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What type of ground characteristics make it suitable for a satellite ground station?

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  • Open area, broad horizon, meaning either hilltops or plains; not valleys.
  • good power infrastructure available. Network and other infrastructure a boon.
  • reasonably stable seismically. Also, due to location, landslide risk must be taken into account.
  • reasonable access and servicing logistics, staff availability.
  • distant enough from other ground stations not to be redundant.
  • legal prerequisites fulfilled. Landscape/wildlife protection, rf radiation protection buffer zone, etc.
  • politically available and stable. So that you don't find after next local government change the station now is state property of Republic of Banana or shut down because it's abominable in the eyes of God.
  • calm neighborhood RF-wise. These locations are lucrative not just for space network ground stations, but all kinds of radio broadcasters. A 500KW transmitter of a pop music station is not your desired next-door neighbor.
  • and then there will be small weird environmental factors that may make it harder or impossible... religious significance of the place, a species of lizard finding the dish too welcoming, hurricanes of destructive power prevalent, legal obligation to connect to local sewage network, with nearest pipe 10km away, "at least 80% of staff must be local", and other weirdnesses you just can't predict - you must survey a prospective area very thoroughly for these.
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    $\begingroup$ I'd add one more: line of sight to your desired orbit. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Apr 25 '17 at 7:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes: The stations are rarely built with one specific orbit in mind. There will be more orbits passing over the station if it's closer to the equator, polar regions aren't as interesting but if you're in a reasonably low inclination, you'll have a line of sight to about all orbits (except a part of geosynchronous). Exception: commercial transmitters that send signal to GEO satellites for broadcasting - TV, radio. These are restricted by the orbit. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 25 '17 at 8:25
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    $\begingroup$ The Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex of the DSN was placed in a valley and the Madrid Deep Space Communications Complex too. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Apr 25 '17 at 8:29
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe: Canberra: "The station is separated from Canberra by the Murrumbidgee River and, more importantly, the Coolamon Ridge, Urambi Hills, and Bullen Range, which help shield the dishes from the city's radio frequency (RF) noise." Madrid station is built on a slope of a valley, wide open to south, and with distant hills not reaching very high on the east and west. $\endgroup$ – SF. Apr 25 '17 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Hobbes Line of sight to a desired orbit would seem to be covered pretty well by the bullet point "open area, broad horizon". $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 25 '17 at 11:06

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