Ground Support Communications
Section 4.5.2.
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Ground Support Network Stations

Ground station antenna

What NASA is doing

On March 7, 1996, NASAannounced a new, low-cost automated ground support station. They estimate between US $600,000 and $800,000 per station, which can receive up to 1.2 million bits per second through a 10-foot antenna dish. The key to cost control is using a commercially available weather satellite-tracking terminal as the basis for the ground station.

This is yet another example of how our government's on-going research benefits private space ventures. Every time NASA or RSA or NASDA or ESA or CSA solves one of these problems, they solve it for everybody. Even if the details are kept a state secret, we eliminate most of the development cost just by knowing it can be done and having a concept for the approach that works.

In the time since then Universal Space Network, a company founded by astronaut Pete Conrad, has made great strides in establishin a commercial network of ground stations for spacecraft communication. Their work could result in even lower costs for Artemis Project ground support stations.

What this means to the Artemis Project

The Artemis Project will need at least four such facilities spaced out around the Earth. More is better, both for redundancy and spread the fun around the world.

We can be optimistic about cost estimates, assuming the technology will continue to develop, and we will enjoy considerably more cost saved from avoiding the government overhead. Using the $600,000 figure, we'd budget $2.4 million for the ground communication stations and about $800,000 for the central facility; or $3.2 million total.

Our concept for ground support facilities is much more elaborate than a simple control room and communications center. It's more of a self-supporting theme park and museum. (The whole idea is that "You can play, too!") However, since these facilities are designed to be a revenue-producing attraction, only the cost of their basic functions are charged against the reference mission budget.

The 20 August 1995 revision to the Reference Mission Balance Sheet (that's the latest; totals to US $1.421 billion) allocates US $3,250,000 for the ground support facilities function. So (thanks to a little bit of knowledge and a lot of pure dumb luck) our early estimate aligns well with the hard cost data from NASA's development.

The total budget for Operations Planning & Integration, where the ground support function fits, is just under US $25 million. That includes flight planning, crew activities planning, crew training, mission support, and flight operations facilities.

Ground Support Communications

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