Vyoma is the latest player seeking to prevent satellites from colliding with space debris.

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As you may have heard, space is getting a little crowded, between constellations of thousands of Starlink SpaceX satellites and millions of pieces of space junk accumulated over decades of launches. But it’s also getting a little crowded in the space monitoring space, as a number of companies compete to build surveillance systems to help satellite and launch operators protect their assets from orbital debris.

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One of the newest entrants in this field is Vyoma, a German company that emerged from TUM, founded by Christoph Bamann, Luisa Buinhas and Stefan Frey. Vyoma’s goal is to track objects in low Earth orbit (LEO) using a constellation of observation satellites and then use machine learning to automate collision avoidance routines for customer satellites.

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“Of the one million objects larger than one centimeter orbiting the Earth today, the ESA estimates that less than 5 percent are regularly tracked. Consequently, satellite operators are flying blind and the risk of accidental collision is high,” Frey tells TechCrunch.

Right now, LEO monitoring is mostly limited to military operations that track larger space debris, about 10 centimeters in diameter. And, of course, given the military source, this data is not widely disseminated. So there is a demand for private companies like Vyoma to develop their own tracking programs that are much more private and can be distributed internationally.

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While space-tracking competitors such as LeoLabs Mostly using terrestrial observation methods, Vyoma intends to launch its own space monitoring system – it wants to personally approach space debris, tracking debris from a small constellation of satellites with cameras.

It may seem counterintuitive to help control space debris by adding more satellites to orbit, but this system has an advantage.

“While in space, we can observe objects up to 30 times a day, covering almost 100 percent of all dangerous objects one centimeter in size and above. The high frequency of observations allows us to make very accurate predictions of debris trajectories,” Buinhas tells TechCrunch. “In addition, we can also infer from images how objects behave, such as whether they tumble, whether they have uniform rotation, what properties they have, such as dimensions, materials, and so on.”

Satellites will have two modes: observation and tracking on mission. In observation mode, each satellite will continuously display the environment during its orbit – all the objects it sees will be entered into the Vyoma database. Then, in task tracking mode, one or more satellites will focus on a single object or event, providing real-time data.

Vyoma will then use machine learning to synthesize this data to provide near-instant collision avoidance commands to client satellites.

In this aspect, Vyoma competes with Kaihan Space and Slingshot Aerospace, which are also vying to become a kind of international LEO air traffic control center. However, Kayahan and Slingshot Aerospace pull their tracking data from multiple sources, while Vyoma’s data will be generated in-house (well, off-planet). His approach is most similar to Scoutwhich also plans to build an optical satellite trash tracking network.

However, Vyoma has not yet launched its satellites, so it currently uses external data from ground partners to provide its services. But the company is moving forward towards its launch goals.

Just last year, Vyoma closed the preliminary and seed rounds (the volumes of which were not disclosed) by starting production of its space cameras. It has also received the German NewSpace Award and the Weconomy Award, a testament to its strength in the European market. (Most of the other big players are based in the United States.)

Vyoma hopes to test its imaging procedures in space later this year, with the goal of launching its experimental satellites by the end of 2023.

“Over the past few years, launch costs have dropped dramatically, resulting in a significant increase in launches,” says Frey. “The more satellites in space, the more dangerous situations will arise, the more relevant space traffic management solutions like ours will be. We want to make sure space is safe for future generations as well.”


Credit: techcrunch.com /

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