3 mins read 15 Apr 2021

Spiral Blue to Launch Later this Year

Sydney-based start-up Spiral Blue has teamed up with SatRevolution for their upcoming Virgin Orbit launch later this year. 

An artist’s impression of the SatRevolution SW1FT satellite. Credit: Spiral Blue.

Spiral Blue has partnered with Polish satellite manufacturer SatRevolution for a Virgin Orbit launch later this year. Two SatRevolution satellites, STORK-4 and STORK-5, will host Spiral Blue’s Space Edge Zero (SEZ) computers onboard. SEZ will allow for the on-board processing of satellite data, a technology which would prove very useful to fields such as defence and agriculture. The satellites are set to be launched by Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket no later than June 2021.

Space Edge Zero

The Nvidia Jetson nano core, which makes up part of the Space Edge Zero computer. Credit: Nvidia.

Spiral Blue’s SEZ will improve the lead times, affordability, and flexibility of Earth observation services due to its onboard image processing capabilities. Usually, satellite data must be transmitted to Earth in order to be processed, however SEZ would allow for much of this processing to be performed in space. 

This processing would reduce data file size before it is transmitted to Earth, therefore allowing for more data, and therefore higher resolution, to be transmitted. With this upcoming mission, Spiral Blue can perform end-to-end testing and space qualification of this onboard computer. 

“We intend to test a variety of algorithms on these images, including machine learning based algorithms such as Vessel Detect and Canopy Mapper,” Spiral Blue’s CEO, Taofiq Huq, said. “This gives us the opportunity to do a full end-to-end test of Space Edge Computing from both a technological and commercial perspective - taking images, processing them, and delivering the processed data.”

The STORK satellites will carry  an optical payload that can capture multispectral images at 5 metre resolution. The data from these images will then pass to the onboard SEZ to be processed in real time. The satellites will be launched by Virgin Orbit into a sun-synchronous orbit with an altitude of 400 km-500 km. Following in-orbit qualification, the SEZ will be tested further in 2021 and throughout 2022.

Spiral Blue

Artist’s illustration of SatRevolution’s SW1FT satellite in orbit. Credit: Spiral Blue.

Spiral Blue is a Sydney-based start-up founded in 2018, and is focused on building the next generation Earth observation technology. Spiral Blue was one of the first two recipients of the Moon to Mars Initiative Supply Chain Program. Awarded just over $416,000 earlier this year, Spiral Blue plans to continue to develop their Space Edge technology. The SEZ was planned to be tested last year, on a different SatRevolution satellite.