to the moon and back: data centres in space

by | Dec 19, 2022 | embracent news, other

Our team at embracent had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Mat Mallet, the former Chief Digital Information Officer and one of the amazing minds behind the UK Space Agency. Mat detailed how space may take on a great presence in technology, with a movement towards having critical data stored in orbiting satellites. The benefits of this are numerous, and the costs and negative impacts are being explored.

Abdi Dirie, our Junior SQL Developer, and beloved data nerd, took away these key points from Mat’s presentation:


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1. Data centres in space in 5 years’ time

Currently there are many innovative and remote ways to store data – from Microsoft’s undersea data centre to Nautilius’ floating water vessel centre – however it seems that the Space Industry is keen to join this competition. The Space Industry’s plan is to install data centres in space in 5 years’ time. With the increasing demand for data centres, and the need for storing information securely being ever present storing data in space offers numerous benefits for data security and as a result many leading companies are looking at shifting into space. A consortium led by Thales Alenia Space has been chosen by the European Commission to lead the ASCEND (Advanced Space Cloud for European Net zero emissions and Data sovereignty) study with the ambitious goal of installing data centres in orbit and assessing carbon omissions of the process.


2. HDD performs better than SSD in space

Surprisingly, older technology such as HDD performs better in space. The newer, more advanced SSD has its lifespan halved in space. Due to space’s hostile conditions, technology stands little chance when faced with cosmic rays and solar winds. On older satellites data is still stored on magnetic tape, but modern ones tend to prefer solid state memory banks. These memory banks are usually composed of “radiation hard” memory chips.


3. 100,00 satellites predicted to be in low-orbit by 2030

Even though space is believed to be endless, it’s already getting quite crowded around Earth with around 30,000 satellites up in space currently (with 4000 of those in low earth orbit), and with 100,000 predicted to be in low orbit by 2030. Sadly, it’s not every day we can send handy astronauts to fix up older, clunkier satellite models so most of them get decommissioned and are left to float around, inevitably causing chain reaction collisions. Nowadays there is so much space junk that any new space vessel operator must first attain an Orbital Operator Licence and have an entire team dedicated to carefully navigating around this debris to prevent any disasters. There is over a a million pieces of space debris  over 1cm travelling up to 15000kph in space, and experts estimate there are about 30,000 pieces large enough to be a serious problem. So, what can be done about this? Well, the UK Space Agency has created a solution for satellite operators to monitor their satellites as part of thier vision for the future of the small satellites industry.


4. Move debris to the Moon Recycle Station

With humans being closer than ever to creating settlements on the Moon, the question of waste always comes up. Scientists have been looking into a plethora of solutions for this. There are plans for debris and defunct sattelites to be collected through the use of magenta nets and harpoons. From here they would be dropped on the lunar surface, where solar powered furnaces that could produce enough heat to burn up any unwanted items, or they could be recycled to create space and base stations. Due to the Moon’s movement, it gets 14 cloudless days of pure sunshine, but there would of course be other challenges. We would have to adapt our recycling methods because of the difference between gravity on Earth and the Moon. Thankfully, there are plans to haul some of the space debris to these future recycling stations and clear up the junk cloud orbiting Earth, all whilst being able to reharvest many of the precious materials used to build satellites in the first place. How fantastic that we could take recycling to the next level!


5. Moon bases as soon as 2030 

We were all endlessly surprised to hear just how quickly many of our beloved sci-fi movies could become reality, with Mat revealing that Moon bases are coming, and fast. The Artemis missions might be the first crucial step for this objective. Sadly, it doesn’t seem we’d be taking any Moon vacations soon as these bases would be used for purely scientific purposes. If this can be done in 8 years what is the potential for 25 years? Well, current plans are for landings on Mars in that time scale! From there? Who knows! The future of space exploration is incredily exciting and moving fast! As Mat Mallet explains:


“It’s going to be an awesome century in the space industry and for Mankind!”


We’re eager to see what the future brings.



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