The deployment of mega-constellations and smallsats providing a sheer number of sensors in Low Earth Orbit “LEO” is driving the need for satellite data centers, to unleash the power of these emerging platforms.

In a 3-part series, we will cover how Space systems are following in the footsteps of Terrestrial systems and will evolve to enable AI at the edge of space in Space-IoT™ satellites:

  • Stage 1: Space data collection
    • With thousands of LEO satellites in orbit collecting data, a few Space Data Centers in LEO or MEO will collect big data for AI model generation. The sheer number of satellites sending data acts as a multiplier that requires the Data Center to accept data at speed in a temporary buffer before it is committed to long term storage. This data is then sent to Earth for AI model generation.
  • Stage 2: Security and latency of data in space and in transit
    • The stored data may be public domain or may be a national asset. The data in these Space data centers needs to be secured and then transmitted back to earth and in the long run to Data Centers in GEO orbit using either traditional RF communication systems or lasers.
  • Stage 3: The ultimate datacenter in space
    • Invention of selectors delivers high enough density MRAM to enable True High Density Data Centers to store data from LEO and MEO for generation of AI models in space without going back to earth. Space becomes autonomous and independent of Terrestrial support eliminating the need for a link to Earth. This is essential if we are to deploy a similar model around the Moon and Mars. Backhaul to earth will not be an option.

Stage 2: Security and Latency of Data in Space and in Transit

The thirst for actionable information from the deployment of thousands of sensors in LEO satellites is continuing to drive the need for data centers to unleash the power of these emerging platforms.

In the 2nd part of this blog series, we cover how the progress toward commoditization of space laser communication systems is enabling that vision to be realized in a secure and unbridled fashion.

Over the last several years, we have seen space laser communication terminals become vastly more compact, robust, and affordable, as they march away from novel demonstrations at the turn of the century into mass volume producible systems from companies like Space Micro, CACI, MIT-LL, Airbus, Mynaric, BATC, GA, and SpaceX partners. The mass production of these systems capable of delivering security and low latency enables the next step in the evolution of space data centers.

Why Space Laser Communication Terminals?

  • Security
    • The robustness of a laser point-to-point communication link make it inherently secure, before even adding on any security protocol handshaking to the link. Anytime the link is attempted to be intercepted, it becomes known immediately, as the potential threat is blocking at least a portion of the link during intercept. This is much easier to secure than tradition Radio Frequency (RF) communication links where the signals are being broadcasted over a very wide area making it easier to intercept by only having to be somewhat in the proximity, thus requiring various levels of encryption to enable a secure link.
  • Regulation
    • Due to RF being a broadcast type of exchange, it makes it more susceptible to interference with other RF signals, thus making it easier to jam or even unintentionally overwhelm the signal from other transmitters. This has caused very “careful” RF spectrum management and licensing to ensure that one RF transmission doesn’t impact other RF transmissions. These necessary regulations make it more challenging for new entrants into the fold as there are only so many spectrum bands available in the RF domain and each one has its benefits as well as disadvantages. Certain bands, for example millimeter wave (MMW) that enables the ultrawideband communication in 5G infrastructure has great speed, but very limited range and is largely impacted by physical structures. All these spectrum bands require careful testing and regulation as despite safeguard bands, it’s still possible to get interference as they get closer and closer to each other for more and more communication. The latest war between the FAA and the telecom giants over the deployment of 5G towers near airports is an example of how even with regulation and frequency band separation, there is no certainty of a happy outcome. Laser communication does not have that issue nor need for regulations as they are point-to-point, and you don’t have opportunities to generate interference on other laser communication systems.
  • Latency
    • While we have all come to enjoy leveraging the speed enabled by these light-driven communication systems in fiber networks terrestrially, we are just beginning to unleash their capabilities in space where they can achieve even greater speeds in the vacuum of space. Advancements in space laser systems enable in excess of 100Gbps satellite-to-satellite links. Plus in the not-too-distant future it’s also very likely to achieve those same speeds with built-in Deep Learning (DL) algorithms adjusting the link in real-time to the various disturbances caused by the atmosphere as it passes from satellites to the ground. While it’s also possible to achieve that in the RF spectrum, it’s an extremely complex challenge to achieve even terrestrially without the added complexity of commoditizing it for space applications, not to mention the added regulations on the spectrum as well. Further complicating satellite constellations use of the RF spectrum is the spectrum and performance that can be licensed depends on which way the satellite is facing, meaning earth-facing observation satellites get a much bigger pipe in the RF spectrum to bring the data down to the ground than space-facing/exploring satellites.

These point-to-point, ultra-highspeed, low latency intra-satellite laser links pave the way for networking the mega constellations and synchronizing them into persistent swarms of sensors providing actionable data to the planet. This parallels what we have seen in the Industrial IoT of networked sensor platforms and what they enable. These vast in-space networks with their robust secure point-to-point laser links orbiting the earth at 17,500mph enable the inherent resiliency required for ultra-secure data centers to aggregate and process data we thirst for at the breakneck pace demanded.

In the final blog in this series, we will discuss how high density MRAM enables true high-density data centers in space, capable of storing data from LEO, MEO, and GEO for generations of AI models in space, without going back to earth. Space becomes autonomous and independent of terrestrial support, eliminating the need for a link to earth. This is essential if we are to deploy a similar model around the Moon and Mars. Backhaul to earth will not be an option.

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