Students launch a satellite to test artificial intelligence in space
On April 14, students from ITU will contribute to writing space history. The satellite, DISCO-1, is launched into space and it carries a microcomputer to test artificial intelligence outside the atmosphere. The satellite is developed by the space program, DISCO, which is a collaboration between students from four Danish universities.
DISCO is short for Danish Student Cubesat Programme and is a collaboration between students from the IT University of Copenhagen, University of Southern Denmark, Aalborg University and Aarhus University.
“The primary mission with the DISCO-project is educational. The satellites are to allow students to have experience working with real live satellite technology, and DISCO is a great opportunity for the students to get familiar with building and operating satellites.” says Julian Charles Philip Priest, who is a researcher at ITU's DASYA Lab and co-coordinator on the DISCO project. He has provided counselling to the students during the three-year satellite project.
A microcomputer to test AI and select pictures from space
The students from ITU, AAU, AU and SDU have collaborated across their transdisciplinary educational backgrounds on developing the CubeSat satellite. The satellite has the shape of a cube, and it measures 10 x 10 x 10 cm and weighs around 1 kilogram.
It is equipped with a microcomputer, and through machine learning technology the microcomputer will test the use of artificial intelligence outside the atmosphere. The microcomputer inside the satellite will hopefully be able to choose which pictures from space to send back to earth.
One of the students from ITU who is working on the satellite project is Robert Bayer. He is currently studying his last semester on his MSc in Computer Science.
“My contribution to the satellite includes the benchmarking of machine learning accelerators to support the smart filtering of images. This is a feature that helps the satellite select the good pictures from the bad ones, for instance pictures that have clouds covering areas on earth,” says Robert Bayer.
Julian Charles Philip Priest explains that ITU alongside AAU, AU and SDU have carried out three experiments related to the DISCO-1 satellite. The first one was a machine learning experiment to evaluate a new machine learning chip for space use. The second was a cosmic ray experiment which looks at how many high energy particles pass through the satellite in space. The last experiment was a file transfer protocol for images to chart the best possible way to make the satellite send the pictures from space back to earth.
“Our main interest at ITU is on satellite machine learning projects for image processing and DISCO will provide a platform for future projects of this nature," Julian Charles Philip Priest says.
A frontrunner for a bigger climate satellite
The DISCO-1 satellite is the first of two satellites on the DISCO programme. The first satellite is to test the usability of the technology prior to the second satellite, DISCO-2. DISCO-2 will be a bigger climate satellite to take pictures of glaciers in Greenland from space. According to the current plan, DISCO-2 Is scheduled to be launched during the summer of 2024.
DISCO is financed by the Danish Industry Foundation, and the satellites are produced in collaboration with Space Inventor. Momentus alongside SpaceX are responsible for the launchings.
Ditte Ørsted Johansen, Press Officer, phone +45 25 55 04 47, email firstname.lastname@example.org