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Data centers in orbit?

Satellite manufacturing specialist Thales Alenia Space has been selected by the European Commission to lead a feasibility study ” on ” the installation of data centers in Earth orbit “. The EU’s objective is to stem the proliferation of land-based computer server farms which consume more and more energy and whose environmental impact is becoming a major problem.

Our digital world is long overdue” infobesity » with an overflow of data passing through the internet that we must permanently store and manage. Until now, high-tech manufacturers multiplied data centerswhich gobble up, for their operating needs and the cooling of thousands of computers, electricity often derived from fossil fuels.

But the climate and energy crisis obliges the European Commission, within the framework of its plan entitled the Green Deal or Green Pact, has decided to limit the environmental footprint of these energy-intensive structures. This project would consist in satelliteing the data centers in orbit around the Earth. A feasibility study has just been entrusted to the Franco-Italian industrialist Thales Alenia Space. This constellation of orbital computer servers will be powered by solar panels, specifies Yves Durand of the technical direction of the Thalès group, at the microphone of Simon Rozé, journalist at RFI, space specialist.

Data transmission between Earth and space: No major problem “, assures Thales

The computer systems used by the server centers adapt well to the space environment and the transmission between space and the Earth of the data stored in orbit does not pose any major problem. While digital information exchanges take place on the ground via cables, in space these links are made using optical beams. “says Yves Durand, who continues:” Concretely, the orbital servers would take the form of computer racks which will then be placed in modules and assembled directly in space using space robotic systems that Thales masters quite well.. »

Yves Durant adds: This constellation of servers will be placed in orbits permanently lit by the sun, in order to do without heavy and bulky batteries. The advantage of the space environment is that space is not limited, but this feasibility study also covers the needs for data duplication, as well as their redundancy in these orbital servers requiring, moreover, maintenance procedures optimized, in order to ensure their proper functioning. »

Alien Cloud Computing

This feasibility study is called Ascend. This acronym is the abbreviation, in French, of “ Advanced space cloud for European data sovereignty and net zero emissions “. The Thalès Alenia Space group has been instructed by the European Commission to demonstrate that “ the carbon emissions associated with these new infrastructures in orbit are lower than those produced by terrestrial data centers “.

This study, which lasted about 16 months, should also guarantee the European high-tech and space industrialists associated with the project, the operability of this extraterrestrial cloud computing, which would be deployed as quickly as possible in space.

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