31st May - Valencia.
According to a recent report from Deloitte the economics of space have never been more promising. Challenges to manufacturing, launching, and operating satellites have diminished significantly allowing for a rapid transformation in the sector. Satellites have been “miniaturized,” costing less to produce and operate, while launch costs are much lower today due to reusable rocketry. Accelerating these developments, digital and advanced technologies, are helping new players to access satellite operators’ data and explore new business applications.
McKinsey’s Ryan Burkhardt has hypothesised that the space economy, defined as activities in orbit or on other planets that benefit human beings, could soon transform how we live and work.
Space applications have become an important part of everyday life. Weather forecasting, air traffic control, global communications and broadcasting, disaster management -- these and many other key activities are based on satellite technology.
Lower costs have opened the door to new start-ups and encouraged established aerospace companies to explore novel opportunities that once seemed too expensive or difficult. The technological improvements have also intrigued investors, resulting in a surge of space funding.
At the heart of this transformation is the role played by semiconductor manufacture and embedded systems in creating new opportunities.
Semiconductors have enabled the miniaturization of electronic components, allowing more sophisticated electronics to be packed into smaller, lighter packaging. This has enabled the design of smaller, more efficient spacecraft and satellites, allowing for new missions and discoveries.
The size and weight of satellites have fallen due to the use of lighter solar panels and more efficient batteries. These changes, combined with greater use of commercial, off-the-shelf and standardised components, have decreased satellite costs and made their launch and operation feasible for many more organisations.
Semiconductors have also improved power management in space-based electronics, allowing spacecraft and equipment to run for extended periods without recharging batteries or producing power from other sources. It is expected that nuclear energy will also be a pre-requisite for longer, more efficient, space travel.
Real-Time Data Processing and Communication
Semiconductors have also enabled real-time data processing and communication, allowing spacecraft to transmit and receive data in real time. This has increased the efficiency and precision of scientific experiments. Researchers have also created new technologies, such as higher-resolution sensors, that are boosting image capture, data processing, and other functions. Satellites can now collect, analyse, and transfer much larger stores of data.
The vast amount of information collected by a wide variety of space-based instruments and platforms, can be increasingly used for a variety of purposes, including military communications, open ocean surveillance, environmental and climate change monitoring, and emergency response. And has the potential to support new technologies and industries, such as autonomous vehicles and the IoT.
Semiconductors are also extremely stable and long-lasting, and crucial in space's harsh and unpredictable environment. As a result, spacecraft and equipment may operate for extended periods, lowering the risk of mission failure.
Space semiconductor, also known as radiation-hardened or RAD-Hard, is a type of semiconductor that has been designed to withstand extreme temperatures and intense levels of radiation. The semiconductors are built with multiple layers of protective materials to protect them from the harsh environment in space.
Because semiconductors are affordable, space-based electronics can be designed and built at a reduced cost. This has allowed more missions to be carried out while lowering the overall cost of space exploration.
Finally, semiconductors have significantly impacted the space program, enabling new missions and discoveries, increasing the efficiency and accuracy of scientific research, and lowering the cost of space exploration.
Emerging breakthrough technologies
Edge computing and AI could also transform space data services. As edge computing is all about processing data closer to where it's being generated and enabling processing at greater speeds and volumes leading to greater action-led results in real-time, edge devices on spacecraft could process sensor data (e.g., images) to produce actionable information on the spot.
Space data could enable digital reality technologies (e.g., augmented and virtual reality, and digital twins) for geospatial intelligence and space domain awareness.
Robotics can also play an important role in space exploration, enabling the space sector to remotely operate and control spacecraft, rovers, and other devices to explore.
Many players are now looking into where they can invest. Burkhardt highlights a few applications that may provide great potential.
1. Earth Observation and remote sensing
To monitor and manage natural resources, support agriculture, and assist with disaster response and management.
2. In-space manufacturing
This involves using the unique environment of outer space for industrial production, such as the use of vacuum and microgravity conditions, to produce materials and structures that would be difficult or impossible to produce on Earth.
There is interest already in manufacturing semiconductors in space to potentially improve the process and possibly reduce energy consumption by 60%.
3. Low-latency broadband
Due to the reduction in satellite size, weight and cost, systems utilizing hundreds or thousands of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) could deliver services such as low-latency broadband. It is expected that over 5,000 broadband satellites will likely be in Low Earth Orbit by the end of 2023 to provide high-speed internet to a million subscribers on all parts of the Earth. Innovations will also see re-programmable re-usable satellites, transparent phased array antennas and ‘comms on the move’ that will enable high-speed data in current blackspots. And in addition, satellites using narrowband technology will enable IoT devices to connect anywhere on the planet.
As the race for even greater innovations and investment grows in space applications, so the need for embedded systems and the people that engineer them will be much sort after. Finding such a limited resource with the available knowledge is very difficult and requires experts in the field to find them. Experts like CIS, with over 20 years of placing highly experienced embedded engineers in the right place at the right time. So for your next project or team contact CIS on +34 963 943 500 or email@example.com.