Tag Archive for: Satellite

Renditon of Qtum's blockchain satellite. Photo; Qtum Foundation.

SpaceChain, a community-based space platform, announces the successful test of its second blockchain node in space, launched into orbit on October 25, 2018, by a CZ-4B Y34 rocket from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre, Xinzhou, China.

The node is embedded with SpaceChain’s smart operating system, SpaceChain OS, and can perform blockchain-related functions on the Qtum blockchain such as running smart contracts and multi-signature transactions.

Since the launch on October 25, the team has run a number of connectivity tests to ensure the node’s full operational capability. During these tests, the node’s signal was detected and transaction data has been uploaded to the node to complete the signature and then downloaded via the ground station, and finally verified on the blockchain network.

“This multi-signature cold wallet service – an application developed by SpaceChain engineers to test the space node – shows proof of technology of being a potential cyber security solution for the blockchain industry,” said SpaceChain co-founder and chief technology officer Jeff Garzik. “SpaceChain deployed and tested the space-based multi-signature transaction which opens up brand new possibilities in space security models.”

The first blockchain node that SpaceChain launched into orbit on Feb 2, 2018, was equipped with a Raspberry Pi hardware board and blockchain software. It ran a full-node program on the Qtum blockchain and could process existing blockchain data. The node was offline and had limited functionality, but it was the first successful deployment of a Qtum blockchain node in low earth orbit.

“It often takes months and years to build the system and to launch hardware into space as there is a need to secure the launch opportunity, obtain permissions, get the frequency and ensure there is ground station support. We are proud to have launched two nodes in our first year of operations, bringing us one step closer to creating a network of blockchain-based satellites in space” said SpaceChain co-founder and chief executive officer Zee Zheng.

A panel at the 2018 Kratos Global Users Conference. Photo: Kratos

A panel at the 2018 Kratos Global Users Conference. Photo: Kratos

High Throughput Satellite (HTS) systems have brought unprecedented flexibility and bandwidth to the marketplace, but the new capability comes at a price: increased network complexity that will require innovation on the ground to manage effectively without breaking the bank.

HTS satellites, which have been deployed in increasing numbers in recent years, feature multiple spot beams that can be created, removed, or redirected at any time by commands from the ground, enabling highly efficient use and reuse of bandwidth. While this allows operators to respond quickly to shifting demand and better serve emerging markets such as mobility, it vastly complicates the job of network managers responsible for everything from satellite control and signal monitoring, to service tracking and customer billing.

Compounding the HTS challenge is the arrival of large constellations of satellites in lower orbits, which can complement traditional Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites, but have their own unique set of operating requirements. Some of the world’s major satellite operators are looking to more closely integrate the two types of systems in the years ahead.

At a recent user conference sponsored by Kratos, industry officials welcomed the full-scale arrival of HTS as a boon to the industry. But these officials also said that, based on experience to date, the ground has some catching up to do.

“If you’re having to manage bigger and more complex networks, what you can’t do is allow your operations costs to grow proportionally with the size of your networks,” said Stuart Daughtridge, vice president of advanced technology at Kratos. “The bottom line is you’ve got to be able to … manage more networks for less money than you had in the past.”

Operators are adapting by introducing more automation, virtualizing ground stations and shifting more functionality to cloud-based servers, according to Daughtridge and other speakers at the conference. One of the more basic challenges is allocating limited uplink resources between commands to the satellite and to its dynamic payload.

Tobias Nassif, general manager of the satellite control center Viasat, said uplink time devoted to satellite station-keeping and other maintenance is a time that cannot be used to reconfigure the payload in response to shifting demand. Operators thus face a tradeoff between necessary housekeeping and revenue generation, he said, suggesting that these tasks might require their own separate uplink channels.

During a panel discussion, officials representing satellite manufacturers, operators and ground system providers said a broader challenge is simply managing the sheer volume of tasks in the HTS environment.

“Automation is probably going to be one of the key elements you’re going to want to look at in a high throughput satellite,” said Tom Leisgang, technical director of ground systems mission engineering and operations at manufacturer SSL, a division of Maxar Technologies.

For SES, the introduction of HTS has led to a “huge, huge increase in scale” driven in part by increased interactions with customers, particularly those using the bandwidth for challenging applications such as aeronautical communications, said Steve Cooper, vice president of product line management and connect services at SES Networks.

SES has the added challenge of integrating a growing constellation of Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites, which require steerable ground-based antennas to track and communicate with each one as it passes from horizon to horizon. “That’s a whole lot of moving parts that need to be kept in sync, so that’s one of the bigger challenges we’re seeing,” Cooper said.

To save on infrastructure costs, companies also are, to different degrees, shifting data storage and other functions to cloud-based servers like Amazon Web Services, which are reliable, secure, and attractively priced. The panelists said they anticipate using a mix of public and private cloud-based services in the future, depending on the sensitivity of the application.

Meanwhile, the dynamic HTS signal environment — with spot beams being constantly redirected — complicates the task of mitigating interference, the panelists said. Whether inadvertent or deliberate, signal interference must be identified and geo-located before it can be addressed.

A growing HTS fleet has forced SES to double its network ground-based systems used to monitor satellite signal integrity, Cooper said. The recently launched SES 12 and upcoming SES 17 satellites will require even more signal-monitoring infrastructure, he added.

Bob Potter, vice president of signals and ground systems technology at Kratos, said the interference identification and geolocation issues can be addressed in part by technologies including the capability aboard some satellites to briefly but regularly sample incoming signals for integrity. This information can then be sent to a centralized location for detailed analysis, he said.

Emerging “big data” analytics technology also will come into play as operators seek to get the most out of their HTS satellites. Nassif said operators could use big data analytics to anticipate shifts and surges in demand, and react accordingly. “The more you know, the more you’re able to understand what situation you’re in, the better you can be proactive rather than reactive,” he said.

Blockchain Tech Firm Blockstream Launches Beta Version of Satellite API for Data Broadcast

Blockchain technology company Blockstream is launching the beta version of its Blockstream Satellite API, designed to help developers broadcast data via the company’s satellite network. The launch was revealed in the official announcement published Jan. 16.

The move follows the company’s satellite service expansion back in December, when it started broadcasting Bitcoin’s (BTC) blockchain on a global scale. Blockstream’s Bitcoin space initiative reportedly aims to free the cryptocurrency’s network from depending on land-based Internet connection and thus increase its robustness.

Blockstream’s latest “data agnostic” product allows to use its satellites for encrypted messaging, with users paying for the service via the Lightning testnet, which means that broadcasting is free for the moment. Developers can submit messages through a RESTful API (application programming interface), while users will be able to submit messages via the Blockstream website.

Photo: Blockstream

The team behind Blockstream Satellite API limited the maximum size of the messages, so that each can be transmitted within ten seconds. The announcement further notes that developers are supposed to use their own encryption, fragmentation, and reassembly of large messages in cases when they require transmitting larger bits of data.

As the product targets privacy, only a specific user or a group of users can purportedly decrypt the received data, which is sent from the Internet through a broadcast medium. When it comes to “paying” for the service, Lightning Network enables an additional level of privacy, disconnecting the payment source from the destination, the announcement notes.

Blockstream first unveiled its plans to develop its satellite network in August 2017, claiming that it wants to “connect everyone on the planet” in the face of what it described as limited global Internet penetration and even more limited online freedom.

Last week, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) proposed a blockchain-based system for air traffic management, which would employ an open-source permissioned blockchain to enable secure, private and anonymous communication with air traffic services.

A panel at the 2018 Kratos Global Users Conference. Photo: Kratos

A panel at the 2018 Kratos Global Users Conference. Photo: Kratos

Prevailing trends in satellite telecommunications have brought the industry to a crossroads. Should satellite industry Change? The successful navigation of which will depend on what happens with ground operations, as much as in space. Bandwidth prices have dropped sharply amid a capacity glut magnified by decreasing demand from television broadcasters — a longtime anchor customer for satellite operators. These developments have shaken some of the luster from an industry that, just a few short years ago, was awash in profits.

In an ideal world, this interoperability would even transcend corporate proprietary boundaries, enabling systems provided by one company to work seamlessly with those supplied by competitors. However, at least one speaker said that might be a bridge too far. “It may be an uphill battle for the individual satellite operators and different providers to come together and create standards if these standards remove their ability to differentiate,” said Dan Sullivan, chief technology officer at Kratos.

According to experts gathered at the 2018 Kratos Global Users Conference, the industry must adapt (in part by cutting infrastructure costs in space and on the ground) to succeed in the years ahead. To thrive, it must find a way to integrate satellites more closely with — and in the process, grab a larger share of — the broader telecommunications business.

“This is a moment that is called a singularity,” Thierry Guillemin, former executive vice president and chief technical officer at Intelsat, said in a keynote address at the conference. “That means it’s a moment where there is no way to predict what will happen next.”

“It’s beginning to make the satellite less important,” Phil Carrai, president of Kratos Technology and Training Division, said of the forces now shaping the industry. “If you have that much capacity and the satellites are reconfigurable then the real activity must be in the network; if you’re going to differentiate versus the competition it’s got to be on the ground side.”

The changes that must take place on the ground range from consolidation and automation of satellite operations and network management functions, to the introduction of individual user terminals that connect seamlessly with different satellites regardless of orbit or ownership, officials said at the conference.

There was seemingly unanimous agreement on the satellite industry’s need to become more closely integrated with the broader global telecommunications grid, of which it represents just a small fraction. Bandwidth price erosion is expected as High Throughput Satellites (HTS) in Geostationary Orbit (GEO) are joined by large constellations in lower orbits Constellations in lower orbits have far less latency, but require many satellites to achieve global coverage.

A big part of the answer is economic — getting prices to a point where the large telecommunications companies see value in adding a satellite component to their networks. In that respect, the declining cost of bandwidth could be more blessing than curse, provided the industry is successful in significantly reducing its operating costs.

According to Daughtridge, the good news is that terrestrial bandwidth prices dropped 99 percent during the 15-year period from 2001 to 2016, but the industry nonetheless grew massively by introducing new services to their offerings. “I think that’s the kind of period we’re entering as an industry where we’re going to put up a lot more bandwidth but we’re going to see growth”.