The orbital economy is heating up, but the infrastructure that supports it is beginning to crack. Kayhan Space is a startup that keeps your satellite from crashing into another – or a launch or piece of space junk, for that matter – using modern data crunching techniques and a web-accessible platform.
Kayhan presented today at Disrupt SF as part of the battlefield, and the company is significantly further along than when we first covered them; at the time they were growing a pre-seed round, but now they have their feet under it.
Founded by longtime friends Araz Feyzi and Siamak Hesar, who came to the US from Iran for school years ago, the company is taking the natural result of the last few decades increasing in satellite launches: traffic.
Space may seem like a big place, but low Earth orbit is relatively crowded. With thousands of satellites zooming around on all sorts of orbits, as well as tens of thousands of pieces of space junk, it’s more likely that your spacecraft will have to yoke a bit to keep a 20,000 MPH or so propeller from going. When orbits overlap in such a way that a collision is possible, it’s called a “conjunction” — a more neutral term than “collision course,” sure.
“There are many satellite-to-satellite conjunctions; it’s less than 10% today, but the paradigm is shifting,” Feyzi told londonbusinessblog.com. “The sheer number of conjunctions is increasing as we track more objects and there are more active satellites — and we expect this to get worse.”
Worse, not just in terms of frequency, he explained, but in the diminishing amount of time before a potentially catastrophic event happens. This turnaround time is very important because last minute maneuvers are both hair-raising and wasting fuel – what could have been prevented a few hours ago by a small impulse becomes a longer emergency burn.
Normally, satellite operators report their positions and orbits to Space Command – sounds impressive, but imagine a control tower at an airport that suddenly became 10 times the size of normal. They can only do so much, so quickly, and they rely on operators to pass on the latest data and changes.
With thousands of satellites in the sky, it’s no longer a realistic option to de-conflict orbits over a period of hours or days — and decide what to do over a phone call — any longer.
Kayhan is working to automate the process as much as possible using the most recent data available. Part of that is the highly accurate object database maintained by the government, yes, but there are other tracking resources as well, plus the real-time information from customers and anyone who makes it available. Their Pathfinder platform offers situational awareness, conjunction alerts, recommended new orbital paths – if you have the right thruster it will even give the boost.
“We use all this data and we have developed a large number of proprietary algorithms and processes. For example, we’ve developed a modern prediction engine that predicts the paths of objects, which allows us to very quickly calculate, simulate and re-simulate the motions of objects in space,” Feyzi said.
The lead time for a conjunction reaction is measured in minutes rather than days, but it has been considered no less carefully, Feyzi continued:
“If you go on Pathfinder and you look at the recommendations that have been prepared for you, you can be sure that they are safe – we have screened them – and secondly, it is feasible for you because it fits all the limitations you have. have: your drive system, your ground contacts.”
He also emphasized that these possibilities are not limited by, for example, how fast a radar dish can rotate. Since it is a data-based product, it can be scaled arbitrarily. “The great thing about software and the way we’ve designed our infrastructure is that it’s easily scalable. We could have every satellite available today on board and that wouldn’t be a problem for us,” Feyzi said.
Integrations with other satellite and mission management platforms are also coming – not everyone wants to work with a brand new tool, so the data will be available via SDK.
You may wonder whether a pure data play is justifiable as a company. Feyzi admitted that others could very well try the same type of system, but Kayhan’s edge and expertise should not be underestimated.
“Today we have five PhDs in astrodynamics in our team. The amount of data we process and the amount of processing we do is extremely heavy; unless you develop these core capabilities to work effectively and efficiently, you will not be able to achieve what we achieve,” he said. “If you have the data, the capital, the people, yes, maybe in two years, you could develop the platform – so far nobody has done it, but where we will be in two years is very different from where we are.” are today.”
Until then, Kayhan itself is expanding its capabilities with a now-product it calls Gamut, intended to offer the same kind of automated security checks, but for launches.
Planning launches isn’t just about waiting for good weather – you have to thread the needle to get the payload into the right path and place, perhaps between tens or hundreds of peers. As the number of satellites grows, the prospect of a rideshare mission that will reach several orbits quickly becomes a very complex logistical problem. And the kicker is that if you miss your launch window for a few minutes, you need a new solution.
“We invented a new method that uses GPU processing to process launch screening an order of magnitude faster,” Feyzi said. That means launch companies can be prepared for more contingencies and quickly move forward on the paperwork and other official processes you need to go through to launch a rocket into space. Gamut is still under development and testing, but you can expect more about it once they invest their latest raise.
Obviously things are booming in orbit, and providing critical infrastructure could be the kind of game that puts Kayhan in the game for good.