A commercial data center will appear in space

Nikolay NOSOV

14 July 2021

The Japanese companies NTT and SKY Perfect JSAT Holdings have begun work on creating an integrated computer network in orbit.

Humanity masters outer space with confidence. No one pays attention to rocket launches anymore, information from satellites is actively used in business and even in tourism, the Chinese rover transmits images from a neighboring planet. Huge amounts of collected information require processing as close as possible to the source of their generation – in space. There was a need to deploy data centers outside of Earth.

So it is long and expensive to transmit from satellites to Earth all the collected photos and videos of the sea surface in the rescue search area. It is easier to analyze the image, including using artificial intelligence systems, in orbit and send only the most important information to Earth, for example, the coordinates of a ship in distress. Such an edge data center will reduce the cost and time of data transmission from satellites to Earth.

In the spring of 2021, the Spaceborne Computer-2 edge data center, created by HPE, began operating aboard the International Space Station. NASA has announced plans to build the first data center on the moon as part of its Artemis project, which aims to establish a permanent lunar base by 2024.
The turn of commercial data centers is approaching, including those that combine computing resources in orbit into a software-defined network. The first one is not easy. Last year, the American company Vector, which developed a revolutionary technology for software-defined satellites launched by small launch vehicles, went bankrupt. So it remained a data center project from a cluster of microsatellites with identical orbits, where it was planned to place the GalacticSky cloud platform. However, the idea itself is not dead, it continues to be developed by Lockheed Martin as part of Lockheed Martin’s SmartSat software-defined satellite architecture.

A more familiar approach, which largely replicates the architecture of networks on Earth, will use a company created as part of a partnership entered into in May 2021 by Japanese telecommunications and technology company NTT with SKY Perfect JSAT Holdings. The joint venture aims to launch the data center into space in 2025 and begin commercial operations in 2026.

Source: https://group.ntt/en/newsrelease/2021/05/20/210520a.html

The companies plan to create an integrated space network combining devices located in multiple orbits, including satellites in geostationary orbits, low-orbit satellites and stations located at objects at an altitude of 20-50 km at a certain nominal fixed point relative to the Earth (HAPS).

Three components of the new integrated space network:

  • data centers in orbit with distributed processing of information on satellites connected via optical communication channels;
  • a platform for integrating ground and space sensing data Space Sensing;
  • Space RAN communications platform for ultra-wide and ultra-fast mobile communications from space, built on low-orbit satellites and HASP.

In addition to conventional observation satellites, space sensing includes low-orbit communication satellites for ground-based IoT devices that use the MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) spatial signal coding method, which allows you to increase the channel bandwidth. The IoT communication system will also be provided to third parties under a service model.

Additionally, as part of the Beyond5G/6G project for Space RAN, the joint venture plans to use its low-orbit satellite constellation for potentially ultra-fast mobile communications from space, providing ultra-wide coverage.

The demonstration of HAPS technical capabilities will begin in 2023, the launch of commercial satellites in 2025. Starting from 2026, it is planned to provide the services of the Space sensing orbital platform according to the service model. Satellites for Space RAN will be launched in 2028 and commercial operations will begin
platforms.

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