by John Mize

“The world is one big data problem.”

Andrew McAfee

Small satellites are becoming cheaper to launch and operate, and their data is changing how we view the earth. As more commodity satellites enter orbit and begin sending data, the need for smart applications to ingest, archive, process, transform, and distribute that data become more important. Furthermore, the growth of analytics software needs to keep pace to make this data useful for commercial, academic, nonprofit, and government clients.

The promise of new, cheap and small satellites can help produce data sets we’ve never seen before, and with them, abundant products and services.

Space: Exploration Innovation Brought Down To Earth
Sparks & Honey

As SmallSat prices fall, the business case (and VC funding) has become more attractive. While profitability has yet to be achieved commercially, the growth and funding in Cube and SmallSats has created an exciting market. According to the report approximately 35% of all satellites in orbit are commercially focused.

The growth of NASAs remote sensing archive is an example, on a large scale, of the need to develop tools that facilitate data transformation and efficient research. Too often researchers are left spending hours working to find the appropriate data for their research only to find that it requires additional transformation and subsetting before analysis can be completed. NASA is planning to grow their remote sensing archive to 330 petabytes by 2025. To address this, NASA created the Cumulus project. Cumulus is basically an archive center in the cloud that enables providers to ingest data for processing, metadata creation, storage, distribution, and the publication of metrics.

The Role of Element 84 in helping Wrangle the Data

Element 84 has played a central role in supporting NASA and the development of Cumulus. Cumulus has given our team a significant amount of experience and expertise in remote sensing data management requirements. This work along with the commercial demand for a data management solutions has led our team to develop CubeSatData and the FilmDrop platform. Cubesatdata.com serves as our self-service satellite data management for small projects while FilmDrop is our satellite data pipeline processing and management engine.  It’s an instantly-scalable, cloud-based system that helps clients get more out of their remote sensing data.

Leveraging the Cloud

As industries such as oil and gas, marine, transportation, defense, urban planning, and others become hungrier for more satellite data, a similar approach to the data management will be needed in the commercial space. Additionally, there is a need to build user interfaces, visualization capabilities and analytics tools on top of the data from commercial satellite providers that will be seen as a competitive advantage.

Ultimately the market needs access to an end-to-end satellite data system architecture that includes cloud optimization and data pipeline processing and archives of convenience, and a robust user friendly interface to allow your non-technical staff to make insights from the data.  

According to Northern Sky Research:

“Big Data analytics via satellite will generate close to $18.1 billion in cumulative revenues by 2027, owing to increasing demand from end users in the transportation, government & military and energy sectors. The highest increase in usage across key verticals will be seen in use of satellite imagery for data analytics applications, growing at an impressive 23.5% CAGR through to 2027.”

As mentioned above, the cost of launching small satellites has gone down significantly over the last several years while the number of launch vehicles has increased. Bryce Research found that between 2012-2018, 1,300 small satellites were launched globally and in 2018 43% of all launches involved small satellites.

Business models continue to evolve driven largely by the demand from industry for tools that enhance insights. The need for more user oriented interfaces along with backend cloud based solutions will continue to grow. Element 84 is ideally positioned with our in house expertise in designing, building, and operating solutions that will help your organization achieve far greater impact on the increasing amount of data you are creating.