primary station.
In short, ground segment engineers play a vital role in keeping space missions on track. Without them, there would be no communication with the satellite or launch vehicle, rendering the mission obsolete.
We’ve briefly touched on why ground segment engineers are so important, but what specific role do they play in ground segment as a service? Due to the consumption-based nature of the industry (unlike a traditional system where it would be linked to, say, NASA), an engineer’s role is slightly different.
Perhaps the most obvious and important part of their role is communication over vast distances. Engineers will link the company and its satellite, collecting and analysing data and feeding commands to the spacecraft. Depending on the mission, this could be to low-Earth orbit or much farther into space.
Another aspect is navigation and trajectory correction. Again, this could be very minor issues or something mission-critical. From the perspective of third-party companies, ground segment engineers will be the main point of contact for ensuring the satellite stays on track.
This comes under the umbrella of long-term mission management, which can also include addressing unexpected challenges. An example of such a challenge is when NASA recently lost contact with the Voyager 2 satellite. Granted, this is quite an extreme challenge, but it’s nothing if not unexpected! Being able to deal with these situations is a major role for ground segment engineers, and their decisions could be the difference between success and failure.
Finally, there are the wider responsibilities of innovation, use of advanced technology, and preparation and testing. A lot of ground segment on-the-job experience can be put towards developing newer and better comms systems. This could involve writing new software, improving reliability, electrical engineering, or a wide range of other responsibilities.
The bottom line is that ground segment engineers play a vital role in keeping space missions on track. It’s a job that’s only going to grow in importance in the future, especially as more companies realise the potential of as-a-service systems. As such, now is a great time to understand the role in more depth to see what it could hold for you.
KDC Resources plays an important role in the recruitment and placement of multiple vacancies in a wide range of companies within the space sector, influencing the future of the industry.
Make sure you give us a call or submit your CV through our web form to see how we can help you find your perfect role.