Why keep data in orbit

    Startup Cloud Constellation received an investment of $ 100 million to build a space cloud data storage - SpaceBelt. We tell how it will work, and understand the pros and cons of comic data centers.

    / RawPixel / the PD

    Reliable cloud in space

    One way to steal data is to get direct access to the device. In some industries this happens more often than it might seem at first glance. For example, theft of drives is one of the most frequent causes of data leakages in medicine. Similar incidents happen to data centers that do not have high standards of physical protection.

    The company Cloud Constellation considered that the security problem could be solved by transferring data to where it would be difficult to get to them - into orbit. Their project SpaceBelt proposes to use satellites to create space storage.

    The startup has already receivedto implement his idea of ​​investing $ 100 million from the Chinese company Hughes China Holdings. However, as the developers say, this amount will not be enough. The launch of the system and the creation of infrastructure will require $ 480 million. Therefore, Cloud Constellation is now engaged in designing the “stuffing” of satellites and is preparing for the next round of financing.

    How it works

    The initial SpaceBelt project included 12 satellites, but their number was reduced to eight. Three of them will be used for data storage - the volume of “comic drives” will be five petabytes. All data will be replicated, so the failure of one device will not lead to loss of information. The remaining five satellites will act as receivers and transmitters of control signals.

    Signals will be sent from special terminals located on Earth. At first, information will be sent to connecting satellites (which are not part of SpaceBelt) located in non-geostationary orbits. And from there to the Cloud Constellation spacecraft, which will be placed lower (altitude from 160 to 2,000 km). SpaceBelt systems will “communicate” with lasers.

    Cloud Constellation Client Services Director Dennis Gatens (Dennis Gatens) in the IoT Time podcast announced that, if necessary, they can create custom satellites according to specified parameters. Thus, customers will receive personal satellite storage. However, the companies that will produce and launch satellites are still unknown.

    Initially, the Cloud Constellation contracted Virgin Orbit, the aerospace division of Richard Branson , to launch satellites using LauncherOne. But during the development it turned outthat devices designed for SpaceBelt will be too heavy for LauncherOne (the mass of equipment exceeds the allowable 500 kg). Therefore, the launch will produce another organization. Now Cloud Constellation is negotiating with the European Aeranspace aerospace agency.

    Potential ideas

    First of all, the work of satellite data storage is economically beneficial: the owners will not have to pay for electricity, since the source of energy will be the light captured by solar panels. The absence of gravity will reduce the wear of movable parts of mechanisms, for example, in hard disks, plus the rental of outer space is still free.

    / Flickr / Best Picko / CC BY

    As notedat IBM, storing data in orbit and transmitting it via satellites is more profitable than creating an undersea cable infrastructure. Cables must have a high degree of protection from deformation, withstand high pressure, earthquakes, plus they can not be stretched to any point of the planet. Data in space can be accessed even from the most remote regions.

    Obvious limitations

    Despite all these advantages, IT experts point out a number of potential difficulties in implementing such solutions. The main problem is considered to be low bandwidth, which will not be able to provide quick access to information.

    “Another“ bottleneck ”seems to be the earthly infrastructure itself: receivers on the surface of the planet will have to be further protected. Access to them is easier than to servers flying in orbit, says Sergey Belkin, head of development at 1cloud.ru . “It is possible that modern methods and standards used for organizing ground-based data centers will help improve reliability.”

    Also one of the possible problems may be satellite maintenance . In orbit more and more debris, so that the devices will need serious protection. To fix the satellites in case of serious damage, most likely, will not succeed. Lack of access to servers can adversely affect storage support.

    Moreover, space-based data centers will require substantial investments in the development and launch of satellites. For example, SpaceX launches 8 tons of cargo for $ 90 million. To put into orbit a data center of twelve racks with a total weight of 30 tons, it will take about $ 330 million. On Earth for the same amount you can build a much larger data center.

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