Italian state-owned aerospace company Leonardo has been selected to study the possibility of a space-based cloud project for the Italian military.

The MILSCA project will look to provide the government and armed forces with high-performance computing (HPC), cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), and storage capacity in space using a constellation of satellites.

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It is expected that the project will result in 100TB of data storage on Earth and the same aboard each satellite, along with 250Tflops of processing power. Those satellites will be networked together, creating an orbital supercomputing cluster.

According to Leonardo, this will enable faster data processing and availability for users, and will make comms less vulnerable to interruption.

"A cyber-secure supercomputer and archive system in space will guarantee users access to strategic data such as communication, earth observation, and navigational data anywhere, even in the most remote places and at any time," Leonardo claims. "Storing data in orbit will also represent a useful backup of Earth centers, which are most exposed to natural disasters."

MILSCA will be a two-year study and will be conducted alongside Telespazio and Thales Alenia Space, which are joint ventures between Leonardo and France's Thales.

Currently, the team is working on establishing the architect that will be used, and will then develop a digital twin of the project using Leonardo's existing Davinci-1 supercomputer.

"In a multi-domain scenario, management, security, and rapid exchange of an ever-increasing amount of data, much of which is tactical, become strategic elements for the country's defense. We will be the first in Europe to develop a Space Cloud project," said Simone Ungaro, Leonardo's chief innovation officer.

Data centers have been explored more frequently over the last couple of years.

Thales Alenia Space, of which Leonardo is a founding member, was commissioned in 2022 to lead the "ASCEND" feasibility study looking at putting data centers in orbit. That project was to see if data centers in space would lead to fewer emissions than those on Earth.

In December 2023, Axiom Space announced it would be developing an "orbital data center" at its commercial space station, the first module of which is expected to launch in 2026.

Lonestar Data Holdings is currently working on deploying data centers on the Moon. The company recently successfully tested transmitting data to a lunar lander which is en route to the moon. The company is first going to trial a virtual deployment on Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C lander. A follow-up mission, also with Intuitive Machines, will include a small Lunar data center deployment.