Transformational Software: Emerging Technologies Redefining Space
In the NewSpace era, innovations in the space industry are certainly not hard to come by. For the majority of the sector’s history, hardware has been the backbone of space. However, more recently we are starting to see some exciting developments in space software.
The shift towards the digitalization and digitization of space operations and services is pushing for developments in software capabilities and applications. Here, we take a look at three exciting emerging technologies which will be shaping the industry in the years to come.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
A technology which, once fully fledged and established, has the capacity to revolutionize the space industry is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). No longer a thing of the future, we are starting to see the adoption of AI and ML in space applications lift off.
Existing applications of machine learning being implemented into space technology today include in Earth observation and telemetry data analyses from data gathered onboard a spacecraft. We are also seeing data from Mars rovers being transmitted using AI, and they are now even capable of autonomously navigating around obstacles.
Areas of emerging AI and ML applications which are currently being developed are for satellite operations, including positioning, communication, and end-of-life management.
The current barriers in continuing the widespread implementation of these technologies are largely tied to software reliability and adaptability of AI, as well as the requirement for improved models and structures in ML tech. However, with a lot of R&D going into this area, it is likely that we will be seeing further rollouts of this technology in the not so distant future.
The continuously increasing number of satellites being deployed, and the advent of the mega constellation are central to providing us with critical services in communication, navigation and data. However, it also broadens the scope of satellite vulnerability to cyber threats.
Although already established infrastructure for non-space cyber security has been operational for many years, the space industry is not quite caught up. We have already seen examples of cyber attacks on spacecraft, such as the alleged hacking of US satellite communications provider, Viasat, in early 2022. The urgency to act now is paramount.
Luckily, we are starting to see a rise in space cyber security, with both new suppliers and existing organizations making this a priority in the development of their systems, as well as agencies. This rapidly evolving area of the industry will ensure that space service users such as governments, the military, commercial downstream sectors and others will be able to access these services safely.
Cloud services in space
Like cyber security, cloud capabilities in non-space applications are already in widespread use. The use of cloud infrastructure for the space industry has more recently become an emerging technology that will likely become central in future operations.
The ‘cloud’ can be and is already being utilized by the space industry to support space missions. Amazon Web Services (AWS) partnered with D-Orbit to deploy computing and ML software on an orbiting satellite. This experiment proved to enable rapid data analysis onboard the satellite, and only downlinked the most useful images for storage and analysis, which would previously have been a taxing manual task.
The use of cloud services in space applications will greatly help to redefine how data is collected and processed, ultimately meeting the needs of innovation and the customer with greater efficiency.
Learn more about these emerging technologies and more
There is a lot of exciting innovation happening in the space industry. Whether software or hardware, the transformational impact it will have is certain. At Space Tech Expo 2023, an expert panel made up of speakers from Evolved Systems Corporation, Sidus Space, NeuralAgent GmbH, VentureScope, and AWS will be delving emerging technologies for future space exploration and downstream applications.
Join us at the event, taking place from May 3-4 in Long Beach, California, to hear from over 40 expert leaders in the industry by securing your free place here.