Bluestone - A satellite data management system

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Technology abstract

Bluestone is a satellite data management system developed by Swedish companies ÅAC Microtec and Spacemetric in cooperation. Bluestone enables the user to only download the data from a satellite that the user needs – instead of downloading all data and then making the selection, which is a costly procedure. The advantage of Bluestone is that it is a system designed to optimise the use of downlink capability when the bandwidth is limited.

- Private group -

- Cecilia Hertz -

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Technology Description

Bluestone offers more effective image data downlinking from Earth imaging satellites to ground receiving stations. The Bluestone technology was conceived by Spacemetric and ÅAC Microtec as an innovative and enabling technology for next-generation constellations of remote sensing satellites and the large volumes of data they will generate in orbit.

Bluestone is a system designed to optimise the use of downlink capability when the bandwidth is limited. The system exploits the circumstance that only a small fraction of the data collected at the sensor level is of any real interest the user. Bluestone is built on an architecture where the data is stored in an archive on the satellite platform in space and the user operates on a virtual archive, embodied in a software package, on the ground. Metadata and an overview data product are generated automatically from the data in the on board archive and pushed to the ground, thus creating a virtual archive. From the overview data, the user can select more detailed data content (zoom in) on specific geographic regions by pulling more data from the archive in orbit. The system was originally designed for civil applications but could with limited effort be tailored for military needs even outside the space domain e.g. for providing tactical information directly to units in the battlefield.

Innovations & Advantages

The advantage of Bluestone is that it is a system designed to optimise the use of downlink capability when the bandwidth is limited. The system exploits the circumstance that only a small fraction of the data collected at the sensor level is of any real interest the user.

Bluestone enables advantages in two main categories of technology developments:
- sensors generating larger volumes of data
- more advanced applications with lower requirements on downlink bandwidth.

Exploiting the fact that only a small fraction of the data is high priority and that very little of the remaining data is likely to be used, Bluestone enables these systems that collect larger amounts of imagery than can be downlinked. This is enabled by allowing for prioritizing and discrimination of data for download so that vast amounts of data can be collected while only the interesting data is downloaded.

The Bluestone system offers an alternative to increasing the bandwidth when addressing the challenge of handling the increasing volumes of data. It carries sufficient data storage capacity to keep the acquired image data on board for a period of several days or weeks. And by downloading metadata, including an overview image, for access by the potential users, the data stored in space can be downloaded on request, reducing the required downlink bandwidth by up to 90% based on experience from existing and past Earth observation systems of the fraction of data that is actually used. This estimate is based on the assumption that on average 1% of pixels collected are actually used.

Further Information

Current and Potential Domains of Application

Earth observation, science missions, surveillance drones, military