Blog

04.26.2018

SpaceView: Serving our Mission Partners

By: Howard Lance, Maxar Technologies President and CEO


Read Time: 6 minutes

At Maxar Technologies, our focus is on helping our customers and partners achieve mission success.

Now with the combined capabilities of our four businesses—MDA, SSL, DigitalGlobe and Radiant Solutions—we have an even richer toolkit of data, technology and analytics we can provide to customers in government and commercial sectors to help them address their most critical and complex challenges with confidence.

Our Purpose is to Build a Better World.

Through the decades, our businesses have built such strong partnerships with government customers that we not only understand their mission requirements of today and fulfill those needs, but we can also anticipate and proactively develop the technologies they will require in 2020 and beyond.

In this era, change is coming fast and furious. This is a time of an explosion of data, but that data only has value if it’s analyzed and unlocked in order to make critical decisions. DigitalGlobe right now has a 100 petabyte archive of imagery, adding 80 terabytes of data every day. When WorldView Legion—our next constellation of Earth-observation satellites, built by SSL—is launched in 2021, (watch our new Maxar Missions video here) we will increase our revisit rate over high-interest locations and double the amount of high-resolution imagery we generate. In addition, Maxar also shares its RADARSAT-2 data from MDA to supply ground information collected even when it’s cloudy or dark. And if regulatory reforms are implemented, we can add higher-resolution SWIR imagery to the mix. There is also an exponential amount of open data that can be used in conjunction with all we provide to yield richer insights that advance our customers’ missions.

WorldView Legion
WorldView Legion

That’s where our Radiant Solutions business comes to the fore. The key to unlocking the value of all this data is the expertise of the Radiant Solutions team who run machine learning algorithms they have developed on the breadth of data—Maxar generated and open source—to automate object and change detection. A team at DigitalGlobe is also working on advances in machine learning, making what would take years for one analyst, doable in minutes, maybe even seconds. Near real-time analysis is critical for making informed decisions, and especially critical when addressing urgent national security or humanitarian crises.

The combination is unbeatable: a vast amount of data, the highest-resolution satellite imagery available and the accuracy that it provides plus our very capable machine learning algorithms to transform data into actionable insight makes a big difference for our customers.

Our Radiant Solutions team has the unique privilege of working side-by-side on-site with our mission partners. Through that close collaboration, Radiant has a deep understanding of current mission needs and can anticipate future needs, and move forward with translating mission requirements into capabilities well before our customers ask for them. That vision of the future informs decisions across the Maxar business to devote time and resources into mission-critical solutions and technologies that lead the industry forward.

This confluence of data and analytics is just one area where Maxar drives innovation, but one that has huge potential for commercial applications as well as solutions for our government partners.

One example of how we’re accelerating innovation to better serve our customers’ missions is Radiant’s partnership with the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) on the xView challenge. In this initiative, Radiant is sharing high-resolution satellite imagery labeled with more than 1 million objects with the goal of speeding development of machine learning algorithms that can extract information from imagery at scale to address pressing global challenges. The outcome of this collaboration will be datasets that will advance our ability to see and anticipate patterns of human activity in satellite imagery for use in humanitarian and national security applications—to meet mission requirements at a global scale.

At the same time of opportunity for space-enabled insights about Earth, we’re seeing a burgeoning interest in space exploration. As I mentioned in my previous blog, we are excited about the U.S. government’s recommitment to the National Space Council, reaffirmed by Vice President Mike Pence in his address at the Space Symposium on April 16.

Our other business units are also trusted, long-time mission partners with governments as well as commercial customers focusing both on what space can tell us about Earth and also on exploring the frontiers of deep space.

MDA is a long-term partner of the Canadian government, providing technology and solutions for its agencies, including the military and the Canadian Space Agency for land, maritime and space. The company has contributed its space robotics know-how, including the Canadarm enabling 91 space shuttle missions and the Mobile Servicing System (Canadarm2 and Dextre) supporting critical activities on the International Space Station since 2001. MDA is also building the three satellites and ground system that comprise the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) for the Canadian Space Agency. The satellites are currently undergoing extensive assembly, integration and testing in preparation for launch in Q4 2018. RCM, which MDA will also operate for the first year after acceptance, is a follow-on to MDA’s highly successful RADARSAT-1 and -2 missions. MDA also provides unclassified maritime domain awareness information to maritime security organizations worldwide by fusing space-based radar, AIS vessel tracking and other maritime information that is used to identify suspicious vessels and unregulated fishing activities.

RADARSAT-2
RADARSAT-2

SSL has a long history of partnering with the U.S. government on spacecraft systems. The company is currently working with both NASA and DARPA on spacecraft for robotic servicing of satellites on-orbit and is working with NASA JPL and Arizona State University on a NASA Discovery mission to explore Psyche, a nickel-iron core asteroid that could hold answers about how the solar system came to be. Earlier this month we announced that SSL is working with NASA JPL to design and build critical equipment for a spacecraft that will explore Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons and SSL continues to bring an innovative perspective to the U.S. government through its study of next-generation space architectures for the U.S. Air Force Space Enterprise Vision.

Psyche spacecraft
Artist's concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. Image credit: SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech

These are all examples of how Maxar Technologies is providing end-to-end capabilities for the new space economy, which was on full display at industry leadership events over the past few weeks, including DigitalGlobe’s EMEAR ENGAGE, Space Symposium and GEOINT. In my next blog, I will write about how Maxar Technologies has embraced a commercial mindset to reduce barriers across our businesses and to grow an ecosystem of partners that will accelerate innovation for our government and commercial customers alike.

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