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Microsatellite swarms could paint a clearer picture of our planet



Microsatellites such as those developed by ICEYE not only reduce the size of the satellite, but also significantly reduce costs. Credit: ICEYE

Tiny, cost-effective satellites that can work together to increase their performance and technology that reduces the loss of satellite data are two of the latest innovations in the earth observation market ̵

1; and the results promise a more detailed picture of our planet.

Space is not only a hostile place for life, but also for business. The construction and commissioning of a traditional bus in tens of thousands of miles over the earth can cost hundreds of millions of euros, but thanks to the miniature satellites, economic conditions are changing.

Among the start-ups that are looking for new ways to acquire space potential is microsatellite maker ICEYE. It aims to reduce satellite prices to less than one-hundredth of traditional satellites by using a range of microsatellites, some of which are built with commercially available electronics.

In January, the company sent the world's first microsatellite-based system with synthetic aperture radar technology that allows satellites to see through clouds and into the darkness – into a near-Earth orbit of about 500 kilometers.

With a box weight of just 70 kilograms, ICYYE-X1 is the first of three satellites that the company plans to launch this year, with a target of 18 in the sky by the end of 2020.

ICEYE says cloudy conditions can not make images available with optical systems up to 75% of the time, a problem that avoids their technology.

"This means you can get a picture of it anywhere in the world anytime," said Pekka Laurila, CFO and co-founder of ICEYE.

At present, company requests for data can take satellite providers days proc and are often updated only every 12 hours. ICEYE believes it can take up to two hours to get six microsatellites into the sky, and even more with further launches.

"If you're able to monitor for a few hours, you're actually catching a bunch of completely new phenomena that have never been seen from space before," said Laurila. "It gives you access to understanding These phenomena are on a human timescale. " Ice Monitoring

There are all sorts of areas where this could be applied from agriculture to climate change production, but one of ICEYE's main focuses This was an area where continuous coverage is extremely important, "said Laurila.

This revolutionary approach has arrived at a time when unprecedented amounts of data are being generated by satellites.

The data stream is affected by a number of factors, including more detailed earth observation services. One way to handle this growing flow of information is to find better ways to get satellite data back on the ground.

At the moment, many satellite data are lost or "thrown overboard" on their way to and from Earth, John Mackey, CEO of mBryonics, a technology company based in Galway, Ireland

He coordinates a project called RAVEN, the is committed to improving signal transmission. To this end, mBryonics uses a technology called adaptive optics, which is used in telescopes to give astronomers clear images of stars by reducing blinking when looking at the distortion of the Earth's atmosphere.

Adapting This Technique to Mackey Data

The faster movement of this data could also help future low-orbit satellites that see less of the Earth than these satellites higher. Low-orbit satellites have a more limited line of sight to the ground stations and therefore a smaller window to send the data down as they pass – maybe only 10 to 15 minutes, Mackey said. Accelerating the data rate means you can transfer more during that time.

In addition, mBryonics wants to use its technology to create connections between satellites that could help create constellations to intelligently route data in the most efficient way. "When I send my data to the satellite, he can fire it over the satellite constellation and get me to my destination much faster," Mackey said.

And this can not only reduce the number of ground stations required, but it could also help to transfer the data faster, thus avoiding large delays in providing costly satellite-based services. mBryonics intends to demonstrate a complete commercial system of its satellite technology within the next two years.


Further information:
Larger tubes in space for dealing with the data explosion

Provided by:
Horizont: The EU Magazine for Research and Innovation


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