WASHINGTON — Loft Orbital is partnering with SkyServe to leverage Earth observation and edge computing capabilities on a newly launched satellite.

The two companies announced March 19 that SkyServe will use Loft Orbital’s YAM-6 spacecraft, launched on the Transporter-10 rideshare mission March 4, to demonstrate artificial intelligence capabilities by analyzing optical and hyperspectral imagery the satellite collects.

For what the companies call Mission Denali, SkyServe, an Indian startup, will install its SkyServe STORM platform on the spacecraft. Customers can then deploy AI models on the platform to perform analysis of imagery the satellite collects in real time.

“We are proud to work with Loft to provide the essential space infrastructure and multi-sensor data processing for SkyServe’s ambitious mission to build critical value for downstream users,” said Vinay Simha, chief executive of SkyServe, in a statement.

YAM-6 is Loft Orbital’s first spacecraft capable of performing what the company calls “virtual missions,” where the spacecraft can be configured by software to perform different missions based on customer requirements. Customers develop software apps that can take advantage of the spacecraft’s capabilities, including cameras, onboard processing and inter-satellite links.

“Virtual missions provide the opportunity to radically shorten time to orbit,” explained Bethany Pulcini-Baldwin, virtual missions product lead at Loft Orbital, in a recent blog post. “Software apps that require compute power, like AI and machine learning, enable us to use the unique vantage point of space in a variety of important ways.”

The company compares developing applications for the satellite to deploying applications on a cloud server. It is working with Microsoft’s Azure Space on the cloud development environment and on-orbit application framework for YAM-6.

Gautier Brunet, vice president of sales at Loft Orbital, said that with this virtual mission they provide customers like SkyServe “with the infrastructure that enables pre-processing of data coming from multiple sensors in order to serve a wide set of AI applications in space.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...