Cloud Computing , Technology

Is Space Cloud the Next Frontier in Cloud Computing?

Aerospace Tech Company Leonardo Initiates Military Space Cloud Architecture Project
Is Space Cloud the Next Frontier in Cloud Computing?
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After undersea ventures to establish cloud data centers, cloud technology is now transcending Earth into space. Italy-based aerospace and defense company, Leonardo, aims to create the first space cloud system and has launched a study project for the country's Ministry of Defense. This Military Space Cloud Architecture, or MILSCA, is tailored for defense purposes and will provide Italy's government and armed forces direct access to high-performance computing and storage capabilities in space.

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The term space cloud refers to an orbiting cloud computing infrastructure offering in-orbit data storage and processing services. Space cloud facilitates in-orbit decision-making, which includes reactive planning, scheduling decisions, and complex resource management within space networks.

"In a multi-domain scenario, the management, security, and rapid exchange of an ever-increasing amount of data, much of it tactical, are crucial elements for the country's defense," said Simone Ungaro, chief innovation officer, Leonardo. "We will pioneer the development of a space cloud project in Europe, showcasing its feasibility and the benefits derived from such architecture, ushering in a new era of cloud and edge computing."

Leonardo’s Military Space Cloud Architecture

This space cloud initiative integrates cloud infrastructure, AI and supercomputing within a secure network of satellites orbiting the Earth. These satellites boast a data storage capacity of more than 100 terabytes and a processing power exceeding 250 TFLOPS (250K billion operations/second), indicating a significant leap beyond the capabilities of terrestrial data centers.

Space cloud offers a unique solution to data management, along with unparalleled processing speed, flexibility, storage capacity and security on a global scale. Over a period of 24 months, the project will progress from architectural planning to the development of a digital twin for simulating applications in a digital environment, and culminate in the deployment of satellites in orbit. Space cloud is expected to have a transformative influence on how governments and defense forces utilize and share data.

Reimagining Data Centers

With the expansion of terrestrial data centers, providers and users grapple with energy consumption, security and sustainability challenges. In a bold step to reimagine data center operations, Microsoft's Project Natick explored the feasibility of underwater data centers for reduced energy usage and enhanced security. Space cloud, however, pushes these boundaries further to overcome limitations of speed, capacity, latency and security.

Several factors underscore the compelling use cases of space-based cloud computing in defense:

  • Reduced latency: Processing data in orbit minimizes latency, facilitating real-time decision-making by reducing space-to-ground data transmissions.
  • Robust data backup: Storing data in space offers a secure backup solution that is less vulnerable to natural disasters, enhancing communication and data network resilience.
  • Accessibility in remote areas: Space-based cloud extends the reach of data processing capabilities to remote areas lacking the accessibility to traditional ground-based cloud infrastructure.
  • Enhanced security: The space environment mitigates risks of cyberattack and physical tampering risks, ensuring secure data transmission and storage.
  • Independence from ground networks: Less reliance on ground networks minimizes external influence, ensuring uninterrupted operations crucial for national security.
  • Situational awareness: Integrating data gathered and processed from satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles enables more comprehensive asset tracking and threat monitoring, enhancing situational awareness.

As the technologies evolve, their influence is anticipated to transcend military contexts. Civil and commercial sectors needing real-time, secure and efficient data processing and storage stand to gain from an in-orbit cloud computing framework, enabling faster data download and processing capabilities.

Initial applications in non-military sectors may include civil Earth observation programs, space exploration missions and disaster response. The broader adoption of space-based cloud computing by commercial enterprises, however, will depend on the outcomes of the preliminary experiments and the economic feasibility of scaling such technologies.

About the Author

Shipra Malhotra

Shipra Malhotra

Managing Editor, ISMG

Malhotra has more than two decades of experience in technology journalism and public relations. She writes about enterprise technology and security-related issues and has worked at, Dataquest and The Indian Express.

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