US-based space decision intelligence platform Privateer Space is launching a new module for satellite operators called Pono, an edge computing, storage, machine learning, and data transmission module. It aims to make space data more accessible and affordable for satellite operators at a much lower cost than is currently available.
Privateer is a startup by Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak who wants to bring satellite access to the masses with a new initiative.
The first Pono prototype will reach space as a hosted payload on D-Orbit’s ION Satellite Carrier space tug in late 2023.
During a month-long series of on-orbit tests, Privateer will evaluate the ability of its machine learning workloads to collect and process data and how radiation in orbit affects the Pono’s hardware, validating its design and measuring its performance.
Data from testing will inform software design updates and fine-tune hardware fault tolerance and redundancy.
Based on the data obtained from the first Pono prototype in orbit, the company will launch Polo’s second prototype, an iteratively designed module, in mid-2024 before making it fully available to customers in early 2025.
When Privateer was unveiled in 2021, the company focused on developing space situational awareness and creating a space map for satellite mission planning and orbital debris tracking. The Privateer’s first product, Wayfinder, offers tracking for spacecraft and other objects in space.
Combining Pono and Wayfinder’s capabilities for space with the APIs and microservices that fuel Privateer’s opportunities for data users and developers from space, the company’s mission aims to not only fuel progress on Earth but ultimately also reduce the amount of single-use satellites launched into orbit.
Pono is an on-edge computer, and AI tasking capabilities allow operators to plug directly into the Wayfinder marketplace. With Pono on board, managing collision avoidance can be more accessible. Space operators can focus on their missions and customers without the burden of SSA management.
However, with Pono, Privateer is now looking to create a marketplace for data, where customers can ride-share satellites and task them with collecting data from any area on Earth.
“With Wayfinder as the guide and Pono as the engine, Privateer is linking ‘for space’ and ‘from space,’ data drivers and data users, Silicon Valley and space, and economics and sustainability in the orbital environment,” Privateer CEO Alex Fielding said. “This is about refining and redefining how we, as a society, can maximize the life and utility of our satellites to enable new applications – with implications reaching from ESG to insurance, agriculture to energy, and beyond – while standardizing norms of behavior in space.”
The Privateer’s vision is to create a data ride-sharing economy in space powered by on-orbit AI technology. The company hopes that this development will have a similar impact on the availability of GPS technology to the public.