25 July 2022 News

Space Station payload to test superfast EO data delivery and AI analysis

Wildfires over California. (NASA)
Wildfires over California. (NASA)
Metaspectral, a company delivering the next generation of computer vision, and HySpeed Computing, a remote sensing data access and analysis company, have been selected to deploy an Earth observation (EO) payload on the International Space Station (ISS).

The payload, known as Onboard Programmable Technology for Image Classification and Analysis (OPTICA), will enable real-time compression, streaming, and analysis of hyperspectral data from low Earth orbit (LEO).

OPTICA is scheduled for launch in early 2023 on the SpaceX CRS-27 mission, with a six-month deployment on the ISS following soon thereafter. The mission is sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory, which works in collaboration with NASA to utilise the orbiting laboratory on the ISS to its fullest research and technology development potential.

Hyperspectral imagery captured by satellites contains data from across the electromagnetic spectrum which, when analysed with artificial intelligence (AI), can be used to quickly identify events on the Earth such as forest fires, methane leaks and oil spills. It can also provide crucial time-sensitive data to intelligence, surveillance or reconnaissance missions.

"The quality and quantity of imagery captured in space have been continuously increasing yet the bandwidth available to downlink it to Earth for analysis has been doing so at a much slower rate," said Francis Doumet, Metaspectral CEO.

“Our technology makes it possible to bypass bandwidth constraints with our advances in data compression and machine learning. This project will demonstrate our platform's ability to produce actionable insights within 15 minutes or less.

"Great strides have been made with optical intersatellite links in increasing the reliability of satellite communications, and our technology complements this by bringing in advanced data compression and streaming for hyperspectral data from orbit."

Metaspectral's software is used in a variety of industries to identify materials, their chemical composition, and other invisible properties. Metaspectral will be providing the hardware and software for the payload, with HySpeed Computing responsible for creating the necessary data processing pipeline and analysis tools.

"OPTICA represents the next evolution in space- and ground-based image processing," said Dr James Goodman, CEO of HySpeed Computing. "As the volume, variety, and velocity of Earth observation data continue to increase, developing efficiencies in data processing and information delivery will be paramount throughout the remote sensing industry. OPTICA addresses this need by demonstrating the ability to acquire rapidly, process and analyse imagery from a high-data-volume hyperspectral sensor."

Metaspectral and HySpeed Computing have selected commercial space services provider Nanoracks to serve as the implementation partner for the project, providing infrastructure and operations support utilising the Nanoracks External Platform (NREP) for payload hosting onboard the ISS.

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