Lockheed Develops Satellite software That Can Change Missions While In Orbit

  • Our Bureau
  • 06:05 PM, March 20, 2019
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Lockheed Develops Satellite software That Can Change Missions While In Orbit

Lockheed Martin has developed “SmartSat,” a satellite architecture that enables one to change the mission of a satellite while orbiting.

Satellites that launched one, ten or even fifteen years ago have the same capability they had when they lifted off. The new architecture allows users to add capability and assign new missions with a software push, like adding an app on a smartphone, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

SmartSat is a software-defined satellite architecture that will boost capability for payloads on several 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.

Lockheed Martin is integrating SmartSat technology on ten programs 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.

"We're self-funding these missions to demonstrate a number of new capabilities that can plug into any satellite in our fleet, from the LM 50 nanosat to our flagship LM 2100. And the same technology plugs into ground stations improving space-ground integration, and it will one day connect directly with planes, ships and ground vehicles, connecting front-line users to the power of space," Ambrose added.

SmartSat-enabled satellites can reset themselves faster, diagnose issues with greater precision and back each other up when needed. Satellites can also detect and defend against cyber threats autonomously, and on-board cyber defenses can be updated regularly to address new threats.

Smartsat uses hypervisor to containerize virtual machines. It allows for multi-core processing using which satellites process more data in orbit so they can beam down just the most critical and relevant information.

SmartSat uses a high-power, radiation-hardened computer developed by the National Science Foundation's Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC).