By Rob Hill
Kx has always been known for its stellar performance in comparison to other technologies. The dramatic developments in satellite technology now provide the opportunity to make that literally as well as figuratively true. Rob Hill from Kx, and Director of the Northern Ireland Space office, explores the possibilities.
The global space market is expected to grow to be worth $400bn by 2030. The exploration of space, the development of satellite communication and navigation solutions, and the ability to remotely observe our planet from orbit have greatly changed the way we live our lives.
The space sector, and engagement with space, is changing rapidly. A decade ago, satellites were mainly developed by the incumbent national governments or international organizations and institutions at astronomical costs. Now, however, private companies and entrepreneurial individuals are making space more commercially accessible in what is being dubbed “NewSpace”. Innovations in technology, the development of small lower-cost satellites and new launch capabilities are driving down the cost of entry into the space sector, providing opportunities for new stakeholders to engage with space.
There are currently over 3,000 active satellites in orbit around the Earth. The NewSpace era will see that number grow dramatically with over 400 new Earth Observation satellites being launched in the next 10 years. According to reports from Euroconsult, there will be a 165% increase in commercial satellites launched between 2011 and 2020 compared to 2001 to 2010. This new era of space will generate ever increasing amounts of data, and will require ultra-high-speed processing, the likes of which Kx has provided for years in the capital markets.
The next generation of satellites, with new sensor technologies and imaging solutions, will be able to observe the entire planet to sub meter resolution, generating over a Petabyte of information daily on some platforms. The integration of Earth Observation data with satellite navigation and communication data will create new products and services that could not have been envisaged 10 years ago, and Kx is on a mission to become the “go-to” software provider for the space sector.
The satellites themselves will require new innovative solutions to process and compress information, stemming from sensor technology, in-orbit before sending the data back to the ground stations. Kx, with its expertise in processing real-time, streaming and historical data, offers the ability to fuse historic information and real-time data provided by satellites and multiple ground, air borne and ocean based sensors, to revolutionize an already ground-breaking industry.
The range of applications that can be developed using new satellite technologies is staggering and Kx has the ability to unleash the data within reach. There are global initiatives for monitoring the Earth as one system relating to Meteorology, Climate Modelling, Land Monitoring, Oceanography and Global Natural Resource management.
Considering all of the above, and without even touching on the wider satellite application possibilities in communications and navigation or the astronomy and astrophysics communities, there are real and numerous opportunities for Kx technology to be deployed in space, either on the ground or in orbit.
Kx has the ability to process massive datasets at a rapid rate, and can handle millions of records per second, which equates to billions of records per day and trillions in a historical database. The technology enables the analysis of voluminous and varying datasets to make more informed decisions, aiding quality assurance and control procedures. A particular advantage of Kx in space, and indeed in many other widely distributed environments, is its in-built capacity for “edge computing” stemming from its very small footprint – less than 600kb in its latest version. Its application in this case, for in-orbit pre-processing and compression of data within satellites and rockets, offers literally out-of-this-world processing that competing technologies simply cannot provide.