Currently, Space-Data exploitation faces two major obstacles: Firstly, Space Centers and Academic Institutions have limited access to scientific data since their limited connectivity time via satellites directly confines their scientific capacity. Secondly, Space-Data Collection Centers, such as ESOC, for instance, lack sufficient mechanisms for communicating with interested end-users let alone the lack of mechanisms for data dissemination. The result is frequently quite disappointing: Space data remains stored and unexploited, until it becomes obsolete or useless and consequently is being removed. In the context of Space-Data exploitation, the situation is expected with certainty to worsen: Space data volume will increase (consider the upcoming use of Sentinel, for example) but the mechanisms for disseminating and exploiting data are not yet in place. Therefore, a proposal to exploit and disseminate space data should not be considered as a peripheral issue but rather as an urgently-missing mechanism from the European Infrastructure.

Along these lines, the ultimate goal of “Space-Data Routers” is to boost collaboration and competitiveness of European Space Agency, European Space Industry and European Academic Institutions towards an efficient architecture for exploiting space data. The proposed approach relies on space internetworking – and in particular in Delay-Tolerant Networking (DTN), which marks the new era in space communications, unifies space and earth communication infrastructures and delivers a set of tools and protocols for space-data exploitation within a single device: The Space-Data Router.

A Space-Data Router implements a dual role: It increases communication flexibility in Space and forms a mission-/application-oriented communication overlay for data dissemination, on Earth. Technically, it achieves that by deploying the Delay Tolerant Networking stack and by integrating the interfaces of various Space and Internet Communication and Networking Protocols, including TM/TC, Space packets, and AOS along with Ethernet, TCP/IP and UDP. In parallel, it employs the agencies’ policies for resource and data sharing as well as for data exploitation.

This goal will be realized in three stages:

  • At the first stage emphasis will be given on the design and implementation of a Space-Data Router; a crucial component for space internetworking. Space-Data Router incorporates the concepts and protocols of Delay Tolerant Networking along with the resource sharing and data dissemination policies of various Space Agencies. Due to its nature, Space-Data Router forms a device that is suitable to bridge Space and Earth Communications. Therefore, it constitutes a natural approach for exploiting space data.
  • At the second stage, the Space-Data Router will be integrated within a core existing Testbed, tested and evaluated in terms of application requirements, overlay architectural design, compatibility with ESA equipment, protocols and policies, scalability in communicating with deep space components, and interoperability with NASA's equipment. Application scenarios are carefully selected to demonstrate with clarity the impact of our proposed approach on data exploitation and data dissemination. In particular, evaluation scenarios have three distinct goals:
    • Demonstrate the capability of the Space-Data Routers to extend end-user access to space data through communicating Ground Stations and Space Research Centers.
    • Demonstrate the capability of Space-Data Routers to deliver efficiently to end-users vast volumes of data over terrestrial internetworks.
    • Demonstrate the potential of exploiting data from deep space and disseminate it smoothly through unified communication channels.
  • At the third stage, a pilot application will be developed to integrate thematically various missions. A cross-mission approach will benefit scientific centers worldwide and also allow for more accurate and timely data analysis. The application will allow for investigating in depth the potential of creating thematically-oriented space-data overlays in the future. In particular, our goal at the third stage is to
    • Demonstrate the sufficiency of DTN Space-data overlays to administer thematic crossmission space data.