New trends in space exploration thanks to latest leading trends in IT

I am a fan of space exploration and can’t pass reading any new article in the news about SpaceX.

Since December 2015, Elon Musk’s space company SpaceX had made breakthroughs in the way of sending rockets in space. SpaceX had developed a new way to send and return a rocket back to earth by vertically landing it on concrete pad. The main point to land a rocket on solid ground is to make it reusable, which was something never seen and done before by any aerospace agency around the world.

Amazon founder’s Jeff Bezos space company, Blue Origin, is also a big player in that space, focusing mainly on space tourism.

Latest advancement in Software/Firmware technology, AI and real-time data processing have been at the base of such innovations on building this new generation of rockets. SpaceX describes the technology behind the vertical landing as following:

[1] “… All of these systems, while built and programmed by humans, are totally automated once the rocket is launched—and are reacting and adjusting their behavior based on incoming, real-time data.”

A system capable of “reacting and adjusting their behavior based on incoming, real-time data: describes well AI fundamentals.

The new technological advancement in building rockets has also changed the game of space program funding. Since the beginning of space program in the USA in 1950’s, most of the funding for space programs and execution came from the Government and NASA has been the main executor with many Space technology contractors companies around him. Now, private companies have a share of that space by delivering cargo in space for many Governments around the world: satellites, scientific research cargos to the ISS (international space station) as examples.

This new era of rockets is also lowering the price of launching rockets by 100 fold and will improve outer space travel and space tourism.

With NASA budget shrinking by the USA Government in the last years, a void in space projects R&D has seen a slowdown. Now, alongside SpaceX filling the gap, there are companies such as Planetary Resources, looking at a business of mining minerals (mainly Gold) from asteroids [2].

Last April 2018, I had a chance to visit Kennedy Space Station in Cape Canaveral, FL. The main take away for my visit was the focus NASA and other Space agencies around the world has on returning humans back to the Moon and sending human to planet Mars. These trends are powered by recent technological advances made in building powerful and faster engines, faster rocket’s on-board processing supercomputers and advances in satellites communication.  As well said by George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic and co-chair of the Global Future Council on Space Technologies [3]: “The power of miniaturization, for example, is having a huge impact on satellites. It’s becoming easier to put more capabilities into smaller packages. Constellations of small satellites are allowing for both new capabilities as well as existing capabilities at much lower costs.”

From this observation which I agree with, the technology advances in electronic miniaturization are also powering the new trends in space gears design and manufacturing.

In summary, new leading trends in IT are also powering new trends in Space rockets and gears development opening up new kinds of space exploration.






5 comments on “New trends in space exploration thanks to latest leading trends in IT”

  1. Patrice,

    I think you are very correct in the benefits and technological spillover the space industry is seeing from the wider growth of the IT industry. Once additionally driving force is a massively growing demand for the potential resources there are to gain from space exploration. For a long time mining asteroids seemed like both a far-fetched plan as well as a unnecessary venture. Similar expansions to those you mentioned are both increasing the feasibility of harnessing the vast amount of rare-metals space has to offer as well as incising the demand for source resources. A Foreign Policy article form 2016. Would love to know if you had any thoughts?


    1. Thank you Zac for your point on far reach projects such as space mining. I am not exited will all sides of space explorations. I also think cost surpasses benefits in some cases.


  2. Hello Patrice,

    I love your article and I definetly share your passion for space travel.I am looking forward to the next launch of Falcon Heavy and maybe also to the BFR launch.
    One thing I noticed about your blog post is that SpaceX uses AI to control its rockets. That is so cool, I didn’t know that! I thought they were using control theory. Similar to the one used to control planes when on auto pilot. Although such a system is able to “react and adjust it’s behavior based on incoming, real-time data” one would not call it an AI-Systems. I would love to read more about that, but I couldn’t find anything online. If you have any articles about that, please share them with me.

    Best Regards

  3. Hi Patrice,

    I enjoyed your article and was wondering if you found any similar efforts by NASA to incorporate AI into their rocket launches. I understand that future Mars rovers and probes are being constructed with different AI capabilities but I couldn’t find anything on the rockets themselves. I’m also curious as to how Space-X might have trained their AI algorithms, given that rocket launches are extraordinarily expensive. If you have any insight into these somewhat rambling questions please let me know. Thanks!



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