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Surprising Satellite Use Cases with Sidus Space

Surprising Satellite Use Cases with Sidus Space

Sidus Space CTO Jamie Adams discusses space-as-a-service and more.

Surprising Satellite Use Cases with Sidus Space
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Presented by Sidus Space
Aired May 04, 2023
Get to know the ins and outs of satellite missions, standardizing the operating system of the space industry, and the various applications for satellite technology, featuring Jamie Adams, Chief Tec...

Welcome to Public Live, your real-time resource for insight into the news, people and assets making moves in the markets. Public Live audio shows give you context into the headlines and trends surrounding your portfolio so you can be a better investor. These sessions are not direct investment advice. So listen in, but always do your own research. See public.com/disclosures for more information with that, let's get things started. 

Kinsey Grant: Hello everybody and welcome once again to Public Live. I am your host Kinsey Grant. I'm so excited to bring you today's show, which is all about space and space technology. We have a great conversation lined up and I'm super excited to jump right into it. Before we do, a quick note: today's show is brought to you by Sidus Space. They provide space-as-a-service products for the space economy. Welcome to today's guest, Jamie Adams, Chief Technology Officer at Sidus Space. Jamie, welcome to Public Live.

Jamie Adams: Thanks very much, Kinsey. Great to be here and look forward to our conversation today. 

Kinsey Grant: I think a lot of the people who are listening to this conversation probably have had space on the brain for a couple of reasons. Recently, a failed launch from SpaceX was in the headines and since then it seems like the space industry has really re-entered the conversation as investors. Jamie, I want to start with a specific question. As we mentioned at the top here, you offer space-as-a-service as a company. Tell me a little bit more about what that means?

Jamie Adams: Space-as-a-service in relation to the work that we're doing at Sidus Space includes building satellites as well as, providing the satellite data, imagery, and a lot more. Our goal is to reduce the cost timeline and operational barriers to space access, making it easier for these projects to be more affordable for organizations, individuals and government agencies to access space. We also make space data [captured via satellite technology] more affordable. We do it through an end-to-end solution. We've got a unique ability to support the full spectrum of satellite development and operations throughout. We also provide space-based aid for numerous industries, including maritime industry, agriculture, mining, forestry, oil and gas production. You name it, there are applications for Earth observation data. Our focus is on providing valuable data and services that serve those diverse sectors. We design our satellites in-house. So that makes us flexible with respect to being able to accommodate customers and needs of users as they emerge, and then also evolve it as the technology evolves. We can incorporate those new sensors and new technologies more rapidly instead of having a stagnant profile of satellites that are working.

Kinsey Grant: You mention the goal, or at least part of the goal for Sidus Space is to reduce costs, reduce operational barriers and cost. When it comes to an industry like space, it's an expensive business to be in, so there are a ton of operational barriers there. I'm curious about how this idea of standardization might come into play in your effort to reduce the costs and operational barriers for space or space-based companies. Tell me a little bit about standardization as it factors into your business.

Jamie Adams: It's a great question. There's really no standard operating system or standard approach to developing satellites. So, we're not required to follow particular standards. But we do and have adopted the NASA standards to apply to our satellite development, and what that does for us, working with NASA and DOD, is it allows us to adopt some of the best practices that come out of what there have developed over the course of many years of experience. For example, we use the NASA corps flight software on our satellite, and one of the things that it does is it creates an open interface and open-source solution to consumers who can more readily adopt. It is a little bit easier to adopt and incorporate into the overall architecture so that when consumers come to the table, they have something that they can readily adapt to. We also apply the standards that we have with respect to our ITU filings and the overall adoption of best practices that facilitate working with industry and using terminology that they readily understand. The other thing is for us as a company is that we've been in the business of manufacturing space components for every large program all the way back to the space shuttle. So we've been in the industry for quite a long time.

Kinsey Grant: I'm curious about how the technology or the services that you're providing might differ based on whether the client or the partner is a government entity, a private company, or an international one. How does that impact the services and the technology that you provide? Yeah, so that's a great question. So one of the things that we do that is,

Jamie Adams: There are various applications that we comply with. So the NASA standards, the S9100, all those things, the adoption of those things, puts us in a very good position to be able to be adaptable, but on the other side, we can customize to user solutions. So, we don't have to offer that to commercial customers that want a little bit more flexibility with respect to getting their hardware into space. The other end of that spectrum is when you are trying to work with government customers, whether it's the U.S. government or international governments, having that understanding and developing that capability to comply with those already. We've been able to adopt both industry standard and government standards with varying degrees of flexibility.

Kinsey Grant: A lot of what we've talked about so far in this conversation has dealt largely with the big picture, these kinds of broader industry contours. I would love to talk a little more specifically about satellites and about satellite tech. Can you tell me a little bit about what you're most excited about in terms of the satellites and the satellite tech that you guys are developing? 

Jamie Adams: We are primarily building Earth observation satellites. So there's a couple of different kinds of satellites, communications, Earth observations, there's applications across the, across the board. In the Earth observation spectrum, there's also a ton of components within that, for example, you can do maritime vessel tracking. So, you put an Autonomous Information System, which is essentially collecting beacon data from transmitters on all maritime vessels. And you pull that data up to the satellite and give a very broad range of coverage that the end consumer wants to tie into. You can couple that with imagery sensors and infuse that data together. In some cases there, there's a market for collecting that shipping data, the vessel data where it is, and then providing that to an end consumer. In other cases, if you couple that with imagery, you create another layer of data that is tremendously valuable to the end consumer. So, there's a somewhat limitless amount of market available for the Earth observation satellites. And that's where we're focused: using that data, and those processing systems for the imagery to get near real-time space data and get that to our customers. It's about actionable intelligence for their end use.

Kinsey Grant: I think this brings to mind an important part of the space conversation. When we talk more specifically about technology and its applications, what are the timelines, like for new projects, as as they come about? Is there a way to predict when the technology might actually be utilized or put into use? 

Jamie Adams: It can be a little bit unpredictable. There's a lot of things that are out of our control, and we try to do as much as we can for things outside of our control, like the supply chain. That's a big one. One of the things that we do to make our satellites more flexible and keep the cost down is reuse of commercial off the shelf (COTS) solutions. It's a big component of what we do. We essentially scour the globe for suppliers to support those efforts. And so that supply chain then is always a factor in the logistics for getting launches in place, whether the weather is going to play a factor, other factors governmentally and things that are going on in the globe, those are all things that can drive our schedules in and in our timelines. We are very focused on making sure that we have a robust level of suppliers, not only have options and backups, but also have great relationships that we've developed with those suppliers to make sure that we can meet our customer timelines. One of our key discriminators for us is trying to accelerate those timelines, with very little notice. We typically say we can get you into space within 12 months, from the time that we get on contract to the time that we actually fly. And we get our payloads in hand and in roughly in the six-month timeframe. But we've got some flexibility within that based on the way we have worked our timelines and our suppliers. It's an ongoing thing that you have to do constantly, revisit that, look for other suppliers. And then the other piece of it is how do we infuse new technologies and putting those on our tech roadmap to bring them in so that we're always kind of tip of the spear with respect to what's out there and what's available to bring into, into our architecture.

Kinsey Grant: Jamie, I'm curious about how you measure the success of a mission. And you know, we asked this, obviously, in the weeks following this starship explosion, that still has been determined to be successful, to some degree. You learn a lesson when something explodes, especially when we're talking about some of the most powerful rockets ever created. But I'm curious about how you as scientists might measure success.

Jamie Adams: From our perspective, trying to measure success can vary from mission to mission. In some cases, if we get to orbit, we're able to establish baseline communications and get core systems up and running. Especially for our initial missions, that is a measure of success. And you mentioned SpaceX and it's an interesting paradigm, because Elon Musk came out and talked about what they thought they could do in that mission, and what they were expecting, and calibrating expectations. So that's another component of it is to calibrate, and set the expectations so that people understand the degree of success, because sometimes, especially based on the fact that we are a space-as-a-service company, sometimes what we're trying to put in space, and and operate for a customer is very unique, and very specific to that particular mission. The degree of success may come within a few weeks, it may come within a few months, or it may take a few years. There are variables. From one to another, we are focused on defining our success criteria. What's the minimum viable product that we come down with, with respect to results? Currently we're focused on Leo, we're looking at, you know, beyond that, but when you're looking at each one of those things into that equation, there are varying degrees of success with respect to the stepping stones to achieve one of those objectives.

Kinsey Grant: To close out here and finish up this conversation. Jamie, I would love to talk a little bit about some of the broader industry trends that the people who are listening to this might be most interested in understanding a little bit better. So for anybody who might be interested in the business of space, what would you say are some of the big picture industry trends that you're tracking most right now?

Jamie Adams: AI, compute at the edge, fusion of data, so the quicker that we can incorporate artificial intelligence on the satellite, and take the Earth observation imagery, fuse that together, make the data usable as it is passed down from the satellite so that almost instant gratification perspective of I'm a consumer of the data, how quickly am I going to have my data in hand? How can I use that to drive my market? That's a key component. So anything that you can do to enhance that ability. One of the things that Sidus Space has done is we've employed a significant and diverse portfolio of ground station providers so that the latency of the data coming down to the ground is relatively short. And then when you combine that with compute at the edge, things that we're doing on orbit and bringing that data down. Sometimes customers just want the raw data, but they want it very quickly. So in that case, having the robust support of ground stations where we're going to pass those in a very rapid manner that gets the raw data down to fuse data, data at the edge, AI, you know, those those kind of things that we're going to continue to evolve and put intelligence to that data so that the end user can make quicker decisions about what they're going to apply it to. Those are the keys for keeping ahead of this market, and making sure that our customers are getting what they're looking for. And that could also be the same thing with payloads that we're flying. Their ability to exercise their payload, have it operate in space, and immediately take that data and take it out to their customer base or their development timelines. Because a lot of these people, it's a race to get their technology developed, get it proven in space against their competitors. We have an ability to help them accelerate that pace of where they're actually going to be able to fly their technology and get their data down to the ground in a usable manner where they can make key performance decisions. And that globally applies to any of our customers on the back end.

Kinsey Grant: Thank you, Jamie. I think this is a fantastic way to finish out this conversation with some of these forward looking ideas. And I really appreciate your time. It's been so wonderful to hear more about your perspective and to hear more about scientists. So thank you so much, Jamie.

Jamie Adams: Kinsey, thank you and appreciate everybody tuning in.

Kinsey Grant: I want to thank Jamie Adams, Chief Technology Officer at Sidus Space for his time today. Thank you also to our partners at Sidus Space. They made this show possible and we will be back soon with even more updates from the space economy and beyond. Thank you so much for listening.

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