Intermittent Networking and Small-Satellite Swarms

Small-Satellites (SmallSats) are an affordable solution, compared to geostationary satellites, to provide networking coverage in the most remote areas, including the Arctic.

Different possibilities for deploying SmallSats include constellations, where each satellite must keep its orbit, and swarms, where satellites freely drift according to their deployment velocity.

This post shows an animation presented at ICICT’18, where the paper entitled “Freely-Drifting Small-Satellite Swarms for Sensor Networks in the Arctic”  was presented.

The video above presents the evolution of a freely-drifting swarm over time, with the main conclusion being that with three simple SmallSats we are able to provide a better communication service than a fixed constellation of two. This is desirable because maintaining a constellation is complex and requires hardware and systems that incur additional costs.

In this paper we emulate the intermittent satellite links and use Internet of Things (IoT) protocols for evaluating the network performance. A 6LoWPAN adaptation layer was used to provide IPv6 support in our constrained links as well as a modified CoAP with delay-tolerant support.