Ground System Design and Operations

Course length:

3 Days



Course dates

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This course provides a practical introduction to all aspects of ground system design and operation. Starting with basic communications principles, an understanding is developed of ground system architectures and system design issues. The function of major ground system elements is explained, leading to a discussion of day-to-day operations. The course concludes with a discussion of current trends in Ground System design and operations.

This course is intended for engineers, technical managers, and scientists who are interested in acquiring a working understanding of ground systems as an introduction to the field or to help broaden their overall understanding of space mission systems and mission operations. It is also ideal for technical professionals who need to use, manage, operate, or purchase a ground system.

Students participating in this course should download in advance Ground System Design worksheets (in Microsoft Excel format)

What You Will Learn:

  • The fundamentals of ground system design, architecture and technology.
  • Cost and performance tradeoffs in the spacecraft-to-ground communications link.
  • Cost and performance tradeoffs in the design and implementation of a ground system.
  • The capabilities and limitations of the various modulation types (FM, PSK, QPSK).
  • The fundamentals of ranging and orbit determination for orbit maintenance.
  • Basic day-to-day operations practices and procedures for typical ground systems.
  • Current trends and recent experiences in cost and schedule constrained operations.

Course Outline:

  1. The Link Budget — An introduction to basic communications system principles and theory; system losses, propagation effects, Ground System Performance, and frequency selection.
  2. Ground System Architecture and System Design — An overview of ground system topology providing an introduction to ground system elements and technologies.
  3. Ground System Elements — An element by element review of the major ground system subsystems, explaining roles, parameters, limitations, tradeoffs, and current technology.
  4. Figure of Merit (G/T) — An introduction to the key parameter used to characterize satellite ground system performance, bringing all ground system elements together to form a complete system.
  5. Modulation Basics — An introduction to modulatio types, signal sets, analog and digital modulation schemes, and modulator – demodulator performance characteristics.
  6. Ranging and Tracking — A discussion of ranging and tracking for orbit determination.
  7. Ground System Networks and Standards — A survey of several ground system networks and standards with a discussion of applicability, advantages, disadvantages, and alternatives.
  8. Ground System Operations — A discussion of day-to-day operations in a typical ground system including planning and staffing, spacecraft commanding, health and status monitoring, data recovery, orbit determination, and orbit maintenance.
  9. Trends in Ground System Design — A discussion of the current approach on Ground System design and operation, including COTS hardware and software systems, autonomy, and unattended “lights out” operations.


Steve Gemeny is a senior member of Syntonics, LLC where he has held various positions in Engineering including Director of Engineering.  Steve is presently bringing his technical expertise to the customer base as Director of Business Development.  Formally a member of the Professional Staff at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. He is an experienced professional in the field of Ground Station and Ground System design in both the commercial world and on NASA Science missions. Prior to joining the Applied Physics Laboratory, Mr. Gemeny held numerous engineering and technical sales positions with Orbital Sciences Corporation, Mobile Telesystems Inc. and COMSAT Corporation. Mr. Gemeny was Lead Ground System Engineer on the New Horizons mission to explore Pluto by 2020.


REGISTRATION: There is no obligation or payment required to enter the Registration for an actively scheduled course. We understand that you may need approvals but please register as early as possible or contact us so we know of your interest in this course offering.

SCHEDULING: If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead-time. To express your interest in an open enrollment course not on our current schedule, please email us at

For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410)956-8805, or email us at