The modeling, simulation, and operational control of aerospace communication networks

Brian Barritt
Ph.D. Thesis(2017) (to appear)
Google Scholar


A paradigm shift is taking place in aerospace communications. Traditionally, aerospace systems have relied upon circuit switched communications; geostationary communications satellites act as bent-pipe transponders and are not burdened with packet processing and the complexity of mobility in a network topology. But factors such as growing mission complexity (platforms with multiple payloads, multi-hop communication relay requirements, etc.) and NewSpace development practices are driving the rapid adoption of packet-based network protocols in aerospace networks. Meanwhile, several new aerospace networks are being designed to provide either low latency, high-resolution imaging or low-latency Internet access while operating in non-geostationary orbits or even in the upper atmosphere. The need for high data-rate communications in these networks is simultaneously driving greater reliance on beamforming, directionality, and narrow beamwidths in RF communications and free-space optical communications. This dissertation explores the challenges and offers novel solutions in the modeling, simulation, and operational control of these new aerospace networks. In the concept, design, and development phases of such networks, the dissertation motivates the use of network simulators to model network protocols and network application traffic instead of relying solely on static, offline link budget calculations. It also contributes a new approach to network simulation that can integrate with spatial temporal information systems for high-fidelity modeling of time-dynamic geometry, antenna gain patterns, and wireless signal propagation in the physical layer. And towards the operational control of such networks, the dissertation introduces Temporospatial Software Defined Networking (TS-SDN), a new approach that leverages predictability in the propagated motion of platforms and high-fidelity wireless link modeling to build a holistic, predictive view of the accessible network topology and provides SDN applications with the ability to optimize the network topology and routing through the direct expression of network behavior and requirements. A high-level overview of an implementation of Temporospatial SDN at Alphabet is included. The dissertation also describes and demonstrates the benefits of the application of TS-SDN in Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite constellations and High Altitude Platform Systems (HAPS).

Research Areas