When designing satellites, ReOrbit puts software in the spotlight. What is the rationale behind that approach?
Typically, following the initial evolution of technology, you can see a prevailing pattern of hardware-oriented approach. Later, it switched to the focus on software. Take the computer industry as an example, where software rules it all. Phones (eg. Apple), cars (Tesla) – all follow the same path. Until today, satellites have been hardware oriented, but we are witnessing the space industry also embarking on the journey of putting software first.
When I thought of founding ReOrbit, two phenomena influenced my decision: the space industry becoming more dominant in the day-to-day life (over the past 5 years, applications have been directly or indirectly dependent on space, and space importance for defence has been increasing), and that hardware was slowly becoming a commodity in the space sector, because of the outburst of New Space revolution around 2017, which led to creation of smaller companies focusing on small subsystems. Today, ReOrbit is at the helm of the industry shift towards software-oriented approach.
Why did you decide to move headquarters of ReOrbit to the Finnish capital?
The company was founded in Stockholm. Sweden is one of the first countries that ventured into space and pioneered space exploration among European countries in the 1970s. Space research and development flourished in Sweden, which, among other factors, allowed the country to capitalize on the great work done in the field and make business out of it. However, as a matter of fact, over the past decade, we are yet to see a Swedish space startup raising more than a million euros in funding.
At the same time, Finland can’t declare its space heritage to be as great as the Swedish one. It was only in 2017, when after years of preparation, Finland’s first satellite, the Aalto-2 nano satellite, was successfully launched into space. Today, more than twenty Finnish satellites are circulating the Earth. Finnish mindset when it comes to space is steadfast, and Finnish authorities running the space sector have been proving this by taking in dynamic ideas and supporting them, testing the success and turning it into a trend. We have analysed why and how Finland has managed to be at the forefront of the new space economy, based on multiple metrics, in one of our latest articles that can be fetched from our website.
Back in 2019, I couldn’t help but notice the vibrant and receptive to dynamic ideas ecosystem and its trajectory in Finland, that is why we moved our headquarters to Helsinki. This decision has been crucial to the success ReOrbit has today.
It is said that satellite communications networks have the potential to alter drastically the telecommunications landscape. Where does ReOrbit stand in that?
When talking about pure connectivity, obviously space is not the only solution, but it is one of the main solutions. I believe in the hybrid game changer consisting of terrestrial and non-terrestrial solutions, and other ones. Space can cover even hard-to-reach areas and difficult terrains – say, the Arctic or Sub-Saharan Africa, where mapping terrestrial networks can prove itself extremely expensive.
Currently, we are witnessing early days of the Small GEO market, and commercial tractions that have become evident this year are promising enough. ReOrbit is actively working on that uncharted territory. We are developing small GEO telecommunications satellites that are cost-efficient yet highly capable with a unique set of features (with a goal of having advanced 5G protocols, autonomous orbit keeping and failure detection, isolation and recovery, and more). Our software-first approach enables a satellite to adapt to different missions because of the advanced flexible architecture, as opposed to hardware-first approach when even a slight change in a subsystem has a substantial impact on the overall design and software protocols, in particular. This usually mounts up to 30% of non-recurring engineering cost, whereas we can massively decrease that cost by treating hardware as a commodity. In short, our software-first satellites have a similar plug-and-play core to gaming PC and require no other change but new drivers installed.
Given the different public and private initiatives in the roll out of a satellite-based communications network, how do you see security and ownership aspects playing out in the field of telecoms?
Security is of utmost importance for us. Here at ReOrbit, we design satellites as flying routers, if I may. We make sure that satellites can consume and deliver data in the most efficient and secure way. In other words, we unlock data flows in space, and within this framework, cyber security is part of the design process rather than a factor to be considered in the aftermath. Plus, given the highly flexible software-first architecture, we can cater security levels to the customer needs, switching it from a vague concept to a tangible design aspect.
In today’s evolving geopolitical landscape, cyber and outer space become crucial domains to foster, as they play a central role in defence and security, providing assets to combat climate change, support and expand connectivity, and guarantee our ability to operate securely and uninterruptedly. This sentiment is shared across different institutions and markets. Here at ReOrbit, we are taking this seriously and ready to deliver certainty in an uncertain world.
As for ownership of networks, if talking about comms satellites, most networks are owned or operated directly and indirectly by a handful of countries. Naturally, this raises an interest from different sovereign nations to have their data flow through their own networks and infrastructures. ReOrbit enables these countries to build thriving independent space ecosystems to locally manufacture satellites, by transferring knowledge and supporting with vast experience.
Where do you see ReOrbit in 5 years?
ReOrbit will be the dominant force, when it comes to enabling real-time data flows in space, and a market leader in small GEO satellites in years to come.