A Future in Orbit (1): Earth

Three CubeSats shortly after release from the International Space Station (Credit: NASA)

What is LEO?

LEO stands for “low Earth orbit” — the altitude of 100 to about 2000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface where most spacecraft fly. There is also medium (MEO) and high Earth orbit (HEO), but the number of satellites in those orbital regions is quite small comparatively.

The unsung epic of LEO data

LEO satellites — especially imaging ones — provide invaluable insights about our planet and human activities. A single satellite camera can have a swath of hundreds of kilometers, meaning that everything on the Earth’s surface within this field will be visible to the satellite and, depending on the camera’s resolution, the image can provide a broad range of insights once processed.

Changes of NDVI (green) and appearance of fires (red) across Africa; this GIF was generated by NASA using 16-day satellite observation data. Such data can show the impact of seasonal variations and the effects of unsustainable and environmentally damaging slash-and-burn agriculture. (Credit: NASA)

So where’s the catch?

It’s simple — all that data is generated up there, in orbit. We have to transmit it back to Earth so we can start using it and deliver all those benefits. The infrastructure which handles this is called the ground segment.

A ground station belonging to DLR (German Space Agency) in Inuvik, Canada. (Credit: DLR)

Let’s call it — LEO needs a new type of infrastructure.

It’s obvious that if we want to unlock the full potential of satellite data, there’s a lot of work to do. The means to receive, store, process, and sell satellite data must be changed radically.

  • HomePort, our decentralized ground station network. It makes it easy for space enterprises to rent ground station capacity. HomePort is a decentralized marketplace for active ground stations where any station operator can offer their antenna to a space company without brokerage. The transaction is secured by a smart contract and oracle engine which largely automate and verify the process in a way that is not possible with legacy methods…unless you want to sign paper contracts.
  • Ephemeris storage, which will unlock a decentralized, zero-trust storage infrastructure where satellite data can be securely stored on an existing decentralized cloud — according to the user’s needs, and independently of corporate cloud providers.
  • Ephemeris Computation, a distributed computation grid. Anyone with a device capable of computing will be able to contribute their power to process data, giving space enterprises the ability to crunch data without depending on traditional cloud.
  • A permissions layer;
  • Decentralized satellite data marketplaces;
  • An environment to build and offer services to the space industry — including dapps for anything from data utilization to launch insurance.
  • New types of satellite data cubes.

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