World 2nd: HEO Robotics verifies Earth Observation satellite for in-orbit inspection service
At HEO Robotics, we are using Earth observation satellites to image other spacecraft to perform health checks (this is part 1 of our master plan). In May 2020, we took our first verification image from a partner Earth observation satellite. The satellite we used was Kompsat 3, a satellite owned by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) and operated by SI Imaging Services. We are just the second company in the world to use an Earth observation satellite to image another spacecraft and the first with ambitions to do it at scale.
Our first verification image, taken over the southern Indian Ocean of the International Space Station
This image is of the International Space Station (ISS) and is at 1 metre resolution, somewhat lower than we expect to supply to our customers, but already shows the rich insight we can pull from satellite-to-spacecraft imaging. The image shows one vehicle, Progress 75, docked at the ISS. The image also shows a docking slot that had just been vacated by the Cygnus-13 vehicle two days earlier, in preparation for the docking of SpaceX’s Crewed Dragon (DM-2). The solar panels are shown fully deployed and tilted north towards the sun (the image was taken over the southern Indian Ocean, in full sunlight).
Our first image is feature-rich, with (1) the Progress 75 spacecraft docked, (2), living quarters and science modules, (3) space left by Cygnus-13 spacecraft in preparation for Crewed Dragon spacecraft and (4) and (5) solar panels directed towards the sun
We are already using Kompsat 3 to image customer spacecraft and are onboarding further satellites from other partners. We expect to improve image quality as we progress, in areas such as resolution, brightness, oversampling and taking images from multiple angles. To make a compelling product for customers, it is critical that we have multiple partners with satellites in a variety of orbits.
Our next steps from here at HEO are in creating the insights our customers need from the images. This includes understanding the deployment state of payloads, communications antennas and solar panels. We are currently training machine learning algorithms to help us perform this accurately and quickly. We’ll be writing more about this and the applications of our inspection technology in the coming months.
We expect to launch a full-feature in-orbit inspection service in 2021 - stay connected for future announcements or request an invitation to our in-orbit pilot today through firstname.lastname@example.org.