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Satellite Communications – An Essential Introduction

3 Days

Course Overview:


This three-day (four day live virtual) introductory course has been taught to thousands of industry professionals for almost thirty years, in public sessions and on-site to almost every major satellite manufacturer and operator, to rave reviews. The course is intended primarily for non-technical people who must understand the entire field of commercial satellite communications (including their increasing use by government agencies), and by those who must understand and communicate with engineers and other technical personnel. The secondary audience is technical personnel moving into the industry who need a quick and thorough overview of what is going on in the industry, and who need an example of how to communicate with less technical individuals. The course is a primer to the concepts, jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms of the industry, plus an overview of commercial satellite communications hardware, operations, business and regulatory environment. Concepts are explained at a basic level, minimizing the use of math, and providing real-world examples. Several calculations of important concepts such as link budgets are presented for illustrative purposes, but the details need not be understood in depth to gain an understanding of the concepts illustrated. The first section provides non-technical people with an overview of the business issues, including major operators, regulation and legal issues, security issues and issues and trends affecting the industry. The second section provides the technical background in a way understandable to non-technical audiences. The third and fourth sections cover the space and terrestrial parts of the industry. The last section deals with the space-to-Earth link, culminating with the importance of the link budget and multiple-access techniques, and discusses trends in the industry, such as hosted payloads, the increase in interference, and other issues. Attendees use a workbook of all the illustrations used in the course, as well as a copy of the instructor's textbook, Satellite Communications for the Non-Specialist. Plenty of time is allotted for questions. Learn more...

  • What You Will Learn

    • How do commercial satellites fit into the telecommunications industry?
    • How are satellites planned, built, launched, and operated?
    • How do earth stations function?
    • What is a link budget and why is it important?
    • What is radio frequency interference (RFI) and how does it affect links?
    • What legal and regulatory restrictions affect the industry?
    • What are the issues and trends driving the industry?
  • Course Outline

    1. Satellite Services, Markets, and Regulation. Introduction and historical background. The place of satellites in the global telecommunications market. Major competitors and satellites strengths and weaknesses. Satellite services and markets. Satellite system operators.
      Satellite economics. Satellite regulatory issues: role of the ITU, FCC, etc. Spectrum issues. Licensing issues and process. Satellite system design overview. Satellite service definitions: BSS, FSS, MSS, RDSS, RNSS. The issue of government use of commercial satellites. Satellite real-world issues: security, accidental and intentional interference, regulations. State of the industry and recent developments. Useful sources of information on satellite technology and the satellite industry.

    2. Communications Fundamentals. Basic definitions and measurements: channels, circuits, half-circuits, decibels. The spectrum and its uses: properties of waves, frequency bands, space loss, polarization, bandwidth. Analog and digital signals. Carrying information on waves: coding, modulation, multiplexing, networks and protocols. Satellite frequency bands. Signal quality, quantity, and noise: measures of signal quality; noise and interference; limits to capacity; advantages of digital versus analog. The interplay of modulation, bandwidth, datarate, and error correction.

    3. The Space Segment. Basic functions of a satellite. The space environment: gravity, radiation, meteoroids and space debris. Orbits: types of orbits; geostationary orbits; non-geostationary orbits. Orbital slots, frequencies, footprints, and coverage: slots; satellite spacing; eclipses; sun interference, adjacent satellite interference. Launch vehicles; the launch campaign; launch bases. Satellite systems and construction: structure and busses; antennas; power; thermal control; stationkeeping and orientation; telemetry and command. What transponders are and what they do. Advantages and disadvantages of hosted payloads. Satellite operations: housekeeping and communications. High-throughput and processing satellites. Satellite security issues.

    4. The Ground Segment. Earth stations: types, hardware, mountings, and pointing. Antenna properties: gain; directionality; sidelobes and legal limits on sidelobe gain. Space loss, electronics, EIRP, and G/T: LNA-B-C’s; signal flow through an earth station. The growing problem of accidental and intentional interference.

    5. The Satellite Earth Link. Atmospheric effects on signals: rain effects and rain climate models; rain fade margins. The most important calculation: link budgets, C/N and Eb/No. Link budget examples. Improving link budgets. Sharing satellites: multiple access techniques: SDMA, FDMA, TDMA, PCMA, CDMA; demand assignment; on-board multiplexing. Signal security issues. Conclusion: industry issues, trends, & future.
  • Testimonial

    “I truly enjoyed your course and hearing of your adventures in the Satellite business. You have a definite gift in teaching style and explanations.”

  • Tuition

    Tuition for this three-day course is $1995 per person at one of our scheduled public courses. Attendees use a workbook of all the illustrations used in the course, as well as a copy of the instructor's textbook, Satellite Communications for the Non-Specialist. Onsite pricing is available. Please call us at 410-956-8805 or send an email to

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The Instructor:


Dr. Mark R. Chartrand is a consultant and lecturer in satellite telecommunications and the space sciences. Since 1984 he has presented professional seminars on satellite technology and space sciences to individuals and businesses in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Among the many companies and organizations to which he has presented this course are Intelsat, Inmarsat, Asiasat, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, PanAmSat, ViaSat, SES, Andrew Corporation, Alcatel Espace, the EU telecommunications directorate, the Canadian Space Agency, ING Bank, NSA, FBI, and DISA. Dr. Chartrand has served as a technical and/or business consultant to NASA, Arianespace, GTE Spacenet, Intelsat, Antares Satellite Corp., Moffett-Larson-Johnson, Arianespace, Delmarva Power, Hewlett-Packard, and the International Communications Satellite Society of Japan, among others. He has appeared as an invited expert witness before Congressional subcommittees and was an invited witness before the National Commission On Space. He was the founding editor and the Editor-in-Chief of the annual The World Satellite Systems Guide, and later the publication Strategic Directions in Satellite Communication. He is author of seven books, including an introductory textbook on satellite communications, and of hundreds of articles in the space sciences. He has been chairman of several international satellite conferences, and a speaker at many others.

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