Nebula, an innovative in-orbit cloud computing and storage platform, is being successfully demonstrated in space
Press release from: D-Orbit
Posted on Tuesday October 12th, 2021
Harwell, United Kingdom, October 12, 2021: Space transportation and logistics company D-Bahn successfully completed the orbital test of Nebula, a cloud platform designed to provide high performance, distributed data analysis compute and storage capabilities in space. Nebula is a hardware-software environment that enables end users to link up and run Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI / ML) software and apps in a manner similar to traditional terrestrial cloud environments.
This first iteration of the system was built in collaboration with the Swedish AI company Unibap on their radiation tolerant iX5-100 SpaceCloud platform, which is a combination of central processing unit (CPU), graphic processing unit (GPU), and vision processing unit (VPU) chips , Solid-state storage and an optimized Linux-based operating system that runs the SpaceCloud Framework API. The system was integrated into ION Satellite Carrier using D-Orbit’s proprietary plug-and-play interfaces. ION is a spacecraft designed, manufactured and operated by D-Orbit to launch satellites into orbit and launch them one at a time into various and precise orbits. ION can also accommodate multiple third-party payloads, such as innovative technologies developed by startups, experiments from research institutes, and instruments from traditional space companies that require testing in orbit. The tests on Nebula were carried out in space as part of the ongoing WILD RIDE mission.
A major bottleneck for satellite applications is the limited bandwidth of the downlink channel. A typical imaging application takes several hours to generate useful information. Real-time ML processing of imaging data in orbit, on the other hand, provides instant results while at the same time reducing the amount of information that needs to be linked down by several orders of magnitude, allowing for much faster presentation of the final result to the user.
As part of the test campaign, 23 separate SpaceCloud-compatible applications were successfully executed by a variety of partners, including WorldFloods, an ML payload developed by the Frontier Development Lab (FDL), a partnership led by Trillium Technologies in the UK with the University of Oxford and the ESA philosopher. Laboratory. For this test, the applications used a combination of preinstalled data from various satellites, such as the Copernicus Sentinel-2, and raw data collected by the ION Satellite Carrier’s D-Sense multi-instrument sensor. All mission objectives were achieved, confirming the approach of an advanced in-orbit computing platform capable of performing advanced computations on raw data directly in space and turning it into actionable information optimized for the downlink.
“This is an important step towards D-Orbit’s vision of a comprehensive space infrastructure that provides all kinds of services to vehicles in orbit,” said Simon Reid, COO of D-Orbit’s UK subsidiary. “While this test batch primarily uses pre-loaded images, our follow-up mission, which will be ready for commercial use, will provide real-time access to instrument data. Anyone with programming knowledge can easily write apps to process all kinds of data directly in space. “
“We completed this project in less than a year and show the incredible versatility of the ION platform and the ability to develop space technology in new, agile ways,” says Reid. “This orbital test is significant, but it only scratches the surface of what can be done with a scalable platform by adding nodes, integrating sensor types and organizing data transmission over links between satellites.”
According to Dr. Fredrik Bruhn, Chief Evangelist in Digital Transformation and Board Director at Unibap, “We are currently seeing rapid global change in the space services market and the orbital success of the Nebula – SpaceCloud solution shows a leap in the way in which business models around data can be implemented in the future. We are pleased that extremely low-latency information products can be created in orbit. In addition, it is now possible to create flexible data management and on-demand application services in orbit. It’s great to see our combined efforts and partnership with ESA come together on the Nebula service and provide important feedback on Unibap’s next generation SpaceCloud products and solutions. “
The next iteration of Nebula, due to fly aboard ION’s next mission in January 2022, will include an advanced electro-optic instrument and allow third parties to upload and run applications.
SpaceCloud® is a registered trademark owned by Unibap AB (publ).
D-Orbit is a leader in the space logistics and transportation services industry with a track record of space-proven technologies and successful missions.
D-Orbit was founded in 2011, before the dawn of the new space market, and is the first company to address the logistics requirements of the space market. The ION Satellite Carrier, for example, is a spacecraft that can transport satellites in orbit and release them individually into different orbital slots, reducing the time from launch to operation by up to 85% and the launch costs of an entire satellite constellation by up to 40%. ION can also accommodate multiple third-party payloads, such as innovative technologies developed by startups, experiments from research institutes, and instruments from traditional space companies that require testing in orbit.
D-Orbit is a pioneer in space infrastructure with offices in Italy, Portugal, the UK and the US; His commitment to profitable, environmentally friendly and socially beneficial business models has led D-Orbit to become the world’s first certified B-Corp space company.
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