Virtual Ground Stations

The not-quite-tangible reality of Virtual Ground Stations – by Jason Rainbow

Virtual machines are the future. They allow for near real time failovers of nodes, and to free up space in office buildings for cloud based housing of “servers”. However, how does virtualization apply to the ground station (ie: the antenna, the RF to digital converters, and the modems to take the digital data and carry them to a user).

This is the next move in the industry according to this article. Lets take an antenna and move as much of it as we can into the cloud. What does that even look like? Well, there will still be an antenna (kinda still need to be able to collect and focus in on RF energy), but after the RF is down converted and digitalized, the other boxes are looking more like they can be optional. Raw digital data of the future may be decrypted, and read in a cloud setting. Taking that one step further, if you have a network of antennas but they are all not used 100% of the time then that network can effectively pool the digital virtual machines for use at different antenna apertures around the world. For instance, a dish in Chili may have schedule down time, so its virtual modems could be then used by a dish in Spain. This saves ground space, and allows for less of a footprint in sometimes remote unmanned locations. In all it saves money.

This also opens up satellite networks to more of a cyber risk, as more thigs become virtual. For instance, virtual encryption only works if the decrypted data isn’t compromised. Or the virtual machines them selves could be over loaded by DOSSing the network they are on with garbage data, instead of compromising the physical machine. All of this must be considered for our new virtual ground reality.