Early this morning, July 13, Analytical Space‘s first satellite was successfully deployed from the International Space Station. Radix is a proof-of-concept mission to demonstrate the capabilities to provide a hybrid RF-optical data relay service for satellites in low earth orbit and may have a role to play in the company’s Internet of Things (IoT) plans.
Once in full operation, Analytical Space has lined up a number of beta testers to transmit data from their satellites to Radix for storage onboard followed by high-speed downlink using RF and optical systems. The company says it has a “cross-section” of in-orbit users ranging from weather data to synthetic aperture radar (RAR), with organizations including commercial remote sensing, academic research and civil government agencies.
The satellite was brought to the International Space Station (ISS) onboard the OrbitalATK CRS-9 supply mission launched on May 20, 2018 and was put in orbit from the space station using the NanoRacks commercial CubeSat deployer.
Analytical Space is one of a couple of start-ups planning to build in-orbit communication relays for data-intensive satellite applications. Radix communicates with satellites in UHF, S-band, and X-band using a software defined radio (SDR). When the satellite passes over an optical ground station, it uses a laser to quickly move all the data its collected. A single high-resolution image can be several gigabytes of raw unprocessed data.
Radix, a 6U Cubesat the size of a shoebox, is expected to operate anywhere from 30 to 90 days. Data from operations and feedback from testers will be applied to the design of future relay satellites and the rollout of a larger, multi-satellite relay network.
With a SDR and lots of onboard storage, Analytical Space’s future satellite network can also serve as orbiting relays for ground-based IoT devices. The company lists IoT as one of its capabilities on its website, but hasn’t posted details as to what services and/or devices it would work with in order to offer a fully integrated capability.