Virtual Ground Stations

Given the emergence and increasing popularity of cloud networks, satellite communications maker ST Engineering iDirect hopes to incorporate ground stations into the cloud as well. Along with Microsoft Azure, the company developed a virtual modem that extracts signal from a high speed satellite. This technology can be used to replace physical ground stations.

Based on current physical ground stations are especially vulnerable to cyberattacks, it’s interesting to consider how virtual ground stations could affect security of satellite networks. On one hand, security updates will be much easier to deploy. Current ground stations rely on technologies developed decades ago and are very cumbersome to update, but the cloud will allow for incremental security patches. However, if all ground stations were linked to the same cloud network, a successful data breach could allow an attacker to compromise more systems than attacks on physical ground stations.

Ultimately, virtual ground stations could become the next reality, but security implications must be taken seriously. Providers also need to consider the costs of replacing all the current ground station technologies and invest in resources to migrate specialized satellite hardware.