Prolonging the useful life

of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites
 

REDUCED COSTS FOR LEO SATELLITES

Commercial LEO satellites have the potential to allow communications at significantly faster speeds than is currently available on today’s military aircraft. The more that space is exploited, the greater the need to provide edge computing capabilities in data-dependent spacecraft and satellites. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites operate at between 500 kilometers (310 miles) and 2,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. That’s far less than is typical for the 36,000 km height of geostationary satellites, the traditional home of communications satellites. The main advantage of the lower orbit is lower latency.

LEO satellites are not new. As of the middle of 2021, there were in excess of 6500 satellites in space. Of the 3400 active satellites, most are already in deployed in the LEO range. What’s new is the sheer scale of recent proposals, driven by technological developments in smaller satellites and reusable rockets, which have dramatically brought down costs. Typically, these satellites weigh (sometimes substantially) less than 500kg. A small satellite has stringent energy constraints, which is challenged by transmission over long distances. Small spacecraft s must have active lifetimes of up to five years and so contain photo-voltaic solar panels to generate electrical energy from the sunlight.

Commercial LEO satellites have the potential to allow communications at significantly faster speeds than is currently available on today’s military aircraft.

The more that space is exploited, the greater the need to provide edge computing capabilities in data-dependent spacecraft and satellites.

LEO SATELLITE STATISTICS

The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of LEO satellites is predicted to be 20% from today to 2015.

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LEO satellite market size by 2026

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Number of satellites to be launched in the next decade

QUICK AND AFFORDABLE ACCESS TO SPACE

The desire to develop quick and affordable access to space means that design approaches that would once be considered unthinkable for space are at the core of many of these platforms:

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) electronic technologies

  • Open systems architectures
  • Standards-driven approaches
  • Secure, cloud-connectivity with support for updating satellite software and payloads
Effectively this world is shifting to “good enough” electronics, with efforts to quickly deploy technology that has the ability to be updated over the useful life of the platform. That said, these systems must be reliable. These updates have to be carefully managed, to ensure that applications do not interfere with the core functionality of the system.



SECURITY AND SAFETY

The Lynx part in this reliability story relates to providing a software framework that guarantees determinism and isolation between applications. These systems are running multiple applications and operating systems on a high performance, multi-core processor. These functions demand a real-time response when they occur, and the systems must have a path to certification. Creators of satellites can harness the proven DO-178 certified operating system (OS), LynxOS-178, and separation kernel technology, LynxSecure, that leaders and innovators in the aerospace industry have deployed at scale for years.