4 mins read 11 Dec 2020

Boeing and Saber Astronautics to troubleshoot Satellites using AI

Boeing Defence Australia and Sydney-based company Sabre Astronautics have commenced working together on a new satellite diagnostic tool that will allow pro-active risk mitigation of assets located in orbit.


Boeing Australia has recently announced it will be working with Sydney-based space company Saber Astronautics to roll out a new satellite diagnostics tool, which will enable remote monitoring of the health of satellites in orbit, to react to changes and issues in a more agile manner.

The new technology that has been developed by Saber, which will utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques, will predict the impact of unexpected events in space such as changes in space weather caused by the Sun, or management of oncoming debris from other satellites. Issues can then be addressed quickly and pro-actively before they impact the satellite.

“Satellites are incredibly complex platforms operating in a remote environment, which can make it difficult to diagnose and address anomalies on-orbit,” said Boeing Defence Australia director of emerging markets, Matt Buckle. “The proof of concept will explore the potential for Saber’s technology to monitor changes in the state of the satellite, hypothesise the most probable cause of the problem and predict how the satellite will respond in specific situations.

The new technology has already been proven on smaller spacecraft – with the collaboration between Boeing and Saber expected to scale the program to the fleet of Boeing’s 702 Geostationary Orbital (GEO) satellites.

“We look forward to establishing an ongoing relationship with Saber to further develop a diagnostic capability for GEO satellites which has the potential to significantly prolong the life of spacecraft through the early detection, analysis and quick implementation of countermeasures,” said Mr Buckle.

Boeing continues to drive its collaboration with Australian space industry partners, working towards objectives set out by the Australian Space Agency. Recently, the defence company also signed an agreement with Clearbox Systems to assist in the development of Australia’s SATCOM capabilities.

The technology that is being delivered by Saber is a key capability for JP9102, the Australian Defence SATCOM System, which requires the use of machine learning to increase the speed, quality and agility of the conduct of SATCOM Operations as compared to legacy systems.

“This collaboration is also a demonstrable achievement under Boeing’s statement of intent with the Australian Space Agency to invest in space research and development and innovation,” said Buckle.

As one of Australia’s largest aerospace enterprises which employ over 2,000 people across 14 sites in Australia, BDA is no stranger to space-based products such as its own fleet of satellites, the well-known and connected GPS system, and space-based connectivity services.

The agreement also adds to the now growing list projects that Saber Astronautics is working towards, across the Australian space community – with the company recently winning a NASA grant to develop a drag sail technology that will help de-orbit out-of-service satellites, being commissioned to establish Australia’s Space Mission Control Centre in Adelaide (in conjunction with the Australian Space Agency), and last year also picking up a $2.1 million Royal Australian Air Force contract relating to space domain awareness.

“Boeing is interested in leveraging our spacecraft expertise along with our unique algorithms to predict anomalies and diagnose spacecraft issues more quickly on-orbit.  Applying machine learning to diagnostics will reduce operator workload, and can improve spacecraft longevity and performance,” said Saber Astronautics CEO, Dr Jason Held.

“Being a part of Boeing’s supply chain is a great opportunity for us to apply our work to support larger and more complex missions and we are excited to be a part of this family.”