Two Australian space companies have teamed up to launch what will be the first hyperspectral microsatellite of many, harvesting data for industries such as agriculture, forestry and mining once in orbit.
The first of eight HyperSight 60 satellites will combine the AI and high-resolution imagery tech of Perth-based earth observation company LatConnect60 (LC60) alongside space industry leader Gilmour Space’s rocket launching capabilities.
Announced at the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the new satellite will be manufactured in facilities funded by a $52 million grant awarded to the Australian Space Manufacturing Network (ASMN) – a consortium of 31 space companies led by Gold Coast-based Gilmour Space.
Speaking with Business News Australia, Gilmour Space satellite program manager Shaun Kenyon explains how hyperspectral imaging technology used by the satellites will be able to harvest useful information for a range of industries.
“The satellites take pictures of the Earth in lots of different colours. This lets us work out things like how healthy crops are in farms, which helps farmers because they can save money by only using as much fertilizer as they need,” he says.
“Similarly with mining, it means that we can more accurately map where the base minerals are, meaning lower impact for mining operations.
“We can also monitor forestries and look at the different species of trees that grow within a rainforest. We can also watch for illegal logging as well.”
Under the agreement, Gilmour Space will develop the first 100-kilogram HyperSight 60 satellite which will be launched on Gilmour’s Eris rocket from the Bowen Orbital Spaceport in Queensland.
Gilmour Space CEO Adam Gilmour says the agreement marks the second G-class satellite mission on Eris and that the company is “excited to be working with the pioneering team at LC60 to bring this significant capability to market.”
Once all eight satellites are operational, the constellation will be able to scan locations in Australia, Asia, South America and Africa every hour.
Founded in 2019, LC60 currently owns exclusive rights to imagery at a resolution of 80 centimetres captured over Australia by an existing satellite, and will also own and operate all eight satellites made in collaboration with Gilmour Space.
The company has leveraged its imagery capabilities along with other geospatial data sets to develop advanced AI and machine learning-based data fusion and analysis algorithms for a variety of applications, such as assisting Southeast Asian palm and rubber plantations to improve productivity.
LC60 is also focused on designing satellites equipped with onboard AI-based computing technology, which will enable the HyperSight 60 constellation to pre-process data, including radiometric and geometric correction while in orbit before the data is relayed to the earth.
“HyperSight 60 will deliver geospatial insights for mid-latitude areas at a level of detail and frequency not possible with other commercial remote sensing systems,” says LC60 CEO and founder Venkat Pillay.
“The addition of Gilmour Space to the LC60 team contributes significantly to the future success of our ambitious plans.”
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