The final frontier of space technology

The final frontier is vast. As commercial space flights gain momentum, other planets appear closer than ever.   Emerging tech is helping leverage space for various terrestrial uses. It is also helping scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs reduce project time and cost.   The space industry is using “technologies like 5G, advanced satellite systems, 3D printing, big data, and quantum technology in its activities and operations in space,” says a report by Analytics Insight. “Implementing advanced space technology is critical since several services like weather .....
The final frontier is vast. As commercial space flights gain momentum, other planets appear closer than ever.

 

Emerging tech is helping leverage space for various terrestrial uses. It is also helping scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs reduce project time and cost.

 

The space industry is using “technologies like 5G, advanced satellite systems, 3D printing, big data, and quantum technology in its activities and operations in space,” says a report by Analytics Insight. “Implementing advanced space technology is critical since several services like weather forecasts, remote sensing, satellite television, and long-distance communication rely on space infrastructure. Technological innovations are now driving space activities and research.”

 

Two critical shifts that are driving the space industry are miniaturisation of satellites and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) for understanding the dynamics of the universe.

 

In the space tech category, many startups and legacy companies are focusing their efforts on reducing the size of satellites. Smaller satellites orbit closer to the earth and are more flexible than larger ones. Proximity to earth means that the transmission time of data to the base station is faster. The energy required to run such satellites is lower. As camera technology has also miniaturised, the satellites can take much better photos of the earth with higher resolution than large satellites which orbit much higher.

 

Usually, such satellites are launched as a cluster with varying objectives. Since the cost is lower, these can be replaced easily, or their software updated more efficiently. Smarter algorithms allow the operators to coordinate activities within the satellite clusters.

 

“Miniaturised satellites allow for cheaper designs and advancements in industrial technologies enable their mass production. Startups develop small satellites that enable space companies to conduct missions that large satellites typically struggle with,” says a report by StartUs Insights. “Moreover, small satellites are well-suited for use in proprietary wireless communications networks, as well as for scientific observation, data gathering, and monitoring the earth using the GPS.”

 

The next deep shift is the use of AI and machine learning (ML) to understand the data being generated by satellites and terrestrial observatories. Scientists and astronomers are constantly trying to make sense of space phenomena and events. It can take months and years to understand spatial activities. Algorithms can be trained to understand signals and analyse the different types of lights which are generated by stars and planets. Researchers say that the accuracy of reading the data can be over 90 per cent, often higher than by humans and in less time.

 

The Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile which is expected to become operational this year will use a 3200-mega pixel camera to observe the night skies. It will photograph the entire sky every night and store over 80 terabytes of images every time. Over a period of 10 years, the car-sized camera of the observatory will capture 60 petabytes of data.

 

No scientist or even a team can possibly analyse or understand this data without the help of trained algorithms. AI and ML will scour through the stream of valuable images and related data to make sense of the constantly changing universe which impacts our lives.

 

Policy makers, entrepreneurs and scientists are collaborating at various levels to deepen their knowledge of space. The launch of the Indian Space Association can accelerate the domestic ecosystem build on the success of the Indian Space Research Organisation. Many startups in India are at the leading edge of using emerging tech for space exploration and knowledge generation. The use of such technologies will be unique for India especially with the opening up of geo-spatial mapping for the private sector.



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