Satellites Space

Exodus Orbitals is working on a platform for open satellites

Exodus Orbitals, a Canadian firm, wants to launch its first satellite in March, taking the software-defined space pattern a step further by allowing third parties to post and run their apps from orbit. After being put into orbit, software-defined satellites can be reprogrammed in space, allowing operators on the ground to remodify them for different applications.

They are becoming more popular among enterprises seeking greater flexibility in geostationary orbit (GEO), as they wait to see how a spike of broadband satellites in the low Earth orbit (LEO) would affect their operations. In an interview, Exodus Orbitals founder and CEO Dennis Silin stated that the company’s goal is to spread the software-defined idea in LEO.

“Imagine the satellite as a space-based iPhone where users can contribute their apps,” Silin explained. “The most basic app may be a camera app that allows you to capture a photo and save it.” Exodus Orbitals is concentrating on selecting equipment for its first satellite that will be most useful for Earth observation purposes. Silin said the satellite is being built by an unknown U.S. partner, and the company is collaborating with another company in the country to ensure a launch next year, though no definite deal has been signed yet.

He claimed in June that the company had successfully flight-tested the computer code required to run its open platform. The OPS-SAT cubesat, launched in December 2019 by the European Space Agency to function as an on-orbit testbed for enhanced software-driven capabilities, was used in the test. Exodus Orbitals is effectively commercializing OPS-SAT, which, according to Silin, is garnering demand well above the 3U cubesat’s potential.

Exodus Orbitals’ open-platform strategy faces the most difficult challenge: ensuring that numerous third-party apps may function on the very same satellite without crashing onboard computers or transmitting competing mission-critical commands. Silin, on the other hand, believes that lessons learnt during the OP-SAT project, which ESA describes as “the world’s only satellite freely open for public usage,” have given him “assurance that this challenge will not be a showstopper.”

After receiving its initial investment from Moonshot, an Australian business incubator, Exodus Orbitals is looking for seed money to help accelerate its deployment. According to Silin, the company has “some tiny customer commitments,” and its “best-case scenario” involves ramping up to 30 to 100 satellites in five years, relying on demand and funding. The company wants to go from small-scale exploration projects to a “full-fledged AppStore in space platform.”

It also has a collaboration with LEOcloud, a communications startup based in Ashburn, Virginia, to create satellite-based cloud computing. Exodus Orbitals said on July 22 that it is collaborating with Lady Rocket Foundation, which is a public charity that supports several entrepreneurial space sendeavours, to create nonfungible tokens, which are blockchain-based digital valuables (NFTs).

The money earned from the sale of these NFTs will go toward acquiring and accessing satellite surveillance activities to safeguard African wildlife from poaching and climate change. Copernic Space is working on the project, which is establishing a blockchain-powered network for space assets. Hypergiant, based in Texas, is developing a fleet of the reconfigurable software-defined satellites and has received an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract from the US Air Force to assist its development.