Session

Technical Session X: Ground Systems

Location

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Abstract

Planet Labs Inc. (“Planet”) currently operates the world’s largest commercial earth observation constellation with over 150 active on-orbit satellites collecting daily medium resolution imagery of the whole earth, and high resolution imagery of targeted areas of interest. In 2017, Planet combined the SkySat high-resolution satellite constellation with its own existing medium resolution Dove constellation to expand its ability to make global change visible, accessible, and actionable. While the two satellite designs use largely similar ground station architectures, nuances in implementation caused early operations to focus on maintaining separate, siloed ground station networks with unique software and hardware.

As Planet looks to expand its on-orbit constellations and diversify orbits to meet customer needs, our Ground Station Operations team has begun work to combine software and hardware architectures to support multiple missions from the same stack. By enabling multi-mission support, we realize benefits in increasing daily average contact duration and minimizing per-satellite contact gaps. This in turn decreases our reaction latency on-orbit and increases our individual ground station utilization to increase our total possible throughput. In this paper, we will discuss our network modeling for coverage and access planning, our general strategies for combining architectures for multi-mission support, results thus far, and lessons learned along the way. Planet’s Ground Station Operations team has built out and operates a network capable of downlinking over 15TB of earth imaging data from our on-orbit constellations in a single day and looks forward to continued high-reliability and low cost support of Planet’s on-orbit assets in the future.

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Aug 1st, 12:00 AM

Merging Diverse Architecture for Multi-Mission Support

Utah State University, Logan, UT

Planet Labs Inc. (“Planet”) currently operates the world’s largest commercial earth observation constellation with over 150 active on-orbit satellites collecting daily medium resolution imagery of the whole earth, and high resolution imagery of targeted areas of interest. In 2017, Planet combined the SkySat high-resolution satellite constellation with its own existing medium resolution Dove constellation to expand its ability to make global change visible, accessible, and actionable. While the two satellite designs use largely similar ground station architectures, nuances in implementation caused early operations to focus on maintaining separate, siloed ground station networks with unique software and hardware.

As Planet looks to expand its on-orbit constellations and diversify orbits to meet customer needs, our Ground Station Operations team has begun work to combine software and hardware architectures to support multiple missions from the same stack. By enabling multi-mission support, we realize benefits in increasing daily average contact duration and minimizing per-satellite contact gaps. This in turn decreases our reaction latency on-orbit and increases our individual ground station utilization to increase our total possible throughput. In this paper, we will discuss our network modeling for coverage and access planning, our general strategies for combining architectures for multi-mission support, results thus far, and lessons learned along the way. Planet’s Ground Station Operations team has built out and operates a network capable of downlinking over 15TB of earth imaging data from our on-orbit constellations in a single day and looks forward to continued high-reliability and low cost support of Planet’s on-orbit assets in the future.