NewSpace Panel | The High Ground: How Constellations and Big Data are Changing Industry

Berin Szoka – President, TechFreedom

Pavel Machalek – Co-Founder and CEO, SpaceKnow

Tiffany Crawford – President and Founder of Space Development Group of Silicon Valley ?

Chris Biddy – Founder and CEO, Aquila Space

Jason Lohn – Senior Engineer, Orbital Insight

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Constellations refers to multiple satellites, usually small sats on orbit together, working together. The thought behind the term is that if you look up at night to see the sun reflect off of these satellites then you would see a constellation moving across the sky.

So, most applications seem to be in Earth observing. Small sats, like cubesats, are limited in power and so can transmit data back to the ground but cannot process data in-situ. So this brings up the issue of getting all that data back to the ground, uncompressed. There is talk of establishing a hub of sats whose sole purpose is to process data given to it from other constellations, then transmitting that data back to earth. Sounds neat.

At least one business model that was discussed solved the problem of Moore’s Law, which makes satellites outdated a very short time after their launch. With small sats and cheaper launches (which have been dropping) companies can design the sats with a three year lifetime after which they de-orbit naturally, and replace the old sats with newer ones sooner.

One last issue that was brought up here was debris. Apparently, tiny fragments are the biggest issue but is being ignored. This means that there are thousands of bullets flying around in orbit without anyone knowing where they are located. Good thing the U.S. military has improved body armor over the last decade.

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