In cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop solutions for nanosatellites to “communicate”, Elsis PRO (from the end of 2023 acts as Novian Pro), a software development company, has already completed two major milestones of the Galaxy nanosatellite constellation data exchange platform. After selecting the best solutions for the nanosatellite constellation data exchange platform in the first phase, the company completed the second phase of Galaxy development in 2023, during which it prototyped the nanosatellite data exchange management platform. Elsis PRO aims to further develop and test it in nanosatellite laboratories.
The explosive growth of the space industry in the 21st century has led to the launch of a large number of satellites, which are now orbiting the Earth. By the end of the third decade of this century, their number in space is expected to exceed 3,000. This phenomenon has also led to a new need to efficiently manage constellations of thousands of nanosatellites to communicate with each other and with Earth. To do this, a common communication network between satellites and Earth stations is being developed.
The project addresses not only the usual data transmission or prioritisation issues, but also space-specific challenges. Satellites need to transmit data efficiently to the nearest ground station. Also, members of the constellation have to “communicate” with each other and automatically select the most efficient data transmission path so that the required data is delivered in the shortest possible time.
All this takes place in a specific environment: equipment used in space has a low bandwidth and latency. The challenges are further compounded by limited energy resources and additional space disturbances – various waves and solar storms.
The low bandwidth also creates competition – solutions are needed to send more important data back to Earth earlier. Importantly, these solutions can also help in serious earthly situations – obtaining forest moisture measurements is not as urgent as obtaining thermal object data to help rescuers locate a person lost in the forest.
The Galaxy project, implemented by Elsis PRO and ESA, aims to address these challenges by providing an efficient management platform solution for nanosatellite data exchange. The company has finalised a prototype software platform for exchanging information across the nanosatellite constellation system and will test it in the nanosatellite labs in 2023.
The system is based on one of the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, Data Distribution Service (DDS), for decentralised solutions. It is particularly suitable when there is no central node through which data must always go, as in the case of MQTT (MQ Telemetry Transport), another IoT standard. In addition, DDS technology has proven its worth in defence, where communication needs to be maintained even if part of the system is damaged.
Once the system for the fastest delivery of nanosatellite data from space, as well as for its prioritisation, has been developed and tested, decisions will be made on its further development and use. Galaxy’s data exchange management solution is expected to be of interest to operators managing nanosatellite constellations in fields ranging from agriculture to defence.