February 15, 2023
4:34 am

Aalyria envisions communications revolution for Earth, the Moon and beyond

"I think what people will find is that this type of advancement, going from ground-to-space, changes the whole space economy," Aalyria's CEO Chris Taylor said. "I think it's going to be monumental."

Aalyria is looking to create a planetary (and beyond) communications network using RF and optical links. (Aalyria)

WASHINGTON — Only recently out of “stealth mode,” ambitious start-up Aalyria is swinging for the stars, literally, with two platforms company officials say will revolutionize communications by enabling rapid land, sea, air and space radio frequency and optical communications out to the Moon and beyond.
Chris Taylor, Aalyria’s CEO, told Breaking Defense in an Oct. 5 interview that the network Aalyria is creating with its Spacetime software is embodying the Defense Department’s concept of Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) in the manner that the concept was originally envisioned.
“We have created that digital cartilage and autonomous brain that permits a JADC2 concept to exist,” he said.

Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said in the company’s coming-out press release Sept. 13 that “Aalyria’s vision and technical approach enables, for the first time, the complete communications and network solution for integrated deterrence. There is nothing else like it.”
Work is on the company’s board of advisers, along with retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Kim Crider, who until recently served as the Space Force’s chief technology officer; Vint Cerf, widely hailed as the “father of the Internet;” Eric Gillespie, founder of Govini; and four former employees from Google.
Google actually served as the incubator for Aalyria’s cutting-edge tech, which the startup bought outright. Google retains a “small percentage” in Aalyria, Taylor said, but the company is not a Google or Alphabet daughter, rather an independent entity backed by venture capital funds. Aalyria now boasts a team of 32, Taylor said, based in Livermore, Cal.

Spacetime: Clearing the traffic lanes for data.

“Spacetime is a software platform orchestrating and managing networks of ground stations, aircraft, satellites, ships, urban meshes, and more. It optimizes and continually evolves the antenna link scheduling, network traffic routing, and spectrum resources — responding in real time to changing network requirements,” Aalyria’s press release claims.
“Spacetime is unique in that it is asset and domain agnostic, meaning it can orchestrate networks across nearly anything that is connectivity-equipped on Earth or in space — ships, planes, satellites, and space assets in near and deep space,” the release adds.
Taylor explained that what Spacetime brings to JADC2 is a “common control plane.” The control plane is the part of a computer network that controls how data packets are forwarded — that is, how data is sent from one place to another.
“A common control plane is the entire game for JADC2 and Spacetime provides that,” Taylor said. “While there is still much work to do in the data plane, the control plane is no longer a challenge and by solving that problem, Aalyria can cut in half both the time to an operational JADC2 and the cost associated with doing so.
“DoD should stop spending money on ‘square one’ efforts for interconnectivity because Spacetime is already at ‘square done’,” he added. “More focus should be placed on companies that have made generational leaps in technology instead of the addiction to trying to achieve value from dispersed and uncoordinated hyper-competition among the same staid players.”
The way Aalyria’s business model works, Taylor said, is that commercial customers — in particular operators of large constellations of satellites in low Earth and medium Earth orbits — pay the company to link their communications platforms to Spacetime and allow it to manage the comms links.
“They want to be in the system, because it makes their spectrum more efficient and more useful,” he said. “So, as you know, LEO operators generally have registered for a certain spectrum. That spectrum might be good for one type of atmospheric anomaly, but not for another. Well, we plug in their constellation information, and … Spacetime autonomously decides what the best path is to take far faster than any human could.”
But the software platform’s applicability reaches far beyond LEO, and eventually could service satellites operating around the Moon and Mars — or even connect lunar/Martian ground stations with Earth.
Spacetime also can automatically locate signal interference, such as jamming, and re-route data traffic accordingly, Taylor said. It further allows customers to put constraints on routing. For example, the Pentagon could specify upfront that its traffic be barred from traversing communications networks in certain countries or via specific platforms considered untrustworthy.
Brian Barritt, Aalyria’s chief technology officer, explained that all satellite operators have to use similar kinds software to manage their own communications networks, even if they are not trying to link with, say, a high altitude aircraft or a ship. But the “next step in the order of magnitude” of such software is Spacetime’s ability “to coordinate networks,” he said — something that “really opens up this new feature of hybrid communications networks, moving data, communications quickly and efficiently across commercial, civil and government assets.”
That capability is precisely what caught the eye of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), which in July awarded Aalyria an initial contract worth $8.7 million under its Hybrid Space Architecture (HSA) program “to provide global, ubiquitous, and secure internet connectivity throughout the space domain for commercial, civil, and military users, including international allies and partners.”
Taylor said that under the DIU program, which also involves Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space Warfighting Analysis Center, Aalyria is demonstrating the “network architecture” for the project.
“We are going to be the network architecture foundation for the hybrid space architecture. We believe that’s what we got the award for. It’s not yet standardized, meaning what we’ve done is not yet a government standard, right? But we believe it’ll become a standard pretty soon,” Taylor asserted with confidence.

Aalyria’s Tightbeam optical communications system. (Aalyria)

Tightbeam: laser communications through the atmosphere

Aalyria’s second product is what company officials claim is a world-beating laser communications system which can cut through atmospheric interference — the bane of terrestrial optical communications because lasers are easily distorted by clouds, rain, fog, etc. — and rapidly deliver data at phenomenally high volumes.
“Tightbeam is the world’s most advanced coherent light free space optics technology. At 100-1000x faster than anything else available today and covering greater distances than previously imagined,” boasts Aalyria’s press release.
Taylor explained that Tightbeam uses “a hybrid approach that is both hardware and computationally mixed so that we can ensure that we lose virtually nothing in our transit through the atmosphere.” He explained that this means using adaptive optics (reformable mirrors) to keep the beam narrow and thus “coherent,” as well as advanced algorithms to perform what is known as “waveform correction” that weed outs any atmospheric distortion.
“Let’s assume that, just for this, data is on a piece of paper. As it travels, the atmosphere pokes holes in all of that paper, and without any form of correction at all what arrives on the other end is a destroyed piece of paper. You don’t know what’s on the paper or you have little hints of what it might be,” he explained. “Through our own proprietary approach, we have sorted it so that when the paper arrives at the other end of the receipt with the receiving station, that paper is put back together before it hits the user.”
Aalyria is developing multiple versions of Tightbeam using different types of “eyes” for different missions and different platforms, i.e. ground stations, aircraft, stratospheric balloons, ships and/or spacecraft — or even between lunar stations and lunar orbiting satellites, back down to Earth. The simplest terrestrial version has a stable “head” for point to point communications, and varying sized gimballs for ground communications to mobile receivers and mobile platform-to-platform comms.
Of all of these possible optical links, Taylor is most excited about the capability to directly connect terrestrial receivers to satellite communications networks.
“I think what people will find is that this type of advancement, going from ground-to-space, changes the whole space economy,” Taylor said. “I think it’s going to be monumental.”


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