Making Space for Software

Making Space for Software

Written by Brad Bode, Chief Information Officer at ATLAS Space Operations for CIOReview Vendor Viewpoint.

Brad Bode, CTO & Co-Founder of ATLAS Space Operations

The space industry is a complex and rapidly evolving domain, where multiple factors must come together to launch a satellite successfully into orbit. Manufacturers, providers, infrastructure, partners, funding, and various other elements contribute to space missions. Often overlooked in this process is the critical aspect of “phoning home,” or communicating with satellites once they are in space. 

Satellite and launch vehicle manufacturers have evolved at a rapid rate, but traditional ground systems have lagged in keeping pace. Oftentimes, these legacy-based ground systems do not allow for the sharing of hardware easily and require a series of engineering and telecommunications experts to build out complex software solutions. This creates human capital and budget constraints for many organizations involved in space missions, especially commercial startups who have to prove a concept on limited resources.

ATLAS Space Operations recognized the need for a fundamental change in the ground industry, leading its team to undertake extensive research, development, and implementation of Freedom Ground Software as a Service™.

Freedom was designed with three key objectives in mind:

  • Supporting infrastructure to lower the cost barrier and remove a considerable engineering burden to make space-based communications and data processing more accessible and cost-effective;
  • Changing the way space-based communications and data are viewed by leveraging software with continuing value-added feature releases to solve a hardware problem;
  • Allowing anyone to gain access to space and satellite communications, no matter the size of the organization.

Freedom is a combination of disruptive, revolutionary software and hardware working together to create a solution that processes and analyzes data from space through a global antenna network. Unlike complex, costly, and labor-intensive legacy approaches, Freedom makes communicating with satellites simpler, faster, and more economical than ever before. 

Speed of Integration

Built on top of the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform, Freedom incorporates innovative technology from the start. Users can connect to the Freedom user interface in the cloud and orchestrate connectivity to a global network of antennas through a single API – without ever writing a single line of code. 

Additionally, ATLAS has developed a simple step-by-step onboarding feature called Co-Pilot, where clients can see exactly where they’re at in the integration process. To progressively reduce risk, ATLAS ships clients an entire hassle-free ground system network rack, or “ATLAS in a Box”, to conduct full end-to-end testing before launch. 

Ensuring Mission Success

One of Freedom’s standout features is its ability to optimize all related task requests and last-minute additions to scheduling using over three billion metrics. Task Insights and Free Time enable rapid adjustments and improvements to ground station contact schedules through the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Freedom provides a continuous, lights-out operation; improves ground station contact scheduling ; and has eliminated the need for satellite owners to act as ground station operators. As a result, these satellite owners can focus on their mission-critical data. Simply, Freedom moves the need for humans to be ‘in the loop,’ and places them ‘on the loop.’

Making the Complex Seamless and Simple 

When space companies talk about simplicity, things get complicated fairly quickly. With Freedom, ATLAS chose to address the complex aspects of space communications upfront to save users time. Freedom takes care of some heavy lifting on the backend to ensure users send and receive their data in a way that provides stringent security, intuitive planning, and careful task management. As a result, Freedom represents an answer to the question of outdated practices and standards in ground communications. 

By providing a user-friendly, cost-effective, and efficient platform for space-based communications and data processing, Freedom is reshaping how organizations interact with their satellites while enabling broader access to space. With its innovative features, such as Task Insights, Free Time, and Co-Pilot, Freedom is paving the way for a new era in satellite communications, opening up opportunities for organizations of all sizes to participate in space missions and advancements.

Article Originally Published via CIOReview, Aug 19th, 2023. 

Courtesy of ATLAS Space Operations