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This article was published on April 9, 2024

Finnish startup to launch ‘software-defined’ satellite with ESA

ReOrbit wants satellites to network in orbit

Finnish startup to launch ‘software-defined’ satellite with ESA

Helsinki-based startup ReOrbit is preparing for the first demonstration of its “software-enabled” satellite.

This marks the next phase of the ESA’s UKKO programme, which works with ReOrbit to develop and test next-gen tech for Earth observation satellites. (Fun fact: Ukko is the god of the sky, weather, harvest, and thunder in Finnish mythology).

ReOrbit’s first in-orbit demonstration satellite is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2025. It will be a crucial test of the startup’s avionics and software stack, designed to create an internet-of-things network in space.

“We aim to enable the next generation of more modular, inter-connected missions,” said the company’s CEO and Founder, Sethu Saveda Suvanam. 

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The idea is to turn satellites into intelligent, interconnected platforms that don’t just relay information from space to Earth, but also from space to space. This would enable satellites to network, communicate with each other and make the delivery of  space-related data more efficient, said the company.

Internet-of-things in space

ReOrbit is building two core products, “Muon” and “Gluon.” The former is a flight software stack that acts like an operating system for the satellite. It can be added into any existing satellite body. 

Gluon on the other hand is an actual satellite platform equipped with optical communications terminals (OCTs) for space-space and space-ground links. 

Muon includes a full digital twin of the Gluon platform, which aims to give customers insight into capital requirements at a mission’s early stages. This virtual replica can also be used to train operators and plan flight procedures.

“I strongly believe that initiatives like ReOrbit’s Ukko — that leverage highly advanced flight software and, hence, transform the future of technology in space — open a host of opportunities in space applications, particularly in the Earth Observation domain,” said Daniele Romagnoli, commercial EO system engineer at ESA and InCubed officer of the UKKO programme.

ReOrbit has already secured its first customer for the tech being developed under the UKKO programme. Contingent on the success of next year’s demonstrator, India-based KaleidEO plans to combine ReOrbit’s software with its AI models. The firm’s ultimate goal is to make Earth observation data and insights more accessible. 

Founded in 2019, ReOrbit raised $7.4mn last year in an oversubscribed seed funding round. Investor interest in space tech has piqued in recent years, as an industry once solely led by governments increasingly becomes dominated by private companies competing to come to market. 

Alongside ReOrbit’s software-defined satellites, startups are building everything from rockets and space-based solar plants to moon rovers.    

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