Just as some aerospace start-ups are developing technologies to repair, modify or refuel satellites to prolong their lives, some satellite manufacturers are looking at a complementary solution — hoping to install smartphone-like software with more computing power and capable of receiving updates within minutes instead of days.
U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin presented its new “SmartSat” technology to journalists on Wednesday near Washington. “SmartSat” software will hitch a ride aboard mini satellites called cubesats that they plan to launch within the next six months.
“Today’s satellites that exist currently are durable, they’re capable, they’re precise, but once we launch them, they generally don’t change much,” Lockheed Martin’s Maria Demaree explained. “We want the satellites of the future to operate more like smartphones.”
Instead of computer programs with a single processor, like satellites have today, with “SmartSat”, Lockheed Martin says they’ll be bringing multi-core processing to space.
According to the company, this technology could allow a commercial operator to more easily reprogram a communications satellite to switch to serving Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe, if necessary. The U.S. military might also be interested, though Lockheed has not yet confirmed whether they are a client.
Why haven’t organisations implemented such revolutionary technology before now? Extreme conditions in space make things more complicated.