WASHINGTON — Artificial intelligence startup Wallaroo Labs won a $1.5 million contract from the U.S. Space Force to continue the development of machine learning models for edge computers in orbit.

The New York-based company, known as Wallaroo.ai, is partnered with New Mexico State University for the Small Business Technology Transfer Phase 2 contract, announced Aug. 15. The team last year won a Phase 1 award

Wallaroo.ai created a software platform that helps businesses assess the performance of AI applications when deployed on edge computers.

The contract was awarded by SpaceWERX, the technology arm of the U.S. Space Force, in support of the Orbital Prime program to develop technologies for space debris cleanup and other on-orbit services.

Machine learning on orbit

The Space Force said it needs AI and machine learning capabilities that can be deployed in the cloud and at the edge for missions in space.

Edge computing is the practice of moving compute power physically closer to where data is generated, such as a sensor in space. Wallaroo.ai said it wants to demonstrate the deployment of machine learning models at the edge with radiation tolerant, commercially available integrated circuits. 

“The ability to deploy, manage, and maintain ML models at the edge, on-orbit, and within the constraints of available hardware, limited compute, limited power, in the hostile environment that is space is critical to the development of the space industry,” said Vid Jain, CEO of Wallaroo.ai.

Machine learning on orbit, he said, “promises to transform automation in space by leveraging AI for robotics, refueling, and protecting satellites from space debris.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...