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IBM open sources projects working to predict path of space junk

Space Junk
(Image credit: Dotted Yeti / Shutterstock)

IBM has announced that its Space Tech Hub team has open sourced two new projects in an effort to improve communication between satellites and help predict the path of space junk.

Tens of thousands of man-made anthropocentric space objects (ASOs) currently orbit around the earth but as more commercial companies have begun to launch rockets into space, the rate at witch ASOs are put into orbit is set to dramatically increase.

In order to track ASOs more accurately, the IBM Space Tech Team developed the Space Situational Awareness (SSA) project to determine where ASOs are (orbit determination) and where they will be in the future (orbit prediction).

The SSA project uses machine learning models to improve orbit prediction by leveraging data provided by United States Strategic Command. IBM's scientists have created a physics-based model to predict the orbits of ASOs in low-earth orbit as well as a machine learning model that is trained to predict errors in the physical model's orbit prediction. 

KubeSat project

The second project that IBM's Space Tech Hub has open sourced is called KubeSat and it is designed to make it easier for startups and research groups to use satellite swarms.

Satellite swarms are groups of satellites that work together to accomplish specific tasks as a modular, low-cost alternative to a more traditional larger satellite. KubeSat is a cognitive autonomous framework designed for swarms of cube satellites that allows for simulation and optimization of multi-satellite communications. IBM explained why it decided to open source its KubeSat project in a blog post, saying:

“Open sourcing KubeSat Cognitive Autonomous Framework democratizes the satellite swarm industry and allows for smaller operators to take advantage of space tech, particularly in the satellite swarm industry, that was previously out of reach.”

A new era of space travel and exploration is currently underway in space 4.0 and IBM's decision to open source projects developed by its Space Tech Hub team will likely make it easier for smaller companies to begin launching satellites and making advancements in space.