Long before a new Earth Observation mission is launched, work begins at ESRIN to ensure the ground segment is ready to acquire and process data once the satellite is in orbit and operating. This is carried out for future Third Party Missions as well as for new ESA Earth Observation satellites.
To ensure that everything will run smoothly a great deal of work needs to be done. Ground stations have to be identified and a decision made as to where data will be processed, schedules have to be organised, costs examined, contracts drawn up and agreement reached on the role of the ground station operator, and the processing and archiving centres.
ESRIN manages a complex worldwide ground segment that uses national and industrial facilities. It also runs the 'central reference facility' for the ground segment systems deployed in ESA Member States and shares technology with Member State missions. ESA follows a multi-mission cost-efficient approach that shares ground segment facilities across missions whenever possible.
Some ground stations are in the ESA network, others are situated within ESA Member States or belong to non-ESA Member States. The ground stations selected may or may not be operated by ESA, depending on the requirements and the capacity of stations.