Software-Defined Satellites Meet Software-Defined Ground

Kratos: The development of commercial operators led to new approaches to improve the productivity of infrastructures in space and on the ground to increase profitability. The introduction of software-defined technologies is considered a major technological trend to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of operations. On one hand, the shift from hardware functions to software enables mass and cost reduction. On another hand, software solutions support the automatization of operations and make systems more flexible and scalable as configurable with a simple file upload. This article will review the potential of software-defined technologies to leverage new opportunities for Telecom, Earth Observation, and Defense applications but also challenge the current value chain.

Telecom: Configurable payload and integration with terrestrial network. Software-defined satellites are raising interest from Satcom operators who are interested in more flexible communication to better address demand for connectivity. Traditionally, a GEO satellite was launched for a specific mission with an essentially fixed design during its whole life (i.e. 10-20 years). Once in orbit, it could not repurpose its mission even if the demand changed. A flexible satellite uses a Software-defined(SD) payload to reconfigure the antenna beam on-demand that is programmable by sending a new program in uplink communication. The term of “Software-defined” itself is not perfectly defined yet because it can cover a set of different design making the term? not perfectly defined yet. We refer to “Software-designed” as any traditionally implemented hardware components replaced by software to configure a function dynamically and programmatically. Essentially a software-defined satellite should offer the ability to dynamically modify the coverage beams and the capacity and power distribution.

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