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Earth Observant Receives US Air Force Contract for VLEO Payload

By | August 7, 2020

Earth Observant is building a constellation of small satellites flying in VLEO to provide near real-time actionable intelligence from space. Photo: Earth Observant Inc.

The U.S. Air Force awarded Earth Observant Inc. (EOI) a contract to develop a Very Low-Earth Orbit (VLEO) optical payload. Earth Observant received this award under the under the Pentagon’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, and is working with AFWERX, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

The payload will contain edge-computing architecture to deliver ultra-high resolution satellite imagery in near-real time. To achieve near-real time transmission of satellite optical imagery, EOI is analyzing and reworking the imagery chain. A new architecture will move the bulk of the image processing from ground systems onto the spacecraft, using edge computing. By conducting a larger share of the processing onboard the spacecraft, EOI aims to provide more data directly to the user via its Ka-band high bandwidth transmitter.

“Defense and intel is particularly interested in the advantages of EOI’s low-flying bus,” said Christopher Thein, CEO of Earth Observant Inc. “At a lower altitude, we can collect very-high resolution satellite imagery with a smaller spacecraft, and onboard image processing allows for reduced data latency to provide updates about rapidly changing conditions on the ground.”