The Limitations of Monolithic Ground Segments for Mission Management

Why Companies are Shifting Towards Flexible and Cost-Effective Solutions

Satellites are a necessity for society. Satellites are why we can call a friend who lives across the country, watch a television show on our phones, and even predict and prepare for natural disasters.

A crucial part of keeping satellites operating is the practice of Mission Management. Mission Management is an encompassing term for the functions of spacecraft and instrument operations, health, and safety — and is often used as an umbrella term for:

  • Space segments
  • Ground segments
  • Concept of operations
  • Human workload management

But there is something that poses consistent challenges for Mission Management teams: Vendor lock-in with monolithic ground segments. To avoid obstacles posed by monolithic vendors, such as high cost and inflexibility, Mission Management teams should implement an intelligent space automation platform.

The Trouble with Monolithic Ground Segments

It takes a lot to operate a satellite system. On a day-to-day basis, Mission Management teams must:

  • Identify and resolve any antenna, infrastructure, and satellite deviations.

  • Maintain successful communication with a computer orbiting Earth.

  • Continuously monitor the satellite’s health and subsystems.

  • Accurately determine satellite orbit and position.

  • Manage the individuals who keep this process on track.


Historically, Mission Management programs relied heavily on large, monolithic vendors that couldn’t provide the innovation necessary for modern satellite constellation operations. From the ever-growing number of satellites in space to dynamic environmental conditions, traditional monolithic vendors are struggling to keep up.

Some of the top challenges posed by monolithic vendors are their strict contracts, limited flexibility, and hindered scalability.

Strict Contracts

When working with monolithic vendors, businesses must sign multi-year operations and maintenance contracts that require the purchase of a significant amount of hardware and software. The high costs associated with these contracts often result in a restriction of flexibility and innovation.

Limited Flexibility

As monolithic systems are designed as integrated units, making changes or introducing new technologies can be cumbersome and time-consuming. When valuable time is dedicated to making necessary changes and integrations, the business loses out on innovative work.

Hindered Scalability

Inflexible systems can be challenging to scale, especially as a satellite constellation grows. Adding new capabilities or accommodating an increasing number of satellites may require significant modifications to the entire system, making it inflexible and costly to expand.

As a result of the lock-in with these monolithic vendors, more businesses are looking to shift to small, more agile solutions for Mission Management programs.

The Shift Towards Smaller, Agile Solutions

The need for cost-effective and flexible solutions is prompting organizations to prioritize new strategies to achieve missions more effectively — rather than stay loyal to the traditional large vendors that dominate the Mission Management space.

For example, government systems traditionally build a mission operations center for each satellite or constellation of satellites. Now, government systems are looking to modernize this process for the sake of efficiency and cost.

As satellites get smaller and components get cheaper, the satellite constellation industry has shifted to the strategy of launching small satellites in larger numbers. The systems needed to manage the satellite constellations can be built in-house or by small, agile software companies. However, in-house development of operations systems can be expensive.

The Cost of Modernization

Mission Management is not a common area of expertise. As the space industry expands, it needs to adapt its talent pool to meet new operational approaches. Under traditional operating models, the more satellites a business launches, the more people it needs to operate them.

A traditional Mission Management team consists of:

  • IT teams

  • Ground support

  • Facility operators

  • Systems engineers

  • Spacecraft operators

  • Software developers


In addition to building a Mission Management team, businesses can’t forget about the cost of the software licenses, facilities, and computing infrastructure necessary for day-to-day operations.

Rather than going through the effort and cost of building an in-house system, businesses can now adopt a modern SaaS distributed system to easily gain the flexibility required for leveraging modern-day and best-of-breed technologies.

Cognitive Space: Empowering Modern Mission Management Without Constraints

An automated intelligent space automation platform, such as Cognitive Space’s CNTIENT, leverages the power of cloud computing, operational experience, and AI to help businesses scale satellite constellations and achieve their true revenue potential.

Cognitive Space helps satellite constellation operators automate, scale, and optimize payload scheduling, communication link management, and prioritized tasking:

Increase capacity and revenue - Leverage your system’s true available capacity to increase output and revenue — all while keeping the focus on your business goals.

Maintain peak performance at scale - Effectively scale your operations while consistently maintaining spacecraft and fleet performance.

Access real-time machine intelligence - Automatically adapt to ever-changing priorities with unparalleled response time.

Experience seamless integration - Easily integrate our platform with your existing infrastructure and systems with a secure API design.

Reduce capital operational overhead costs - Harness automation to give operators the time they need to complete more innovative tasks.

With Cognitive Space’s continuously improving SaaS platform, businesses can finally avoid recurring engineering costs for large-scale integrations. There are no maintenance costs, no need to manually install servers, and consistently predictable operational budgets.

Contact us today to learn how Cognitive Space can help automate your satellite operations.