Ground station

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Satellite dish pointing towards the Moon
Parkes Observatory pointing toward the Moon, receiving data from Apollo 11 mission back to Earth

A ground station, Earth station, or Earth terminal is a terrestrial radio station designed for extraplanetary telecommunication with spacecraft (constituting part of the ground segment of the spacecraft system), or reception of radio waves from astronomical radio sources. Ground stations may be located either on the surface of the Earth, or in its atmosphere.[1] Earth stations communicate with spacecraft by transmitting and receiving radio waves in the super high frequency (SHF) or extremely high frequency (EHF) bands (e.g. microwaves). When a ground station successfully transmits radio waves to a spacecraft (or vice versa), it establishes a telecommunications link. A principal telecommunications device of the ground station is the parabolic antenna.

Ground stations may have either a fixed or itinerant position. Article 1 § III of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations describes various types of stationary and mobile ground stations, and their interrelationships.[2]

Specialized satellite Earth stations or satellite tracking stations are used to telecommunicate with satellites — chiefly communications satellites. Other ground stations communicate with crewed space stations or uncrewed space probes. A ground station that primarily receives telemetry data, or that follows space missions, or satellites not in geostationary orbit, is called a ground tracking station, or space tracking station, or simply a tracking station.

When a spacecraft or satellite is within a ground station's line of sight, the station is said to have a view of the spacecraft (see pass). A spacecraft can communicate with more than one ground station at a time. A pair of ground stations are said to have a spacecraft in mutual view when the stations share simultaneous, unobstructed, line-of-sight contact with the spacecraft.[3]

Telecommunications port[edit]

A telecommunications port — or, more commonly, teleport — is a satellite ground station that functions as a hub connecting a satellite or geocentric orbital network with a terrestrial telecommunications network, such as the Internet.

Teleports may provide various broadcasting services among other telecommunications functions,[4] such as uploading computer programs or issuing commands over an uplink to a satellite.[5]

In May 1984, the Dallas/Fort Worth Teleport became the first American teleport to commence operation.[citation needed]

Earth terminal complexes[edit]

A Tier-1 satellite dish (manufactured by Level 3 Communications) in Boise, Idaho

In Federal Standard 1037C, the United States General Services Administration defined an Earth terminal complex as the assemblage of equipment and facilities necessary to integrate an Earth terminal (ground station) into a telecommunications network.[6][7] FS-1037C has since been subsumed by the ATIS Telecom Glossary, which is maintained by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), an international, business-oriented, non-governmental organization. The Telecommunications Industry Association also acknowledges this definition.

Satellite communications standards[edit]

The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), a division of the International Telecommunication Union, codifies international standards agreed-upon through multinational discourse. From 1927 to 1932, the International Consultative Committee for Radio administered standards and regulations now governed by the ITU-R.

In addition to the body of standards defined by the ITU-R, each major satellite operator provides technical requirements and standards that ground stations must meet in order to communicate with the operator's satellites. For example, Intelsat publishes the Intelsat Earth Station Standards (IESS) which, among other things, classifies ground stations by the capabilities of their parabolic antennas, and pre-approves certain antenna models.[8] Eutelsat publishes similar standards and requirements, such as the Eutelsat Earth Station Standards (EESS).[9][10] The Interagency Operations Advisory Group offers a Service Catalog describing standard services,[11] Spacecraft Emergency Cross Support Standard, and Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems data standards.

The Teleport (originally called a Telecommunications Satellite Park) innovation was conceived and developed by Joseph Milano in 1976 as part of a National Research Council study entitled, Telecommunications for Metropolitan Areas: Near-Term Needs and Opportunities".


A network of ground stations is a group of stations located to support spacecraft communication, tracking, or both. A network is established to provide dedicated support to a specific mission, function, program or organization.[12]

Ground station networks include:

Other historical networks have included:

Major Earth stations and Earth terminal complexes[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Federal Standard 1037C - Earth Station". General Services Administration. 1996. Retrieved 23 April 2009. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "ITU Radio Regulations – Article 1, Definitions of Radio Services". International Telecommunication Union. Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2009.
  3. ^ Underkoffler, C.; Webster, A.; Colombo, A., eds. (2007). "ATIS Telecom Glossary - View". Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  4. ^ "Glossary" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  5. ^ "Satellite Teleport". Archived from the original on 5 March 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009.
  6. ^ "Federal Standard 1037C - Earth terminal complex". General Services Administration. 1996. Retrieved 22 April 2009. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Underkoffler, C.; Webster, A.; Colombo, A., eds. (2007). "ATIS Telecom Glossary - Earth terminal complex". Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions. Archived from the original on 10 July 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  8. ^ "Intelsat Earth Station Standards (IESS) – Document IESS–207 (Rev. 4)" (PDF). Eutelsat. 10 May 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 October 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  9. ^ "Earth Station Minimum Technical and Operational Requirements (Standard M, EESS 502 Issue 11 Rev. 1)". Eutelsat. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  10. ^ "Eutelsat Approved Equipment". Eutelsat. Archived from the original on 17 November 2008. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  11. ^ Service Catalog
  12. ^ Gnat, Marcin (2022). "Ground Station Network". Spacecraft Operations. Springer Aerospace Technology. pp. 181–196. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-88593-9_10. ISBN 978-3-030-88592-2.
  13. ^ SKY Perfect JSAT and KSAT to jointly provide ground station services to JAXA Arctic Business Journal, 2023
  14. ^ NorthBase joins RBC Signals Network for global cooperation SatNews, 2023/12/13
  15. ^ Vernile, Alessandra (2018) The Rise of Private Actors in the Space Sector Springer ISBN 9783319738024 pg 68
  16. ^ Henry, Caleb (2020) AWS completes six ground stations, changes rollout strategy SpaceNews
  17. ^ R. Sante, J. Bhosale, S. Bhosle, P. Jangam et al (2023) Design and Development of Automated Groundstation System for Beliefsat-1 Proceedings of the International Conference on Paradigms of Computing, Communication and Data Sciences
  18. ^ Dunnell, C.A. (1967) TRANET Doppler Tracking System APL

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