Updated: Jun 12
, The global economy would collapse, and you would be forced to rely on locally available goods. That would certainly be terrifying. However, satellites were not always this way.
About sixty-five years ago, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into the Earth’s orbit. These space-bound objects were initially developed by aerospace engineers to map the surface of the Earth from space. Yet, within a matter of decades, engineers worked together to discover the immense possibilities presented by satellites, ranging from Earth observation and imagery to communication and navigation.
Although the number of satellites orbiting the Earth has increased, the number of ground systems has not. Satellites that deliver large quantities of necessary information pass over a certain location on the Earth for only about ten minutes, four times a day. This means satellites have only less than an hour within the communication range of the ground systems. The rest of the time, the ground stations simply sit idle, causing given data to become outdated rather quickly. Fortunately for us, a team of engineers based in Tokyo, Japan, knew exactly what to do.
While pursuing a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Kyushu Institute of Technology and working as a researcher and satellite ground systems engineer at Integral Systems Japan, Naomi Kurahara became aware of this problem that hindered the usefulness of satellites. Kurahara gathered a multi-national group of engineers, both women and men, and founded her company, InfoStellar, in 2016. The Infostellar team set out to determine a better way to support the 400 to 600 satellites being launched annually. Using cloud computing, the engineers launched the StellarStation, a cloud-based software platform that allows satellite operators to use ground stations from antenna owners. It’s quite similar to Airbnb, a rental company, but for satellite antennas. The platform's goal was to reduce the startup costs of building ground stations while also benefiting satellite operators. Moreover, this allows ground station operators to make extra money by renting out unused time, which can be used by satellite operators to connect their satellites frequently and receive precise data.
In designing the product, the team addressed multiple constraints hindering its ultimate success. Since most of the product’s current potential customers are U.S based earth observation companies, this challenges the ability for clients to access ground stations from across the world. Considering that Infostellar’s engineering design relies heavily on an abundance of globally accessible ground stations, the team decided to slightly shift gears. They found that collaboration with business professionals would enable the team to reach a larger pool of potential users who will use their ground station network. Therefore, with the StellarStation having been created, the expanding team now consists of “mostly engineers, but also some business people.” Through the newly diverse team of both engineers and business workers, CEO Naomi Kurahara expects to see “that launch numbers will grow exponentially,” bringing exposure for accurate and convenient satellite usage throughout the world.
Despite the fact that the StellarStation was only recently introduced, it has already made headway among potential users. According to Spacewatch Asia Pacific, “InfoStellar sees its target markets as users such as farmers and weather forecasters who require up-to-the-minute, real-time information to enable them to operate more accurately and efficiently.” This is just one of the many applications for Infostellar's platform, and with the increasing number of scientific and technological advancements, it comes as no surprise if they are able to scale their business quickly.
The invention of the StellarStation aims to raise the satellite's level of complexity on a worldwide scale by supplying the technology needed to meet modern society's time-oriented demands. By creating a solution for an invention we greatly rely on, the world can expect incoming solutions to the many problems, such as climate change and food poverty, that our society faces today.
Let your curiosity reach for the stars by checking out STEME's other projects!
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