Insight By Maxar

Rapidly evolving space technology leading government to consider the possibilities

The last few years have seen a resurgence in widespread interest in space, satellites, and going to Mars. Ten years ago, we never dreamed of people like Elon Musk being on the front page of any newspaper. During the summer, the Metro in Washington, D.C., is full of young people with NASA tee shirts. Some have coined the phrase, “New Space” to describe the current infatuation.

Executives from Maxar, an earth intelligence and space infrastructure company, recently joined Federal News Network to share what’s possible in the field of space technology.

“Our purpose is helping our customers harness the potential of earth intelligence and space infrastructure to transform missions,” said Tony Frazier, executive vice president for Global Field Operations.

In detailing a range of highly technical activities at Maxar, including assistance with developing the arm of the Mars Rover, Frazier explained that the space technology workforce includes more specialties than aerospace engineering.

“We have your rocket scientists, but we have a pretty diverse talent base across the company because to support the missions, we need aerospace engineers and data scientists and software developers and cloud experts,” he said.

Mark Gianconia, director of analytics engineering, started his career as a Green Beret. His military background provides a unique perspective on the impact of satellite imagery to help the warfighter on the ground.

“We have 100 petabytes of imagery, so to put that in perspective, the Library of Congress is roughly three. So, we’re like 30 times the size of the Library of Congress in pixels,” said Gianconia of the amount of image information at his disposal.

Chris Shank, vice president for Civil and National Security Space, spoke of developments in satellite propulsion, which is typically made capable by chemicals. “And what we’re doing is building a service station and refueling capability for a currently on-orbit NASA satellite. We’ll be launching that in the next couple of years,” he said.

This experience led NASA to select Maxar to help with the Artemis program, whose goal is to land the first woman and the next man on the moon.

Maxar Overview

Another example just to hit on more of a mission use case. I was recently at the AWS re:Invent conference and spoke about how we're applying artificial intelligence to support disaster response missions.

Earth Intelligence

We build software and we do analytics and we deliver imagery and almost everything we do is actually kind of a commercial first model on doing that. So we leverage Open Source; we're heavy contributors to Open Source. We leverage machine learning tools and the cloud.

Space

30 out of the 90 satellites currently on orbit today, that we've built, have electric propulsion capabilities on it. And so we're spinning in that technology capability to then go orbit around the Moon as a gateway for that future Artemis landing. And we're working with the NASA team on that.

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