An Ocean of Things. With the increasing digitization of the maritime industry, executives from cruise lines are slowly and carefully incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) applications in order to generate returns on investment. Meanwhile, satellite operators are trying to provide that connectivity at affordable rates that will help generate returns for cruise operators. Specifically, Carnival Cruises and Silversea are seeing the incorporation of IoT technology in customer experience-enhancing applications.

Carnival Vice President of Global Connectivity Reza Rasoulian has assembled differing levels of IoT technology and digitization offerings across his company’s fleet. He said that while improving the customer experience seems like a no-brainer decision, generating revenue from these services is a bit more complicated.

“The Return on Investment ROI for experience has been a bit fussy,” he said. “Connectivity is frankly, relatively easy to qualify and monetize. We have multiple Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we can manage and show the benefits of investing in the space. With IoT on ships specifically, it’s a bit of a softer sell … in general, it still is a significant investment. The ROI and business case has to be there.” An Ocean of Things

Meanwhile, Silversea Director of IT Infrastructure Erick Hernandez is using connectivity to tailor personalized guest experiences onboard, especially when it comes to culinary decisions. “We’re able to give our passengers a new experience every time,” he said.

There’s no doubt that satellite bandwidth continues to be an expensive piece in the maritime IoT puzzle. But with the quality of the passenger experience on the line, it’s something that should be addressed. Rasoulian sees it as a matter of working with the industry to see what’s best. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We’re eager to see what transpires.”

Others see an issue in the speed in which the maritime industry reacts to digitization. “The connectivity is there,” Iridium Maritime Vice President and Manager Wouter Deknopper told Rasoulian and others at the SATELLITE 2019 show, but “the pain point that we see is that there’s a slow reaction to the digitization. Older systems have interfaces, but they’re not standardized — all that makes it very challenging to come to a standardized solution. Standardization is something that we, as an industry, need to push forward.”

SES Networks Maritime Segment Vice President Greg Martin believes that things will “really kick off in the IoT world” within two to three years in the maritime space. “We have 5G efforts of standardization that are adding to that — edge computing is adding to that as well,” he said.

With all the talk of the speed and manner of connectivity, Iridium’s Deknopper discussed the company’s anti-ocean pollution initiatives. He first delved into the story of Iridium NEXT, which has been nearly a decade’s effort for the Virginia-based operator. “We have now over 1 million subscribers – we have over 600,000 IoT subscribers over land, maritime, and the government space.” An Ocean of Things

Deknkopper then highlighted another application to provide a return on investment: protecting the maritime environment.

“Plastic pollution is a terrible reality,” he said. “It floats over the oceans and can float for thousands of miles. Our partnership with The Ocean Cleanup is the first attempt to rid the ocean of plastic.” Considering plastic floats with the currents, he stressed how important it is to track these rogue pieces, as “it’s important to have connectivity where it goes.” The company has even created partnerships, so it can use buoys to measure the density of these plastics.

“Next year there will be a redesign and scale up to 60 systems,” Deknopper added. “A lot of these systems will be deployed to the big plastic patches.” The whole system “uses a lot of data but has proven really well to be working in these harsh conditions.”

Regardless of the different speeds of adoption, IoT is central to both the new offerings from service providers and satellite operators, as well as the business models of cruise line operators.

For the past decade, STAR-Dundee has been leading the development of the next generation of SpaceWire technology: SpaceFibre. New SpaceFiber standard provides

SpaceFibre is a high-performance, high-reliability, high-availability network technology for use onboard spacecraft.

STAR-Dundee’s efforts in developing SpaceFibre were recently rewarded with the publication of the SpaceFibre standard, “ECSS-E-ST-50-11C – SpaceFibre – Very high-speed serial link”, by the European Space Agency’s standardization body, the European Cooperation for Space Standardization.

SpaceFibre provides data signaling rates of 6.25 Gbit/s in current flight technology, over electrical or fiber optic cables, while its unique multi-laning features allow up to 16 lanes to be combined into a single link, giving a theoretical link rate of 100 Gbit/s. SpaceFibre offers much more than high data rates, however. The technology is capable of detecting, isolating and recovering from faults in the link where they occur, which prevents faults from propagating and causing further errors. SpaceFibre provides galvanic isolation, transparent recovery from transient errors, error containment in virtual channels and frames, and “Babbling Node” protection. Very versatile quality of service mechanisms allows scheduled, deterministic communication without wasting any network bandwidth.

These powerful capabilities mean that SpaceFibre is not only suitable for very high data rate payloads such as synthetic aperture radar and multi-spectral imaging instruments; it can also be used for network and equipment management and for deterministic command and control type applications. SpaceFibre allows each of these traffic types with very different requirements to share a single network, with each traffic stream operating independently within its own virtual network.

SpaceFibre has been and is being designed into its first ASICs, onboard equipment and space missions. The powerful Ramon Chips RC64 many-core DSP features STAR-Dundee IP to provide 12 SpaceFibre ports each offering up to 6.25 Gbit/s data signaling rate. SpaceFibre is being used in Europe, USA, Russia, and Japan and has been incorporated in the latest revision of the ANSI/VITA 78 SpaceVPX backplane standard. New SpaceFiber standard provides

Steve Parkes, CTO of STAR-Dundee and formerly Chair of Spacecraft Electronic Systems at the University of Dundee, wrote the SpaceFibre standard with inputs from international spacecraft engineers. STAR-Dundee has designed, implemented and tested:

The first SpaceFibre interface;

The first SpaceFibre routing switch;

The first SpaceFibre multi-lane interface;

The first SpaceWire to SpaceFibre interface device;

The first experimental SpaceFibre interface ASIC (VHiSSI);

The first SpaceFibre interfaces in a many-core processor (Ramon Chips’ RC64);

The first SpaceFibre interface in a radiation tolerant FPGA (Microsemi’s RTG4);

The first SpaceFibre routing switch in a radiation tolerant FPGA;

The first SpaceFibre multi-lane interface in a radiation tolerant FPGA;

The first SpaceFibre link analyzer;

The first SpaceFibre interface board.

In addition, STAR-Dundee has demonstrated the first complete SpaceFibre network representative of spaceflight applications and incorporating radiation tolerant technology. STAR-Dundee owns a patent on the SpaceFibre multi-lane technology, which is being freely licensed for space-related applications. New SpaceFiber standard provides

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STAR-Dundee’s SpaceFibre PXIe-RTG4 board, providing 8 SpaceFibre ports, 4 SpaceWire ports and accessed from a Microsemi RTG4 FPGA (courtesy: STAR-Dundee)

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STAR-Dundee SpaceFibre demonstration, including a SpaceFibre Camera with RTG4, SpaceFibre link analysis and a SpaceFibre-to-SpaceWire bridge (courtesy: STAR-Dundee)

About STAR-Dundee

STAR-Dundee is an aerospace engineering company which designs network and related data-handling technology for use onboard spacecraft. STAR-Dundee provides electronic test and development equipment and chip designs for spaceflight applications. The company is based in Dundee, Scotland and has a wholly owned subsidiary, STAR-Barcelona, in Barcelona, Spain.

Since 2002, STAR-Dundee has provided SpaceWire and, more recently, SpaceFibre evaluation, test, and development equipment to the world’s space agencies and aerospace companies. Our interface boards and units are used in Electronic Ground Support Equipment (EGSE) for integrating and testing many spacecraft. Our IP cores are integrated into spaceflight systems monitoring the Earth, exploring our Solar System, studying the universe and supporting commercial space applications.

STAR-Dundee is committed to providing the best possible solution to meet the requirements of each unique space mission. Our team of highly qualified and experienced engineers understands the challenges of designing systems for space applications. Our well-proven technology has flown on many high-profile space missions. Part of our commitment to our customers is the effort that we spend on the research, development, and standardization of data-handling technology. SpaceFibre is the latest manifestation of our commitment to engineering excellence and international standardization.

What is SpaceWire?

SpaceWire is a data-handling network for use onboard spacecraft, which connects together instruments, mass-memory, processors, downlink telemetry, and other onboard sub-systems. SpaceWire is simple to implement and has some specific characteristics that help it support data-handling applications in space: high-speed, low-power, simplicity, relatively low implementation cost, and architectural flexibility making it ideal for many space missions. SpaceWire provides high-speed (2 Mbit/s to 200 Mbit/s), bi-directional, full-duplex data-links, which connect together SpaceWire enabled equipment. Data handling networks can be built to suit particular applications using point-to-point datalinks and routing switches.

STAR-Dundee’s highly experienced engineers were instrumental in the development of SpaceWire, writing the ECSS standard with inputs from international spacecraft engineers. Since the standard was published in January 2003, it has been adopted by ESA, NASA, JAXA, and Roscosmos for many missions and is being widely used on scientific, Earth observation, commercial and other spacecraft. High-profile missions using SpaceWire include Gaia, ExoMars Rover, BepiColombo, James Webb Space Telescope, GOES-R, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and ASTRO-H.

What is SpaceFibre?

SpaceFibre is a spacecraft on-board data-link and network technology developed by STAR-Dundee and the University of Dundee for the European Space Agency (ESA), with inputs from international spacecraft engineers. It runs over both electrical and fiber optic cables and is the next generation of the widely used SpaceWire technology, offering higher throughput, lower mass and new capabilities including quality of service (QoS) and fault detection, isolation and recovery (FDIR). Initially targeted at very high data rate payloads such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and multi-spectral imaging instruments, SpaceFibre is capable of fulfilling a wider set of spacecraft onboard communications applications because of its inbuilt QoS and FDIR capabilities and its backward compatibility with the ubiquitous SpaceWire technology.

SpaceFibre provides high performance: 6.25 Gbit/s in the Xilinx Kintex UltraScale FPGA, 3.125 Gbit/s in the Microsemi RTG4 and Xilinx Virtex-5QV FPGAs, and 2.5 Gbits/s in the Microsemi RTAX. Multi-laning can be used to achieve much higher data rates, e.g. 40 Gbit/s, sufficient for most, if not all, spacecraft on-board data-handling operations including SAR and high-resolution, multi-spectral imaging instruments.

The SpaceFibre Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms uses virtual channels to provide multiple independent communication channels over a single physical link. Each channel provides priority, bandwidth reservation and scheduled QoS. These QoS mechanisms operate together, resulting in very versatile QoS which also provides scheduled, deterministic communication without wasting any network bandwidth.

SpaceFibre FDIR detects, isolates and recovers from faults in the link where they occur, which prevents faults from propagating and causing further errors. The FDIR capability of SpaceFibre provides galvanic isolation, transparent recovery from transient errors, error containment in virtual channels and frames, and “Babbling Node” protection.

Low latency broadcast messages are provided in SpaceFibre which enable the rapid signaling of events, reporting of errors, and distribution of system time information. New SpaceFiber standard provides.

Very importantly, SpaceFibre is backward compatible with existing SpaceWire equipment at the Network level allowing simple interconnection of existing SpaceWire devices into a SpaceFibre network and enabling that legacy equipment to take full advantage of the QoS and FDIR capabilities of SpaceFibre.

Women in Aerospace Offer Lessons in Overcoming Industry Barriers. Being the only woman in a room of scientists, engineers, and business professionals is nothing new to many women in the aerospace industry. And for the eight female industry leaders who led Wednesday morning’s general session, “Our Collective Role in Empowering Women and Cultivating Diversity in Aerospace,” at SATELLITE 2019, this reality is both something to celebrate and something that needs to change. Women in Aerospace Offer

“Women in aerospace are experiencing a renaissance in the satellite and space industries,” said moderator Charity Weeden, president, and co-founder of Equinox Consulting, an independent space consulting company. “This is a time for all-hands-on-deck. And you know what? Diversity is here to help.”

While each of the eight speakers at the SATELLITE 2019 panel came from different backgrounds, they shared the common bond of having to work harder than their male peers to succeed.

Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, Senior Vice President (SVP) of government policy and strategy, Inmarsat Government, recalled leaving her first name off her resume when she began looking for engineering jobs after college. “When I started in college, in electrical engineering, women made up 3 percent,” said Cowen-Hirsch. “People were surprised when I went for interviews and a woman walked in.”

Ball Aerospace Strategic Operations Vice President (VP) and General Manager Debra Facktor said she nearly missed an important opportunity to engage in high-level talks with Russia’s leading scientists in the 1990s. At first, she said, her Russian counterparts were reluctant to engage in conversation — they were downright shocked when she asked technical questions. But once they saw that she was as capable as any male engineer, their tone changed. “I found the common language for us was engineering,” she told Via Satellite. “When you know math and science, whether you’re young or old or a woman or not, you have another language to speak to bridge the barriers.”

Little by little, small milestones like these are producing measurable results — including the growth of women-led aerospace startups. Women in Aerospace Offer

When Kay Koplovitz founded Madison Garden Sports Network (which became USA Network) in 1977, a time when satellites equated to big, parabolic antennas, she became a role model and recognized industry leader. But over time, as more women entered the aerospace industry, Koplovitz became acutely aware of the barriers that female entrepreneurs faced when they tried to start their own businesses. It was incredibly difficult to obtain funding because they were ignored by most investors. “Women would try to launch these companies without any venture capital,” she recalled.

Seeing this inspired Koplovitz to start a foundation that would help women secure funding, and “speak investor side.” Today, Koplovitz said 82 percent of these startups are in business today, building their organizations, getting acquired by large companies or becoming Initial Public Offerings (IPOs).

Perhaps no setting demonstrates how far women have come than the SATELLITE Show itself. As Via Satellite Executive Editor Jeffrey Hill noted, in 2009 fewer than a dozen women spoke at the SATELLITE Show. Today, in 2019, it’s hard to find a session without at least one female speaker, moderator, or industry thought-leader present.

Yet, the aerospace industry still has a way to go before we can achieve true equality. During the session, Weeden highlighted a few data points to illustrate this point: Just 21 percent of women earned engineering degrees in 2017, but only 15 percent in mechanical engineering and space engineering. In the career world, women make 87 cents for every $1 a male engineer makes.

Nevertheless, speakers said they are trying to do their part to create a more diverse, inclusive work culture in their own organizations.

National Science Foundation Head of the Office of International Science and Engineering Rebecca Keiser said she aims to be a more inclusive leader through small acts, like holding meetings in common areas, as opposed to dedicated meeting rooms (which are frequently laid out in a hierarchical design). She regularly encourages individuals who don’t speak up to share their views, rather than having the most vocal colleagues dominate conversations.

Space Foundation COO Shelli Brunswick said she has taken an active role in her organization’s economic development programs and STEM initiatives.

Celeste Ford, founder, and chair of Stellar Solutions, who started college as the only female aerospace engineering student at University of Notre Dame, said she makes it her personal mission for “everyone on day one at Stellar to feel included and empowered.”

ABS Global Chief Commercial Officer (CCO) Carmen Gonzalez-Sanfeliu said she had the “double whammy” of starting her career as a Hispanic woman and leverages her global marketing and sales experience to mentor the next generation of young workers. “When I meet other women [in leadership positions], we have an immediate bond,” she says. “We know how tough it was to get here.”

Photo: CNET, Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV and Dish Network Corp., suffering the steepest subscriber losses in the pay-TV industry, are open to a merger and both companies believe such a deal could pass muster with U.S. regulators, according to people familiar with their thinking. AT&T Dish Are Open

It’s been 17 years since a proposed combination of the two satellite-TV services was deemed bad for consumers and shot down by the Federal Communications Commission and the Justice Department. But today — with at least seven competing cable-like packages offered online and the continued growth of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime — pay-TV subscribers are switching at increasing rates. DirecTV and Dish together lost almost 2.75 million subscribers in the past year.

“Both companies are seeing substantial declines in customers and when that happens, you see management teams start making plans,” said John Hodulik, an analyst with UBS. “As we’ve seen in this industry, it has usually led to consolidation.” Hodulik wrote a research note Thursday outlining the benefits of a such a merger. AT&T Dish Are Open

Representatives for Dish and AT&T declined to comment. The two companies have no active deal talks going on, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. In a second merger try in 2014, Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen approached DirecTV. But AT&T swooped in weeks later and agreed to buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion.

Dish rose as much as 6.3% to $38.47, the biggest intraday increase since January after Bloomberg reported the companies would consider combining their satellite-TV operations. AT&T gained 1%.

Down to One?

Reducing the only two satellite TV companies to one would seem to raise antitrust concerns, but in a similar scenario in 2008, satellite radio rivals XM and Sirius gained approval to form Sirius XM Holdings Inc. Antitrust officials, at the time, took into account a much larger audio market that included online services like Pandora, as well as terrestrial radio, when they reviewed Sirius XM. That approach could apply to today’s TV market, Hodulik said.

Each company could gain real benefits from a deal. AT&T might retain a minority stake in the combined TV business and part of the cash flow, Hodulik said. It could also obtain valuable airwaves owned by Dish for its nationwide wireless business. If Dish controlled the satellite business, it would have about 29 million subscribers, becoming the largest pay-TV service in the U.S. and gaining leverage in lowering programming costs. AT&T Dish Are Open

The dish is in a particularly tough spot. The Englewood, Colorado-based company has seen its conventional TV customers shrink from more than 14.1 million to 9.64 million in recent years. Its online Sling TV service has 2.42 million subscribers. But unlike Dallas-based AT&T and cable rivals like Comcast Corp., Dish doesn’t have a phone, broadband and wireless services it can bundle with satellite TV to retain customers.

Regulatory Picture

Given how the industry has changed and the number of new competitors that have emerged over the past decade, a combination of Dish and DirecTV could gain regulatory approval, Ergen said on a February 2018 earnings call.

“The marketplace is a little bit different,” he said. “So, I think that Justice would look at that positively.”

Even though there’s no deal afoot, the business case makes sense, according to the people. There’s logic to putting two declining businesses together, one said.

“The internet is becoming the biggest video distributor,” Hodulik said. “A decade from now, in areas that have broadband connections, having to get a satellite to watch TV will seem crazy.”