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The goal of this work is to lower financial and engineering thresholds for deploying and interacting with small satellites and their science data. The general approach is to rely on commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software for both satellites and ground systems; and to virtualize the spacecraft/ground system by "horizontalizing" into logical layers that agree upon common, portable representations for data, low-level commands, and high-level services. Recognizing that COTS brings stability and robustness challenges as well as opportunity, we apply the lessons of recovery-oriented design, as practiced in successful COTS-based Internet servers that combine high availability in a hostile operating environment with favorable economic costs, and accommodate rapid-prototyping cycles that would "open the playing field" much more widely for science data missions. As both a testbed and implementation test case, we propose a federated ground station network that supports access to space systems.