Space Data Centers

The letter:

Dear Human,

Would you like to move to space?  Live in comfort at one of many off world locations?  Experience new art, embrace new job opportunities, and try zero G sports.  All of this is waiting for you.  Call us today!


The call back:

<ring … RING!>

operator: Hello, HumansToSpace.  The next chapter of your life begins with us!

caller:  Um … I’m calling about a letter I received regarding off world opportunities …

operator:  YES! <sales pitch here>

caller:  I have a question.  Can I watch my favorite streaming movies and video chat?  I’m also an avid online gamer with a rather large guild doing some epic WoW raids …

operator:  Absolutely!  You can stream any movie or video chat with anyone in the same off world location.  Online games are also available at the same off world location.

caller:  WOAH,  what?!  What happened to the freedom of the internet and social media?  That cannot happen in one location but needs to be available for everyone, everywhere.  I’m a guild master for Thrall’s sake!  I can’t just leave my Earthly guild mates.  If I’m to live off world I can’t just leave my friends.

operator:  Oh, you have friends. <uncomfortable silence>  This certainly makes things harder.  Any interest in the now on sale off world location of Io?

caller:  Not until it has connection with Earth and all off world locations.  Thank you, goodbye.

The above illustrates a few concepts.  The first being that I’m playing with a new way to start a blog post.  More importantly, the internet has provided interconnectedness (not a word, yet) between online humans.  That connectedness (nearly a word) is not something many of us with good relationships would want to give up.  Living off world should never require losing online relationships.  Which is why we need to create the internet in space.

The idea of putting data centers in space is a newer concept.  However, ConnectX is starting to make space data centers a reality.  Fortune had an article covering some of ConnectX’s technology.  Powering with solar is a no-brainer, cooling in space is easy, but transmission technology is the hard part.  How do you get petabytes of data to a space data center in reasonable time?  There are several techniques being researched that can use a laser to carry information or a twisted radio signal.  Certainly, these types of data transmissions are becoming feasible to handle large data transmission.  And with a few name servers, some routing, etc., etc. you get an internet in space.

Why do we care?  One reason is floor space on Earth can be limiting where as space has plenty of room.  Solar is free and there is a lot of it in space with no cloudy days.  So, it is practical.  Moreover, it is important to moving to off world.  As illustrated in the above caller dialogue, most people want the freedom to communicate with whom they choose when they choose.  This means the space web/ internet needs to be available not just rotating around Earth.  Think bigger and webbier (ok, that may never be a word).

The space inter web needs to be available to Earth, the moon, the asteroid belt, moons around Jupiter, moons around Saturn, and beyond.  The Earth is in orbit around the sun so anything in orbit around Earth will move.  Which means a static location will lose touch when the Earth is on the other side of the sun.  Granted there are few static locations in space.  A better example would be a location around Mars would like to communicate with Earth.  Both planets orbit the sun at different velocity.  They will be closer sometimes and much further at other times.  Distance as well as large celestial object blockage erode the orbiting data center idea.

To smooth out data transmission, what is needed are many data centers which redundantly communicate.  Let’s call it a communication array.  I totally stole that from Star Trek!  The array has equidistant communication hubs.  Such that all communication times are about the same.  Also, closer proximity reduces data loss.

Interestingly, there is something like this on the internet.  Amazon Web Services (AWS), which I am most familiar with, has edge points.  Basically, information is copied and cached to the edge points and then when requested from your browser the closest edge point is used.  This reduces the transmission time over the internet.  In other words, someone in Seattle, Washington will have the same download times as someone in Sydney, Australia.

The internet and online relationships are ingrained in many of us and spreading to many more.  We are connected through our laptops, phones, cars, and appliances.   It is unreasonable to think that when we begin to migrate to space that our online experience and interconnectedness should change.







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