We live in a new space age, with the advent of the commercial space industry and the proliferation of organizations and programs. Reusable rockets, small satellite technologies, and other advancements are lowering the cost of launching payloads into orbit, a cornerstone of this new era. As a result, more people and organizations will have access to space and will be able to participate in valuable research.
In January 2020, IBM decided to capitalize on its many years of experience in the space industry by founding IBM Space Tech, a commercial space business. IBM Space Tech will launch its first CubeSat space mission, ENDURANCE, into Low Earth Orbit in early 2022. (LEO). This CubeSat will provide students worldwide access to space by utilizing IBM/Red Hat software and the IBM Cloud!
Naeem Altaf, the Chief Technical Officer of IBM Space Tech and a space industry veteran, is the mission lead for ENDURANCE. Naeem has spent years working with space agencies (such as NASA and the ESA) and the private space industry, so he is well-versed in the difficulties of acquiring access to space. Given that this occurred in a prosperous country, Naeem was concerned about how difficult it must be for people in developing countries.
Unfortunately, this has been the trend since the dawn of the Space Age, with access limited to space organizations, industrialized nations, and the super-rich. Naeem and his IBM Space Tech colleagues set out to shift this paradigm by looking for ways to make the process of gaining access to space more efficient. They aimed to make the glories of space accessible to school-aged children throughout the world. ENDURANCE
ENDURANCE is the product of this collaboration, which blends IBM’s Edge Computing in Space (powered by the IBM/Red Hat MicroShift project) with EnduroSat’s CubeSat technology. ENDURANCE will allow students to connect directly with small satellites in Low Earth Orbit by leveraging this technology and experience (LEO). Naeem explained through email to Universe Today:
“The objective of the ENDURANCE CubeSat is to make space accessible to everyone on the globe. To put it another way, democratizing space access. Our mission’s vision and purpose were simple: “How can we simplify the process of gaining access to the wonders of space for school-aged children to inspire the next generation of future space explorers and leaders?”
The procedure is straightforward. Once the system is up and running, students from the world’s most remote, rural locations (individually or as part of a class) can develop Python code and upload it to the IBM Cloud’s ENDURANCE Portal. The code will be delivered to a ground station and uploaded to the satellite on the following pass once the automated system has scanned it for any harmful elements. As Naeem put it, “
“Users will be able to upload their code through the IBM Cloud interface.” The code will be pushed to the CubeSat once it has been validated. It will proceed to run the software. The data will be sent to the ground station and subsequently to IBM Cloud, where users would be notified of their results.”
Users will perform various activities and receive the results via ground stations and the IBM Cloud by writing their code. Obtaining data from the satellite’s magnetometer, Sun sensors, or voltage, temperature, and other telemetry data are examples of this. The capacity to snap images using the CubeSat’s camera, according to Naeem, is likely to be the most popular operation.
In essence, youngsters will be able to schedule image captures for when the satellite passes over a specified location on the planet. It will allow people to observe what a Sunrise, Sunset, storms, and weather patterns look like from space and their town or rural area. They’ll also be able to observe forest fires, tropical storms, diminishing ice sheets, flooding, and receding coastlines from orbit.
It is part of the ENDURANCE goal to raise awareness about global concerns such as Climate Change and the health of our planet. Students will experience the Overview Effect and learn how interconnected everything in our world is by viewing Earth from space. In the future, Naeem and his colleagues plan to improve the experience by adding various new features.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) is one example, which would allow users to interact with virtual assistants (such as a chatbot) and employ speech-to-text/text-to-speech software to communicate with the satellite itself. It can entail inquiring about where the satellite is over the Earth – “Hey, ENDURANCE!” “What are your current whereabouts?” “Hello! I’m currently flying above South America, admiring the Andes.”
“In the future, we can consider creating a metaverse for the CubeSat Operations Center, as well as hackathons and other events.” “As we like to say, ‘The Sky Is Not the Limit!'” Naeem explained. The hackathon concept is similar to IBM P-TECH. This public-education approach teaches coding and other STEM-related skills to high school students from impoverished backgrounds and developing countries. P-TECH currently serves over 100 schools all around the world.
“I’m honored to have this opportunity to promote a sense of hope, confidence, and accomplishment in this younger generation of Space leaders,” Naeem said. “I believe that for many kids and youngsters, experiencing Space in this way will be priceless, and it will open doors to innovation beyond our wildest dreams.”
Those interested in contributing to the mission should go to the ENDURANCE website and click on the “JOIN MISSION” page. Those who join will receive a Boarding Pass and a Mission Patch (seen above), as well as their name being transported to orbit onboard the ENDURANCE CubeSat.