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Ball Aerospace prototype payload to provide on-orbit data processing
File illustration of Loft Orbital microsatellite.
Ball Aerospace prototype payload to provide on-orbit data processing
by Staff Writers
Broomfield Co (SPX) Mar 14, 2023

Ball Aerospace successfully powered and launched a prototype payload on January 3, 2023, on Loft Orbital's (Loft) YAM-5 mission aboard a SpaceX rocket. The payload is functioning as planned and is equipped with Ball Aerospace-built Linux-based software, which features containerized applications that can be changed on-orbit, as well as real-time data processing functions.

"This rideshare payload is an informative rapid development opportunity allowing us to pioneer best practices and processes that will enable the reduction of non-recurring engineering on future missions," said Mike Gazarik, Vice President of Engineering, Ball Aerospace. "Loft's simple turnkey solution has enabled Ball Aerospace to respond to our customers' desire for faster technology refresh and more affordable solutions."

The edge processing demonstration payload was built in just eight months, showcasing small, flexible, affordable and resilient low-Earth orbit (LEO) solutions. The software payload is comprised of containerized software, including a prototype version of Microsoft's Azure Orbital Space SDK platform, to increase reuse and decrease costs and scheduling times.

Algorithms hosted on-board are able to remove clouds from the imagery that are obstructing data or prioritize downlink of data based on image content. The payload was integrated onto Loft's modular payload interface and is currently using Loft's mission-agnostic satellite operations platform, Cockpit.

"The rideshare project with Ball Aerospace using the Azure Orbital Space SDK shows customers how to optimize their space data in-orbit and create faster pathways to insights providing a strong foundation for future pursuits," said Steve Kitay, senior director, Microsoft Azure Space. "This first phase of our on-orbit compute partnership is a step forward in bringing our mutual customers a standardized platform for application development in space."

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