Small, updateable satellites change face of space technology

March 21, 2019 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Small, updateable satellites change face of space technology
Slated for launch this year, Lockheed Martin is changing the way satellites operate with a new generation of space technology that will allow satellites to change their missions in orbit.

Satellites that launched one, ten or even fifteen years ago largely have the same capability they had when they lifted off. With the new architecture, users can add capability and assign new missions with a software push, just like adding an app on a smartphone. This new technology, called SmartSat, is a software-defined satellite architecture that will boost capability for payloads on several pioneering nanosats ready for launch this year.

"Imagine a new type of satellite that acts more like a smartphone. Add a SmartSat app to your satellite in-orbit, and you've changed the mission," said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space. "We are the first to deploy this groundbreaking technology on multiple missions. SmartSat will give our customers unparalleled resiliency and flexibility for changing mission needs and technology, and it unlocks even greater processing power in space."

This year Lockheed Martin is integrating SmartSat technology on ten programs and counting, including the Linus and Pony Express nanosats, which will be the first to launch. These are rapid-prototype, testbed satellites using internal research and development funding, ready for 2019 launches on the first LM 50 nanosatellite buses:

  • The Linus project delivers two 12U cubesats performing a technology demonstration mission, validating SmartSat capabilities as well as 3D-printed spacecraft components.
  • Pony Express builds multiple 6U satellites destined for a low earth orbit and will space qualify state-of-the-art networking technologies. Pony Express 1 is a pathfinder for a software-defined payload that will test cloud computing infrastructure and was developed in nine months. Follow-on Pony Express missions will prove out RF-enabled swarming formations and space-to-space networking.


See also: First LTE-over-Satellite system

See also: VTT and ESA to develop nonterrestrial 5G networks

See also: Iridium completes $3 Billion satellite constellation upgrade

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