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  • Weekly Takeaways-Yuri's Night Edition

    Happy Yuri's Night! Yuri’s Night commemorates when Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12, 1961. Since that moment when we slipped the surly bonds of Earth, the space era can be broken into three distinct epochs: The Space Race The early decades were dominated by the space race between the US and USSR, when space missions were developed exclusively by government agencies. The Large Commercial Operators By the 1980s, commercial space companies were starting to form around creating commercially-viable business outside just government contracts. This era saw the rise of large satellite operators like Intelsat, which was originally formed as an International Government Organization, and PanAmSat, the scrappy operator determined to break Intelsat’s monopoly. Unfortunately, a conservative mindset, expensive launches, and the failure of the first LEO constellations in the late 90s helped chill the momentum towards truly commercial space companies. The New Space Era But that changed in the 21st century when adventurous venture-backed space startups, like SpaceX, Skybox, Planet Labs, and ABS, showed that space could be innovative - and lucrative. This drew in new investment and created an explosion of new space companies, growing from practically nothing in 2010 to $272B invested in nearly 1800 companies today. But more importantly, it enabled a virtuous cycle that brought cheap access to space, with launch prices falling from tens of thousands of dollars to a few hundred dollars per kilogram. What does the Future Hold? The commercial sector continues to see companies exiting, maturing, forming around novel business plans, and developing space-terrestrial hybrid networks. And as commercial space takes over activities traditionally done by government agencies, these agencies can focus on science and ground-breaking missions like the James Webb Space Telescope and Artemis program. This, in turn, has enabled a new space race, this time to bring us common folk to orbiting space stations, the moon, and even Mars. Yuri Gagarin would be impressed. Last Week's Theme: A Chain is only as Strong as its Weakest Link Industry News Even though “China has a 'stunning lead' over the US" in most quantum technologies, the US is still considered to be more advanced in quantum computers. But the US Department of Commerce is worried that they could catch up. The US Department of Energy has identified the development of quantum technologies as a priority “for electrical grid efficiency and sustainability efforts.” The US Navy also has their own quantum research for “a vision of a Navy equipped with even more secure communications networks, more advanced sensors, and the faster threat detection and response that comes with them.” Concerns about the vulnerability of GPS and other satellites continue, with some believing the solution may come from commercial space: The Director of National Intelligence 2023 Threat Assessment report has concerns that China has a GPS backup and“enough anti-satellite weapons in space within the next two or three years to disable all GPS satellites at once…Many analysts believe that GPS will be the first thing to fall in a conflict with China.” The Department of Defense CIO: “Our potential adversaries also know how much we rely on GPS.The adversary is going to try to come at it on day one of any potential conflict.” The US White House “Maintaining U.S. Preeminence in Low Earth Orbit" strategy has five objectives, including “advancing groundbreaking science and technology” by promoting “transformational R&D.” The director of the Space Development Agency believes that we need resiliency using different orbits, anti-jamming technologies, and large quantities of cheap satellites: “We'll put up hundreds and hundreds of satellites…[that] are more affordable than the missiles that you need to shoot them down.” Remember the opening scene in Contact when the first signals from Earth were received by extraterrestrials? Well, a paper suggests that the Starlink constellation is that signal. China held their first Extraterrestrial Construction Conference “dedicated to discussing plans to build a crewed base on the moon.” The More You Know... GPS has been the gold standard for global position and timing for nearly three decades. It is estimated that there are over 6.5 billion GPS receivers in the world – nearly one for every person on Earth. But that commonality is also a weakness, as it makes it difficult to change. If you had the freedom to create a competing system, you may end up with China's BeiDou, which has optical links, two-way time transfer, Global Short Message Communication and Search-and-Rescue Services. Even though it was only fully operational a few years ago, BeiDou has more satellites and ground stations than GPS to give it additional coverage, accuracy and resiliency. And they have announced plans to provide “global decimeter-level positioning and navigation” (compared to a few meters), and “underwater, indoor and deep space coverage.” That isn’t to say there aren’t plans to improve on GPS. But most of these improvements are focused on military users.

  • Weekly Takeaways-March 29,2023

    Theme of the Week A Chain is only as Strong as its Weakest Link. The latest advancements in clocks and timing systems were on full display at the recent Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems (WSTS). Throughout history, better clocks have enabled advancements in technology and commerce. In the last decade there have been rapid advancements in commercial clocks for network timing and PNT applications (see below). Today’s chip-scale atomic clocks are stable to better than a nanosecond (one billionth of a second) per month, and larger clocks drift less than a picosecond (one trillionth of a second) per month. But these individual clocks still need to be synchronized. WSTS presenters talked about all the latest advancements in local synchronization technology, including white rabbit, AI-enhanced PTP, and timing over 5G, wi-fi and terrestrial beacons. But synchronization over global distances have not kept pace with these advancements. This is the role (reluctantly) taken by GPS, which has been practically limited for decades at tens of nanoseconds and prone to costly outages. The next big step is global resilient and sub-nanosecond synchronization architecture. Last Week's Theme: Necessity is the Mother of Invention Industry News A recent Harvard report “China’s BeiDou: New Dimensions of Great Power Competition” describes how China is using BeiDou to one-up GPS in capability and as a soft power tool. Now there are reports of China’s jamming of GPS over the western Pacific and South China Sea that are creating issues with Qantas flights and a US Navy aircraft carrier. Check out this Association of Old Crows podcast “Navigating Our Dependency on GPS” to learn a little bit about the long history of GPS spoofing. “GPS started out in the words of its chief architect Brad Parkinson, as an effort to put five bombs into one hole. It was definitely a military capability but it very quickly it became a civilian capability also.” The European Commission Science Joint Research Centre (JRC) “Assessing Alternative Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Technologies for Potential Deployment in the EU” policy report noted that “although widely used, GNSS technology suffers from unique shortcomings, and without alternatives in place, the effects of an outage would be far-reaching and damaging to the European economy.” The main topic of discussion at the 15th European Space Conference was space security with a special focus on the vulnerability of GNSS. “One year ago, we were just on the eve of war. Now, we are in the middle of a war, so the security of Europe in space is a very timely subject.” In testimony before the US Senate, Department of Defense officials discussed plans to increase small business engagement with the defense industrial base, saying that "this is an economic and national security risk for our nation," so are "working to strengthen our small business supply chains, increase competition and attract new entrants." The More You Know... Clocks have been improving in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Most of these advancements were funded by government agencies that needed stable clocks for science applications, position and navigation systems, and radar, communication and sensor arrays. In the modern era, the atomic clocks have set the standard for clock stability. Atomic clocks measure “time by monitoring the resonant frequency of atoms” based on their different energy levels. The original atomic clocks from the 1950s were based on a transition of the cesium-133 atom, but today use elements that offer greater stability (hydrogen) and smaller size (rubidium). These clocks have since improved by five orders of magnitude, and today the NIST-F2 cesium fountain clock has an uncertainty of 1 second in 300 million years! But the race is on to reach better stability by leveraging new elements that transition at higher optical frequencies instead of microwave frequencies. These optical clocks “resonate on frequencies up to 100,000 times higher” than the cesium-133 atomic clocks, using elements like strontium, ytterbium, and even “nuclear” atoms. But who needs optical clocks when you have a steam clock? Weekly takeaways are sent out weekly to our Paperstreet community. To receive a copy of the weekly takeaways please visit us on our Xairos paperstreet site.

  • Weekly Takeaways March 23, 2023

    Necessity is the Mother of Invention Advances in timekeeping have always been spurred by necessity. The original calendars were developed with the advent of agriculture. Water clocks and sundials helped organize early shopkeepers and trade. Pendulum clocks kept merchants and prayer schedules on time. The marine chronometer helped sailors solve the longitude problem. Pocket watches kept trains running on time. And wristwatches were popularized by soldiers and aviators. GPS was slightly different; it was built first, then the application followed. It was only a happy accident that it provided a master clock just as networks moved from analog to digital. And it was incredibly successful in that role, enabling 4G LTE, financial transactions and power grids. But it has reached a limit. 5G timing standards were written around GPS’ capabilities with expensive hardware. For 6G and beyond, another advancement is needed. Last Week's Theme: Time, Navigation and Hegemony Industry News The UK released their $2.5B National Quantum Strategy to“fund new frontiers of quantum research, support and develop our growing quantum sector, prepare our wider economy for the quantum revolution and ensure that the UK leads internationally in the regulation and ethical use of quantum technologies.” China seems to have started local GPS jamming over the Pacific Ocean near their ships, according to reports from Qantas Airways pilots. A recent article summarizes China’s space ambitions and argues that “China is in a position to dominate the future of space and replace the US as the number one space nation in the world.” The sixth of ten GPS Block III satellites was put into operation recently while the Air Force launched their experimental Navigation Technology Satellite-3. Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Commercialising Quantum US, March 23 - 24, San Francisco, CA Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) Summit, May 10 - 11, National Harbor, MD Commercialising Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK Quantum 2.0 Conference, June 18 - 22, Denver, CO Q4I, June 27 – 29, Rome, New York Small Satellite, August 5 – 10, Logan, Utah Euroconsult, September 11 – 15, Paris, France APSCC, October 10 – 12, KL, Malaysia ITSF, Oct 30 – Nov 2, Antwerp, Belgium UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2023, Nov 2, London, UK SLUSH, Nov 30 – Dec 1, Helsinki, Finland Industry News The UK released their $2.5B National Quantum Strategy to “fund new frontiers of quantum research, support and develop our growing quantum sector, prepare our wider economy for the quantum revolution and ensure that the UK leads internationally in the regulation and ethical use of quantum technologies.” China seems to have started local GPS jamming over the Pacific Ocean near their ships, according to reports from Qantas Airways pilots. A recent article summarizes China’s space ambitions and argues that “China is in a position to dominate the future of space and replace the US as the number one space nation in the world.” In light of a recent report that claims that “China has a 'stunning lead' over the US" in critical and emerging technologies, the US Department of Defense set up the Office of Strategic Capital “to encourage investment in cutting-edge technology.” They recently announced that they will work with the Small Business Administration to leverage “the full faith and credit” of the federal government to guarantee loans to innovative firms. The More You Know... One of the key takeaways from the WSTS conference is the need for alternative timing sources to GPS. But within the government sector there is also concern about vulnerability of GPS in case of a future conflict: The Office of the Director of National Intelligence “Annual Threat Assessment” “highlights China’s space capabilities as one element of the country’s larger quest for global dominance”. US Senator Angus King (I-Maine) grilled the commander of the US Space Command, Gen. James H. Dickinson, about the vulnerability of GPS: “I believe GPS will be one of the first targets in a conflict… We’ve got to have a high priority on having alternatives to GPS, it seems to me,” warned Senator King. General Dickenson confirmed that they are “looking to alternative PNT – alternative position navigation and timing – and how we can develop those types of capabilities.” The Department of Defense CIO, John Sherman, said it’s imperative the U.S. has alternative PNT systems ready to go if GPS is disrupted. “The thing I talk about often is our potential adversaries also know how much we rely on GPS. The adversary is going to try to come at it on day one of any potential conflict.” The director of staff for the US Space Force, Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno, is worried that new sophisticated weapons make it harder to detect a malicious attack on GPS satellites: “There are ground based jamming capabilities that Russia and China have, ground based laser dazzler capabilities that they have… It doesn't damage the optics. But a stronger laser, which they're working on, could damage not only, you know, the sensitive optics, but could also take out a solar array.” The chief of space operations of the US Space Force, Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, worried that large US satellites in fixed orbits “makes them particularly vulnerable to direct attack…If you complicate targeting, you get resiliency, you raise the threshold for attack, which equates to deterrence…So it’s the idea of going to smaller satellites and proliferating our missions across multiple larger constellations that really gives us a more resilient architecture.” The deputy commander of US Space Command, Lt. Gen. John Shaw, worries that the U.S. relies on satellites “to project power across the planet and they’re not all that well defended. So we should not be surprised that we’re under threat. We have to completely rethink how we do our space architectures. We’re probably gonna have to be more nimble.” The commander of US Space Forces Indo-Pacific, Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, claims that China has put up a lot of satellites just within the last five to six years, including surveillance systems “designed to find, track and target U.S. forces and allied forces.” The weekly takeaways are sent out weekly to our Paperstreet community. To receive a copy of the weekly takeaways please visit us on paperstreet.

  • Weekly Takeaways-March 9, 2023

    Theme of the Week Time, Navigation and Hegemony When the British Empire was at its peak, a small island with only 2.5% of the world population held sway over a quarter of the world. They achieved this through a navy that dominated the seas thanks, in part, to the marine chronometer. This accurate timepiece revolutionized navigation and enabled the Age of Discovery by solving the longitude problem. Fast forward a century to the beginnings of GPS. What started as an experiment in creating “lighthouses in the sky” worked so well that it was made available for civilian use right as networks were moving from analog to digital and needed a clock. This happy accident created the "largest venture outcome in history” and trillions of dollars of economic benefit. It is now embedded in all aspects of our modern world: travel, communications, financial transactions, and power grids all rely on it. But GPS, and other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS), have a limit. Their signals don’t work well in urban canyons and buildings, which limits the advancement of self-driving vehicles, delivery drones, industrial robots, and disaggregated networks. Better timing still has the potential to unlock new opportunities - even on the moon. Last Week's Theme: Unlocking Potential Industry News An Australian think tank released a report that claims that “China has a 'stunning lead' over the US in the research of 37 out of 44 critical and emerging technologies,” and is the leader in quantum communications, advanced optical communications, and quantum sensors. According to The Quantum Insider, China isn’t just beating the US and the rest of the world in quantum research spending, it is also beating everyone as a percentage of GDP. China’s quantum investment is 0.088% of their GDP, well ahead of the US at 0.012% of GDP. If the US wants to keep up with China, some groups are advocating the need to utilize innovation from the commercial sector: National Space Council Executive Secretary Chirag Parikh: “The Venn diagram of civil, commercial and national security (space) is becoming more and more overlapped, and the real reason for that … is the value that commercial space services are providing to the economy, it’s providing to our civil capacity and it’s providing to our national security capacity.” US Space Force vice chief of space operations David Thompson: “The national security space enterprise, the national security enterprise and the U.S. Space Force need to use commercial space capabilities directly in support of the nation’s security.” Deloitte Government & Public Services CTO Scott Buchholz:“Revolutionary technologies from past eras — including the internet, GPS and touch screens — came to life with the support of robust federal funding and thoughtful regulations. For quantum technologies to mature in a way that drives tangible, safe and positive change for the American people, they will need the same kind of government support and regulation that benefitted other technologies.” The US National Cybersecurity Strategy “acknowledges the importance of positioning, navigation, and timing” with a strong push for resiliency in networks and systems through public-private partnerships and support for the commercial sector. The solar storms continue, causing GPS disruptions, radio blackouts, and even delaying a recent SpaceX rocket launch. But at least SpaceX learned their lesson after a solar storm destroyed 40 of their satellites last year. The concern with solar storms is of a coronal mass ejection (CME) similar to the Carrington Event, with “estimates that in the next 10 years there is a 35% to 45% chance a CME will disrupt GPS service for up to several days. The cost to our nation and economy will be measured in the billions of dollars,” according to the deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Commercialising Quantum US, March 23 - 24, San Francisco, CA Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO Commercialising Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK Quantum 2.0 Conference, Denver, CO, June 18 - 22 The More You Know... One of the problems with GPS is that it is too embedded in our modern world to change. But that doesn’t stop other countries. The GPS signal is already readily available, so they have a clean slate to build something better. Case in point: China’s BeiDou global navigation satellite system (GNSS). Only operational since 2020, the BeiDou constellation is now the world’s largest GNSS. Not only is BeiDou nominally more accurate than GPS, it also demonstrated optical links and offers Global Short Message Communication and Search-and-Rescue Services. BeiDou officials also announced future plans for “global decimeter-level positioning and navigation” and “underwater, indoor and deep space coverage.” But these advancements aren’t the only concerns highlighted in a recent Harvard report, “China’s BeiDou: New Dimensions of Great Power Competition.” China is wielding it as a soft power tool, “encouraging foreign nations to rely on BeiDou for civilian uses.” Meanwhile, the report laments that the US “Department of Defense (DOD) plans for GPS modernization are not focused on advancing U.S. economic or diplomatic interests.”

  • Weekly Takeaways-March 2, 2023

    Unlocking Potential In your home there is a common piece of electronics that has enormous potential. It has the ability to: Detect and locate people behind walls. Forecast the weather. Provide positioning for vehicles, robots, drones, and even your lost keys. Sense an impending earthquake. And you are probably using it right now to read this newsletter: your wi-fi router. But it needs to be accurately synchronized to unlock this potential. With accurate time synchronization, the time of flight of signals can be accurately calculated. This, in turn, helps detect the presence of people and water vapor in the air. Time of flight can also be used to calculate distance, and therefore the position, of sensors and moving vehicles. Better timing synchronization is the key to unlocking potential in existing infrastructure. It can help power grids and data centers run more efficiently, reducing carbon emissions. It also can be used to unlock spectral efficiency and new applications in cell networks. And it doesn't require a wholesale change to infrastructure – after all, you already have a wi-fi router. Last Week's Theme: What do you call a Smart City without PNT? Industry News The European Union Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) recently issued a warning that “Since February 2022, there has been an increase in jamming and or possible spoofing of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).” Hmmm, what happened in February 2022? The Russian jamming of GPS near the border of Finland and Norway continues to create problems there. According to the Finland National Communications Authority (Nkom), there was a fivefold increase in GPS failures over the airspace in Finland and that this jamming is continuing into 2023. Upgrades to the GPS system have been delayed yet again. In response to the tragic earthquake in Turkey, the University of Birmingham outlined their work on quantum sensors that could provide very sensitive gravity measurements that could provide early earthquake detection. As readers of this newsletter already know, there is some debate on what time to use on the moon. The European Space Agency released their ideas for Telling Time on the Moon as “part of a larger effort to agree a common ‘LunaNet’ architecture covering lunar communication and navigation services.” There is a race to find a post-quantum cryptography (PQC) standard to replace public key infrastructure (PKI) that can one day be cracked by quantum computers. NIST is holding a PQC competition, and one of the finalists, Crystals-Kyber, supposedly got cracked by AI. But NIST is saying otherwise, that the paper “does not claim to break the algorithm itself, but rather a particular “fifth-order masked implementation of the algorithm.” When the Australia-United Kingdom-United States partnership known as AUKUS was first announced, the focus was on nuclear-powered submarines. However, there are other elements to the agreement like the AUKUS Quantum Arrangement that could “prove just as significant.” Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Commercializing Quantum US, March 23 - 24, San Francisco, CA Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO Commercializing Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK Quantum 2.0 Conference, Denver, CO, June 18 - 22 The More You Know... Another large solar flare hit the Earth this week, causing GPS disruptions and radio blackouts as well as impressive aurora displays. But temporary GPS and radio blackouts are the least of our concerns. In September 1859, a very large solar event now known as the Carrington Event was first noticed by astronomers Richard Christopher Carrington and Richard Hodgson. It resulted in auroral displays in the tropics and caused sparking and fires in telegraph stations. If a similar event happened today, it could cause damage to electrical grids and GPS and other satellites, leading to “trillions of dollars in damage globally.” So what can be done? Fortunately solar activity is closely monitored so we can get some advance warning. But we also need a new hybrid satellite-terrestrial positioning architecture, with multiple satellites and nodes that can be quickly replaced.

  • Weekly Takeaways-One Year Later

    When the invasion started, analysts expected them to immediately jam GPS signals. After all, Russia is an expert in this, and it was their modus operandi from the 2014 Ukraine incursion. There has been jamming, though not as widespread or effective as expected. Maybe because they also need GPS, they were holding back, or they needed their limited equipment to prevent drone attacks within their own borders. But Russia still used GPS to hold the world hostage: Jamming near the Finland and Norway border disrupted flights, seemingly to intimidate their leaders. Threatening to blow up GPS satellites with anti-satellite missiles. Russia realized a long time ago how critical GPS is to the world. If there was ever a widespread outage, all travel, financial transactions, communications, and even power grids would grind to a halt. It is a single point of failure, though the US and other governments are (slowly) working to remedy that. What Have we Learned? We need a GPS backup We need a commercial alternative that addresses commercial needs. A commercial alternative takes the bullseye off GPS and allows the military to build their own dedicated system. Starlink and others have proven that commercial space companies can provide invaluable services that even impress US military leaders. Space will be contested ground in future conflicts. Russia and China have demonstrated anti-missile capabilities. Even more scary, they have demonstrated kamikaze, kidnapper, and rendezvous satellites that can destroy our satellites, as well as lasers that can dazzle or disable a satellite. An anti-satellite missile is an obvious provocation. But these capabilities give plausible deniability if one of our satellites “mysteriously fails”. US military satellites are sitting ducks – they are expensive and take too long to replace. But you don’t need to knock out satellites to disrupt GPS. Jammers are cheap and, as we recently learned, could be easily deployed on a high-altitude balloon. Xairos has learned from these lessons for a future resilient system: A satellite-ground hybrid architecture that uses quantum optical links that are resilient to jamming or spoofing. Multiple payloads on multiple satellites, including hosted on other commercial satellites. On-orbit and ground spares in case of failures.

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 23, 2023

    Theme of the Week What do you call a Smart City without PNT? A city. Most definitions of a Smart City talk about a city that leverages connectivity for the Internet of Things (IOT), transportation, sustainability, and energy usage. But this technology already exists. So what is the city of the future really lacking? This: Self-driving vehicles, air mobility, flying taxis, and delivery drones can reduce traffic and emissions. But this won't happen without better navigation infrastructure. Vehicles are already being outfitted with cameras and lidar for proximity sensors. But these prevent collisions or spatial awareness - they don't provide guidance. And GPS and other space-based systems can’t provide effective navigation in urban canyons, tunnels, and parking garages. One solution was described in 2008 by Steve Jobs: in large cities, we are surrounded by wi-fi routers and cell towers that are natural beacons. The next step is to provide position and timing over these beacons as part of a larger mobility network. But these beacons need to be accurately – and securely – synchronized. Timing not only impacts the position accuracy, but in a future of flying cars you don’t want infrastructure that can be easily hijacked. Last Week's Theme: The Server Lights Are Big and Bright Industry News European leaders approved the IRIS² constellation as an “alternative to Starlink.” A key difference: “Security would be provided through quantum encryption.” “While every part of assured position, navigation and timing is critical to future U.S. Army missions, timing often seems to be overlooked,” according the US Army director of the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) Cross-Functional Team. SK Telecom and IDQuantique announced plans to unveil their “Quantum Cryptography One Chip” at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023. They are already providing quantum random number generation chips on the latest Samsung flagship phones – but only in Korea. Another large solar flare erupted Friday, but, fortunately only glanced the Earth. It still “created temporary radio blackouts on the sunlit side of Earth” and impressive aurora borealis displays. The peak may be over but you can still check out this aurora forecaster. The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) recently noted that the “U.S. military must stop building satellite systems from scratch and better leverage of the commercial space sector by buying commoditized systems and services.” This was echoed by the US Space Force: “Traditionally, the military has chosen to build expensive, bespoke solutions," but "there has been an increased emphasis on leveraging commercial systems and services when possible." There is also renewed interest in dual-use and defense focused startups among investors like Andreessen Horowitz, who recently hosted the American Dynamism summit geared towards startups taking “on our country’s most pressing issues to support the national interest.” In the past, disruptive companies emerged from crises in the tech industry, and there are some that believe that this will happen again and it won’t necessarily come from Silicon Valley. Conferences Royal Institute of Navigation LEO PNT Workshop, March 1, London Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO Commercialising Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK Quantum 2.0 Conference, Denver, CO, June 18 - 22 The More You Know... Quantumania isn't just the title of a superhero movie - in the real world there has been a lot of interest in quantum technologies recently. The incredible applications enabled by quantum technologies has created a sort of global quantum arms race. By some estimates (including recent McKinsey and Deloitte reports) China was the leader in global quantum funding. In the US, funding from the National Quantum Initiative Act led to a renewed government focus and new quantum testbeds in Washington DC, Chicago, Tennessee, and New York. This race is so critical that The World Economic Forum raised concerns about a growing quantum divide, since "quantum technology will exponentially accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 15, 2023

    The Server Lights Are Big and Bright Deep in the heart of Texas, they are building new power plants - for data centers. Over 200MW of capacity, enough to power a small city, is being built to handle our social media addiction. It has been estimated that 30 minutes on Netflix is equivalent to driving four miles. And the problem is only getting worse. But there is a solution - better synchronization. Yes, more accurate time synchronization in data centers improves efficiency and reduces power consumption. A Facebook and NVIDIA study found that a synchronization improvement of 80x made a distributed database run 3x faster, a huge improvement. They created the Time Appliances Project with the mission statement: “Time is a key element to get the highest efficiency in a distributed system. The performance of a distributed system depends on the synchronization of its elements.” The relation between synchronization and efficiency is not that intuitive, so the simple analogy: distributed databases work by sending and receiving data. The data goes through lots of doors, and opening these doors takes energy. Waiting for the doors to open and close reduces efficiency, which can be reduced if they are synchronized. Last Week's Theme: Teamwork Industry News It is well known that quantum computers could one day break modern public key encryption, but not for a while. A recent paper by Chinese researchers claims that could occur sooner than expected, though not everyone is convinced. In any case, the US government “has already asked federal agencies to upgrade to quantum-safe encryption in their operations.” A recent Oak Ridge National Laboratory study posits that “satellites could enable more efficient, secure quantum networks.” Quantum Telescopes could improve on normal optical telescopes by using “interferometry, a technique where multiple telescopes gather light, which is then combined to create a more complete picture.” But interferometry has challenges that can be “overcome by relying on quantum mechanics. Rather than relying on optical links, they propose how the principle of quantum entanglements could be used to share photons between observatories,” according to a recent paper. The Department of Defense released a Small Business Strategy that includes “focusing on reducing barriers to entry, increasing set-aside competitions, and leveraging programs to grow the industrial base.” Even as overall investment declined last year, investment in seed-stage startups actually increased, according to PitchBook. Same with new space investment; seed investment actually increased in 2022 according to the Seraphim Space Report. Conferences Royal Institute of Navigation LEO PNT Workshop, March 1, London Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO Commercialising Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK Quantum 2.0 Conference, Denver, CO, June 18 - 22 The More You Know... Do you like mysteries? Then check these out: The mystery of the Chinese Spy (Weather?) Balloon and Subsequent UFOs seems to be a case of “you won’t find what you aren’t looking for.” These objects were all at an altitude that is (usually) not well monitored and moving too slow to get picked up by traditional radar. But the US military is “developing a sensor network” to “be on the lookout for these kinds of capabilities.” The case of the Green Lights over Hawaii may have been solved by Japanese astronomers who believe it came from a Chinese satellite. Solved! The case of the Texas/Oklahoma GPS Outages that occurred “only on normal workdays" was solved by an amateur sleuth. Stanford University PhD candidate Zixi Liu discovered that the outages were reported by military training aircraft and their "aerobatics caused the airplanes’ navigation receivers to intermittently lose lock on signals from GPS satellites.” Zixi is also investigating the Dallas-Fort Worth GPS Outage that disrupted air traffic for over 24 hours in October. So far, the source of the disruption has not been identified. The similar case of the 33 hour Denver International Airport GPS Outage was investigated by professionals: the Department of Homeland Security. But their report was inconclusive. The case of January 26, 2016, or the Day the World (Almost) Stood Still, has been solved. In the early morning hours emergency radios went offline in the US and Canada, and communications and digital broadcasts around the world started to fail. Even power grids started to malfunction as network engineers scrambled frantically to prevent a global communication meltdown. The culprit: a 13-millisecond error due to a ground software glitch when a GPS satellite was decommissioned. No mystery that GPS needs a commercial alternative!

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 7, 2023

    Theme of the Week Teamwork The next "G" is coming. 6G is expected to be "100 times faster than the peak speed of 5G" and transform “the way we live and work.” But you can’t get there with existing technology and spectrum – some new tricks are needed. One of those tricks: increase the number of base stations. But these base stations have to be closely synchronized to avoid handover problems. Another trick: directed signals using beamforming from multiple antennas at one location (MIMO) or different locations (COMP). This also requires very tight synchronization for phase alignment. Yet another option in the 6G playbook: connecting to multiple base stations, instead of just one (TDD). This also requires close synchronization between base stations to ensure transmit and receive data don’t interfere with each other. All of these technologies have a common thread: multiple elements working together. And these elements need to be in sync. Last Week's Theme: It's Lunar Time Check out our Start Engine raise and own your own piece of Xairos! Industry News Why use a spy balloon instead of a satellite? Cost and flexibility. Though it may seem easy to destroy a high-altitude balloon, it is worth noting that satellites can also be destroyed with anti-satellite missiles or even hunter satellites. Because of this there is concern that any future conflict will extend to space. A Space Force official also expressed concern about the cyber vulnerability of satellites, citing the Russian hacks of the ViaSat and Starlink satellites and jamming around Ukraine: “Right out of the gate, we saw both sides attacking satellite operations to degrade command and control. We see a lot of GPS interference to degrade those kinds of capabilities.” A new International Council of Quantum Industry Associations was recently announced as a joint effort between the US Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C), Quantum Industry Canada (QIC), Japan's Quantum Strategic Industry Alliance for Revolution (Q-STAR) and European Quantum Industry Consortium (QuIC). Some Google Maps users have been reporting a "Searching for GPS" error but it seems to be limited to Android Auto. Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs,CO Commercialising Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK The More You Know... One nice side effect of moving to 5G and 6G is the development of location and positioning projects and standards, including: A recent NASA PNT Workshop showed off developments with interconnected drones and flying taxis. A Netherlands “SuperGPS” research project evaluated “accurate positioning and time distribution like GPS" using synchronized base stations because “perfect timing means more precise positioning.” An Australian 5G Positioning Testbed project between GMV, FrontierSI, Ericsson and Optus claimed "a key step forward for the use of 5G technology for high accuracy positioning." A UK Digital Aviation Research and Technology Centre (DARTeC) project at Cranfield University that includes Inmarsat, Boeing, Saab, and Thales, is looking into digital aviation technology. A Japan Tohoku University research project looked at using the SoftBank cell network to “evaluate its quality in monitoring crustal deformation” for early earthquake detection. A Swedish paper claims that positioning and sensing in 6G could “support new use case families with extreme performance requirements,” but “ranging accuracy degrades mainly due to timing errors.” All of these projects highlighted the need for accurate synchronization between the beacons.

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 3, 2023

    It's Lunar Time! Over fifty years since humans last visited the moon, Space Race part II is underway (see below). At stake: claiming the high value polar real estate where there is ice, sun, and a view of Earth. But first you need a lunar GPS to guide the rovers; NASA and European Space Agency are on the case. But what time do you use on the moon? The obvious choice: the same as Earth time. Unfortunately, general relativity means that a "lunar clock would gain about 56 microseconds over 24 hours" compared to an Earth clock. And regular synchronization through multiple hops across 240,000 miles is a challenge. The other option is an independent lunar time based on master clocks on the moon or the lunar GPS. This means that the Earth and moon clocks will diverge so a lunar resident will have a slightly different birthday than their Earthbound twin. And even local clocks would vary based on location due to the moon's lumpy gravitational field. In any case, a lunar time synchronization network is needed. Last Week's Theme: The Last 500 Feet Industry News Last month the General Accounting Office (GAO) released their report “GPS Disruptions: DOT Could Improve Efforts to Identify Interference Incidents and Strengthen Resilience" that "found that DOT's process for identifying incidents doesn't produce accurate or complete information and isn't documented.” A recently launched Chinese satellite named Shijian 23 has “apparently released an object into orbit alongside it” that could be “used together with the parent satellite for on-orbit testing.” May be nothing, but it is strange “that initial reports…listed two additional satellites Shiyan 22A and 22B, as payloads aboard the launch. An updated story from Xinhua a day later omitted reference to the latter pair.” How do you protect vulnerable satellites from anti-satellite missiles or other on-orbit threats? With a “satellite bodyguard.” US Congress and the FCC announced an Energy & Commerce Committee hearing focused on “ensuring America continues to lead in the burgeoning satellite communications industry…The satellite industry is growing at a record pace, but here on the ground our regulatory frameworks for licensing have not kept up.” The NASA Psyche asteroid probe includes a Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) payload that will be NASA’s “first demonstration of optical communications beyond the Earth-Moon system.” Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO The More You Know... There is a new space race underway between the US, Europe, and China for the moon. NASA recently completed the Artemis mission with plans to get to the moon “as early as 2025 or 2026." Europe, meanwhile, is planning a lunar lander “capable of routinely dispatching science payloads and cargo to the Moon throughout the 2030s.” China also laid out their ambitious lunar exploration plans that includes the: Chang'e 3 mission launched in 2013 that includes the Yutu rover. Queqiao relay satellite launched in 2018. Chang'e 4 mission launched in 2019 that includes the Yutu 2 rover that recently released some impressive images and a number of discoveries and has been tracked by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Chang'e 5 mission launched in 2020 which collected lunar samples and delivered them to Earth. Queqiao-2 lunar communications relay satellite planned for 2024. Chang'e 6 mission planned for late 2024 that “will attempt to collect samples from the far side of the moon, within the South Pole-Aitken Basin.” Chang'e 7 mission planned for 2026, to include an “orbiter, lander, rover and a small, flying detector that can move into shadowed craters to hunt for evidence of water ice,” in the southern pole and far side of the moon. It will also carry a second, smaller rover for the United Arab Emirates. Chang'e 8 mission planned for 2028 to “test technologies for 3D printing and for using local resources.” International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) planned for the 2030s that “will initially be robotic but is intended to be capable of hosting astronauts for long-term stays from around 2035.” Also in the mix: commercial lunar exploration startups like ispace, Astrobotic Technology, Intuitive Machines, and SpaceIL.

  • Weekly Takeaways-January 24,2023

    The Last 500 Feet Recently NASA hosted a Position, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Workshop dedicated to the “last 500 feet.” While GPS and other satellite navigation systems work well on the open road and high seas, they don’t work well in large cities, urban canyons, and inside buildings. And this is where accurate positioning is needed for self-driving cars, flying taxis, and delivery drones. This is the "last 500 feet" problem. One solution: move the PNT signals closer to the ground. Terrestrial beacons can deliver high-power RF signals and be optimally concentrated near traffic lanes. But these beacons require very accurate time synchronization. Last Week's Theme: ...Looking Forward Industry News A flurry of new US government reports were recently released: A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on the 33 hour GPS outage at Denver International Airport was finally released, but didn’t explain what caused the outage. A US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report documents the US government's “head in the sand” approach to assessing GPS jamming. A National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) report outlines US government quantum plans and funding. In response to Russia’s satellite hacking the Aerospace Corporation developed a Space Attack Research and Tactic Analysis (SPARTA) framework “to describe the unique threats hackers may pose to systems in space.” NASA also admits that there is a new space race underway. Canada announced a National Quantum Strategy including plans for the QEYSSat quantum satellite. Two new venture funding reports are out: the CB Insights “State of Venture” report (estimates $415.1B in venture funding in 2022) and the Pitchbook “2023 US Venture Capital Outlook” report (estimates $238.3B in venture funding in 2022). The More You Know... The World Economic Forum (WEF) believes that "quantum technology will exponentially accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution." But this raises concerns of a Quantum Divide between the 17 countries that are investing in quantum research and the 150 that are not. But the divide is even more stark when you consider that only one country, China, is responsible for half of the global funding in quantum technology. The US has since made quantum and science funding a priority, as have other western countries. These funding efforts are outlined in a National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) report, and inspired the US State Department to set up an Office of the Special Envoy for Critical and Emerging Technology “to lead development of innovative technologies like artificial intelligence and quantum information.”

  • Weekly Takeaways-January 11,2023

    Theme of the Week ...Looking Forward GPS has been a cornerstone for the modern world for nearly four decades. All financial transactions, communications, data centers and power grids rely on timing from GPS. And that will continue – GPS and other GNSS systems are critical for global navigation and timing. But there are future needs that they cannot address: 6G networks that require tight synchronization “to make far more efficient use of spectrum." Self-driving cars, flying taxis, and delivery drones cruising effortlessly through large cities. Precise indoor navigation and timing for manufacturing and delivery robots. Position sensors accurate enough for early tsunami and earthquake warning. Weather detection using RF signals delays caused by water vapor in the air. Quantum networks that may one day entangle quantum computers. Accurate, traceable, and verifiable time stamps for financial transactions. A lunar GPS network to support manned missions to the moon. Deep space missions including detection of dark matter. Satellites in tight formation flying for scientific and communication missions. It's 2023 and the future beckons. Last Week's Theme: Looking Back… Industry News The race for broadband-speed 6G networks is underway. China reportedly leads other countries in 6G patents and has over 2M 5G base stations compared to 100,000 in the US. And they will need better synchronization "to coordinate the sharing of frequency bands in real-time, rather than relying on guard time and guard bands (the buffer zones between different chunks of spectrum).” The Q-NEXT quantum research center's recent ​“A Roadmap for Quantum Interconnects” report outlines the research and scientific discoveries needed to develop the technologies for distributing quantum information on a 10- to 15-year timescale. The US $1.7T 2023 spending bill “includes the highest research and development-driving budget in the Pentagon’s history and billions in additional funds to accelerate the military’s adoption of cutting-edge capabilities” The moon also needs its own GPS system, and the Aerospace Corporation and Space Systems Command have ideas. Pitchbook’s 2023 US Venture Capital Outlook noted that fundraising hit records in 2022, “surpassing 2021's figure in just three quarters…Dry powder remains extremely high, but dealmaking has continuously slowed on a quarterly basis throughout the year.” Meanwhile The Quantum Insider prepared their assessment of quantum investments in 2022 and quantum predictions for 2023. If you suffered from travel delays over the holidays, there is hope that future quantum computers could one day help in “untangling operational disruptions.” Conferences Time and Money Conference, January 17, New York, New York Photonics West and Quantum West, January 28 - February 2, San Francisco, CA Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO The More You Know... Recently Russia has expanded their jamming of GPS into Russia and Moscow in the light of drone attacks. This is wreaking havoc with commercial flights and portends further escalation as the conflict drags on. When Russia originally invaded, they also expected easy disruption of Ukraine's communication networks. But they didn’t count on the resiliency of commercial satellite systems. Starlink, in particular, has been resilient to Russia’s cyber-attacks with their “ability to quickly update the system’s software.” And threats of attacks using anti-satellite missiles “would also be a lot less useful against a constellation like Starlink than against older systems. Knocking out a single Starlink would achieve more or less nothing. If you want to damage the space-based bit of the system, you need to get rid of lots of them.”

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