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New Air Force satellites are equipped with a game-changing new ability

If you’ve been using computers for more than a decade, you’ll remember how significant it was when over-the-air updates replaced the need to update software by installing it from a CD-ROM or floppy disk. Not only did it make the process much faster, but it also allowed developers to push out more regular updates to fix bugs or add new features without the associated costs of distributing a physical product.

This might seem a transition that happened eons ago for PCs and mobile devices, but a similar problem still affects today’s satellites. No, no one is flying a single floppy disk update into orbit, but the process of updating satellite A.I. has, until now, taken months to achieve instead of the minutes that most of us are familiar with modern computer updates.

That may have changed thanks to a new partnership between the U.S. Air Force and space and A.I. company Hypergiant Industries. They are launching an innovative constellation consisting of 24 to 36 satellites that will be updatable in real time.

“Historically, satellites have not been updateable from the ground,” Hypergiant CEO Ben Lamm told Digital Trends. “This makes them vulnerable to attacks and eventually renders them into space junk. However, with the Chameleon Constellation, we can make satellites instantly updatable. This makes them faster to deploy, more responsive in space, and prepared for changing security threats.”

Hypergiant Industries
Hypergiant Industries

Being able to quickly update space assets in minutes, rather than months, is a massive step forward for satellites. It will make it easier to defend against emerging cybersecurity threats, since updates could be rapidly pushed out in the event that a hacker renders a satellite useless by way of malicious software. The Chameleon Constellation satellites will also be able to work together to process data from one another, rather than having to send the data back to Earth, where it could be intercepted.

“The space industry is going through a shift from a predominantly hardware industry to one that is integrating software,” Lamm explained. “Changing how satellites operate and are updated is key to digital transformation in the satellite industry. Hypergiant’s focus is delivering the world we were promised, which includes the modernization of the core sectors that we focus on: Critical infrastructure, space, and defense. The Chameleon Constellation is a great example of emerging technology applied to those three sectors.”

It’s not yet clear exactly when the Chameleon Constellation will be properly up and running. But Lamm said “we’re building this fleet to be as flexible as possible as quickly as possible.”

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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