DENVER – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will need to incorporate innovative commercial technologies into its earth-based satellite systems to acquire, process and disseminate the vast amounts of data to be generated by future government, commercial and international satellites.
NOAA’s National Satellite Environmental Data and Information Service (NESDIS) analyzed the future requirements of the ground-based system and determined that “if we continue to increase capacity, incorporate more data sources and more satellites with the current approach, it will be difficult for the government to accomplish its missions at the same level in over the next 20-30 years,” Raad Saleh, who leads the NESDIS Ground Enterprise Study for NOAA’s Office of Systems Architecture and Advanced Planning, said Jan. 9 at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting here.
In fact, NOAA would “significantly exceed available funding” if the agency went ahead with plans to expand its constellation to 2042 without changing its ground architecture strategy, said Michael Morgan, the Department of Commerce’s assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction.
NOAA is currently developing a unique ground system for each mission, an approach that threatens to become prohibitively expensive as the constellation expands, Morgan added.
Going forward, NOAA will look to the private sector for “new disruptive and disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, cloud computing and digital twins as the agency transitions to ground-based enterprise architecture to support the next generation of satellite surveillance systems, Saleh said.
The space industry representatives on the AMS panel welcomed the new approach.
“Private industry responded to market forces quickly and efficiently by deploying opportunities in the ground enterprise areas,” said Robert Smith, Northrop Grumman Senior Systems Engineer. “Whether it’s cloud hosting, ground station as a service, flexible antenna as a service, sensor payloads, quick-start capabilities, satellite operations, data processing, and data access and dissemination, now is a good time to capitalize on investments and deployments private industry of these technologies.
Other technologies that could increase the efficiency of satellite constellations include on-board processing, inter-satellite links and data analytics with robust object detection and feature extraction algorithms, said Kumar Navulur, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Maxar Technologies.
Still, NOAA will face the challenges of shifting to relying more on the commercial sector, while ensuring that data integrity, security and quality don’t suffer.
Instead of filling tricycle binders with requirements for new systems, NOAA may have to write service-level agreements for future systems, said Jack Maguire, general manager of Aerospace Corp.’s Civilian Space Programs Operations Division.
The European Space Agency is also moving towards a corporate ground system and increasing reliance on the private sector.
Rather than establishing separate ground systems for each mission as has been the case in the past, ESA developed a reference architecture based on common mission needs.
“We now have a collection of products that we consider generic enough to support all the missions that are part of our portfolio,” said Mauro Pecchioli, ESA’s Multi-Mission Infrastructure Program Director. “These products are also being made available to European industry for use in programs that are not funded by ESA, which means we have laid the groundwork for European industry to become competitive with non-institutional funded programmes.”