AAC Clyde Space to develop AI capability with ESA funding

Leading New Space company AAC Clyde Space’s subsidiary AAC Hyperion has acquired a contract to develop an onboard artificial intelligence (AI) capability for small satellites in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR). The European Space Agency (ESA) will fund the project with EUR 0.41 M (approx. SEK 4.2 M) sponsored by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO). The funding comes through ESA’s General Support Technology Programme (GSTP).

The AI product, consisting of hardware, software and a demonstration algorithm, will be developed jointly by Hyperion and NLR. Hyperion specializes in electronics and miniaturized subsystems for small satellites and NLR brings in its expertise in AI algorithms applied to Earth observation data.

Primarily, the use of AI onboard small satellites is expected to enable increased use of payloads particularly in Earth observation, as well as for weather and climate monitoring. The data volume of high-resolution images collected by these payloads is so high that not all can be downloaded given the download capacity of small satellites. Through smart processing of the sensor data by dedicated onboard AI hardware and algorithms only reduced data volumes need to be transmitted to Earth.

Onboard AI can also improve satellites’ performance beyond Earth observation applications by optimizing data links and upgrading constellation control and navigation. Shorter response times will enable improved decision making on Earth, when monitoring vehicles, ships, production sites, infrastructure, crops and natural disasters from space.
Potential customers have already expressed interest to stay involved in the project throughout the development phase.

“Our customers have expressed great interest in the project already, which doesn’t come as a surprise as the use of AI will increase and improve the capabilities of small satellites. By teaming up with NLR in the AI field, AAC Clyde Space will be able to leapfrog the development of small satellite technology and create many interesting opportunities for our space services.,” says AAC Clyde Space’s CEO Luis Gomes.

“NLR is pleased to support AAC Hyperion in its ambition to improve small satellite capabilities introducing AI onboard satellites as a tool to improve satellite efficiency for Earth observation to the benefit of society,” says NLR’s CEO Michel Peters.