Satellite Data Centers With Space As A Service: As the cost of building and launching satellites continues to drop, melding IT concepts with satellite operations to bring data center services into Earth orbit and beyond is emerging as the next big thing.
Colocation of server hardware, virtually running applications in the cloud, and edge computing are all familiar concepts to the data center world, but the space industry wants to apply those ideas into satellite-based business models.
Until recently, satellite hardware and software were tightly tied together and purpose-built for a single function.
The introduction of commercial-off-the-shelf processors, open standards software, and standardized hardware is enabling companies to repurpose orbiting satellites for different tasks by simply uploading new software and allowing the sharing of a single satellite by hosting hardware for two or more users.
This “Space as a Service” concept can be used for operating multi-tenant hardware in a micro-colocation model or offering virtual server capacity for “above the clouds” computing.
Several space startups are integrating micro-data centers into their designs, offering computing power to process satellite imaging data or monitor distributed sensors for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
OrbitsEdge Plans Racks in Space
Florida-based OrbitsEdge is embracing a data center in orbit model, taking off-the-shelf rackmount servers and bolting them into a satellite bus (the structural frame housing payloads).
“We’re both edge computing and data center,” said Rick Ward, Chief Technical Officer of OrbitsEdge. “We want to put big-performance computing infrastructure into space to process data, cleanse it, aggregate data from multiple sources and analyze it. We are that missing piece of the infrastructure to commercial space.”
OrbitsEdge is able to communicate with other satellites to collect and process their data, as well as performing overhead edge computing where a traditional data center is unavailable or not close enough.
The company sees opportunities in offloading and storing data from Earth Observation satellites, processing it into immediately usable imagery, and sending the results directly to end-users in the field.
It has had discussions with the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and commercial cloud providers on how such non-traditional resources could be useful for various use cases on Earth, in space, and on the surface of other celestial bodies.
“It’s another location for processing data above the clouds,” said Sylvia France, President of OrbitsEdge. “There’s a lot of interest in fintech, being able to make buy/sell decisions based on counting cars in parking lots. We’re also talking to entertainment companies as well, from space tourists to augmented reality firms.”
The OrbitsEdge SatFrame is the company’s proprietary satellite bus, with a standardized 19-inch server rack with available volume for 5U of hardware. The company’s first two SatFrame pathfinder satellites will support 18-inch deep hardware with production designs capable to grow to support full-sized 36 inch deep hardware.