View Part 1, Introduction to New Space, Part 2, Cybersecurity Threats in New Space, and Part 3, Securing the New Space, in this series.
After the previous three parts of this series, we ascertain that the technological evolution of New Space ventures expanded the threats that targeted the space system components. These threats could be countered by various cybersecurity measures.
However, the New Space has brought about a significant shift in the industry. This wave of innovation is reshaping the future of space exploration.
5G and 6G technologies
The New Space age is crucial in the development of groundbreaking technologies.
Many experiments have been made to make 5G the adopted standard for space. The American Department of Defense (DoD) said that they conducted some experiments for satellite-direct-to-phone connections.
In addition, SatixFy Technology,a satellite communication provider company, announced that they have successfully demonstrated 5G backhaul communications connected to one of their satellites in Low Earth Orbit.
The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the international organization responsible for defining technical specifications for mobile wireless networks, developed a set of standards for space-based 5G.
Space-based platforms for 5G will provide high throughput and less latency.
The purpose is to answer effectively to some use cases like edge computing, IoT service continuity and fixed backhaul to remote locations that are underserved.
Even though 5G has not yet reached maturity, the sixth generation of mobile communication networks is under standardization and development.
The 6G era will also enhance the capabilities of existing technologies with an approach of providing unlimited and ultra-fast communications.
This major development for space-based 5G and 6G is a race today between ventures and even between nations.
Optical communication in space provides much higher bandwidth — an increase of 10 to 100 times — which allows NASA and other space agencies to carry more mission data.
Today with NASA’s mission on Mars, the Perseverance rover takes up to 45 minutes between call and response.
The use of laser beams in optical communication to transmit data will allow more carrying of data and will revolutionize deep space communications.
In addition, optical communication networks provide ideal channels for the exchange of quantum photons.
Optical communications, rather than radio frequency communications, will bring significant benefits for space missions, even for launch costs, which will be cheaper due to the characteristics of these communications: smaller size, lower weight and decreased power.
The New Space era has been marked by the adoption, by many space ventures, of cloud services and cloud-based technologies to take advantage of many capabilities like ground stations as a service.
Cloud technology makes space mission phases (e.g., design, testing, run, analysis) more simple and more accessible. Also, with cloud capabilities, data processing is significantly faster. A good example of cloud usage is NASA’s Perseverance mission: all insights generated by NASA’s Perseverance rover using the cloud technology were done faster than ever.
In October 2022, Sierra Space, a leading commercial space company, and IBM announced collaboration on the next generation of space technology and software platforms.
IBM will support Sierra Space through its journey of building a seamless technology platform in space, which both envision as a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive platform to effectively service the cloud in space and drive mission operations — all while supporting the development of new applications for commerce, research, tourism and more.
“IBM is committed to re-invigorating approaches to science and innovation to meet today’s biggest challenges. Collaborating with a leader like Sierra Space will support the growth of a more robust space economy in low-Earth orbit and beyond,” said Naeem Altaf, CTO of IBM Space Tech.
Edge computing is one of the most important technologies that will speed up the development of the space industry in the New Space age.
Edge computing is about placing computer workloads (both hardware and software) as close as possible to the edge — where the data is being created and where actions are occurring. Edge computing environments give customers faster response times, greater data privacy and reduced data transfer costs.
Edge computing technology benefits include performance, availability and data security.
In edge computing architectures, the analytics data potentially never leaves the physical area where it is gathered and is used within the local edge. Only the edge nodes need to be primarily secured, which makes it easier to manage and monitor and means that the data is more secure.
The best example of edge computing usage is the deployment of IBM Edge computing in the International Space Station (ISS).
DNA sequencing with the MinION device allows for the identification of microbes onboard the ISS. While DNA sequencing has become common onboard the ISS, data processing still requires the downlink of the data to Earth delaying the time to results.
IBM developed the “Edge Computing in Space” solution eliminating the need to move the massive data being produced on the ISS by the DNA Sequencing project, and by presenting containerized analytical code right where the data is being produced by leveraging the local compute to be available on ISS, reducing the time to less than a week to get results.
The New Space age is creating a new space economy and ecosystem, and no one wants to be left behind.
This New Space age evolves with many breakthrough technologies and creates opportunities to provide better protection from security threats in space systems.
Nowadays, space cybersecurity has become a necessity with space systems subject to more cyberattacks. There is an urgency to secure space systems and future space missions. Space is going to grow exponentially and so will its challenges. Let’s get ready to secure the next frontier.