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I'm noobie in space exploration and I want to carry out market research to find out how much it costs to build a terrestrial groundstation to control satellite missions that are in lunar orbit.

Two missions that closely match my needs are the LRO and CAPSTONE.

I don't know how to perform this kind of research, could someone help me with this?

Any links pointing to documents describing budgets for this type of ground station will be of great help.

ps: I've sent emails to several companies but they don't answer me, maybe my question is too generic, I really don't know.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 10:25
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    $\begingroup$ I think the question is a bit too generic. It's a bit like asking a cook "how many eggs do you need to make breakfast?" To answer this properly lots of additional info is needed like how many people is the breakfast for, how hungry are the people, or what type of breakfast should be cooked. In this case, there are a bunch of questions like "how much data bandwidth do you need", "Is it okay if you can only send commands during specific times of the day", or "can you use or upgrade existing hardware and installations?" among many, many more questions. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 13:14
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    $\begingroup$ As a first step in researching this, I'd recommend you take a look at the DSN (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Deep_Space_Network) which is a good starting point to learn more about how satellite command and control works. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ OK thanks! This already got me out of square one, I didn't know this DSN existed. $\endgroup$
    – Ganimedes
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ Do you ask about controlling such a satellite or about sending substantial amounts of data to the satellite or about receiving large amounts of data? $\endgroup$
    – asdfex
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 16:00

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With the data you provided is kind of hard to come up with a price tag.

For a Ground Station you usually need the Antenna, Tx and Rx amplifiers, filters and other radio hardware, dedicated computing power to encode/decode the transmissions and perform error correction. And the performance of the whole system can vary considerably based in a series of communication systems' parameters that can be configured.

  • Modulation
  • Error correction codes.
  • Carrier Frequency

This is by no means an exhaustive procedure, but to put a price on something like that you'll have to first define a whole set of operational constraints and requirements for your operation and work backwards from there.

  • What frequencies do you want to communicate in?
  • What's the maximum amount of spacecrafts you want to communicate with at the same time?
  • Maximum bit rate?
  • What communication standards are you going to support?
  • What is the maximum acceptable Bit Error Rate for TX and RX?
  • What is the worst communications system a spacecraft can have and still communicate successfully? (Weaker transmission, minimal error correction)
  • From a single point on Earth the moon has direct line of sight only during a few hours a day, what percentage of that time window do you want to be able to reach the satellite?

Start by taking a look at NASA and ESA communication standards (ESA). Then check the technical papers for the missions you're interested in to get a grasp of their communication systems. Come up with the main operational scenarios you want to cover and perform link budgets (Link Budget) (Required power at receiver vs Received power), for the worst case scenarios (weakest spacecraft comms systems with minimal error correction and the maximum link distance) using different antennas and amplifiers configurations. There are online tools (Link budget calculator) but is better to have someone with enough background to understand this to assist you in the process.

Once those questions are answered, you can come up with a price tag for the main components for your GS:

  • Antenna(s): Minimum diameter
  • Antenna(s) motors: Based on weight of the antenna, and required motion range
  • Antenna(s) control system: you need a way to target the spacecraft.
  • RX and TX amplifiers.
  • RF Filters.
  • Modulator/demodulator.
  • Hardware required for error correction and signal recovery.
  • Wiring
  • Station power systems.
  • Infrastructure.
  • Software.

There are several ways to implement equivalent systems, and each design will have their one trade-offs.

Hope this helps!

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  • $\begingroup$ Amazing! Thank You @Gabriel Sanchez! $\endgroup$
    – Ganimedes
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 17:05

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