Startup OrbitsEdge, Inc. announced it has signed an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to host HPE Edgeline Convered Edges Systems onboard its SatFrame space-hardened satellite to enable commercial space companies to deploy computing in orbit and accelerate exploration. Given HPE’s previous work onboard the International Space Station (ISS), this isn’t a big surprise.
“Hewlett Packard Enterprise is the ideal partner for OrbitsEdge since its technologies have proven to withstand extreme environments on Earth and in space, with its deployment of the Spaceborne Computer in the International Space Station (ISS). This partnership follows HPE’s innovative strategy of enabling new solutions to be developed and deployed years in advance,” said Barbara Stinnett, chief executive officer of OrbitsEdge, Inc. “OrbitsEdge will leverage HPE’s edge technology to run sophisticated analytics such as artificial intelligence (AI) on the vast amounts of data that will be created as space is commercialized,” she added.
OrbitsEdge proprietary SatFrame bus is designed to support and protect commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) data center rack-mountable computing gear from the challenges of in-orbit operations, with SatFrame providing protection against radiation as well as providing temperature control, power, and communications. An HPE Edgeline Converged Edge System will be the first hosted payload onboard SatFrame to provide what OrbitsEdge calls a “micro-datacenter in orbit” for processing space-based data and help minimize the time and cost of backhaul to earth.
“We are committed to pushing technology limits to power the next era of innovation, whether it’s here on Earth or in space,” said Phillip Cutrone, vice president and general manager, Worldwide OEM at HPE. “The HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems provide datacenter-grade performance, data acquisition, industrial networks, and control in harsh edge environments to enable real-time insight and action. By combining our technologies with the OrbitsEdge SatFrame hardening design, the commercial space industry gains advanced systems to create new space-based applications and solutions.”
The SatFrame 445 bus provides a standard 19 inch server rack for up to 5U (Rack U, not Cubesat U of space, satellite bros) hardware and can support up to full-size 36 inch deep hardware. OrbitsEdge plans to launch a “sub 300” kilogram satellite in its first flight demonstration with 18 inch (half-deep) hardware onboard, with payloads operating on a “day/night” cycle on the satellite to conserve power and manage heat, powering up when the satellite is in the sun and shutting down on the night side of the Earth.
One potential application for OrbitsEdge-style in-orbit computing power would be to process imagery directly from other low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Today, visual and radar imagery are typically transmitted in raw form down to a ground station and into the data center and then processed and sent to the end-user. On-orbit processing would substantially reduce satellite downlink bandwidth needs and could provide a processed image directly to an end-user more quickly by removing the ground data center as an intermediary. Faster imaging processing would be a bonanza for civilian and national defense users – the latter group an area HPE is quite familiar with.
Other applications for in-orbit computing include financial transactions and any that need low-latency outside of a traditional data center. How OrbitsEdge fits into the overall scheme of edge computing and 5G will be interesting to watch, since edge and 5G both are emphasizing low-latency as an advantage over backhauling computations back to a traditional data center.