AMOS 2022 – As space operators grow nervous about the growing potential for disastrous crashes in orbit, there’s growing interest in collision avoidance software solutions from Colorado startup Kayhan Space – including at the Ministry of Defense, according to co-founder Araz Feyzi.
“The problem is that the processes that satellite operators have traditionally used to fly safely are breaking down. The main reasons many are not scalable, they are prone to human error and delays,” he said. explained in a Sept. 30 interview on the sidelines of the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance conference in Maui, “They are still operating today, but at a rate that this industry is growing, we believe it will not be possible to having humans in the loop when it comes to decision making for spaceflight. ”
To deal with the problem, Feyzi said, Kayhan is “developing autonomous solutions to help secure spaceflight. … We build the picks and shovels to help the industry move faster. If you don’t have to worry about collision avoidance, you can spend more time focusing on your main missions.
Under the federal Space Business Innovation/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs, Kayhan has completed eight government contracts since its inception in 2019 and works with the DoD, Space Force, Air Force and NASA, has Feyzi said.
SBIR/STTR programs essentially provide seed funding for research and development to small businesses with concepts that not only have government appeal, but also commercialization potential.
More recently, the company – with its partners Astroscale US and the University of Texas at Austin – September 28 announced he won a Space Force award for developing “an intelligent platform that autonomously enables spacecraft to safely engage with in-orbit support vehicles for services such as refueling, maintenance, debris removal and national security”.
The STTR Phase 1 contract was through the SpaceWERX Service Small Business Center under the Orbital Prime program. SpaceWERX launched the effort in January to accelerate the In-Space Services, Assembly and Manufacturing (ISAM) market to create a commercial use case for active debris remediation.
Under another contract, Kayhan, in conjunction with the Air Force, is using commercial satellite data to provide a commercial version of the classified High Accuracy Satellite Drag Model (HASD) that significantly improves the prediction of trajectory for commercial purposes, Feyzi said.
The goal is to allow the model to be widely shared with non-US military satellite operators, which the service cannot do with its own classified version.
Kayhan’s core product, while relying on equally complicated calculations, is actually designed to allow operators to easily avoid collisions. Called Pathfinder, the software not only provides operators with personalized collision warnings, but also multiple options for action, including maneuvering paths, Feyzi explained.
“They can say, ‘Send me a notification if you detect a conjunction that is within this collision probability or a miss distance below this level,'” he said. “They can also go in and set certain thresholds for maneuver generation.”
The fact that the software can create optimal orbital trajectories for satellites to steer clear of danger is unique to Kayhan, Feyzi pointed out, though he was quick to note that it’s up to the client to decide what maneuver, if any. , he decides to take.
“If it’s necessary to perform a maneuver to stay safe, we automatically provide them with several feasible maneuver options for that client,” he said. “We control flight safety – we make sure that if you perform this maneuver, you are not going to cause another collision. In doing so, we reduce the response time to potential collision events by 95% thanks to the autonomy and automation.
Pathfinder operates on a subscription model, Feyzi said, and customers can choose from three increasing tiers of capacity and price: Pathfinder Essentials, Pathfinder Pro and Pathfinder Max.
“Our solution is software as a service,” he said.
Additionally, Pathfinder Essentials is free, with any operator simply signing up and receiving the basic tools required by all operators for safe operations – a decision Kayhan made six months ago “to keep space safe.” “, noted Feyzi.