Data storage from space to Earth: 3 takeaways for the real world

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This article was written by Yaniv Iarovici, IoT Segment Marketing Director.

The space race is heading into new territory, and there’s no room for error. Initiatives can include expensive one-off missions — such as NASA’s $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope — or expand to small satellites, also called “smallsats,” that offer new ways to explore and capitalize on this booming market.

What the two have in common, however, is that any space initiative must be able to survive the extreme conditions and perils of outer space. An enormous amount of R&D, planning, and strategy goes into every technological element of these rockets and devices to ensure they exceed the unique requirements needed to successfully complete missions.

That research and development has had a unique impact on the technologies we use every day, as product development teams leverage these learnings and apply them to everyday technology. These include global positioning systems (GPS) and smartphone cameras based on CMOS sensors, both developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Here are three major lessons the real world can learn from developing technologies for the universe that can secure the future of our existence and help improve the products we use every day.

The relevance of reliability

Space has an absolutely unforgiving environment not seen anywhere on Earth – and getting there (or back) presents equally challenging conditions for technology to endure the extremes.

On liftoff, electronic components take a beating from extreme vibration, and once in orbit, every material must be able to withstand wildly changing thermal changes that can cycle through 260 degrees Fahrenheit (126.67 degrees Celsius) every hour of every day. Components must also be able to withstand space radiation, which threatens to degrade them until they cease to function – and survive random space phenomena and ionizing particles that can pierce microchips like a hot knife. in the butter.

Even the James Webb Space Telescope, a technological innovation and renowned resource, still has 344 points of failure who can condemn the mission at any time.

All of this means that reliability is mission critical for space technology – and that reliability has been deliberately developed, proven and built into surrounding technologies. Product development teams from all space organizations have shared some keys to reliability, resulting in materials that are considered “space-grade”. And for semiconductor memory, in particular, they are “radiation resistant”.

From automotive parts that can stand the test of time, to “simple” kitchen utensils designed to withstand the repetitive stress of high heat, to some common electronic devices in our daily lives, countless products we interact with have benefited from learning about reliability from space. . Reliability has also influenced product design, which ensures that each product is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also remarkably functional.

Western Digital engineers have worked with companies in the space on their approaches to data storage. The use of an approach known as Design for Reliability (DFR) has become popular as a standard engineering practice, which aims to design product reliability using state-of-the-art methods. As technology continues to advance and highly complex devices continue to shrink and miniaturize, DFR can ensure high performance and low voltage requirements so that new electronic components can overcome various limitations. DFR has made giant strides in the development of space technologies, and the fruits of this work are subtly penetrating more and more products.

Data integrity requirements

Everything in space, from rockets to small and large satellites, generates vast volumes of data. For example, according to HSAT, in 2020, there were 2,666 operational satellites in orbit. These satellites all capture thousands and thousands of terabytes of data every day, which equates to petabytes every year. For context, 1 petabyte equals 1000 terabytes and 1 terabyte equals about 1000 gigabytes, which is enough to around 250 feature films. It’s a tonne of data.

And in the future there will even be Continued data collected – NASA is planning two space missions called WORK and NISAR which should produce around 100 terabytes of data per day. Not all of this data can be sent back to Earth in real time, nor should it, which means storing it efficiently in space is the only way to make this data useful and actionable.

To properly process and manage this data spatially, to make this data usefulengineers discovered acute data integrity requirements to ensure data retains the ability to be analyzed in space – or relayed home for analysis.

Although there are different definitions of data integrity, such as UBER – or uncorrectable bit error rate, which is a definition of data integrity that also applies to enterprise applications – maintaining Data integrity is critical because data corruption and loss can lead to incorrect calculations – and crashes.

Just as cars on earth use data in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), rockets and satellites use similar systems that rely on data and data integrity to operate. As space technology expands to develop ever more capable data integrity systems, those same systems are becoming more effective in the intelligent application use cases around us, models based on AI in the enterprise to autonomous vehicles on the road.

Requirements for data storage in space

While data integrity is critical to success in the space, data storage is just as important, if not more so, as it is the foundation upon which data can be accessed, stored, and analyzed. Data storage tends to be one of the most overlooked, yet important aspects of the technology around us; how data is stored, processed, and moved directly impacts the computation and analysis applied to it, which dictates its usefulness.

Data storage in space must be able to withstand the rigors of a space mission, the previously mentioned challenges around launch, orbit and return to earth, and the evolution of data storage reliability has led to an evolution of the advanced use of case data storage around us. Some examples of this growth can be seen in places such as the transport industry, with cars, buses and trains now taking advantage of advanced data storage technologies that essentially turn these vehicles into traveling data centers on wheels. (or on tracks). Advances in data storage are driving countless industries forward – and this has set off a virtuous cycle of advances in reliability, then advances in data storage, that repeats itself over and over again.

Jump into the future

As space technology grows in sophistication, each of us benefits from advancements, and it’s likely that these applications will continue to appear subtly in the technologies we use every day. After all, space is the ultimate testing ground – if anything can survive there, it can survive anywhere.

We are already seeing the fruits of rocket science in the reliability of the technology, and this has directly spurred advances in data integrity and storage. Advances in data integrity have spurred smarter intelligence in applications, from smart cars to enterprise software, and advances in data storage have completely transformed industries such as transportation, driving advances in “roaming data centers”.

While we may take some of these takeaways for granted, we hope these innovations excite and inspire us – as new advancements are made, they will in turn improve our everyday experiences.

Yaniv Iarovici is the IoT Segment Marketing Director at Western Digital.


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