AI in space: BAE satellite cluster to spy for military customers

Azalea collects data to be analyzed onboard using edge processors

Ben Wodecki

September 7, 2022

2 Min Read

Azalea collects data to be analyzed onboard using edge processors

BAE Systems is launching a multi-sensor satellite cluster into low Earth orbit in 2024 to gather intelligence for military customers from space.

The 4-satellite cluster, dubbed Azalea, will be used to obtain and provide defense customers with data and intelligence in real time. It can also be used for disaster response, the company announced at Space Comm 2022.

Together, the group of satellites will use a range of sensors to collect visual, radar and radio frequency data, which will be analyzed onboard using machine learning on edge processors.

Unlike conventional, single-purpose satellites, the cluster can be fully reconfigured whilst in orbit, a capability that BAE claims will expand the lifecycle of the system and remove the need for sending sizable data back down to Earth.

Figure 1:

“The Azalea satellite cluster will process data in space to provide swathes of digital intelligence wherever it’s needed,” said Dave Armstrong, Group Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Digital Intelligence, in a statement. “We understand how important space-based intelligence is to every domain, whether that’s informing strategic command, alerting an in-area warship, or providing real-time intelligence to forces on the ground.”

To develop Azalea, BAE is working with Finnish company ICEYE to combine its sensor tech with its Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) systems.

SAR provides high-resolution imagery of the Earth’s surface under any condition, which, according to BAE “makes it easier to detect instant physical changes, such as the movement of hostile ships or aircraft.”

“By combining our SAR technology with the security expertise of BAE Systems and the other data sources in the cluster, we can help decision-makers make the right choice at the right time,” said Rafal Modrzewski, CEO and co-founder of ICEYE.

The satellites are then to be built by In-Space Missions, the British space tech manufacturer acquired by BAE last year.

 

About the Authors

Ben Wodecki

Assistant Editor

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