LyteLoop plans dozens of smallsats for data-in-motion secure storage service

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After four years of stealth mode, LyteLoop, a startup planning to store massive amounts of data by moving it continuously between satellites, is coming out of the shadows.

Since 2015, LyteLoop of Great Neck, New York, has been assembling a team and obtaining patents for its plan to move data in an endless loop with ultrahigh bandwidth lasers.

The goal is to meet the growing demand for secure data storage without building large, energy-intensive, ground-based centers. LyteLoop plans to store many hundreds of petabytes of data in space, an amount equivalent to a data center containing thousands of servers.

“The amount of data is growing exponentially,” said Ohad Harlev, LyteLoop chief executive. “We can’t build enough data centers to keep up.”

LyteLoop’s network is designed for cybersecurity. Data moving through space at the speed of light is less vulnerable to hackers than data stored on the ground, Harlev said. Plus, LyteLoop plans to offer quantum encryption.

LyteLoop is not yet saying exactly how many satellites it seeks to launch, or how large they will be. “We are planning on dozens of small satellites,” Harlev said.

While LyteLoop’s space-based data constellation will be more expensive to establish than a ground-based data center, its ongoing operating expenses will be far lower, Harlev said.

“Once you are in space, your operation costs are in the single-digit millions a year,” he said. In contrast, terrestrial data centers require “tens of employees, electricity, maintenance and taxes.” Over a 10-year period, Harlev estimates LyteLoop’s total cost of owning its data constellation, including the cost of the building, launching and operating it, will be about 30 percent lower than the cost of terrestrial data center.

To date, LyteLoop has not sought external investment. Soon, the company plans to begin raising money, publicizing the venture and meeting with prospective partners, Harlev said.

“Within 20 months, we will have vacuum-worthy prototypes of six optical communications subsystems,” Harlev said. In 2020, LyteLoop plans to issue a request for proposals for satellites.

Before founding LyteLoop, Harlev was president of RRsat America, a communications company renamed RR Media and MX1. SES acquired the firm in 2016. Charles Palanzo, LyteLoop’s lead digital engineer is a technology management and engineering consultant.

Paul McManamon, former chief scientist for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory’s Sensor Directorate, is LyteLoop’s chief technology officer. Alan Willner, a University of Southern California engineering professor whose research focuses on optical-fiber and free-space communications, leads the firm’s laser communications design work.

LyteLoop’s patents and research papers highlight both space and terrestrial applications for its data-in-motion storage concept.

“We have set up a gigabyte storage loop using 1,000 kilometers of optical fiber as a demonstration vehicle, and we are looking at more advanced concepts that explore the ‘art of the possible,’ with goals of significantly reducing required power and footprint,” according to the abstract of a paper LyteLoop executives presented in February at a San Francisco conference held by SPIE, the international professional society focused on optics and photonics.