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Kratos Unveils New Platform that Turns Satellites, Antennas into Software-Defined Systems

By , | October 21, 2020

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Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has rolled out a new software platform, “OpenSpace,” composed of virtual products that enable satellite operators and Ground-as-a-Service (GSaaS) providers to design their own fully software-defined, dynamic ground systems, the company announced October 20.

In order to include Software-Defined Networking (SDN) capabilities in its OpenSpace offering, Kratos said it virtualized specific hardware components in its Quantum product line and successfully digitized Radio Frequency (RF) signals for processing in digital environments. OpenSpace also includes orchestration, control and management capabilities that can transform entire satellite and antenna systems into software-defined systems.

Phil Carrai, president Kratos Space, Training, and Cyber division told Via Satellite this product marks a shift away from the 2G world of ground stations, where systems are custom and stovepiped and don’t allow for roaming, into one that allows for mobility roaming, and applications like Internet of Things (IoT). 

Kratos built OpenSpace from scratch, Greg Quiggle, vice president of Product Management told Via Satellite, by leveraging 5G concepts that have been deployed widely by terrestrial carriers around Software-Defined Networking.

“[OpenSpace] allows the ground system to react dynamically to these significant innovations in space [such as] multi-constellation networks, software-defined networks. These are scenarios where the assets in space are reconfigurable. For the ground system to be able to work in concert with that, we’re pulling from these principles with [Network Function Virtualization] NFV and SDN,” Quiggle said. “As the satellite payload changes, the ground system changes in sync. As customer demands change, they need high latency service, low latency service, more throughput, less throughput, the network can react dynamically.” 

Kratos’ OpenSpace platform architecture incorporates: OpenSpace VNF software applications that replace dedicated satellite hardware technology; the OpenSpace Controller that coordinates the deployment of VNFs as service chains to support a specific Service Level Agreement (SLA) or mission; the OpenSpace OpsCenter that administers the service chain life cycle and bridges management functions across legacy analog components; and OpenSpace Digitizers that convert RF signals at any frequency band into a VITA49 Digital IF format.

Microsoft’s recently announced Azure Orbital GSaaS offering, which Kratos is a partner in, uses OpenSpace products in its service architecture. Yves Pitsch, principal product manager of Azure Networking at Microsoft commented in the release: “An SDN-based architecture like OpenSpace’s is critical to our ability to provide our customers with a platform that is complete, economical and easy to use. Virtualized operations provide us with the flexibility and scalability we need to optimally support many different customers, missions, satellites and other specialized needs without specialized hardware.”

Frank Backes, senior vice president of Kratos Space Federal Solutions told Via Satellite that Kratos worked not only with commercial industry, but also with the military so that OpenSpace would meet its requirements in a changing adversary environment. Backes said a hardware-centric architecture can take days, weeks and even months to reconfigure communications infrastructure, and the U.S. Department of Defense can’t operate on that schedule. OpenSpace orchestration, he said, can be done in seconds or minutes. 

“That really is where we need to go to position ourselves to respond to, near peer adversaries, and asymmetric adversaries, which are especially challenging because you don’t know where they’re going to pop up on the planet. From a global perspective, you need to be able to respond immediately, and you don’t necessarily know exactly where that response is going to need to occur. An OpenSpace architecture allows you to redeploy your assets very quickly,” Backes said.