Lockheed Martin has unveiled plans to introduce pioneering smartphone-like software that will enable satellites to change their missions in orbit.

The new generation of space technology is expected to be made available for satellite launches this year.

Through the technology, Lockheed Martin intends to bring the dynamism to satellites to change missions in tune with evolving needs as it aims to break the immutable nature of satellites.

According to the company, once satellites are launched into their orbits, they possess, for the rest of their existence, largely the same capability that was present at lift-off.

The new technology the company is set to launch will enable users to improve capability and assign new missions with a software push on the lines of how an app is installed on a smartphone.

The new SmartSat solution is a software-defined satellite architecture that will be incorporated into several nanosats planned to be launched later this year.

“SmartSat is a major step forward in our journey to completely transform the way we design, build and deliver satellites.”

The technology is expected to enhance the capability for payload on these minisatellites.

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Lockheed Martin Space executive vice-president Rick Ambrose said: “Imagine a new type of satellite that acts more like a smartphone. Add a SmartSat app to your satellite in-orbit, and you’ve changed the mission.

“We are the first to deploy this groundbreaking technology on multiple missions. SmartSat will give our customers unparalleled resiliency and flexibility for changing mission needs and technology, and it unlocks even greater processing power in space.”

SmartSat technology will make its debut on the Linus and Pony Express nanosats, which are rapid-prototype, testbed satellites built using internal research and development funding.

These satellites will be launched this year on the first LM 50 nanosatellite buses.

The company expects to integrate the technology on at least ten programmes this year.

The Linus project will be dedicated to performing a technology demonstration mission to validate SmartSat capabilities and 3D-printed spacecraft components.

Pony Express involves the construction of multiple 6U satellites to be placed into a low-Earth orbit. These satellites are intended to space qualify networking technologies.

Ambrose added: “SmartSat is a major step forward in our journey to completely transform the way we design, build and deliver satellites.”

He hopes the technology will eventually connect directly with planes, ships and ground vehicles.

The integration of the SmartSat software will allow satellites to reset themselves faster and accurately diagnose issues.

The technology will also improve the resiliency of satellites by empowering them to back each other up when needed.

The technology features cybersecurity as a core aspect. Satellites equipped with the software will be able to better detect and defend against cyber threats autonomously.

Users can also update on-board cyber defences on a regular basis to counter new threats.

According to the company, SmartSat uses multi-core processing that enables satellites to process more data in orbit.

This feature will ensure the satellites can beam down only the most critical and relevant information.

It will help reduce bandwidth costs and the burden on ground station analysts.