Latest after the recent WhatsApp update, everyone knows the term end-to-end encryption. End-to-end solutions in space though? Is space not the equivalent of infinity? We have spoken with Chief Operations Officer, Yves Constantin, wanting to know more.
Question: There is more and more talk of end-to-end, but all in different contexts. Can you explain what is meant by end-to-end in the space context?
Yves Constantin: Complex systems have in fact several ‘ends’. On the one hand we are speaking of a whole number of sub-areas to be taken care of, in order to make a mission successful. For the case of a Ground Segment for example we need as a minimum a ground station with antennae, hardware and software for sending and receiving of data. Then we need a control centre from where the satellite is being controlled – and of course the necessary control systems and planning systems enabling this. And last but not least the payload data that the satellite is collecting sending us back, needs to be further processed into a format that is useful for the end user.
On the other hand we are speaking also about the value chain within each single sub-area: You need many clever heads to make concepts, to plan, develop, operate, maintain or further develop them. We as a company may become expert in one of these areas and dive into the depth of the matter. Or you decide to grow beyond and gradually become expert in all of these areas. Then we are talking about end-to-end: From the planning stage to the use of data. This is after all why we do it: Because of the data in which we are curious; they bring us further, in science, development or knowledge about the Earth and Space.
What does that mean exactly? In which area do you need to be a specialist?
Yves Constantin: First we need to be really good in all these areas and understand how they influence each other. Above all, you need to understand how the different interfaces work together and say goodbye to our insular thinking. For example, involving operations teams already at the beginning of the design of a control system may lead to a different solution.
Isn’t this being done already?
Yves Constantin: Of course there is collaboration. The difference between an end-to-end solution in comparison with a solution that involves many different service providers shows in the amount of effort for the client and the cost that he has. If the client decides to distribute contracts to several partners, he has to provide more preparatory work and define the interfaces. If not, everybody goes their own way. Bringing them together takes time. However if he decides to give one single contract to a service provider who takes care of everything, he needs to have faith that we do it well – but the client will also save the effort, time and cost.
Does this mean, looking from the service provider’s perspective, such as Telespazio VEGA, that this causes more responsibility and more work?
Yves Constantin laughs): First of all it means securing jobs! We don’t bid for contracts to cause more work but because we want to give work to our employees. But seriously: You just have more fun in an end-to-end contract. You can grow your knowledge, you have more exchange between the teams – and less interaction cost for the client. The potential for optimising the solution is also bigger since everything is in one hand. And if the playground is bigger there is also more opportunity for creativity and ingenuity. For this, we like to take the responsibility.
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