NASA Funds R&D Projects to Improve Operations of Satellite Swarms

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is funding a trio of research and development (R&D) projects by Nanoracks, Teltrium Solutions and Emergent Space Technologies aimed at enabling swarms of small satellites to better operate in Earth orbit and to explore other worlds.

The companies each received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II awards worth $750,000 to continue work on the their technologies. They each received smaller awards under the first phase of of the program.

Nanoracks, which is based in Houston, is focused on reusing spent rocket stages known as Outposts to help improve communications with satellite swarms exploring the moon and other planets.

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Scientific Systems Company Demonstrates AI-Enabled Edge-Based On-Orbit Processing for the Space Development Agency

WOBURN, Mass., Feb. 8, 2022 (SSCI PR) — Scientific Systems Company, Inc. (SSCI), an industry leader and pioneer in autonomous systems, has conducted initial demonstrations of its AI-enabled edge processing system as part of the Prototype On-Orbit Experimental Testbed (POET) experiment for the Space Development Agency (SDA). POET is hosted onboard Loft Orbital’s YAM-3, a “satellite-as-a-service” platform which was launched June 30, 2021 on Space-X’s Transporter-2 mission. POET’s space-based edge processing system is powered by SSCI’s Collaborative Mission Autonomy (CMA) software. POET provides an on-orbit SDA data fusion application prototype within the CMA software running on POET’s Innoflight CFC-400, a low size, weight, and power, highly capable, 0.5U size commercial off-the-shelf space processor.

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DARPA Awards Arkyd SBIR Phase I Contract for Spacecraft Hypervisor

Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)
Arkyd 100 spacecraft. (Credit: Planetary Resources)

Arkyd Astronautics, a company owned by Planetary Resources, has been selected by DARPA for  2013 SBIR Phase I award for a project to incorporate hypervisor-based software virtualization into spacecraft architectures. I know that’s a mouthful; the benefits of it are described in the company’s abstract below.

Arkyd was one of four companies working on hypervisor technology that DARPA selected for Phase I awards. The other companies were: DornerWorks, Ltd., of  Grand Rapids, MI; Emergent Space Technologies, Inc., of Greenbelt, MD; and Intelligent Automation, Inc., of Rockville, MD.  All the abstracts are below.

DARPA 2013 SBIR Phase I Awards
Hypervisor Software Virtualization

Arkyd Astronautics, Inc.
Bellevue, WA
PI:  Ray Ramadorai
Title: Spacecraft Hypervisor Implementing Modularity and Security (SHIMS)

Abstract: Incorporating hypervisor-based software virtualization into spacecraft architectures offers the capability to integrate payload software in a plug-and-play fashion, enabling more flexible and reconfigurable platforms. The hypervisor allows the payload software to be implemented in an abstracted, virtualized environment, which isolates the payload software from core spacecraft functions and offers significant advantages for payload development efficiency, modularity, re-use, integration, and test. (more…)