Lockheed Martin announces new generation of 'smart' SmallSats that can change their missions in orbit

DENVER, Colo., - Lockheed Martin announced a new generation of space technology launching this year that will allow satellites to change their missions in orbit. Satellites that launched one, ten or even fifteen years ago largely have the same capability they had when they lifted off.

Lockheed Martin announces generation of 'smart' SmallSats that can change their missions in orbit
Lockheed Martin announces generation of 'smart' SmallSats that can change their missions in orbit
DENVER, Colo., - Lockheed Martin announced a new generation of space technology launching this year that will allow satellites to change their missions in orbit. Satellites that launched one, ten or even fifteen years ago largely have the same capability they had when they lifted off.

Lockheed Martin says its new architecture will let users add capability and assign new missions with a software push, just like adding an app on a smartphone. This new tech, called SmartSat, is a software-defined satellite architecture that will boost capability for payloads on several nanosats ready for launch this year.

"Imagine a new type of satellite that acts more like a smartphone. Add a SmartSat app to your satellite in-orbit, and you've changed the mission," said Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space.

This year Lockheed Martin is integrating SmartSat technology on ten programs so far, including the Linus and Pony Express nanosats, which will be the first to launch. These are rapid-prototype, testbed satellites using internal research and development funding, ready for 2019 launches on the first LM 50 nanosatellite buses.

Lockheed says that cyber security is at the core of this new technology. "SmartSat-enabled satellites can reset themselves faster, diagnose issues with greater precision and back each other up when needed, significantly enhancing resiliency. Satellites can also better detect and defend against cyber threats autonomously, and on-board cyber defenses can be updated regularly to address new threats," the company wrote in a press release.

SmartSat uses a hypervisor to securely containerize virtual machines. It's a technology that lets a single computer operate multiple servers virtually to maximize memory, on-board processing and network bandwidth. It takes advantage of multi-core processing. That lets satellites process more data in orbit so they can beam down just the most critical and relevant information—saving bandwidth costs and reducing the burden on ground station analysts, and ultimately opening the door for tomorrow's data centers in space.

SmartSat uses a high-power, radiation-hardened computer developed by the National Science Foundation's Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing, or SHREC.

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