Earth Observant (EOI) has secured a US Air Force (USAF) contract under the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programme for the development of a very low Earth orbit (VLEO) optical payload.

EOI is working with AFWERX, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on the development.

Using computing architecture that delivers high-resolution satellite imagery in near-real-time, the company will advance its vision for a VLEO satellite imaging platform.

Currently, EOI is building a constellation of small satellites flying in very low Earth orbit.

This is aimed at providing actionable intelligence in real-time from space for government and business intelligence applications.

For the transmission of satellite optical imagery, EOI is analysing and reworking the entire imagery chain from tasking to image distribution.

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Using computing capability, image processing from ground systems will be moved onto the spacecraft.

By conducting a larger share of the processing on board the spacecraft, EOI can provide more data directly to the user through its Ka-band high bandwidth transmitter.

This will also decrease the time between data collection and delivery, making information more accessible.

Further, the contract permits EOI to develop payload, edge computing and communication prototypes to validate its ground-breaking plan.

Availability of timely intelligence will improve information dissemination and response times during operations, including environmental and disaster assessment and response, asset monitoring, public safety and homeland security.

EOI CEO Christopher Thein said: “Defence and intel is particularly interested in the advantages of EOI’s low-flying bus.

“At a lower altitude, we can collect very-high-resolution satellite imagery with a smaller spacecraft, and on-board image processing allows for reduced data latency to provide updates about rapidly changing conditions on the ground.”