Vector Launches the World's First Software Defined Satellite

Space access company, Vector, has now initiated its GalacticSky division, which has been in stealth mode since 2016. Led by veterans from VMWare and Citrix, as well as satellite innovators, GalacticSky has achieved a major milestone on its path to launch its first GalacticSky software-defined satellite called GSky-1. Utilizing Vector's patented software-defined satellite technology, developers will no longer be required to build and pay for their own satellites. Instead, they can create an application and host it on an existing satellite or across an ad-hoc constellation made up of satellites all within the GalacticSky ecosystem. This will provide future digital innovators the autonomy to develop and test applications in space.

The solution has now been successfully integrated at the University of Southern California's Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) at the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and will validate GalacticSky's mission to enable innovators to easily and effectively deploy space application technology in space.

According to Shaun Coleman, the Co-founder and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Vector & SVP/GM GalacticSky, the GalacticSky division was created with the goal to bring the promise of space-based technologies to a much larger pool of entrepreneurs who don't need to be space experts to build and deploy their ideas. By creating a space-grade cloud computing platform in space, GalacticSky ultimately fulfils Vector's mission of extending access to space and the team at USC has been considered great partner to support in the endeavor.

Led by Professor David Barnhart, former DARPA program manager, USC Astronautical Engineering Research Professor and Director of SERC, the primary mission of this microsatellite is to serve as an on-orbit testbed for GalacticSky and three advanced technology payloads. Following its launch, the satellite will be controlled remotely by Vector and monitored by the SERC research team from a ground antenna at the USC campus and from SERC in Marina del Rey. The primary mission is scheduled to be completed within 90 days once launched, but the satellite will continue to operate and provide system performance data for several years.

GSky-1 hosts the following advanced technology payloads for NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) that will provide independent data to characterize the harsh environment and operational performance of GalacticSky:

  • CrossTrac Precision Timing Board (PTB) - Combines the short-term precision of an atomic clock with the long-term stability of a GPS receiver to provide users with a programmable precision time reference. The test data from PTB ground and flight demonstrations have been purchased by NASA.
  • Cateni Processor/Sensor Flight Board (PSFB) - Integrates advanced command and data processing components with ethernet interfaces for IP based communications between the vehicle and payloads, two Teledyne radiation dosimeters (one shielded by VSRS and the other exposed to space), and integrated GPS with the groundbreaking MEMs integrated 6-axis MotionTracking device that combines a 3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer, and a Digital Motion Processor.
  • TUI Versatile Structural Radiation Shielding (VSRS) - VSRS is a novel, 3D-printed radiation shielding technology developed by Tethers Unlimited under Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding to provide a lightweight, customizable, and cost-effective solution to enable commercial off the shelf (COTS) electronics to operate reliably in the space radiation environment.

According to Dr. Darren Garber, president of Vector Government Systems, there is no substitute for operating in space and to that end the challenge was to get GalacticSky on orbit as soon as possible. Working with USC's SERC team at ISI was a natural fit since they had a mission proven satellite in need of a payload, and GalacticSky needed a satellite to integrate with. The integrated Vector and SERC team successfully delivered GSky-1 on time and on budget within six months. Now it is ready to meet users' needs, and with SERC, the company is ready to move as fast as the customers.

Through GalacticSky, Vector is adding a smart cloud-based layer to microsatellites, creating a truly software-defined-satellite, allowing satellites to dynamically change their missions on orbit as well as provide innovators a cost-effective way to deploy technology in space without the need to build a satellite. GalacticSky utilizes modern datacenter computing in space and a virtualization hypervisor powered by Citrix to maximize memory, on-board processing, and network bandwidth. With these features, data can now undergo significant processing and analysis in space thus providing key information to users, saving time, bandwidth, and money.