Researchers Develop Lightweight Network Simulator for Emerging Satelite Mega-Constellations

Researchers Develop Lightweight Network Simulator for Emerging Satelite Mega-Constellations

Recent years have seen considerable advancements in mega-constellation networks due to their great potential for providing ubiquitous and high-capacity connectivity in sixth-generation (6G) wireless communication systems. At the same time, the high dynamics of network topology and the large scale of mega-constellations pose new challenges to constellation simulation and performance evaluation. This demands the development of effective simulation tools for promoting satellite system architecture, network management, and control technology.

Research carried out by a team of researchers from China and Canada, led by Associate Professor Haibo Zhou from the School of Electronic Science and Engineering at Nanjing University, has proposed UltraStar, a lightweight network simulator for the emerging mega-constellation. Their work was published on March 1, 2023, in Volume 10, Issue 3 of the IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica.  Xiaoyu Liu, Ting Ma, Zhixuan Tang, and Xiaohan Qin from Nanjing University and University Professor Xuemin (Sherman) Shen from the University of Waterloo were also part of this study.

 "This study proposes a systematic and extensible software architecture, where the joint requirements for software simulation, quantitative evaluation, data statistics, and visualization are fully considered," says Associate Professor Zhou.

The outcome of the study yielded simplified representations of different real-world components and models related to the networking nodes, structures, and protocol stacks of the constellation. The satellite network was initialized with the real configuration parameters, and the trajectories were updated over time through the orbit prediction interface. This two-stage topology maintenance method further accounts for the high dynamics of mega-constellations. The study resulted in the development of a new set of distinct events for basic network processes, including packet processing and discrete movement. The simulator was used to fully evaluate the network performance of the first-generation Starlink of 11,927 LEO satellites—a SpaceX project announced in 2014—for different deployment stages. An estimate of the characteristics of the constellation topology, the performance of end-to-end services, and the effects of network-wide traffic interaction was carried out.

UltraStar demonstrated effectiveness in simulating the mega-constellation network, besides demonstrating the superior performance of Starlink. The simulator supported the design and verification of the topology architecture of mega-constellations as well as their networking protocols.

"The core ideas in this work will greatly facilitate the simulation work of satellite network researchers and bring inspiration to the field of satellite internet networking protocol research and performance evaluation. UltraStar can provide a highly reliable and high-fidelity simulation environment for the actual development and deployment of mega-constellation networks," explains Associate Professor Zhou.

The study emphasizes that advances in system architecture, network management, and service provisioning technology will facilitate emerging services with high data rates, low latency, and high reliability, providing a better quality of service.

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Publisher: everything RF
Tags:-   SatelliteSimulationResearch6G