Broadcast 3414 Christopher Richins

The Space Foundation Conference

19 Nov 2019 Christopher Richins
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Guest:  Christopher Richins;  Topics:  RBC Signals satellite ground stations, business growth and expansion, new government customers. Lunar and Mars communications to Earth and more.

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We welcomed Christopher Richins back to the show for an RBC Signals update plus an assessment on how the satellite communications industry is evolving and changing.  During this 64 minute discussion, we not only got an RBC Signals company update but good information on trends, developments and industry growth.  Our guest started out saying that one needs to get data from space to have value from the space operation no matter what that operation, business, or data may be.  He said their job is to get that data from space to the grounds and to the end user in a usable format.  Early in the discussion, Christopher told us that there had been big changes in his customers for this data during 2019, expanding from largely private sector early stage and new start-up companies to government players, traditional satellite users and geo stationary satellite operators.  Make sure you hear this introductory part of our discussion.

As Christopher was explaining the customer base, Alex in Denver sent in a question asking how multiple customers are handled at the same time given the comments Christopher had made regarding dish satellite antennas.  Chris took us through the basic technology for doing this and told us generally how it was done.  Note what he said about the differences in working the LEO market as compared to working their new market with geo sats. 

Several listeners asked questions about how long a LEO satellite stays in range of a ground station and the distance required for multiple constant coverage LEO ground stations.  Listen to what Christopher said when asked how constant coverage was provided over the oceans.  Don't miss what he said about geo coverage as compared to LEO given the nature of the geo type of orbit being used. 

BLEO came up, especially when our guest was asked if they were looking into handling communications back to Earth from the Moon or the lunar surface.  Christopher had much to say about expanding their business to BELO including lunar and/or Martian orbit.  As for getting to the lunar surface, our guest said they were talking with several of the NASA CLPS participants so we might see RBC Signals getting data from the lunar surface back to Earth in the not too distant future.  Christopher said that for the most part, the communication technology was the same as when Apollo went to the Moon.  He said some of the hardware might be upgraded, newer, and more advanced, but the same challenges exist, the physics remains the same and the challenges are very similar today as they were back then.  I found this part of our discussion most interesting.  Let us know what you think about this by posting on the blog.  I mentioned to our guest that we seldom heard about communication issues from the Moon to Earth and that I though there might be some surprises waiting for businesses and advocates involved in these efforts.  Again, share your comments with us on the blog

Listener Beth asked about satellite tracking via smartphone.  Christopher said this was already happening and suggested we check out the SatNOGS Open Source global network of satellite ground-stations.  Marshall called for several issues and hot topics.  His call was followed with questions to Christopher about cybersecurity.  This led to a brief encryption discussion, bad actors, defending against bad actors, and the overall value of the data being sought after by the bad actors. 

Later, another listener asked Chris for his five and ten your perspective for his company.  He was also asked if the great growth he mentioned earlier in the show could be sustained for five or ten years.  Randy sent in a question about legacy hardware and software.  Don't miss what our guest said about the move to software functions rather than always needing new hardware.  As we were moving toward the end of the discussion, another listener asked him about trends in the regulatory world that might impact one way or the other getting valuable data from space back to Earth. 

Just before we brought the program to a close, Christopher was asked about human spaceflight, human data back to Earth (voice), and having a complete communications contract for a space hotel much the way a resort or hotel awards a communication contract to a specific company here on Earth.  Private space station opportunities were mentioned in this short discussion.  Before we ended the program, our guest was asked about ground stations around the world, the type of team needed to create a ground station in different legal, business, and cultural scenarios and economic systems.  He was asked about the risk of expropriation much the way we used to see happen with US businesses in Central America several decades ago.  Christopher said it was possible but low risk and not on his top list of worries.  When asked if he had visited all of the RBC Signals 50 ground stations, well, just listen to his reply.  It might surprise you.  Don't miss the concluding comments offered by our guest.

Please post your comments/questions on The Space Show blog.  You can reach our guest through his website, http://rbcsignals.com or through me.

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updates for LEO satellites, ground stations, etc.

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