SAN FRANCISCO — One day, satellites could operate autonomously, dodging debris and solving their own software problems. Currently, engineers continuously monitor satellites to detect and diagnose problems.
“Satellites are unwilling to make decisions about what to do because they don’t know what’s going on with them,” RS21 chief technology officer Kameron Baumgartner said in a recent interview.
RS21’s artificial intelligence-based software called Space Prognostic AI Custodian Ecosystem or SPAICE aims to improve satellite monitoring.
RS21 received a patent for training AI and machine learning algorithms based on satellite telemetry and historical data. The patent describes an online portal for interacting with satellite operators “to initiate and facilitate investigations.”
“We’ve seen an overwhelming interest in satellite AI technology and it’s a really good time to start working on solving problems in this industry,” Charles Rath, RS21’s President and CEO, said via email . “Our SPAICE patent gives us a competitive advantage by differentiating our product and attracting new investments as we scale.”
Before participating in Hyperspace Challenge 2020, RS21 focused on healthcare, homeland security and other markets. The Air Force Research Laboratory, which administers the Hyperspace Challenge, invited RS21 to participate.
Through the Hyperspace Challenge, RS21’s software engineers noticed similarities between predicting satellite problems based on historical data and telemetry, and predicting human health problems based on genomes and medical histories.
“We were able to build a pipeline for each satellite to have a separate model based on either flight data or data from pre-launch engineering and safety training,” Baumgartner said.
Interest of the Space Forces
RS21’s ability to apply a biology analysis tool “for predictive analysis for failure of internal satellite components” immediately caught the Space Force’s attention, said Gabe Mounce, SpaceWERX associate director and director of the AFRL Outreach & Tech Engagement Office in New Mexico a recent interview. “The national security space company is trying to understand how spacecraft can be better monitored. Anything that predicts if there will be problems so operators can prepare to deal with them is super attractive.”
In 2021 and 2022, RS21 won a U.S. Space Force Small Business Innovation Research contract to develop, test, and deploy SPAICE in the ground software for the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-7 mission, scheduled to launch later this year.
Since RS21 retains the rights to its SPAICE intellectual property, “we have something unique to bring to market,” Rath said. “It’s tremendous fuel for RS21’s growth, and expanding our space technology could increase sales tenfold over the next three years.”