By Patrick Nelson | December 12, 2019
Development of IoT services in space will require ruggedized edge computing. OrbitsEdge, a vendor has announced a deal with HPE for development.
Upcoming space commercialization will require hardened edge-computing environments in a small footprint with robust links back to Earth, says vendor OrbitsEdge, which recently announced that it had started collaborating with Hewlett Packard Enterprise on computing-in-orbit solutions.
OrbitsEdge says it’s the first to provide a commercial data-center environment for installing in orbit, and will be using HPE’s Edgeline Converged Edge System in a hardened, satellite micro-data-center platform that it’s selling called SatFrame.
The idea is “to run analytics such as artificial intelligence (AI) on the vast amounts of data that will be created as space is commercialized,” says Barbara Stinnett, CEO of OrbitsEdge, in a press release.
Why data in space?
IoT data collection along with analysis and experimental testing are two examples of space industrialization that the company gives as use cases for its micro-data center product. However, commercial use of space also includes imagery, communications, weather forecasting and navigation. Space tourism and commercial recovery of space resources, such as mined raw materials from asteroids are likely to be future space-uses, too.
Also, manufacturing – taking advantage of vacuums and zero-gravity environments – is among the economic activities that could take advantage of number crunching in orbit.
Additionally, Cloud Constellation Corp., a company I wrote about in 2017, unrelated to OrbitsEdge or HPE, reckons highly sensitive data should be stored isolated in space. That would be the “ultimate air-gap security,” it describes its SpaceBelt product.
Why edge in space?
OrbitsEdge believes that data must be processed where it is collected, in space, in order to reduce transmission bottlenecks as streams are piped back to Earth stations. “Due to the new wave of low-cost commercial space activity, the bottleneck will get worse,” the company explains on its website.
What it means is that getting satellites into space is now cheap and is getting cheaper (due primarily to reusable rocket technology), but that there’s a problem getting the information back to traditional cloud environments on the surface of the Earth; there’s not enough backhaul data capacity, and that increases processing costs. Therefore, the cloud needs to move to the data-collection point: It’s “IoT above the cloud,” OrbitsEdge cleverly taglines.
How it works
Satellite-mounted solar arrays collect power from the sun. They fill batteries to be used when the satellite is in the shadow of Earth.
Cooling- and radiation-shielding protect a standard 5U, 19-inch server rack. There’s a separate rack for the avionics. Then integrated, traditional space-to-space, and space-to-ground radio communications handle the comms. Future-proofing is also considered: laser data pipes, too, could be supported, the company says.
On Earth option
Interestingly, the company is also pitching its no-maintenance, low Earth orbit (LEO)-geared product as being suitable for terrestrial extreme environments, too. OrbitsEdge claims that SatFrame is robust enough for extreme chemical and temperature environments on Earth. Upselling, it also says that one could combine two micro-data centers: a LEO SatFrame running HPE’s Edgeline, communicating with another one in an extreme on-Earth location—one at the Poles, maybe.
“To keep up with the rate of change and the number of satellites being launched into low Earth orbit, new services have to be made available,” OrbitsEdge says. “Shipping data back to terrestrial clouds is impractical, however today it is the only choice,” it says.
By Darrell Etherington | December 3, 2019
What kinds of businesses might be able to operate in space? Well, data centers are one potential target you might not have thought of. Space provides an interesting environment for data center operations, including advanced analytics operations and even artificial intelligence, due in part to the excellent cooling conditions and reasonable access to renewable power supply (solar). But there are challenges, which is why a new partnership between Florida-based space startup OrbitsEdge and Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) makes a lot of sense.
The partnership will make OrbitsEdge a hardware supplier for HPE’s Edgeline Converged Edge Systems, and basically it means that the space startup will be handling everything required to “harden” the standard HPE micro-data center equipment for use in outer space. Hardening is a standard process for getting stuff ready to use in space, and essentially prepares equipment to withstand the increased radiation, extreme temperatures and other stressors that space adds to the mix.
OrbitsEdge, founded earlier this year, has developed a proprietary piece of hardware called the “SatFrame” which is designed to counter the stress of a space-based operating environment, making it relatively easy to take off-the-shelf Earth equipment like the HPE Edgeline system and get it working in space without requiring a huge amount of additional, custom work.
In terms of what this will potentially provide, the partnership will mean it’s more feasible than ever to set up a small-scale data center in orbit to handle at least some of the processing of space-based data right near where it’s collected, rather than having to shuttle it back down to Earth. That process can be expensive, and difficult to source in terms of even finding companies and infrastructure to use. As with in-space manufacturing, doing things locally could save a lot of overhead and unlock tons of potential down the line.
By Doug Mohney | December 3, 2019
Startup OrbitsEdge, Inc. announced it has signed an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to host HPE Edgeline Convered Edges Systems onboard its SatFrame space-hardened satellite to enable commercial space companies to deploy computing in orbit and accelerate exploration. Given HPE’s previous work onboard the International Space Station (ISS), this isn’t a big surprise.
“Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the ideal partner for OrbitsEdge since its technologies have proven to withstand extreme environments on Earth and in space, with its deployment of the Spaceborne Computer in the International Space Station (ISS). This partnership follows HPE’s innovative strategy of enabling new solutions to be developed and deployed years in advance,” said Barbara Stinnett, chief executive officer of OrbitsEdge, Inc. “OrbitsEdge will leverage HPE’s edge technology to run sophisticated analytics such as artificial intelligence (AI) on the vast amounts of data that will be created as space is commercialized,” she added.
OrbitsEdge proprietary SatFrame bus is designed to support and protect commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) data center rack-mountable computing gear from the challenges of in-orbit operations, with SatFrame providing protection against radiation as well as providing temperature control, power, and communications. An HPE Edgeline Converged Edge System will be the first hosted payload onboard SatFrame to provide what OrbitsEdge calls a “micro-datacenter in orbit” for processing space-based data and help minimize the time and cost of backhaul to earth.
“We are committed to pushing technology limits to power the next era of innovation, whether it’s here on Earth or in space,” said Phillip Cutrone, vice president and general manager, Worldwide OEM at HPE. “The HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems provide datacenter-grade performance, data acquisition, industrial networks, and control in harsh edge environments to enable real-time insight and action. By combining our technologies with the OrbitsEdge SatFrame hardening design, the commercial space industry gains advanced systems to create new space-based applications and solutions.”
The SatFrame 445 bus provides a standard 19 inch server rack for up to 5U (Rack U, not Cubesat U of space, satellite bros) hardware and can support up to full-size 36 inch deep hardware. OrbitsEdge plans to launch a “sub 300” kilogram satellite in its first flight demonstration with 18 inch (half-deep) hardware onboard, with payloads operating on a “day/night” cycle on the satellite to conserve power and manage heat, powering up when the satellite is in the sun and shutting down on the night side of the Earth.
One potential application for OrbitsEdge-style in-orbit computing power would be to process imagery directly from other low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Today, visual and radar imagery are typically transmitted in raw form down to a ground station and into the data center and then processed and sent to the end-user. On-orbit processing would substantially reduce satellite downlink bandwidth needs and could provide a processed image directly to an end-user more quickly by removing the ground data center as an intermediary. Faster imaging processing would be a bonanza for civilian and national defense users – the latter group an area HPE is quite familiar with.
Other applications for in-orbit computing include financial transactions and any that need low-latency outside of a traditional data center. How OrbitsEdge fits into the overall scheme of edge computing and 5G will be interesting to watch, since edge and 5G both are emphasizing low-latency as an advantage over backhauling computations back to a traditional data center.
By Ron Mendoza | December 3, 2019
OrbitsEdge, provider of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Edge micro-data centers, partners up with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to help make data more accessible for companies in space.
Florida-based startup OrbitsEdge announced on Tuesday via press release that it has signed an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) contract with HPE. With this new agreement, OrbitsEdge will be the supplier of HPE's Edgeline Converged Edge Systems. The team-up will forge data centers that will be deployed in outer space, which is designed to make computing and data processing more accessible from where data is collected rather than sending it back to Earth.
OrbitsEdge applies a hardening solution to HPE's equipment to enable it to endure the extreme conditions in space, like radiation and other environmental stressors that it will be subjected to in space. Founded this year, OrbitsEdge proprietary technology for protecting hardware is "SatFrame." The "ruggedized satellite bus" is designed to withstand the harsh environment in space.
A Former HPE Executive as CEO
The company also appointed a former Hewlett Packard executive, Barbara Stinnett, as CEO back in September. Stinett's resumé spans over 30 years of experience with Silicon Valley companies, namely HPE, Cisco and Oracle.
"Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the ideal partner for OrbitsEdge since its technologies have proven to withstand extreme environments on Earth and in space, with its deployment of the Spaceborne Computer in the International Space Station (ISS). This partnership follows HPE's innovative strategy of enabling new solutions to be developed and deployed years in advance," said Stinnett.
"OrbitsEdge will leverage HPE's edge technology to run sophisticated analytics such as artificial intelligence (AI) on the vast amounts of data that will be created as space is commercialized," she added.
"We are committed to pushing technology limits to power the next era of innovation, whether it's here on Earth or in space," said Phillip Cutrone, vice president and general manager, Worldwide OEM at HPE.
"The HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems provide datacenter-grade performance, data acquisition, industrial networks, and control in harsh edge environments to enable real-time insight and action. By combining our technologies with the OrbitsEdge SatFrame hardening design, the commercial space industry gains advanced systems to create new space-based applications and solutions."
By Doug Mohney | October 4, 2019
OrbitsEdge is likely to give headaches to traditional satellite providers and offer intriguing possibilities to the growing edge computing movement. The company is offering a proprietary satellite bus designed to protect off-the-shelf rack mountable computing gear from the harsh environment of space, enabling users to tap into IT resources with low latency. It’s also likely to temporarily confuse Cubesat people with its use of “U” for rack space volume.
“What we’re looking at in the past and today, all the computers that go up on satellites are vintage tech,” said Rick Ward, Chief Technology Officer at OrbitsEdge. “There’s a tremendous amount of work on radiation hardening to make sure they work for a very long time. There’s no modern computer out in space. We’re looking to change that.”
The SatFrame 445 satellite will fly in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), providing power, thermal control/cooling, improved radiation protection and a host of communications capabilities to a standard 19 inch server rack with available space for 5U of hardware up to full-size 36 inch deep hardware. In addition, software “hardening” of devices will be necessary to compensate for radiation faults and potential damage.
Radiation is the biggest threat to computing in space as solar flares and cosmic radiation randomly zip through RAM and CPUs, with best case scenarios simple “bit flips” in memory storage or processes requiring a reboot. Physical damage to chips also occurs over time, making memory and CPUs unusable. Worse yet, devices become more vulnerable to radiation as fabrication processes get smaller. Packing more transistors onto a piece of silicon means the latest generation of chips are those most likely to be brutalized and rendered ineffective by higher radiation levels found outside of Earth’s atmosphere.
Only recently has newer off-the-shelf IT and computing hardware gone up into orbit, but experience is limited. Smaller cubesats have used cell phones due to low cost and compactness along with a low-cost/lower lifetime philosophy of 1 to 3 years in orbit, while HP Enterprise (HPE) recently launched a “supercomputer” to the International Space Station. The Spaceborne computer was built around an HPE Apollo 40-class system and used a modified Linux OS, with the computer returned to Earth after over a year of operation for teardown and fine analysis.
OrbitsEdge plans to launch a “sub 300 kilogram range” satellite as a testbed for its technologies and COTS hardware, with half-deep rack (18 inch) hardware onboard. Payloads will operate on a “day/night” cycle on the demo satellite to conserve power and manage heat, powering up when solar energy is available to run devices and shutting down when on the night side of Earth.
“Our demo mission is the smallest,” said Ward. “We’re only taking what’s essential to the mission. One of the things about high capacity computing is its very power intensive. We’re running a 1 kilowatt heater, so you have to get rid of the heat. If you want to run at night, you more than double mass take that step up,” between larger solar panels and batteries needed to provide power when the sun isn’t available.
Multiple commercial architectures will be onboard, but Ward declined to provide specifics on what gear or potential CPU types may be on board. He did, however, concur with Space IT Bridge that potential load outs could include low-end CPUs, representation for GPUs such as NVIDIA, and the latest silicon. The upside to the latest chip fabrication technologies is placing multiple cores on a single chip and the ability to monitor CPUs, shutting down one when it is damaged.
Why put computing into space in the first place? One real world application is being able to process imagery faster from other LEO satellites. Radar and visual imagery are transmitted in raw form to a ground station into the data center, consuming time and bandwidth. On-orbit processing would reduce bandwidth needs and could provide a processed image directly to an end user faster. For civilian and national defense users, faster imagery processing would be a bonanza.
Other potential applications could include any requiring extremely low latency, such as financial transactions, and any that could benefit from edge computing. A commercial version of the OrbitsEdge satellite will have multiple radios “some talking up, some talking down, some talking sideways,” said Ward, illustrating the need to send processed data back to the ground, upward for relay through a GEO communications satellite, and to communicate with other satellites for picking up and passing along raw and processed information.
OrbitsEdge is still exploring different business models. Initial satellites may be populated with servers with users leveraging VMware to run virtual instances of the apps they need with agencies and enterprises requesting more customized hardware loads tailored to specific needs. For security and speed purposes, organizations may order (buy) dedicated satellites, but potential customers need to become comfortable with and understand the advantages to on-orbit edge computing.
CEO Barbara Stinnett says OrbitsEdge has seed funding good through 2020, staff on hand and is preparing to secure a Series A round in the first quarter of 2020, talking to a mixture of venture capitalist funds and strategic partners. There are also a series of OEM announcements in the works with more information expected to be released in the upcoming months.
“We have three markets interested, all around sustainability,” Stinnett said. Oil, gas, and water infrastructure is one sector, government the second, and life sciences/health care as the third. Being able to provide easily accessible and computing resources is of interest in multiple markets.
Stinnett would not discuss how many satellites OrbitsEdge expects to put into orbit, saying the company had looked at it and would be disclosing their plans at a future time.
Space IT Bridge finds the concept of OrbitsEdge intriguing in a couple of aspects. It brings back the age-old discussion of “Big Dumb Pipe” verses “Smart Network” started up in 1990s-2000s VON Magazine era. Big dumb pipe advocates believed if you have enough broadband and low latency, everything can be solved by hauling functions and processes back to the data center, an argument that proved significantly true with the deployment of SDN and NFV in telecom networks.
However, 5G and its introduction of edge computing has brought back discussion of a smart network. The 5G community believes edge computing is an asset in time-sensitive applications affected by latency or just waiting around for a response, but the telecom community continues to define a set of use cases where edge computing is a “win” in 5G (Due in part to the fact 5G network deployments are continuously flowing works in progress dependent on RF bandwidth dictating architecture).
LEO broadband services being deployed by OneWeb, SpaceX, Telesat, and LeoSat are the “Big Dumb Pipe” of the 2020s. Will low latency and sufficient broadband in an underserved/unserved area be good enough for many/most users and applications or will OrbitsEdge fill in the role of “Smart network” by bringing edge computing to the equation? There’s no clear answer at the moment.
By Annamarie Nyirady | September 30, 2019
OrbitsEdge appointed Barbara Stinnett as CEO. OrbitsEdge designs Low Earth Orbit (LEO) micro-data centers, aiming to accelerate the commercialization of space by enabling organizations to economically streamline and analyze vast amounts of data in space. OrbitsEdge creates solutions using off-the-shelf EDGE technology and software and analytics, combined with its proprietary SatFrame technology.
Stinnett brings over three decades of Silicon Valley applied technologies experience, at Fortune 25 firms, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, and Cisco, in which she drove growth and innovation.
As a global leader, she has experience in developing markets and their ecosystems, bringing creative solutions to each vertical market across commercial and governmental entities. Her experience in mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships, led her to CEO and board of director positions for private equity and venture capital firm portfolios. Stinnett has extensive experience raising early-stage funds for technology firms.
“Commercialization of space holds amazing opportunities and at the same time has unique challenges. It’s truly one of the last frontiers for us to explore,” Stinnett said. “OrbitsEdge will provide the needed infrastructure with our proprietary SatFrame technology which allows organizations to easily and cost-effectively expand their value proposition to new heights.”