May 3, 2023
Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: KTOS), a technology company in Defense, National Security and Global Markets, continues to garner deep interest for its pioneering OpenSpace® dynamic satellite ground system from defense agencies and commercial network operators globally. Recently, at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, the company kicked off a demonstration tour showing how virtual, orchestrated solutions available today can support multiple missions and customers with greater power, flexibility and affordability than today’s purpose-built, hardware-based systems.
The limits of traditional, hardware-based systems are nowhere more apparent than when trying to support multiple missions or services simultaneously—a particularly acute need for defense and disaster recovery efforts. The greatest problem is that these systems use proprietary architectures and single-purpose components that force both a proliferation of equipment and stovepiped network operations. For example, to support even just two missions of a different type simultaneously usually would require two unique terminals, each including a specific antenna, modem and variety of network appliances, often supported by two hubs. Complex or sensitive missions might require additional specialized hardware components as well. If additional software applications are required, such as firewalls or interference mitigation, one or more separate computers will be needed. Increase to three or more missions and the number of devices grows.
In contrast, by replacing purpose-built hardware with software-defined virtual functions, Kratos’ OpenSpace Platform puts all these mission requirements into one off-the-shelf COTS OpenEdge™ appliance. Instead of multiple hardware modems, for example, virtually any number of software modems can be enabled on a single terminal, each configured specifically for a unique mission. When that mission or service is completed, those same virtual modems can be re-purposed on-the-fly, remotely to support new missions. In the demonstration delivered at the Space Symposium, Kratos showed how two very different types of missions could be supported at one time in one place, directly in the hands of Warfighters in the field: commercial SATCOM service through a steerable flat panel antenna and Earth Observation and weather data provided through a U.S. government GOES satellite.
“Dozens of attendees watched the live demo over the course of the Space Symposium,” observed Phil Carrai, President of Kratos’ Space, Training & Cybersecurity Division. “It was remarkable to hear uniformed service members of all ranks and from many nations comment upon their need for this capability, as well as how smoothly the service worked.”
Kratos’ OpenSpace is the first and only commercially available virtual and orchestrated satellite ground system. Based upon the same software-defined network architecture principles as the systems used in global terrestrial and cellular networks, OpenSpace enables satellite operators to keep up with the increasingly dynamic nature of modern satellites, the proliferation of LEO constellations and the evolving software-based global communications infrastructure that satellites feed. Euroconsult, a leading global research firm focused on the satellite industry, predicts that satellite demand will quadruple over the next decade. And, according to Kari Bingen of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, over the last two years the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has received applications for over 64,000 new satellites, compared to the 6,800 functioning satellites in orbit as of November 2022.
These trends, plus the tremendous amount of innovation and technological disruption occurring in the space industry, are making multi-mission support such a keen interest today. Old school hardware ground systems simply cannot keep pace with evolving needs, such as repurposing network infrastructure in seconds rather than days, supporting satellites in multiple orbits and dynamically supporting multiple missions that have vastly different operational and technology requirements. Simply adding more hardware boxes to the stack won’t do the job.
“OpenSpace, including the OpenEdge product line, is faster and more flexible just by the nature of being cloud native software,” commented Kevin Tobias, Director of Product Management for Edge Solutions at Kratos. “As mission diversity expands, as more satellites are employed from multiple operators to deliver a single service or to support interdependent missions, only software-based network systems will be able to move fast enough, and only systems like OpenSpace that meet open industry standards will provide the needed interoperability that frees operators from vendor lock in.”