Space and IoT: smart space suits, satellites, and wireless communication in space
Currently, Internet of Things technologies are used in consumer and heavy industry, such sectors as transport, healthcare, logistics, electronics, agriculture, real estate, and everyday life. IoT has also touched upon the space industry. Let’s find out which companies and organizations already apply IoT technologies in space.
Smart things for astronauts
The everyday life of astronauts differs from life of an average person. In open space, representatives of this profession seem to find themselves in another reality, not common for people of the Earth. They require super technological appliances capable of simplifying life beyond the Earth like nobody else. To achieve this goal, different smart devices are developed for the needs of space explorers.
Smart shelves developed by rocket and space corporation Energia. The new cargo storage system relies on the Internet of Things concept. It allows astronauts to reduce the time spent on unloading of space vehicles. It is possible thanks to the fact that data about each equipment unit is automatically recorded in databases at the stage of unloading.
Orlan-MK space suit developed by the Russian research and development production enterprise Zvezdanamed after G.I. Severin. The space suit is equipped with onboard computer with liquid-crystal display that monitors the state of the suit systems. In case oxygen consumption changes, pressure level increases, systems stop functioning, relevant information will appear on the screen. An astronaut will also hear an audio warning. Moreover, the system hints which actions a person should fulfil prior to the space walk.
Smart trousers Chibis-M developed by research and development production enterprise Zvezda. This ‘clothing’ is intended to reduce the negative effect of zero gravity state on astronauts. The rig helps to achieve the terrestrial gravity effect. Astronauts use it when they are preparing to return to the Earth.
Trousers are equipped with the computer responsible for the control over the invention. The astronaut monitors performance parameters through the special monitor.
Space, satellites, and wireless connection
The IoT concept implies connecting of different devices in a network. Their number is constantly growing, which causes the number of communication channels to be increased. Space satellites help to solve this task. Thanks to their work, Internet of Things is getting independent of terrestrial and mobile networks.
Even now, companies in different parts of the world are developing and realizing projects that involve the use of satellites to connect to the Internet of Things. Besides, efforts are being made to apply IoT technologies directly in space.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has decided to bring IoT to space using wireless connection.
Specifically, the NASA was testing the Digi XBee wireless network using the TechEdSat 5 satellite in spring of 2017. This network can be used for machines that work in the orbit as well as Exo-Brake system, which is capable of delivering cargos from space to the Earth.
During trials, TechEdSat 5 was released into the Earth orbit from the International Space Station. Wireless RF modules transferred important data about the satellite every 10 minutes including angular rate, temperature level, atmosphere pressure, magnetic field parameter. The obtained data can be used to design new satellites.
As part of the Pulsar project, the private innovative company Sputnix plans to establish 200 satellites in the low Earth orbit. Their capabilities will be used for the IoT. If the project turns out successful, the Russian company intends to increase the number of satellites to 600.
Specialists of Sputnix forecast that they will manage to connect up to 500 million Earth terminals to the IoT using their satellites by 2025.
The project aims at developing a global information infrastructure that will provide rapid growth of services based on IoT technologies.
Sfera is the Russian project of global satellite communications system. It implies the launch of 640 small communications satellites and devices for the remote probing of the earth. Among other things, there are plans to release spacecraft in the orbit that will cater to the IoT.
Sfera has been developed based on the project for satellite communications system of JSC Russian Space Systems called Efir. Now the latter is the subsystem of Sfera, responsible for the organization of the IoT and mobile communications.
Specialists of Feet, the company located in Australia, are engaged in the development of nanosatellites that will service different devices connected to the network.
As part of this project, Feet plans to launch a group of 100 space vehicles in the Earth orbit. The distinctive feature of the nanosatellites group will be the fact that they will service devices connected to the Internet of Things.
In January of 2018, Swarm Technologies launched four SpaceBEE prototype satellites in India. These vehicles are intended to create a new communications system based on space IoT. Developers say it should become significantly faster than all existing communications systems.
It turned out that Swarm Technologies did not receive the communications service license of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). is not allowed to launch spacecraft without having this paper.
However, not having waited for the decision of FCC concerning this situation, in summer of 2018 the company filed an application to launch three other space vehicles, planned to use for testing IoT communications technologies.
Alibaba Cloud and Semtech
In October of 2018, the division of the Chinese Alibaba Groupcalled Alibaba Cloudpresented the world’s first LoRastation built on an aerostat. It enables the connection of sensors located at a height of 40,000 meters above the ground or at depth of 20 meters.
Developed by Semtech,the LoRatechnology ensures M2M connectivity.
Amazon Web Services and Iridium
In September of 2018, it was revealed that Amazon Web Services (AWS), a cloud services platform, and global satellite phone service provider Iridium had joined efforts to develop the project of global satellite Internet for the IoT.
They plan to develop a network called CloudConnect that will give a possibility to connect to AWS services to all volunteers. This involves users that currently do not have access to network services.
The project is expected to expand the capabilities of IoT devices and services.
Orbcomm, the US telecom company that provides wireless data transfers, announced in October of 2018 that it would start using the Asia Pacific Navigation Telecommunications Satellite. This will allow the company to provide services in China.
The activity of Orbcomm in China will touch upon such fields as transport, logistics, and marine industry. To embrace even more industries, the telecom company is going to build China Gateway (GES) earth station. It is expected to maintain communication between the satellite system and the global infrastructure.
The Canadian startup Helios Wire, which works in the field of the IoT, is realizing the project that intends to establish a group of satellites in the orbit. These machines should help the company’s customers to connect to millions of devices on the Earth.
Helios Wire produces probes and small concentrators. This equipment is used to collect data of several probes that control such parameters as temperature, location, etc. If such a device is attached to some object, it will start sending information obtained thanks to the IoT into space.
Xingyun, the Chinese company, plans to build a group of 80 low orbit satellites. Plans include the launch of satellites and development of space IoT. The project is expected to open a new page in the telecommunications field and improve communication in the area of seas, islands, and deserts.
IoT technologies are gradually implemented in different industries. IoT in space sector is a bright illustration. Today it is still early to talk about the fully-fledged use of these technologies in open space. However, there is a potential. In different parts of the world, specialists are developing and realizing projects that should help the IoT to ‘conquer’ space in the future.