ReOrbit is leading the Space Internet of Things with software-centric satellites

ReOrbit talks about the future of spacetech, with flexible software-first architecture and satellite interoperability.
ReOrbit is leading the Space Internet of Things with software-centric satellites

When you think of spacetech, you probably think of rockets and satellites built with the latest tech innovation which will someday filter down to terrestrial use cases.

Sethu Saveda Suvanam, CEO and Founder of ReOrbit, found something different when he wanted to bring his career researching new solar materials in space exploration to the commercial world.

He realised while academia created the necessary R&D, it didn't prepare him for sales and relationship building in spacetech. So he took a sales job for a satellite company. 

During this time, he witnesses a huge mismatch between the spacetech in academia and the commercial world. 

"Commercial tech is 70 years behind." he recounts. The first satellite, Sputnik, was launched 67 years ago, and much of what's on offer today wasn't all that dissimilar. "They're using the same architecture." 

"Technologies such as computers, cell phones and cars started as big hardware-oriented products. And if you compare that to Tesla today, you'll see that their impact is due to their software intelligence, not simply the car's hardware, 

"Space is the only industry in the last 70 years that has not evolved along those lines. The sector generally works with the principle that if something is working, don't change it." 

When you say you're building a satellite, the first thing people ask you is, 'What's your hardware?' 

They never ask what software you have because there is no standard software in the space industry. Software is even custom-built for particular missions. 

Eventually, you will hit a critical mass where you can no longer customise things. And either you're limiting the amount of penetration of the space industry in day-to-day life, or you're making things so expensive that it's no longer sustainable." 

A software-first approach

Suvanam saw the opportunity to build spacetech system architecture centring around software.

The traditional hardware-first approach significantly impacts the overall design and software protocols, increasing costs and leading to vendor lock-in as software is tied to specific hardware, 

By comparison, a software-first approach removes a dependency on certain hardware supply chains.

In response, Suvanam founded ReOrbit, a Helsinki-based leading provider of software-enabled satellites. 

The company enables real-time dataflow in space and provides Earth Observation and SatCom operators with flight software, satellite platforms, and complete systems.  

With its highly flexible software-first architecture, ReOrbit can adapt its satellites to different missions and support any payloads with powerful flight capabilities whilst keeping cost and time-to-orbit low.   

As Suvanam notes, this plug and play approach to software has huge advantages.

"With this approach, you can start writing applications on top of your software code without bothering what your underlying hardware is.

Whenever your hardware evolves to the level that it can support these kinds of applications, you just start plugging them slowly as the hardware wants. 

So always having a largely software-dependent architecture can enable your architectures to be at the core of innovation, rather than the other way around, where you're dependent on hardware. 

This drives the spacetech industry into a space it has not been before."

Distributed computing will shape the Space Internet of Things

Image: ReOrbit.

Another area where spacetech (and ReOrbit) is taking its cues from Earth is the rise in distributed computing, where distributed components are located on different networked computers, which communicate and coordinate their actions by passing messages to one another.

Currently over 8,000 active satellites orbit the Earth. However, most communicate using point-to-point encrypted links from space to ground.  

This offers a significant disadvantage when it comes to computing power and efficiency. 

ReOrbit is in the process of building satellites that can connect in space and share resources in space. This interoperability results in greater scalability, resource efficiency,

"So you have a satellite that is effectively a flying router, and you can connect to multiple sources and devices."

It's part of a bigger trend called the Space Internet of Things (Space-IoT), where networked satellites respond to challenges in IoT deployments on Earth, such as global coverage and scalability. 

Satellites embedded with IoT sensors can process and analyse data on the edge, leading to greater efficiencies and faster data transportation back to earth for mission-critical services such as military operations and emergency services. 

Suvanam admits it's something the company has been discussing since its inception in 2019. 

"Back then, people thought we were crazy. Now, companies like SpaceX and Amazon are moving in this direction." 

Imagining what this means for the future, Suvanam posits: 

"There will be a lot of applications on the ground that I can't even imagine now. If all the 1000s of satellites are connected and can share all this data with a standard platform, then it opens up a massive box of applications. In that sense, this will be the next frontier of space."

  ReOrbit has been profitable since its founding. It works with the most prominent entities within security, satcom and Earth observation. Business Finland, the European Space Agency and the European Commission support its technology. 

Lead image: ReOrbit. 

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