Eating Space with Software

With every major advancement and commoditization of technology, software platforms have played a transformational role in enabling new players, driving new levels of productivity, and cost savings.

From Windows, to the Web, and Mobile, the dominant players have catered strongly to developers and built entire ecosystems of tools and services that scale with the rapidly expanding ecosystem.

Meanwhile, for the first time since we began sending satellites to space 60 years ago, two crucial developments have drastically lowered the cost barrier to sending infrastructure to space:

  • The size, cost, and power efficiency of processors means you can do much more processing with much less payload space, driving down the size (and crucially, mass) of an entry level satellite to the size of a Rubik’s Cube
  • Reusable rockets have moved from science-fiction to reality with the latest launches from SpaceX and Blue Origin, setting the stage for drastic decreases in cost-per-pound.

These developments have quickly led to landmark developments in the commercial space industry, with a whole new generation of startups trying to capitalize on the opportunity. In just the satellite segment of the market, launch projections for the next 10 years will increase the number of satellites orbiting earth by a bare minimum of 10x.

The writing is on the wall: Space is rapidly becoming commoditized, and is ready for a software platform that will accelerate and touch every corner of the industry.

Software platform defined

Broadly speaking, software platforms contain some combination of the following components:

  • Developer Tools: Sometimes called the “developer experience” (DX), these are the day-to-day things that developers use to build and test their code. They include Compilers, IDEs, Documentation, Cloud Testing services, and much more
  • APIs and Runtime: APIs are the primary way that developers ask a platform to do something. For native platforms like Windows, Android, and KubOS, APIs simplify access to hardware and communications. For Web-based platforms like Twilio, APIs are network requests that perform computation on a server in the cloud.
  • Management and Analytics: Once an app has been deployed, many platforms offer the ability to closely monitor and analyze the data generated by users of the app. Some examples include the JBoss Operations Network, and Google Cloud Deployment Manager.

As I outlined last year, we launched Kubos with a focus on:

  • KubOS RT and KubOS Linux: Our satellite runtime and APIs that unlock common satellite functionality like Telemetry, Command and Control, Subsystem and ground station communications, remote software update, and support for hardware from 3 different satellite manufacturers.
  • The Kubos SDK, our command line developer tools that satellite companies can use to develop their custom payload software.

In the year that’s passed, KubOS RT and KubOS Linux have built an open source community of nearly 200 engineers, and are now being distributed by 3 nano-satellite manufacturers to new customers. This should sound familiar to you, because it’s exactly the approach Microsoft used in the early PC industry, and Google used in the Mobile industry.

Today, I’m excited to announce that we have raised $1.65M in funding led by the visionary Tim Draper of Draper Associates to expand the reach of our flight software, and to expand Kubos software platform this year with two new products:

Kubos Hopper

The first of it’s kind cloud-based Satellite hardware testing service. We have a web interface and API that allows developers to flash and test their flight software on real satellite hardware that we’ve collected into an automated interface.

Kubos Hopper screenshot

With this platform, satellite teams can reduce costs by having access to real hardware before they make final purchases, and reduce risk by integrating Hopper into a Continuous Integration service such as CircleCI so hardware testing becomes automated. The public beta of Kubos Hopper supports hardware from ISIS, Pumpkin, NanoAvionics, and ClydeSpace, with more coming later this year.

Some of our in-house hardware for Kubos Hopper

Kubos Major Tom

We are excited to announce that any mission using our KubOS flight software will have out of the box integration with a new Cloud based mission operations and data analytics service. This exciting service offers integration with both cloud based ground network providers and on-site hardware, making it the first of it’s kind fully integrated operations solution.

We will be sharing more details and launching these products soon, stay tuned by subscribing to our mailing list, or following us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn!