The Defense Innovation Unit(IUD) Hybrid spatial architecture (HSA) aims to provide global, ubiquitous, and secure Internet connectivity throughout the space domain for commercial, civilian, and military users, including international allies and partners.
DIU collaborates with the United States Space Force (USSF) Space Warfare Analysis Center (SWAC) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Space Vehicles Branch on this prototype effort.
The HSA aims to demonstrate a network architecture that leverages commercial and government space assets in various orbits to provide secure, assured, and low-latency data communications anywhere on and off Earth. To do this, DIU has awarded Other Transaction (OT) contracts to companies Alyria, Anduril, Atlasand Mail. Additional rewards of the same solicitation are planned.
Hybrid space communications are the next big leap forward, representing the convergence of the information age and the space age. Cloud providers are already partnering with teleports, or hubs that connect ground-to-satellite communications, to establish cloud capability in ships orbiting in space. To take full advantage of the capabilities of these networks, the Department of Defense (DoD) must ensure network interoperability and consistency as well as compatibility with existing DoD assets.
A fully networked battlespace has been a commander’s dream for decades, but it’s finally within reach. While being a key enabler of concepts, such as Joint command and control of all domains (JADC2) and Battlefield management command, control and communication (BMC3), the vast benefits to warfighters range from on-demand or near real-time satellite imagery and theater-wide tracking to reliable high-speed Internet in remote forward operating bases to improve morale and family well-being.
The HSA consists of four identified domains:
A robust and secure software-defined network (SDN) will be required to integrate various telecommunications systems in low Earth orbit, medium Earth orbit, geostationary orbit and cislunar space. Currently, communication between these telecommunications systems is limited; this SDN will need to maintain careful network orchestration to predict link availability, manage radio frequencies and optical beam pointing, and mitigate traffic congestion.
Fusion of multi-source data
There is already a vast array of sensors available through space assets and the terrestrial internet. Common data standards and interfaces will be needed to merge this data for efficient storage and rapid retrieval. Additionally, to get the most out of the range of sensors while minimizing operator training costs, common command and control interfaces to manage data collection will be required.
The ubiquitous availability of proliferated sensor data opens up limitless new opportunities for artificial intelligence and machine learning applications, across commercial, government, and military uses. The new paradigm of cloud computing makes it possible to turn raw data into actionable information wherever there is available computing capacity, from large server farms to in-orbit (or lunar) computing hardware, to distributed processing on a network of small devices.
Variable trust protocol
Distributed communications provide network resiliency as the system can support individual lost links and nodes. We must be careful not to introduce vulnerabilities by increasing access points. Industry-benchmark standards must be adhered to, including link-to-end and quantum-resistant encryption, reliable cryptographic key distribution, continuous zero-trust authentication, and data integrity registries. Due to the wide variety of participating networks, each link and each node will be dynamically assigned a trust score based on observed behavior within the architecture. Traffic can then be routed over preferred links based on sensitivity and timeliness.
In-orbit demonstrations are planned within 24 months.
“It’s time for the internet to leave the planet“, said Dr. Rogan Shimin, IUD program manager for HSA. “Just as we couldn’t imagine all the uses of the Internet in the early days of the ARPANET, the scope of the HSA is immense and revolutionary. The initial objectives are the collection and exploitation on demand of aerial images and tactical situational awareness beyond line-of-sight. The hosting of Internet of Things sensors and edge processing on each satellite further enables groundbreaking civilian applications, including full space domain awareness and high-fidelity mapping of the space radiation environment..”