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Fundamental changes ahead as ground systems prepare for constellations, 5G

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This text initially appeared within the July 29, 2019 subject of SpaceNews journal.

When Spire World was constructing a constellation of cubesats to assemble maritime and climate information in 2015, the startup constructed its personal UHF floor station community. Now, most startups wouldn’t think about constructing their very own floor programs as a result of they will depend on a rising roster of corporations focusing on dealing with information flowing between satellites and floor networks.

“Most satellite tv for pc flyers and information collectors will not be significantly eager on spending power on the bottom resolution as a result of it’s not core to their curiosity or capabilities,” mentioned Mike Carey, co-founder and chief technique officer of Atlas Area Operations, a Traverse Metropolis, Michigan, firm that provides satellite tv for pc communications as a service. “We see motion away from corporations constructing their very own networks and extra reliance on a service-based mannequin.”

The bottom programs enterprise has modified dramatically lately thanks to an enormous improve in information quantity, superior know-how and contemporary competitors. Extra change is coming as constellations in low Earth orbit multiply and particular person satellites accumulate and transmit extra information than ever earlier than.

“The quantity of knowledge coming from satellites will improve tremendously within the coming 10 years,” mentioned Stefan Gustafsson, Swedish Area Corp. senior vp for technique and sustainable enterprise. To manage, corporations have to undertake new methodologies to switch information from area to Earth along with specializing in information administration all through the chain from the satellite tv for pc to the shopper, together with onboard the satellite tv for pc and on the floor stations, he added.

Many floor system specialists are turning to know-how to hurry up the circulation of knowledge from satellites to the bottom. Years in the past, Kongsberg Satellite tv for pc Providers of Norway relied totally on S-band and X-band antennas. Now, KSAT additionally transfers information in Ka-band and the Norwegian firm is working with Tesat, an Airbus Protection and Area subsidiary based mostly in Germany, to put in optical floor stations.

Swedish Area Corp.’s Yatharagga Satellite tv for pc Station in Australia features a 13.56-meter S band antenna with capabilities for Telemetry Monitoring & Command (TT&C) and information downlink providers. Credit score: Swedish Area Corp.

Elevated reliance on optical communications is important given the expansion in demand for bandwidth, mentioned Barry Matsumori, chief government of BridgeComm, the Denver-based optical communications firm beforehand often called BridgeSat. “With every kind of communications needing extra efficiency, whether or not it’s for space-based Earth commentary or telecommunications or on the bottom for 5G, the velocity requirement is barely going in a single path,” Matsumori mentioned by electronic mail. “If one desires to get into not solely 10s of gigabits per second however a whole lot of gigabits, it is advisable take into consideration optical programs to reinforce what might be achieved within the RF world.”

Communications satellites and their floor segments will play vital roles in 5G networks, mentioned Lluc Palerm-Serra, Northern Sky Analysis senior analyst. “5G opens a window of alternative for the satellite tv for pc business to be built-in with the final telecom ecosystem,” he added.

To make that integration profitable, although, floor programs will should be extraordinarily versatile and adaptable. Terrestrial communications networks depend on software program to reconfigure themselves based mostly on demand. More and more, particular person satellites and constellations depend on software program to adapt to altering situations.

“If in case you have software-defined networks feeding us on the bottom and the payloads or the constellations altering regularly in area, if the bottom system is that this static entity between the 2 it’s going to be the bottleneck,” mentioned Greg Quiggle, Kratos Protection and Safety Options product administration vp. “For the business to be a superb different to terrestrial networking, it’s actually vital that the bottom system make that leap ahead.”

The objective is to determine floor programs that may dynamically change their configuration with out altering , mentioned Christopher Richins, CEO and co-founder of RBC Indicators of Redmond, Washington, a startup that provides satellite tv for pc communications infrastructure as a service.

Floor station operators have been transferring towards that objective for years, changing analog with digital know-how. Kongsberg Satellite tv for pc Providers, for instance, constructed an utility programming interface “that permits us to run scheduling for a whole lot of spacecraft by a community of a whole lot of antennas,” mentioned Katherine Monson, KSAT USA head.

Nonetheless, many teleports are crammed with racks of analog units to mix channels right into a satellite tv for pc uplink and cut up channels from a satellite tv for pc downlink. As soon as corporations reach digitizing the spectrum, “it begins to appear to be alerts routed by an web protocol community,” Quiggle mentioned. “If you happen to try this proper, not solely do you drastically scale back the price of the infrastructure, you make it manageable.”

As soon as the satellite tv for pc alerts are transformed to bits, the bits can circulation into public or personal cloud networks. By way of cloud computing, floor station operators can deal with the large improve in satellite tv for pc information with out big capital expenditures.

“You nearly have to do that in any other case, the bottom system would grow to be so costly it truly would stand in the best way of continued progress for the business,” Quiggle mentioned.

In truth, floor system corporations are working exhausting to scale back the price of satellite tv for pc operations and information switch.

“There can be plenty of satellites up there,” Gustafsson mentioned. “We should be very price efficient to have the ability to function all these satellites. You’ll be able to’t function 10,000 satellites the identical manner you use two.”

A Kratos Protection and Safety Options’ picture illustration of a community operations heart. Credit score: Kratos picture illustration

Floor programs corporations are getting ready to assist rising numbers of satellites, partly, by quickly constructing new floor stations. As well as, corporations are testing phased array and electronically steered antennas. For the second, it nonetheless prices corporations much less to purchase a number of parabolic antennas than a single phased array, however rising demand is more likely to scale back the price of phased array know-how.

“We predict that phased array antenna worth factors will come down so multi-satellite, multiband antenna functionality will serve the missions of enormous satellite tv for pc constellations,” mentioned Carey.

Monson agrees. “The flexibility to assist a number of communication hyperlinks on the identical time is clearly going to convey the associated fee down,” she mentioned. “The extra that we will convey the associated fee foundation of area down, the extra missions grow to be viable and the extra the business grows.”

Trying forward, corporations additionally be aware an elevated emphasis on safety.

“We have now clients who need to be solely within the cloud,” mentioned Paul Kennedy, Earth commentary programs vp for MDA, a Maxar firm. “We have now clients who need to be solely in extremely safe programs. More and more, we’re seeing clients who need hybrid programs with large privateness and safety on sure information sources and a manner to make use of the cloud to combine different information sources.”

Sooner or later, synthetic intelligence and machine studying are also more likely to play key roles in space-to-ground communications networks. “We’re engaged on programs that may make selections like data processing and extraction on the spacecraft that beforehand would have been made on the bottom,” Kennedy mentioned. “That adjustments the connection between the spacecraft and floor programs in addition to the necessity for antennas and information switch networks.”

Whereas in some methods the business is transferring towards larger standardization of floor programs to serve many various clients, corporations nonetheless are designing networks to serve particular person purchasers.

“We’re in an progressive part proper now,” mentioned Linda Lyckman, SSC senior vp for enterprise and know-how innovation. “The largest problem shouldn’t be solely the know-how improvement, it’s speaking to the brand new gamers, understanding the market and the wants of the top consumer.”


Atlas Area Operations, AWS Floor Station staff to convey the Amazon cloud to the Atlas Freedom Community

Atlas Area Operations’ Three-meter antenna in Mojave, California. Credit score: Atlas Area Operations

The satellite tv for pc floor programs enterprise is experiencing fast change, prompting new enterprise fashions and alliances. Two of the business’s latest entrants solid a brand new bond in July.

Atlas Area Operations, an organization established in 2015 to supply satellite tv for pc communications as a service, introduced plans to assist AWS Floor Station inside its Atlas Freedom Community. Amazon unveiled AWS Floor Station in 2018 to supply satellite tv for pc clients entry to Amazon Net Providers’ cloud-computing.

By way of the most recent settlement, Atlas and AWS will provide clients an expanded floor station community, simplified satellite tv for pc administration and entry to AWS information providers, mentioned Mike Carey, Atlas co-founder and chief technique officer.

Previous to the July announcement, Atlas was a member of the AWS Companion Community, a big group of cloud software program and repair distributors working with the business big. Underneath the brand new settlement, Atlas will present clients with entry to AWS providers by its Freedom cloud-based floor station community.

“Amazon has phenomenal information internet hosting, information transit and safe storage functionality,” Carey mentioned. “Atlas’ experience is taking uncooked information from a spacecraft and doing all of the work required to in order that when it will get to the shopper by means of the cloud it’s prepared to be used.”

As well as, the Atlas Freedom Community takes care of satellite tv for pc command and management, scheduling and administration of all and software program sources mandatory for profitable satellite tv for pc communications, Carey mentioned.

AWS Floor Station started providing service at its first two websites in Could. The corporate plans to function 12 websites by the top of the yr. Atlas operates 10 floor stations and plans to have 31 websites operating by the top of 2020.

— Debra Werner


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