KP Labs is beginning to work on an expansion of its product portfolio with an on-board computer for small satellites that will streamline and speed up on-orbit data processing, as well as ensure greater hardware reliability in modern satellite missions. This is the third Data Processing Unit (DPU) designed by KP Labs, and the first one suited for use in larger missions. After the introduction of devices tailored for nanosatellite projects, Lion DPU paves a way for the company to enter a completely new sector of the space industry. The newest “animal” in KP Labs’ range, the Lion DPU, is a part of a unique product line developed by the company – Smart Mission Ecosystem (https://kplabs.space/).
An official market release of the first Lion DPU flight model is scheduled for the last quarter of 2023. The main task of the product is to process multi-dimensional and multi-sensor data in orbit onboard micro and small (50-500kg) satellites. Using a state-of-the-art Kintex Ultrascale FPGA chip supported by an advanced supervisor unit constantly overseeing its operation, it will be possible to process complex data from several multi- or hyperspectral sensors, navigation cameras and a synthetic aperture radar, resulting in substantial improvements in future commercial space missions.
At the moment, over 30.000 pieces of space debris comprised of parts from derelict rockets and satellites remain on the Earth’s orbit – and that number is constantly rising, making every device sent into space exposed to a high risk of collision. Development of solutions capable of efficient orbital junks removal has hence become a critical importance. This is where the Lion DPU comes in – it is designed to perform equally well in missions focused both on detecting, as well as classifying hazardous space debris that needs to be removed from the orbit.
The technology used in the Lion DPU will not only perform well in innovative space applications but will also contribute to the emergency management of fires, both naturally occurring and anthropogenic. Satellites can detect and monitor fires regardless of how large or small they are and provide data on a variety of factors – including their location, duration, size, temperature, and intensity. Differences between spectral curves developed for forested and fire-affected areas are used to determine the spatial extent of the phenomenon and analyze the fire effects. This is a serious problem, as recent studies show that climate change can increase the risk of droughts and wildfires by at least 30 percent, so introduction of such solutions enhanced by on-board data processing and dedicated algorithms can make an enormous contribution to the efforts focused on protecting our planet.
The ability to run artificial neural networks will have a significant impact on the future of space missions – from the ones taking place on Earth’s orbit to even interplanetary projects. Exploring other celestial bodies in the Solar System entails many difficulties caused mainly by radio communication time delays between Earth and the satellite. Autonomous formations of units operating on neural networks and artificial intelligence will therefore be an indispensable element of advanced space exploration projects in the near future, and perhaps even colonization of our nearest neighbors like the Moon or Mars.
Significant cyclic temperature changes resulting from the operation of the device and from the variable exposure of the satellite to sunlight on its way around Earth is a problem every modern space mission has to tackle. The Lion DPU will present an innovative approach in this area, based on implementing an accumulative thermal system using the latent heat of PCM (Phase Change Material) from an organic group of paraffin compound. Thanks to this cutting-edge solution, temperature amplitudes on the satellite’s electronic components will be substantially reduced. The PCM material will serve as a thermal stabilizer, optimizing thermal management inside the device. In effect, the lifetime of the unit will be significantly extended, guaranteeing at least 5 years of constant operation in orbit. In addition, it will help to maintain a safe operational buffer, even allowing for occasional boosts in computing power.
An important part of the Lion DPU which has a vital impact on its overall efficiency and reliability will be its high-quality housing manufactured in conformance with specialized aerospace industry standards. Lion DPU is also designed and will be manufactured in accordance with the ECSS (European Cooperation for Space Standardization) requirements. This gives it a place among some of the most groundbreaking projects which are in the truest sense the trendsetters in the innovative commercial satellite mission market.
Implementation of innovative design solutions in the new unit developed by KP Labs combined with the fact that the device will be based on the use of commercially available, affordable “off-the-shelf” components will allow to achieve high reliability and longevity during its orbital mission, while significantly reducing the overall price of the complete product. This approach will make it easier to reach a wider group of potential customers who look for cost-efficient solutions for their satellite projects. Lion DPU will provide flawless quality whilst keeping the costs at a reasonable and affordable level.
In addition to the Lion DPU, each “animal” belonging to the Smart Mission Ecosystem is a part of an integrated set of innovative solutions that increase processing power and reduce the cost of the entire venture, allowing the creation of a complete space project. Each product of the SME addresses consecutive key needs of satellite missions. This includes a wide range of functionalities and features, delivered with products like modular on-board software Oryx or electrical ground support equipment Oasis created to test satellites on the Earth. Increased reliability of space operations will be brought with the on-board computer with predictive maintenance Antelope, while the Leopard high-performance data processing unit for AI applications and The Herd AI-powered algorithms for Earth observation will present capabilities of on-board data processing supported by the artificial intelligence.
Want to see our KP Labs animal family venture across the skies, shaping the future of space exploration? Make sure to stay tuned and witness how the “king of the jungle” becomes a king…of orbit!