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It Ain’t Standard Oil…It’s the New Standards by Lou Zacharilla

It Ain’t Standard Oil…It’s the New Standards by Lou Zacharilla

It Ain’t Standard Oil…It’s the New Standards by Lou Zacharilla

by Lou Zacharilla

New York City, March 1, 2024–In 1910 the Supreme Court of the United States found Standard Oil Company of New Jersey guilty of monopolizing the petroleum industry through a series of abusive and anticompetitive actions. The Court’s remedy was to divide Standard Oil into several geographically separate and eventually even competing firms. Reacting to the size and scale of this unfavorable ruling to the company he had founded, the head of the greatest business monopoly in history, John D. Rockefeller, allegedly said, “I expected it, but did not think it would be so BIG!”

Sometimes you get surprised in life. Sometimes, however, pleasantly.

When I look at two of the most important, fastest-growing communities within our industry, diverse as they are, I sense the dynamism and changes taking place that make 2024 a special year.  Both are yet another demonstration of what I call “the Better Satellite World” we are shaping.

DIFI is a Great Acronym Making a Difference

It is generally agreed throughout hallways here at Satellite 2024 that the industry needs an open and transparent standard that if developed and adopted by users, operators and vendors working together will meet the broadest range of needs without becoming too complex and costly to implement.  The industry was seeking a standard to reduce the total cost of ownership and boost network and terminal agility, performance and resilience to enable the all-important – but often ugly-child of the industry – the ground segment, to seamlessly adapt to rapidly changing space-layer payloads, orbits and constellations.

That is why a lot of buzz is around the work and the mission of the Digital Intermediate Frequency Interoperability (DIFI) Consortium. ( The young consortium, led by Stuart Daughtridge, Vice President for Advanced Technology at Kratos Defense, is to enable the digital transformation of space, satellite, and related industries by providing a simple, open, interoperable Digital IF/RF standard to replace the natural interoperability of analog IF signals and to prevent vendor lock-in. Today ground segment relies on coaxial cable to transport RF at intermediate frequencies, such as L-Band, between antennas and modems and through multiple analog devices. Analog IF systems, with their inflexible chain of hardware, are difficult to scale and complex to operate. They are struggling to handle capacity demands and cannot scale up. Innovation gets the door shut in its face as a result.

DIFI, whose 60 members include some marquee names, including NATO, Microsoft, Intelsat, ViaSat, World Teleport Association and the United States Navy has working groups that focus on specifications and certifications.  Recently, DIFI established a new working group to focus on a fast-emerging challenge to the spike in advancements in ground segment technology.  Electronically-steered flat-panel antennas (ESAs) are on a clear evolutionary path from high-cost terminals for single-beam/single-use applications to increasingly affordable offerings, many with some combination of multi-beam, multi-band, and multi-orbit capabilities. Supporting these flexible antenna systems will drive demand for digital-based ground systems for signal routing and processing.

Last year the consortium released version 1.2.0 of the DIFI Standard to set up industry-wide standards to help the deployment of key technologies going forward.

DIFI, which sounds like a new brand of peanut butter, is growing faster than a kid’s appetite for a sandwich and is one of the industry’s BIG success stories. Daughtridge, who is its current Chairman, was nominated as Industry Executive of the Year.

Wisdom and Growth SSPI-WISE

Another community with a familiar acronym is SSPI’s WISE (Women in Space Engagement).  Gender relations are an interesting dynamic anywhere. In the space and satellite industry the general collegiality that exists – and MUST exist – has helped women move deeper into the ranks of leadership and participation.  Finally.  However, ask a guy if women have caught up in this regard and you will generally hear, “yes.” Ask women and it is a resounding “no.” Obviously there is work to do.

But SSPI-WISE, the fastest growing special interest group among SSPI’s chapters and affiliates – by far – has been programming events, providing mentorship and attracting members to SSPI at an accelerated pace.  The need is there. It too is a new “standard” that was much in need.  SSPI’s Director of Engagement, Tamara Bond-Williams, a driving force at WISE, was recently celebrated in Via Satellite’s special report on women in the industry.  SSPI-WISE encourages women to join.

Within the last few weeks, I have been lucky enough to record a series of Podcasts called “The Promise” with young men and women in the industry to discuss many of these issues AND also one with Stuart Daughtridge to discuss the all-important topic of interoperability! (

To be able to have these conversations with these gifted folks and to be engaged in this big-time transformation of our industry is a great gift. I expected I would do a lot of these things in my job, but I never expected they would get so BIG and successful!

Join SSPI and Milbank Law for the next
New York Space Business Roundtable –
Live From New York!






Lou Zacharilla is the Director of Innovation and  Development of the Space and Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) and the host of the “Better Satellite World” podcast.  He can be reached at:

2024-03-19T10:50:09-04:00March 19, 2024|News & Articles|

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