Leading companies and organizations in the space industry, including two major branches of the United States Department of Defense (DoD), have teamed up to form Digital Interoperability Consortium (DIFI), a non – profit industrial group set up to improve interoperability between space and terrestrial network systems.
Formed under the auspices of IEEE industry standards and technology organization (THIS), an international federation of leading industry groups and consortia dedicated to the advancement of standardized technologies for the benefit of industry, the members of the founding council include Hawkeye 360,, Intelsat Corp. (OTCMKTS: INTEQ), Kongsberg Satellite Services AS (KSAT), Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc.. (NASDAQ: KTOS), Kymeta Corp.. and Microsoftas well as the founder of the government US Navy.
Other branches of the US military have also expressed interest in working with the Consortium. DIFI’s mission is to enable the digital transformation of the aerospace, satellite and related industries by providing a simple, open, interoperable digital IF / RF standard that replaces the natural interoperability of analog IF signals and helps prevent lock-in. supplier. The newly formed consortium is in the process of implementing administrative structures and recruiting additional member companies and organizations with an interest in space networks to become active participants in DIFI.
The DIFI Board has approved version 1.0 of an interoperability standard based on VITA 49, entitled IEEE-ISTO Std 4900-2021: Digital IF Interoperability Standard. VITA 49 is an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard already widely used in satellite and software defined radio (SDR) applications. With the support of ANSIDIFI-led standard IEEE-ISTO efforts will build on the current VITA 49 by adding framework definitions to improve interoperability between suppliers. These improvements will be minimized to ensure that data can be transmitted easily and securely to work between systems, while leaving providers and operators the flexibility to transport and use digital RF data.
The IEEE-ISTO Std 4900-2021: Digital IF 1.0 Interoperability Standard is available today on the DIFI website. The consortium invites all interested companies and organizations to join and contribute to efforts that promote interoperability and digital transformation in the space industry. Membership and other information are available on the Consortium’s website: https://www.dificonsortium.org.
According to Stuart Dodridge, Vice President of Advanced Technology in Kratos, who will serve as the initial President of DIFI, “Framework standards for digital IFs exist today, but they do not guarantee interoperability between vendor systems. DIFI aims to create and promote easy-to-implement standards for digital IF systems that will allow satellite operators, including commercial and government operators, to design, build, operate and develop multi-provider satellite networks and terrestrial systems.”
“Space technology is a field of huge innovation today, especially in the field of networks and software-defined systems,” said Marco W. Millaro, President and CEO of IEEE-ISTO. “We are pleased to support efforts to build standards that will continue to innovate in the industry through the ability of these systems to work together. “While other industries are benefiting from the use of virtualization, cloud and other network technologies, the space industry is still at the beginning of the digital transformation process and faces unique challenges, including the lack of certain key standards. This has led to pipelines in and out space networks used for both Earth observation and communication purposes. ”
“Achieving interoperability in space network systems is crucial as the industry strives for virtualization to enable new and improved capabilities“, He commented Ben Hilburn, Chief Program Manager at Microsoft Azure and Director of the DIFI Board. “Cloud-based services such as Microsoft Azure Orbital, a managed ground station, unlock new features and reduce costs for operators. With virtualization, these services support many customers with different missions and infrastructure needs. ”
“Achieving interoperability across the many U.S. government networks that supply, use, or consume satellite-related data is a critical imperative, especially within the Department of Defense.“, He commented William Ju, PEO C4I PMW / A 170 Special Project Engineer to represent the US Navy as a member of DIFI. “This need becomes even more important when considering systems used by allies around the world.”
According to Carmel Ortiz, Vice President, Systems Innovation at Intelsat and Director of the DIFI Board, “As founding architects of satellite communications, Intelsat has a long history of maintaining open standards and interoperability. The future of our industry is software defined, virtualized and digital; extending this to our terrestrial networks is essential for interaction with our customers and supply chain partners. ”
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