An Australian start-up company launched two computers on small satellites to test the in-orbit processing of Earth observation images, hoping to make it easier for people to gain insights into space. The
Spiral Blue in Sydney launched two Space Edge Zero computers into low-Earth orbit on June 30 as part of the first part of the Virgin Orbit tube clock mission. The company’s founders believe that the technology can bring innovative applications. In the future, it can automatically track rogue ships in remote areas of the ocean, find lost aircraft, and even the poorest farmers can benefit from the scenery above. The core of the
Space Edge Zero technology is the powerful Jetson Nano chip, manufactured by Nvidia, capable of running complex artificial intelligence algorithms. Each is about US$120 and measures only 2.7 x 1.7 inches (7 x 4.5 cm). These chips are light enough but powerful enough to allow Spiral Blue to test drive-based image processing space for the first time. Taofiq Huq, CEO of
Spiral Blue, told Space.com that the computers launched on the two cube satellites of the Polish company SatRevolution could expand the use of Earth observation data and reduce the cost of obtaining information from space. .
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“Today, satellites cannot send as much data as possible,” Huq said. “It’s like being in the field, with a bad mobile phone connection and wanting to upload photos somewhere.”
These days, “satellite photos” are processed by powerful computers on the ground. Smart algorithms can detect and calculate various characteristics, such as the number of cars, the number of solar panels, and even cracks in the water pipes. The problem is that a lot of images are wasted. Huq said that Earth observation companies prioritize images from popular regions, while making data in less popular regions inaccessible.
“If you are in a rural or second-tier city, you will not be able to access these images,” he said. “You will have to ask them to take pictures for you, which will become very expensive.”
Spiral Blue does not want to send large image files, but only wants to send the information that users really need to the ground.
“If you were sent out, say, counting sheep, you wouldn’t try to take pictures of each sheep and then send them back,” Hook said. “You will use your brain to calculate them, and then you will send that number. This is the idea.”
Earth observation image processing in space was previously impossible because the technology is simply not up to this point. task. Huq said it’s not just the size and weight of computer hardware that have been reduced recently. Computers in space are exposed to extreme radiation, which can quickly damage electronic components. The electronic equipment inside the satellite must also handle high mechanical forces during launch, and may need to withstand temperature changes from 140 to minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit (60 to minus 160 degrees Celsius).
“Because of the effects of radiation, computers have always been difficult in space,” Huq said. “You can’t just buy an Nvidia computer on Amazon and put it into space. It must be radiation resistant, it needs to have hardware that can handle heat dissipation-all of this makes it very expensive and limits processing power. ”
Spiral Blue will test the workings of the technology they built to protect Nvidia-based computers within a few months after SatRevolution completes satellite commissioning.
Huq said that, eventually, Blue Spiral will provide developers of Earth observation data processing software with its platform to upload their applications to satellites, just like people put applications on their phones and computers. . For example,
users can calculate solar panels in areas of interest or ships in remote areas of the ocean. Satellites will not download the entire collection of images, but will only report actual information. As a result, satellites convert more images into commercial information.
“The main advantage is that it should make knowledge much cheaper,” Huq said. “If we can increase the capacity of the satellite on a large scale, we will spread the initial cost among more products, which will allow us to provide it at a lower cost while still making money.”
Huq is now an Australian citizen, born In Bangladesh, this is a South Asian country fighting extreme poverty. His vision is to make Earthobservation products very affordable so that even small farmers in the country where he was born can use them.
“Whenever I visit Bangladesh, I go to the countryside to see all the self-sufficient farmers,” Hook said. “And I think, you know, the Landsat plan in the United States or the Sentinel plan in Europe, they are all designed for Western countries. They are really not suitable for developing countries. If it is feasible, I hope there is a certain price…even the poorest Farmers can also use this information directly by themselves, or an agronomist can come in and provide it as a service to increase his prosperity.”
Finding the lost aircraft and tracking the rogue ship
Spiral Blue recently received a grant of US$416,250 from the Australian Space Agency , Used to develop its space-based image processing technology. Previously, the company began to cooperate with the Australian authorities to develop a software called Vessel Detect, which can automatically find ships and other ships in the vast waters of Australia.
“Australia has a huge maritime border,” Hooker said. “Approximately 10% of the earth’s surface is in Australia’s waters. Therefore, the country is