Reuse of telecom standards to boost mega constellations take-off
A new Danish R&D project will reduce the complexity of satellite mega constellations by exploiting existing standards from cellular networks. The project is headed by network operations software specialist 2operate in collaboration with nanosatellite pioneer GomSpace and Aarhus University.
Satellite mega constellations are about to revolutionize satellite-based telecommunications services. Traditional satellite communication based on geo-stationary satellites in orbit at 36,000 km. above the Equator imply a roundtrip delay of at least half a second. Mega-constellations of satellites in low orbit (around 1.000 km.) will reduce roundtrip delay to less than 100 ms. between most locations on earth. Moreover, the coverage, scalability, and flexibility properties of mega constellations outperforms geo-stationary satellites.
One of the great challenges of mega constellations, however, is the increased complexity of system operations. The satellite operator will need to establish strong processes for monitoring and operating thousands of interconnected satellites, where new satellites will be deployed over time for added capacity. Furthermore, faulty satellites may need to be taken out of service.
The new project “MegaMan” (Mega-Constellations Services Management) will exploit the fact that cellular networks share many properties with mega constellations in terms of the number of network elements and the need for continuous performance/fault monitoring, remote configuration, and tracking of service quality of users. During the past 25 years, the operations of cellular networks have led to a range of concepts, best practices, and standards under e.g. ITU and 3GPP. Many of these concepts are directly applicable to mega constellations operations, and the MegaMan project will adopt and adapt these for future mega constellations.
“It is obvious that the solutions and standards developed for the operations of “constellations” of cellular network elements may be reused for mega constellations“, said MegaMan project manager, Lars Moltsen, who is also the Chief Science Officer at 2operate. “By doing so, we expect to skip 2-3 years of maturity time compared to the default approach of re-inventing everything. Right now, focus is to ensure connectivity, but we know that as soon as the new mega constellations enter operation, the operators will start demanding efficient solutions for daily operations“.