Microsoft, Ball Aerospace Team for Space Force Data Flow

May 19, 2021

Ball Aerospace, in collaboration with Microsoft, successfully completed a series of demonstrations showing the viability of using commercial cloud computing to process and securely deliver actionable information quickly to those who need it, whether they are in a ground station, command center or on the battlefield.

Enabled by the Defense Innovation Unit's (DIU) fast-paced commercial solutions process, the demonstrations support the United States Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center's (SMC) Commercially Augmented Space Inter-Networked Operations (CASINO) Program Office, which serves as the SMC focal point for proliferated Low Earth Orbit (LEO) technology and prototyping.

These demonstrations exhibited:

  1. Speed, scale, resilience: In the majority of test scenarios, data was captured, processed, and re-deployed, on average, 5x faster than the customerís established target speed. The architecture created a scalable model which allowed for multiple processing chains. Re-deployment and ready-to-go failover were achieved with no capital expenditure costs.
  2. Event-driven architecture: The system was built in a flexible and scalable way, making it easy to replace or add algorithms without major change to the production system.
  3. Cloud-native: The system was built in Azure and worked at the Azure edge. This construction significantly reduced development time, created predictable resiliency, reduced resource demands, increased compliance, and provided clear financial insight for rapid scaling.
  4. Continuous integration and deployment of AI and machine learning: Fast, repeatable, and traceable. The raw data captured by the satellites could be saved and worked on in the background, continuously improving the AI and machine learning model.
  5. Infrastructure as a code: Scripts were generated to deploy the required infrastructure into Azure at any datacenter, providing the ability to quickly adjust resources as required.

"Our tests showed that the cloud is, in fact, a viable solution for data processing, exploitation and dissemination of data that is not only fast, but also flexible, secure, scalable and resilient," said Steve Smith, vice president and general manager, Systems Engineering Solutions, Ball Aerospace. "For years, the military has envisioned an agile and connected force structure. During the demonstration, the CASINO team proved that we are ready to field low-latency links today, which moves this vision much closer to reality."

For the demonstrations, simulated data from Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR) was pushed to Microsoft's AZURE cloud where it was processed using Ball-developed event-driven architecture, and then disseminated to multiple end points. In the final demonstration, Telesat joined the Ball-Microsoft team to successfully complete a direct downlink of data from its network of LEO satellites to a Ball-built electronically steerable Ka-Band phased array affixed to a tactical vehicle in order to prove that actionable information could be delivered to the warfighter in the field.

"Direct satellite-to-cloud communication and accelerated ground data processing allows the Department of Defense to gain advanced analytics capabilities enabling predictive modelling and new actionable insights capable of reshaping the future as they advance their mission," said Tom Keane, corporate vice president, Azure Global, Microsoft. "By combining satellite data with other sources directly in Azure, the Microsoft-Ball Aerospace team has demonstrated an innovative approach for ground processing which also opens the possibilities for a huge range of commercial applications."

Ball Aerospace has more than 30 years of data processing experience, including developing unique and accurate exploitation algorithms for satellite systems. Ball also has five decades of experience delivering electronically-steered phased array, antenna solutions for commercial, military and government customers and two decades experience delivering flat panel antennas and terminals.

Powered by endlessly curious people with an unwavering mission focus, Ball Aerospace pioneers discoveries that enable our customers to perform beyond expectation and protect what matters most. We create innovative space solutions, enable more accurate weather forecasts, drive insightful observations of our planet, deliver actionable data and intelligence, and ensure those who defend our freedom go forward bravely and return home safely.

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