The pace of innovation over the past few decades has been staggering. In fact, it feels like a new, disruptive technology has entered the marketplace every few years – each one shaping and evolving how we work and live.
Don’t believe me, just look at where we are now from where we were in elementary school. In my case, that means going back to the 80s and 90s, when we saw the proliferation of the home computer running simple, command-based operating systems and running applications off of 5.25-inch floppy disks. I remember specifically when CD-ROMs were introduced and how revolutionary they were because of their ability to introduce “multimedia” to the personal computing experience.
Since that time, we’ve seen the emergence of computer networking, and the Internet, and the cloud, and social media, and solid state storage and mobile devices. Each one of these has completely reshaped our lives and how we live them.
Well, we’re starting to see something similar in space.
Although the pace of innovation may not seem as fast for satellite technology as it is for the technologies we’re using right here on Earth, some amazing developments are in the works – many of which are being driven by terrestrial technology trends and changes.
The increasingly data-heavy applications that we rely on everyday are driving a need for big, low latency beams capable of delivering the bandwidth necessary for them to run. This has sparked some amazing innovation in space, and commercial satellite customers on Earth are starting to take notice.
Let’s take a look at some of the headlines we’ve seen in the space and satellite news in early June, and we’ll undoubtedly see stories of exciting and innovative new advanced making their way into space – and subsequently getting embraced here on Earth:
US DOD Partners with SES to Secure O3b MEO Services
The military is increasingly reliant on IT solutions and advanced technologies in theater. Soldiers and warfighters are also increasingly expecting access to the same technologies and IT tools that they use at home, even if they’re deployed to the tip of the spear. But, as we discussed, these solutions – especially hosted applications and data in the cloud – require a large amount of bandwidth. Also, real time applications can be drastically impeded by large amounts of latency.
The answer could lie in a new generation of satellites from SES that incorporates today’s advanced high throughput satellite technologies, and are strategically positioned closer to Earth. The SES O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellation is located half of the distance away from the Earth as traditional GEO satellites, enabling them to deliver powerful beams from closer by – greatly reducing latency. This makes the O3b constellation an ideal solution for delivering the applications, IT services and solutions the military needs at the speeds they require.
The military appears to agree. As this Satellite Today article states, the DoD has signed a blanket purchase agreement (BPA) that will make the O3b satellite constellations available to the entire military as a service. This means that any military organization or branch in need of high speed, low-latency connectivity now has a contract vehicle in place in which to get access to it as a managed service.
The timing of this announcement was perfect for the DoD, since the MEO constellation that they’re making available across the military also received some very good news this week.
SES, with FCC’s blessing, says O3b constellation can reach global coverage
Just this past week, the Federal Communications Commission approved the expansion of the O3b constellation from equatorial constellation to global constellation. This effectively gives SES the ability to build out its MEO satellite constellation so that it can cover more than 80 percent of the globe.
This is exciting news for customers or anyone else that wants access to high speed, low-latency connectivity practically anywhere on the globe. The expansion of the O3b satellite constellation will increase coverage area, ensuring fiber-like connectivity to anywhere military and government resources are deployed.
But increasingly powerful, high-bandwidth and lower-latency satellites aren’t the only exciting technologies that are making their way into space.
Orbital ATK, SSL and others are gearing up to make house calls to ailing satellites
Launching a satellite can cost hundreds of millions of dollars. If you spent a small fraction of that amount on something for your home – like an appliance – you’d want the ability to cost efficiently repair it should it break. That’s not a luxury that’s been afforded to satellite operators. At least – not yet.
This excellent Space News article takes a look at in-orbit refueling and repair programs being developed and implemented by companies like SSL and Orbital ATK. These programs will give satellite operators the ability to refuel satellites that are rapidly approaching their original end-of-life and buy them a few additional years of operation – allowing operators to get the most out of their investment.
In the future, they’ll also be looking to repair satellites with robots – a technology that could open the door for many cool advancements in the long run.