Aerospace engineers developed an artificial intelligence system that uses modern cloud computing to enable satellites to transmit meaningful data and discard the rest.
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Introducing Space Cloud

Satellites are good at observing but not so great at sorting. While modern spacecraft can deliver a flood of data, it’s up to analysts on the ground to sort through all of this material to find any valuable intelligence. But what if a satellite could do the sorting and only send data an analyst is searching for?

Aerospace engineers recently developed Space Cloud, an artificial intelligence system that uses modern cloud computing to enable satellites to detect and transmit only meaningful data. Space Cloud teaches satellites to send back information of interest to an analyst and discard the rest. Once the mission is complete, an analyst can request the satellite to search for a new target.

“We knew there was a ton of technology that had transformed the way we approach data on the ground – the challenge is that no one had adapted it so that it would work in space,” says Dr. Josh Train, Chief Engineer at the Aerospace Corporation’s Space Systems Group. “We stumbled across this application because we had the right mix of cloud and A.I. guys hanging out with people who were struggling with how to update the software on Cubesats. Before you know, we were protoyping an A.I. cloud in space.”

Train’s team built Space Cloud with commercially available technology including an Intel Movidius processor and created an extended Google’s open-sourced Kubernetes tool to enable temporal-geospatial software scheduling. That allows an analyst to deploy the same satellite to search for goats over land and boats over water. The result is usable data and persistent overhead monitoring.

 “We are excited about being able to demonstrate this technology on a cubesat in the fall – but we know this demonstration is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Train. “In the last twenty years we’ve seen an explosion of innovation in computing and there is a lot of cloud and A.I. technology that has not yet been harvested for its use in space. At Aerospace we are lucky enough to get paid to figure out how we can revolutionize a whole industry by stretching these technologies all the way out to outer space”