SAIC lands Pentagon contract for AI-powered small satellite, partnering with GomSpace – SpaceNews

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COLORADO SPRINGS — U.S. defense contractor SAIC has landed its first contract with the Pentagon to integrate a small satellite, leveraging a partnership with spacecraft manufacturer GomSpace.

The contract of undisclosed value — awarded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Manufacturing Science and Technology Program — tasks SAIC with developing and deploying a satellite to demonstrate cutting-edge technologies in space, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, edge computing and software-defined radio communications with a “zero-trust” cybersecurity architecture.

The agreement marks a key win for SAIC’s space portfolio and its partnership with GomSpace North America forged just over a year ago to collaborate on small satellite design, production, deployment and operations.

David Ray, executive vice president of SAIC’s Space and Intelligence Business Group, told SpaceNews the satellite will be integrated at the company’s facility in Charleston, South Carolina. He said the project highlights the growing importance of small satellites in defense applications. 

The Charleston facility “is what we call our sandbox that’s going to allow us to work with smallsat bus providers and some interesting payload providers that are doing new things in space,” Ray said.

Partners include GomSpace, ThermAvant

GomSpace North America, the U.S. subsidiary of Denmark-based GomSpace Group, will provide the cubesat platform for the project. SAIC will also collaborate with ThermAvant Technologies, a supplier of oscillating heat pipes, a thermal management solution for space systems.

“We are very excited to be involved with our partners at SAIC in this important mission for the Office of the Secretary of Defense,” said Frank Tobin, president and CEO of GomSpace North America. 

Joe Boswell, co-founder and CEO of ThermAvant Technologies, said the goal is to build a power-dense cubesat that maximizes power output relative to its size and weight. “We developed drop-in replacement mechanical structures embedded with oscillating heat pipes at the payload and vehicle levels to improve thermal performance and minimize size and weight,” he said.

With a targeted launch date in 2025, the cubesat aims to set a new standard for computing power on a small platform, said SAIC. By enabling AI and machine learning “at the edge” in space, the satellite can process data with minimum delay. 

With more compute power in orbit, there is less need for transporting data back to the ground for processing and relay to users,” said a SAIC spokesman. “The latency of decision making is vastly reduced.”

The Pentagon’s Defense Manufacturing Science and Technology Program oversees R&D investments in critical, and sometimes high-risk, manufacturing technologies vital to U.S. defense. The satellite initiative aligns with the Pentagon’s broader push to accelerate adoption of AI and next-generation computing capabilities for national security.

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