- Two AI-powered satellites, MANTIS and Intuition-1, have been launched into orbit, marking a significant advancement in Earth observation technology.
- MANTIS, supported by ESA’s InCubed program, offers high-resolution imagery for applications such as climate monitoring and natural resource management.
- Intuition-1 demonstrates AI-driven soil analysis capabilities, potentially revolutionizing agriculture and environmental monitoring.
In a significant leap for the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) in space, two satellites, MANTIS and Intuition-1, have been successfully launched into orbit on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. These satellites, supported by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation InCubed program, mark a major milestone in harnessing AI for various Earth observation applications.
MANTIS: A Game-Changer for Earth Observation
Open Cosmos is the visionary company behind the MANTIS satellite, which stands for “Mission Agile Nanosatellite for Terrestrial Imagery Services.” This satellite aims to revolutionize Earth observation, particularly for the energy and mining sector. Here are the key highlights of MANTIS:
MANTIS is built on a 12U CubeSat platform and features a high-resolution multispectral camera. This camera, coupled with a powerful onboard AI processing unit, allows MANTIS to capture detailed imagery and process it in real-time.
Spanish optics, Italian algorithms, and british analytics
At its core, MANTIS relies on a compact binocular telescope from the Spanish company Satlantis, providing high-quality images. The AI algorithms responsible for processing these images were developed by IngeniArs in Italy, ensuring that data sent to the ground are free from unwanted features like clouds. Further data analysis is performed by the British company Terrabotics, delivering actionable insights to customers.
ESA’s inCubed support
MANTIS is the first satellite mission to receive support from ESA’s Earth Observation InCubed program, which fosters commercialization and innovation in Earth observation. InCubed contributed financial support, technical expertise, and business mentoring to Open Cosmos, marking a significant milestone for the program.
MANTIS is poised to empower organizations to manage natural resources more sustainably. Its applications extend to climate emergency monitoring, water management, and biodiversity conservation, making it a versatile tool for Earth observation.
Intuition-1: Pioneering AI-driven soil analysis
Intuition-1, developed by Poland’s KP Labs, is a 6U CubeSat technology demonstrator with a focus on AI-driven soil analysis. This satellite showcases how AI can process hyperspectral data in orbit, paving the way for advanced agricultural and environmental monitoring. Here’s what you need to know about Intuition-1:
Intuition-1 is equipped with a hyperspectral camera capable of capturing and segmenting light across a broad spectrum. This enables the identification of various soil health indicators, including potassium oxide, phosphorus pentoxide, magnesium, and pH levels.
In-orbit data processing
One of the satellite’s standout features is its onboard data processing unit, which pre-processes and filters images. This is expected to significantly reduce the volume of data transmitted to the ground, from approximately 100 GB to a mere 300 MB daily.
The majority of Intuition-1’s AI models were developed in collaboration with ESA’s FutureEO-funded Genesis activity. ESA’s data science experts collaborated with KP Labs to create a machine learning pipeline that processes raw data on the satellite. This pipeline continually improves its performance through a seamless interaction between the satellite and ground operations.
Validation in spring 2024
Intuition-1’s payload and AI algorithms will undergo in-flight validation starting in the spring of 2024. This crucial phase will confirm the satellite’s capabilities and the effectiveness of its AI-driven soil analysis.
ESA’s vision for AI in space
Head of ESA Φ-lab, Giuseppe Borghi, expressed excitement about this momentous achievement, as both MANTIS and Intuition-1 are commercially oriented satellites launched with ESA Φ-lab support. These Earth observation missions exemplify how AI in space can create value for various industries and society as a whole.
ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Simonetta Cheli, added her congratulations to Open Cosmos and KP Labs on the successful satellite launches. She emphasized the role of ESA Φ-lab in promoting commercial initiatives and disruptive innovation, marking a significant milestone for InCubed’s first supported satellite reaching orbit.
The successful launch of MANTIS and Intuition-1 represents a giant leap in the integration of AI capabilities in space missions. These satellites promise to unlock a myriad of applications in Earth observation, agricultural monitoring, and environmental analysis, contributing to a more sustainable and data-rich future for our planet. The collaboration between innovative companies and ESA’s support is a testament to the limitless potential of AI in space exploration and its impact on industry and society.
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