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Satnews Daily
March 14th, 2016

Software For Smallsats...

[Satnews] Small satellites are quickly becoming the engine of change for the $200B satellite industry, fueling $1.8B of funding in 2015 alone into startups across the spectrum of data, hardware, and launch services.

Until now, there was a missing piece in the puzzle—software. When Kubos was started, the first task undertaken was talking to satellite developers about the toughest challenges they faced when building their missions. It become clear that flight software (the software that actually runs on the satellite) was the least understood and biggest risk for several reasons:

  • New satellite companies consider software “easy”, and decide to roll their own because existing solutions are cost prohibitive ($15K/satellite), and very little shared knowledge in the form of source code exists in the industry. To make matters worse, they will put implementation off until a few months before launch, severely crunching their developers
  • The protocols and communication layers between satellite subsystems (computers) and ground stations differ from vendor to vendor, causing integration headaches at every turn
  • It’s nearly impossible to find talent that can deal with the extreme technical challenges of both highly reliable embedded environments, and work with aerospace algorithms
  • Many companies that we surveyed who had nano-satellite failures in orbit attributed those failures to poorly written software

As a developer with both open source and developer platform experience, the way to solve these problems seemed pretty clear — create an open source flight software platform that catered to the skills of “typical” app and web developers that abstracts the inherent complexities of extreme reliability, algorithmic complexity, and other problems that new satellite developers face.

That’s what Kubos has done—in the company's our open source community, OpenKosmos, under development is the first of it’s kind, end-to-end stack for satellite companies. KubOS RT, the firm's real time flight software platform, is the first of several projects that are planned .

Thanks to the help from the incredible team at the Lightspeed Innovations Accelerator, there are now three Low Earth Orbit (LEO) missions running KubOS RT in 2016. Now, with the assistance of lead investor Extrenext Ventures, and investment from angels at Texas Instruments and Lockheed Martin, Kubos is going to take the satellite industry by storm with open source software.