The new joint venture (JV), Space Compass, will aim to launch an integrated space computing network to relay orbital data to the ground, using both high-altitude platform stations (HAPS) and geostationary satellites
Why Space Compass was formed
There is an urgent need to ensure the sustainability of economic and social activity. This makes it all the more important to effectively and fully utilize stratospheric and near-Earth space for ICT infrastructures. This involves creating ICT infrastructures that support a number of fields, including energy, environment and climate change, disaster prevention, marine infrastructure, and security. In addition, as represented by the ARTEMIS program*1, public and private sectors in many countries are cooperating to extend human activities not only to near-Earth space, but also to the Moon, Mars, and other bodies.
NTT and SKY Perfect JSAT have agreed to establish a joint venture company to expand the utilization of space by mankind, building on the knowledge they have gained over many years spent on technological development and in commercial activity as terrestrial and space infrastructure companies.
The establishment of the joint venture is a tangible step forward toward building the space integrated computing network*3 announced in the 2021 collaboration agreement*2. By taking on the challenge of creating new infrastructures, starting with the optical and wireless communication network to be built in space and the mobile network to be built in the stratosphere, the joint venture will contribute to the development of the global space industry and the realization of a sustainable society.
Space Compass: The business plan
1) Space data center: high-capacity communication and computing infrastructure in space
In FY2024, Space Compass will launch an optical data relay service for high-speed transmission to the ground via a geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite. This will carry a vast amount of diverse data collected in space by observation satellites. Existing services, which transmit data directly to ground stations, have communication capacity limits imposed by the use of radio waves as well as limits on the time at which ground stations can communicate with observation satellites. In contrast, optical transmission via a GEO will enable high-capacity, quasi-real-time data transmission.
2) Space radio access network (RAN) business: communication infrastructure for beyond-5G/6G
Space Compass will use high altitude platform stations (HAPSs)*5,6 to provide low-latency communication services in Japan in FY2025. HAPSs make it easy to expand communication service coverage to a wider area. Consequently, it is possible to provide highly reliable communication in times of disaster, high-capacity communication for ships and aircraft, and communications services for distant islands and remote areas. Mobile carriers can improve the overall cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency of their mobile networks by combining HAPSs with an increase in the number of their terrestrial base stations to expand their service coverage.
The Space Compass vision
Space Compass will start the two businesses/services mentioned above as the first step in the space integrated computing network initiative and then gradually strengthen them. For the space data center, the company will steadily increase the number of satellites equipped with advanced computing functions to build a high-capacity communication/computing processing infrastructure in space. In addition, the company will demonstrate NTT’s high-capacity optical communication technology in space at Expo 2025 Osaka, and plans to deploy its services globally thereafter.
For space RAN, Space Compass plans to study the provision of image sensing using HAPSs. In addition, the company will add or integrate geostationary orbit satellites and low earth orbit satellites (LEOs) to expand service area coverage and increase the communication capacity per HAPS by developing radio communication band broadening technology.