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Texas company Hypergiant partners with Air Force on new type of satellite

Hypergiant has partnered with the Air Force on designing, building and launching a satellite system that is reconfigurable and can be updated in real time.

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By KARA CARLSON | Austin American-Statesman | Published: June 30, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas (Tribune News Service) — Austin-based artificial intelligence startup Hypergiant Industries is working with the U.S. Air Force to develop a next-generation satellite.

The satellite prototype will be the first node of the Chameleon constellation, a satellite and software system that can be used by the Air Force for a variety of purposes. Constellations are groupings of typically lower-cost satellites. They allow researchers to cover larger areas, decrease risks and lower operation costs compared to larger more traditional satellites.

Hypergiant has divisions that work on technologies used in space science and exploration, satellite communications, aviation, defense, health care, transportation and municipal infrastructure, as well as the food and beverage industry. The company has offices in Austin, Dallas and Houston, and most of its 195 employees work in the state. Hypergiant also has offices in Washington D.C. and Seattle.

The company's Galactic Systems division has been working on creating a supply chain for space, with the goal of making it easier for government agencies and the private sector to build business in space. As part of these services, Hypergiant would design and launch artificial intelligence-driven low orbit satellites that make up constellations.

The Chameleon constellation system will be reconfigurable and able to update at any time. Typical satellite systems take years to build because the hardware and software have to be completed before launch. Hypergiant says its technology will allow for real-time software updates to adjust to security, research and other needs. It will also use the AIr Force's Platform One system for the constellation's architecture.

Hypergiant founder and CEO Ben Lamm said the technology will mean satellites can be reconfigured and updated in minutes, not months, lowering the cost and increasing the individual abilities of a given satellite.

"If you can do have a distributed network that is collecting data in real time doing machine learning on it in space, and based on the action of that being able to ... retask that satellite, you are shortening that decision by significant amount of time," Lamm said. "You're also preventing the potential for interception of data being back and forth to Earth, so we think this is a pretty big step function in terms of what future capabilities could look like."

The software platform will allow the constellation to adjust to dynamic situations, modify machine learning and artificial intelligence protocols based on data, update mission critical systems, deliver applications rapidly to space, update cybersecurity software and protocols, and migrate legacy systems to increase the satellite's longevity.

"We need to be able to put assets in space as quickly as possible and then continuously improve them to maintain superiority," Air Force Major Rob Slaughter, director of the Department of Defense's Platform One, said in a written statement. "In order for the U.S. to remain competitive and protect the systems that run the lives of everyday Americans, we created a solution that allows for continuous software delivery in space. The only difference between a national security system and space junk is the software that operates it. Americans deserve the best space protections possible."

Hypergiant has also separately launched four missions for other similar projects, and the company will continue working on constellation projects.

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