Excellence in Innovation
The explosion of worldwide communications over the past 25 years has led to the pervasive use of mobile and land communications equipment with an abundance of platforms, applications, and devices all driving the growth of many of the largest businesses in the world. There is no doubt that this trend will continue through the Internet of Things (IoT), and the arrival of the 5G technology along with improvements to the underlying network infrastructure. However, the next, ‘Small Step’ for man in terms of ubiquitous communications will be the ‘Giant Leap’ into the Internet of Space.
The Internet of Space (IoS) is a long-term vision that leaders in some of the most technologically advanced companies in the world have begun to seriously consider. Both the European Space Agency and NASA have prepared plans that involve the deployment of networks of satellite around the Earth, Mars and the Sun. These networks are composed of complex communications networks for MIMO microwave antenna arrays and free-space line-of-sight laser links.
These technologies will be responsible for the communications of manned missions to Mars and will have to have the best in terms of redundancy, speed, and network management as most of what we send up, will never be fixed. Further to this however, will be the machine-learning A.I. systems on-board exploratory robots and landers for the moon and Mars including asteroid mining that will be tasked with resource extraction.
Many of the traditionally held ideas about space exploration are breaking down and commercial opportunities are starting to be explored.
A great deal of these new developments are directed at bringing broadband connectivity to the people who lack Internet access today: rural schools, clinics, markets and businesses, ships at sea, planes in the air, mobile-phone towers, high-speed stocks trading, cars, trains, buses, Internet of things sensors and appliances, governments, enterprises, military, etc.
For applications which benefit from low-latency communications (like broadband access) LEO satellite constellations provide an advantage over geostationary satellites, because latency from ground to satellite is dramatically reduced. A LEO satellite constellation can also provide more system capacity by frequency reuse across its coverage.
Furthermore, the lower orbits will help ensure the satellites re-enter the atmosphere in a shorter time in case of failure and will enable them to broadcast signals at reduced power levels, because they are closer to Earth, which allow the fleet to be compliant with limits to reduce radio interference with other satellite and terrestrial wireless networks.
As more commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) parts are targeted for space applications as a mean to take advantage of powerful technologies at lower costs, a more meaningful business-case for vendors can now be made to support the space-vendor-ecosystem.
However, there is a catch! The space environment itself is extremely severe; outside the protective cushion of the earth’s magnetosphere the exposure to radiation and extreme temperatures can destroy terrestrial electronics. Therefore, to really open these markets, the vendors will have to meet the space community half-way and do what they can to “space-ify” their COTS products.
Smiths Interconnect has a plan to do just that â€“ with the cost of sending even just 1 kg into space at over $50 k, the advantages of using the Reflex Photonics’ line of small, lightweight, high density SpaceABLEâ„¢ parallel optical transceiver modules inside the satellites will impact this enormously.
The SpaceABLE modules offer extremely high aggregate data rates (over 300 Gbps), are less than 3 cm2, and weigh less than 5 g. They can be placed anywhere on a motherboard or line card linking powerful CPU’s, GPU’s and FPGA’s across multiple boards and racks.
In terms of reliability, the SpaceABLE product line follows the rigorous environmental testing of MIL-STD-883 with a variety of thermal shock, vibration, humidity and cycling tests included. Furthermore, these modules are qualified under very stringent radiation exposure tests: Active Heavy-Ion testing for latch-up, SEE and SET failures, long-term irradiation from PIF and NIF cyclotrons, and long-term exposure (over several weeks) of gamma-rays using Cobalt-60 on active parts. These tests were all done with reference to the ECSS-Q-ST-60-15 Space product assurance standard – Radiation hardness assurance – EEE components.
The space community is slowly evolving from an era of mega-projects and unlimited budgets to a dynamic industry that envisions a commercial market with volumes that can support multiple business. Smiths Interconnect is part of this belief and this ultimate goal of bringing space a little closer by offering optical transceivers and optical infrastructure that will enable the next generation of space exploration.