Space Pictures: High Earth Orbit Robots

Space Pictures: High Earth Orbit Robots

Are you in the market for On-demand images and visual analyzes of important objects in space, as captured from space?

If you are lucky. That’s exactly what the Australian space company HEO Robotics does – providing images of anything inside the solar system on demand.

“To do this, Robotics combines swarms and nanosatellite technology to obtain high-quality images of satellites, space debris, and resource-rich asteroids,” says William Crowe, CEO of High Earth Orbit (HEO) Robotics.

The Sydney-based company made it to the finals in 2022 Innovation Awards for ExcellenceIt was established in 2016 by Dr. Crowe, aeronautical engineer, and Dr. Hiranya Jayakudy, a mechatronics engineer. The winners of the 2022 Awards will be announced at the Black Tie Gala on November 17 at the Cutaway Venue in Barangaroo, Sydney. Could you Book your tickets here.

“HEO Robotics was founded in 2016 as an asteroid-hunting company,” Dr. Crowe said. “In mid-2018, we focused on providing commercial in-orbit screening services and space situational awareness.”

High Earth Orbit Robotics CEO Dr. William Crowe

Today, the company provides technology that helps defense, governments, and commercial operators visually monitor their spacecraft and other space objects through in-orbit inspection technology.

It is backed by venture capital and high-profile angel investors from Australia, the UK and the US including Y Combinator (S21) and the Australian Government’s Defense Innovation Centre.

According to Dr. Crowe, a quarter of satellites still fail before the end of their design life. As a result, the company helps operators visually monitor satellites to find any damage early – when it can still be repaired remotely and can avoid downtime.

How does it work? Its software platform – dubbed HEO Inspect – turns Earth-observing satellites into in-orbit inspection cameras.

The technology identifies an object by taking a picture of it when it is in space and then comparing the image with computer-generated 3D models of missing satellites and debris.

A positive identifier is generated when multiple images of the same object in different directions are matched to a single 3D model.

HEO Inspect accesses cameras already in space and on fully functional satellites to capture images as they fly through objects of interest.

“This is like having a security camera in space. These cameras take pictures with a resolution of less than 0.5 meters of objects as they pass by nanoseconds,” Dr. Crowe said.

“We generate valuable and unprecedented insights through computer vision technologies. Space sensors allow us to get close to space objects and collect data at a higher resolution than Earth-based Space Domain Awareness (SDA) solutions. “

Inspection services are currently available for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with plans to expand operations to Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and lunar orbits by mid-2023.

Indeed, it is exciting times for Dr. Crowe, who said he is proud that the company is considered a leader in satellite-to-satellite imagery, and has been announced as the world’s first private company to provide in-orbit satellite inspection services.

“We are the first commercial in-orbit inspection service in the world. Our high-resolution images allow us to verify the identity and condition of a space object. We can report anything from maintenance needs to alerts about space debris within 24 hours.”

space transparency

With noble endeavours comes a great vision, and Dr. Crowe said the company was founded on the belief that space should be transparent and safer for all. The company is working to use technology to help humanity and take care of the space environment.

“We value good citizenship in space. We are passionate about responsible stewardship, sustainability and trust. We believe that space should be easy and transparent. Our values ​​help us address some of the most complex issues in space for the benefit of all of humanity.”

On the innovation front, Dr. Crowe said technology is important in two important ways.

First, the technology only takes resolved images rather than trying to understand the locations of satellites and debris.

“Instead of compiling a single pixel on an object to determine the position and light curve, we aggregate thousands of pixels so we can observe the external shape, size, orientation and colors of different parts of the satellite or debris, any damage, what has been run or on board the object and more.

“We call these ‘flight inspections,’ because the data collected is a lot like regular satellite inspections, but we do it as we pass away, rather than making an appointment.”

Second, the company is taking a unique approach to satellite inspection by reducing orbital debris, an increasing risk to the continuity of services in space and physical space assets.

According to Dr. Crowe, there are more than 300 unidentified space objects in the public catalog operated by the US Space Force – the standard used in the space industry. Some of these objects are space debris, while others are satellites that have never been launched and cannot be found.

Rather than launching new satellites, which could add to the debris problem, HEO Inspect instead uses special software to run cameras on satellites already in space, tasking them with capturing images as they fly over objects of interest.

“We have not yet developed our own satellites and will resist that as long as there are other options.”

Unlimited Possibilities

Dr. Crowe said the data and insights provided by HEO Inspect will have an enormous impact on Space Condition Awareness (SSA). Applications range from intelligence, identification, verification, and serviceability to debris removal.

Today, HEO Robotics has access to 35 satellites in low Earth orbit but that is about to change.

“We have spent the past year building expertise in designing, manufacturing, assembling and testing space optics. In September of this year, we announced our next-generation space instrument, the Holmes Imager.”

Holmes Imager is a telescopic space camera developed by HEO Robotics and designed to be hosted as a secondary payload on a spacecraft.

The goal is to have 2,500 cameras in orbit by 2027.

“This constellation will charge our HEO Inspect and help us achieve comprehensive coverage of the Earth-Moon system.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via email.

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